Great Mosque of Mahdiyya
Name of Monument:
Great Mosque of Mahdiyya
Date of the monument:
Hegira 297/AD 910
Fatimo-Zirid (Beginning of the dynasty)
The Fatimid caliph/Imam al-Mahdi.
This mosque was built on a rectangular plan measuring 75 m x 55 m. It is flanked by two round towers which served to catch the water running from the terraces. It seems the mosque did not have a minaret. The call to prayer was probably proclaimed from one of the towers. In front of the main entrance stands a porch claimed to be the first to figure in Maghrebin architecture. Harmoniously proportioned, this porch is roofed with a round horseshoe arch with mihrab-shaped niches placed high up on either side. Lower down, the different faces of the porch are ornamented with flat-backed niches. This decoration, a main feature of Fatimid monuments (best exemplified by the lateral façade of the Great mosque at Sfax) was carried over into the early Zirid period. This porch is reminiscent of the triumphal arches built by the Romans.
The Great Mosque at Mahdiyya was the inspiration for several Egyptian mosques, notably al-Hakim (see link below) and al-Aqmar mosques in Cairo.
The mosque was built on a fairly tangential piece of land which was in-filled and reclaimed from the sea. Several re-workings of the original building have taken place, mainly during the Zirid period after the collapse of the qibla wall. Other works were carried out during the Ottoman era in the 11th/17th century. The mosque was rebuilt between 1961 and 1968. Only the porch and the north gallery are authentic.
How monument was dated:
Historical sources, for example Ibn Idhari (7th/13th century), as well as geographical authorities such as al-Bakri (5th/11th century), attribute the Mahdiyya mosque to the Fatimid caliph al-Mahdi. However, the north gallery and the old mihrab can be dated from the Zirid era through comparisons with contemporary monuments such as the Great Mosque at Sfax and the mihrab of the Great Mosque at Monastir.
Above Text and Images reproduced with the kind permission of Museum with No Frontiers (MWNF). Copyright MWNF.
Please visit the state of the art MWNF Website at http://www.museumwnf.org/ and click on Discover Islamic Art for more images, close-ups, additional research material and bibliography of the above object(s) as well as numerous objects and monuments from other periods of Islamic History.
Please read other articles in this website on Fatimid Objects/Monuments at MWNF:
Fatimid Monument – Aqueduct in Kairouan, Tunisia; Patron Imam al-Mui’zz (the reading includes a summary of the goals and vision of MWNF)
Fatimid Object – Textile Fragment Attributed to Imam al-Aziz
Fatimid Monuments – The Al-Hakim Mosque and Bab al-Futuh (Gate of Conquest)
Fatimid Object – Fragment of Robe Attributed to Imam al-Mustansir
Literary Reading: Fatimid Objects – Four Ivory Panels
Fatimid Objects – Glass Weights Bearing the Names of Imams al-Zahir and al-Mustansir
Fatimid Objects – Exquisite Gold Earrings, Pendants and Bracelets
Fatimid Object: Door Wings of Imam al-Hakim bi-Amrillah (NEW READING)