Name of Monument:

Bardo Palace


In the outskirts of Tunis, The Bardo, Tunis, Tunisia

Date of Monument:

Hegira 13th century / AD 19th century

Architect(s) / master-builder(s):

Hamda ibn ‘Uthman, Muhammad al-Gharbi.

Period / Dynasty:

Husaynid, Ottoman


Husayn ibn Mahmud (AH 1240–51 / AD 1824–35) for the Little Palace. Muhammad Sadiq Bey (2nd half of the 19th century) for the Grand Palace


The existence of the Bardo in the Hafsid period is authenticated by the descriptions of travellers such as Anselme Adorne, who came from Bruges in 1470, and Leon the African. In the Muradite period, de Thévenot, in his Relation d'un voyage …, mentions 'Bardés'. In the Husaynid period, both Peysonnel and the chevalier d'Arvieux describe the beylical residence. Thus it appears that the Bardo was occupied continuously, but it was Husayn ibn Ali who definitely transferred the court to the Bardo at the beginning of the 11th / 17th century. In the aftermath of the protectorate, the wing reserved for women was given over to the museum inaugurated on the 7th of May 1888 under the name of the Alawi Museum, which became the National Bardo Museum in 1957.


The Bardo was a fortified beylical city complex comprising a palace, a barracks, a mosque, a hammam and a suq. The tower at the northeast corner is the only surviving example of the original five towers flanking the enclosure. The old military buildings, with their monumental doors embellished with pediments bearing beylical emblems are still visible, and so is the mosque.
As it is today, the Bardo Palace consists of two sections known as the Little Palace and the Grand Palace. The old seraglio or women's quarters is described below.
In the shade of a portico, a carriage gateway opening with a pointed horseshoe arch gives access to a long hallway. The ground floor covered with vaults was reserved for offices and service quarters. Above this floor are two more levels, each accommodated palaces in contrasting styles.
The Little Palace is arranged around a courtyard with two opposing porticoes. Each of these is formed by three semi-circular arches on twisted columns and neo-Corinthian capitals. The centre of the courtyard is endowed with a basin of Italian Carrara marble. This material is also used for the paving and for the frames of doors and windows. The walls are lined with beautifully made Tunisian ceramic tiles. The two reception rooms open out under the shadow of the porticoes. One of them is designed on a cruciform plan composed of a square between three alcoves which is divided at the corners into little rooms. The other is built on the classic T-plan, with a central alcove and two little rooms. These rooms have barrel vault roofs or cloister arches decorated with sculpted plaster depicting interlocking rosettes, lambrequin arches or eight-branched stars framed in cypress trees.
The Grand Palace is built round a courtyard with covered porticoes. These are lit by tall, arched windows and form an upper gallery which, with its cast-iron balustrade, gives the impression of a balcony. Two luxurious reception rooms face each other. The domed room (18.2 m x 13.4 m) has a 16-panel dome in carved wood with a hanging stalactite finial at its centre. The decoration of coffered panels containing star-shaped rosettes is enhanced by colouring and gilding.
The work was carried out by two Tunisian artisans; Hamda ibn ‘Uthman and Muhammad al-Gharbi.
Opposite the domed room, the cruciform room adopts a Tunisian décor; plaster coating for the domes and the upper walls, Tunisian ceramics for the lower walls.
The, oblong-shaped side rooms are covered with coffered wooden ceilings with an Italianate decoration; a radiating pattern of foliate scrolls and bouquets in vivid colours.

View Short Description

The Bardo was a fortified Beylical city consisting of a palace, barracks, a mosque, a hammam and a suq. At the beginning of the AH 11th / AD 17th century, Bey Husayn ibn Ali moved his court here and made it his principal residence. The official palace, accessed by a stairway guarded by marble lions, has served as the Chamber of Deputies since Independence. The Bardo Museum, once the Alawi Museum, was opened in 1888 and occupies the old seraglio (the wing once reserved for women). Today, this museum exhibits a most beautiful collection of antique mosaics.

How Monument was dated:

Historical sources such as d'Arvieux (Mémoires), de Thévenot (Relation d'un voyage fait au Levant), Peysonnel and Desfontaines (Voyages dans les Regences de Tunis et d'Alger).

Selected bibliography:

Marçais, G., Architecture musulmane d'Occident, Paris, 1954, pp.35–6.
Revault, J., Palais et résidences d'été de la région de Tunis (XVIe-XIXe siècle), Paris, 1974, pp.303–36.
Ifriqiya: Thirteen centuries of Art and Architecture in Tunisia, pp.110–11.

Citation of this web page:

Jamila Binous "Bardo Palace" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2024. 2024.;ISL;tn;Mon01;16;en

Prepared by: Jamila BinousJamila Binous

Née en 1939 à Tunis, a étudié l'histoire et la géographie à l'Université de Tunis et l'urbanisme à l'Université de Tours (France).
Mme Binous a exercé 30 ans durant autant que chercheur puis directeur à l'Association pour la Sauvegarde de la Médina de Tunis.
A été expert de l'Unesco (mission Sanaa « Ville Historique ») en 1982 ; expert national pour le projet UNDP de reconstruction des sites historiques méditerranéens ; membre du Comité International des Villes Historiques ; co-auteur de la Charte internationale des Villes Historiques (ICOMOS-UNESCO).
Consultante auprès de l'IMED pour l'étude sur le contexte législatif, la stratégie et la politique des musées en Tunisie 2002-2003.
Coordinatrice de l'exposition la femme et le seuil in Femme, culture et créativité en Tunisie – Credif - Tunis 2001.
Mme Binous a pris part à divers congrès internationaux, écrit plusieurs articles et ouvrages tels que :
- Tunis d'un monument à l'autre, Tunis, 1970
- Tunis, Tunis, 1985
- Les chefs d'œuvres de l'artisanat tunisien, Tunis 1982
- Les maisons de la Médina de Tunis, Dar Asraf édition Tunis 2002.

MWNF Working Number: TN 16


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