Pieces from the Nur al-Din Zangi minbar
Islamic Museum, al-Aqsa Mosque / al-Haram al-Sharif
Construction of the minbar began in hegira 564 / AD 1169, and was completed in AH 570 / AD 1174
Salman bin Ma’ali; Hamid Zafir; Abu al-Hasan bin Yahya; Fada’il and Abu al-Hasan Walidi Waladay Yahya al-Halabi.
Interlocked pine, inlaid with mother-of-pearl, pearls, and ivory.
Length 245 cm, width 112 cm
Custom-made in Aleppo, Syria for al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
A collection of panels formed from small and medium-sized pieces of interlocking pinewood representing all that remains of the Minbar of Nur al-Din Zangi, which was crafted in Aleppo as a good omen for the conquest of Jerusalem. The minbar was destroyed in a fire of 1969 which damaged some of the sections of al-Aqsa Mosque, especially the southern, qibla, wall. Nur al-Din Zangi ordered the production of the minbar while preparing for the conquest of Jerusalem but he died before he could retake the city, and Salah al-Din (Saladin) undertook the transportation of the minbar from Aleppo to Jerusalem in AH 583 / AD 1187.
The minbar was made from interlocking pine and inlaid with mother-of-pearl, ivory and pearls. The different components that constitute it are attached to each other by means of wooden nails and, in addition, the interlocking technique (ta'sheeq) is employed. The minbar was made up of three sections: the entrance, which faced muqarnas tiers, a staircase and a podium, which was covered by a kiosk. The door was composed of two leafs, important sections of which remain. The entrance opened onto the staircase with a wooden enclosure on both sides, crafted in the mashrabiyya technique. The staircase leads to the podium where the khatib would deliver the sermon.
The minbar is rich in vegetal and geometric decorations as well as an arrangement of star-shaped medallions, each of which forms a complete decorative unit which, with the surrounding units, forms beautiful latticework (mashrabiyya). The minbar also has a collection of epigraphic inscriptions that contain Qur'anic verses and an endowment (waqf) inscription of Nur al-Din Zangi and his son al-Salih, who accomplished what his father began. This is in addition to the inscriptions which bear the name of the craftsmen who made the minbar. The minbar of Nur al-Din is considered to be one of the most beautiful of the Islamic wooden minbars.
The remains of a minbar destroyed in 1969 in a fire that damaged al-Aqsa Mosque. The minbar was commissioned by Nur al-Din Zangi in Aleppo as a good omen for the conquest of Jerusalem. Salah al-Din (Saladin) undertook its transportation to Jerusalem. The pieces have rich vegetal and geometric decoration, interlocking and star-shaped panels and names of the craftsmen.
Nur al-Din Zangi (ruled in Syria AH 541–69 / AD 1146–74) and Salih bin Nur al-Din Zangi, Salah al-Din Ayyubi (known as Saladin, r. AH 564–89 / AD 1169–93)
The minbar is dated by the epigraphic inscriptions it bears, and a number of historical sources, some of the most important being those of Abu Shama (d. 665 / 1267) and Ibn al-Athir (d. 630 / 1223) and Mujir al-Din al-Hanbali (d. 927 / 1520).
The minbar was transferred from al-Aqsa Mosque to the Islamic Museum after the fire of 1969.
Aleppo was narrowed down as the place of production for the minbar, supported by both the epigraphic inscriptions on it and by historical sources.
Abu Shama, al-Maqdisi, Dhail or Tarajim Rijal al-Qarnain al-Sadis wal-Sabi' [The Biographies of Famous People in the 6th and 7th Century], Cairo, 1947.
Al-A'arif, A., Tarikh Qubbat al-Sakhra wa al-Masjid al-Aqsa [The History of the Dome of the Rock and the Aqsa Mosque], Jerusalem, 1955.
Abu Khalaf, M., Islamic Art Through the Ages: Masterpieces of the Islamic Museum of al-Haram al-Sharif, Jerusalem, 1998.
Al-Ansari, F., Minbar Nur al-Din Zengi [The Minbar of Nur al-Din Zangi], 1989, Jerusalem.
Mayer, L. A., Islamic Woodcarvers and their Works, Geneva, 1958.
Nazmi Al-Ju'beh "Pieces from the Nur al-Din Zangi minbar" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. https://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;pa;Mus01;16;en
Prepared by: Nazmi Al-Ju'behNazmi Al-Ju'beh
Nazmi Al-Ju'beh is an archaeologist and historian and Co-Director of RIWAQ, Centre for Architectural Conservation in Ramallah, Palestine. He studied at Birzeit University in Palestine and at Tübingen University in Germany. He taught at Birzeit University and at al-Quds University. He was Director of the Islamic Museum, al-Haram al-Sharif, Jerusalem, and directed various cultural heritage projects in Palestine, including surveys of archaeological and architectural sites. He was a major contributor to Pilgrimage, Sciences and Sufism: Islamic Art in the West Bank and Gaza (Vienna: MWNF, 2004) and is the author of numerous publications on the history, archaeology and cultural heritage of Palestine.
Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez
Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.
True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.
MWNF Working Number: PA 16
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Atabegs and Ayyubids | Religious Life
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