Name of Monument:
Also known as:
Church of St Ann (Hannah)
The madrasa is located in the old city several meters to the west of the Bab al-Asbat (Lion’s Gate), on the northern side at the beginning of Tariq al-Mujahidin, Jerusalem
Date of Monument:
Hegira 525–33 / AD 1131–8 and AH 588 / AD 1192–3
Period / Dynasty:
Crusader and Ayyubid
The most prominent sponsor during construction of the church was Queen Melisande (d. AH 556 / AD 1161). She was the wife of Baldwin II (r. AD 1118-1131) who was the ruler of Crusader Jerusalem and the mother of Baldwin III (r. 1143–62). Sultan Salah al-Din Ayyubi (known as Saladin who ruled AH 564–89 / AD 1169–93) transformed the site to an Islamic school.
The foundation of a church on this site dates to the Byzantine period, from when the building was continually in use until the Abbasid period. The building was then neglected for unknown reasons until the Fatimid period, when it was transformed into an establishment for teaching the sciences. It remained as such until the coming of the Franks who built the present church. The site remained in the hands of the Crusaders for close to a century until Salah al-Din Ayyubi (Saladin) liberated Jerusalem in AH 583 / AD 1187. The church was then transformed into a madrasa to teach Shafi'i fiqh (jurisprudence). The transformation of the site into an Islamic school did not, however, deny the building its importance within Christian doctrine. Amir Fakhr al-Din, the Amir of Hama, a relative of Saladin, showed his high regard for the site by supplying it with an ablutions fountain and free-flowing water piped in from the nearby water reservoir. Saladin's policy of tolerance, for which he was famous, was in evidence, for the Franciscan Fathers were still allowed to practice their religious rituals in the building on important holy days, and pilgrims were allowed to visit the cave located below the building which was said to be the birth place of the Virgin Mary. The site was abandoned in the latter half of the AH 12th / AD 18th century. In the wake of the alliance between France and the Ottoman Empire in the Crimean War against Russia, the Emperor Napoleon III (r. 1268–87 / AD 1852–70) asked Sultan Abd al-Majid (Abdülmecid, r. 1255–77 / AD 1839–61) to grant that the Salahiyya be restored to a church building, which was duly accomplished.
View Short Description
This typical Crusader church has not changed since the AH 6th / AD 12th century. Salah al-Din (Saladin) did not alter its distinguishing features when he turned it into a Shafi’i madrasa. The madrasas of Jerusalem were considered crowning exemplars until the second half of the 13th / 19th century from the number of their students and the importance of their teachers. The Ottomans gave the madrasa to the French government who in turn donated it to the White Fathers who transformed it back to a church and added other buildings. It is believed that the Virgin Mary was born here and that it is close to the Bethesda pool where Christ performed miracles.
How Monument was dated:
The building is dated by historical sources such as the work of the historian Mujir al-Din al-Hanbali (d. 928 / 1521). The remaining part of an inscription above the entrance to the building has also helped in the dating process. The Gothic basilica-type architecture strongly suggests that the building is associated with the Crusader period.
Al-'Asli, K., Ma'ahid al-'ilm fi Bait al-Maqdis [Institutes of Learning in Jerusalem], Amman, 1981.
Citation of this web page:
Yusuf al-Natsheh "Madrasa al-Salahiyya" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. 2019. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;pa;Mon01;33;en
Prepared by: Yusuf Al-Natsheh