Name of Monument:
The building is located on the western border of the Haram al-Sharif between Bab al-Silsila (Gate of the Chain) and Bab al-Qattanin (Gate of the Cotton Merchants), both of which lead to the Haram al-Sharif, Jerusalem
Date of Monument:
Hegira 887 / AD 1482
Architect(s) / master-builder(s):
The names of those who designed and executed construction are not known but it is believed that they were Egyptian workmen headed by a Coptic architect.
Period / Dynasty:
The founder of the madrasa was Sultan Zahir Sayf al-Din Khashqadam (r. AH 865–72 / AD 1461–7) but he died before it was finished. Sultan Ashraf Saif al-Din Qaytbay (r. AH 872–901 / AD 1468–96) ordered its completion, but when he saw the madrasa for the first time in AH 880 / AD 1475, he was not satisfied and ordered it to be demolished and rebuilt.
Madrasa al-Ashrafiyya is the most beautiful and grandiose of the madrasas of Mamluk Jerusalem. The historian, Mujir al-Din al-Hanbali (d. AH 928 / AD 1521), described it as the third jewel of the Haram al-Sharif, after the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque. The Madrasa al-Ashrafiyya consists of two levels: the ground floor and the first floor. The ground floor extends eastwards, thereby entering the Haram al-Sharif, and stretches out over the western wall of the Haram. This is contrary to the other madrasas in the vicinity, since the Mamluk madrasas were erected on the borders of the Haram (Sanctuary) and not within it. The entrance to the Madrasa opens on the eastern and southern side with two tapered arches. The entrance is covered by a fan-shaped vault, built of alternating colours of red and white stone. The door is set into a recessed wall covered by a semi-dome, and enriched with carved decorations that are also inset with glazed ceramic tiles. Standing on either side of the entrance are two mastabas of stone. And at the height of two courses from the surfaces of the mastabas, there is an inscription stating the date of constructionand extolling the most prominent titles of Sultan Qaytbay.
View Short Description
This is a large Mamluk architectural complex and the historian Mujir al-Din al-Hanbali considered it the third most beautiful building of al-Haram al-Sharif. The entrance of the madrasa is a rare artistic piece, composed of a number of different elements and Mamluk decorative motifs. The madrasa has two storeys and includes halls of study, residence rooms, a mosque, library and rooms for other amenities. The top storey has a four-iwan cruciform plan around an open courtyard. The building was partially destroyed in an earthquake in 1927, resulting in extensive damage especially to the top storey.
How Monument was dated:
The building is dated by the inscription at the entrance and by the waqf document specific to the madrasa. Historic documents also provide evidence for the date.
Burgoyne, M., Mamluk Jerusalem: An Architectural Study, London, 1987
Citation of this web page:
Yusuf al-Natsheh "Madrasa al-Ashrafiyya" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. 2019. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;pa;Mon01;8;en
Prepared by: Yusuf Al-Natsheh