Qantara Qantara

Great Mosque of Algiers

  • Name : Great Mosque of Algiers
  • Place : Algiers, Algeria
  • Construction date/period : 1096-1324 (minaret)
  • Construction materials : Stone, brick, roofing tiles, wood; ornamentation: ceramic, wood
  • Architectural pattern :
  • Recipient/Mandatory : Yûsuf ibn Tâshufîn (1062-1106)
  • Inscriptions :

    1- On the minbar in Kufic script

    2- On a white marble plate, situated on one of the walls near the entrance to the minaret

  • Transcription :

    1-بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم أتم هذا المنبر في أول شهر رجب من سنة تسعين وأربعمائة. الذي عمل محمد

    2-  بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم، صلى الله على سيدنا محمد لما تمم أمير المسلمين أبو تاشفين أيده الله ونصره منار الجزائر في مدة أولها يوم الأحد السابع عشر من ذي القعدة من عام اثنين وعشرين وسبعمائة وكان تمامها في كمالها في غرة رجب عام ثلاثة وعشرين وسبعمائة ناد المنار المذكور بلسان حاله الحالي" أي منار حاله الحسن كحالي أقام أمير المسلمين تفاحا كساني بها حسنا وتمم بنياني وقابلني بدر السماء وقال لي عليك سلامي أيها القمر الثاني فلا منظر يسبي نفوسا كمنظري ألا فانظروا حسني وبهجة تيجاني فزاد نصر الله حول لوائه رفيقا له تال وجيشا له ثاني"

  • Translations-inscriptions :

    1- In the name of Allah, the Compassionate and the Merciful. This pulpit was completed on the first of the month of Rajab of the year 490. The work of Mohammed

    2- In the name of Allah, the Compassionate and the Merciful, may Allah bless our lord Mohammed! When the prince of the Muslims Abû Tâshufîn, to whom Allah will give sustenance and support, finishes the minaret of Algiers, in the period beginning on Sunday 17 dhil Qi’da of the year seven hundred and twenty-two and ending the first of the month of Rajab of the year seven hundred and twenty-three, the said minaret will proclaim in its (mute) language: “Surely no other minaret as beautiful as mine. The prince of the Muslims has mastered apples and clad me in them to embellish and complete my construction.” 

This mosque, which is Algier’s oldest and largest mosque, has an Arabic floor plan that is emblematic of Almoravid religious architecture. A rectangular construction, this edifice is wider than it is deep, with a double tiled roof, like all Almoravid mosques. You enter the courtyard through a portico leading to three entries pierced in the northern wall. The oblong courtyard is surrounded by porticos, some of which extend from the naves of the prayer hall. Entered by a series of lateral entrances, the prayer hall is divided into eleven naves that run perpendicular to the qiblî wall in five bays. Poly-lobed arches run parallel to the mihrâb and alternate with slightly broken horseshoe arches, running perpendicular to it. They rest on rectangular and cross-shaped pillars.

Along with their broken arches, which were already present in earlier monuments, the Almoravids put great emphasis on varying the design of their arches. They were the ones to develop the poly-lobed arch in the Maghreb, which the Andalusians had used in the Great Mosque of Córdoba. Their arches varied from five, nine and eleven lobes, introducing a true hierarchy of arches into religious constructions—a feature that continued to be carried out by their successors. The robustness of the pillars combined with the startling elegance of the broken horseshoe arches instils the bays of the Great Mosque of Algiers with simplicity and harmony.

The central and much wider nave leading to the mihrâb is amplified by the effect of indented lobed arches, circumscribed by interlacing braids. The mihrâb has been reconstructed and is flanked by two small spiral columns, covered by an ogive stucco arch in relief. It has a niche with a flat bottom and cut sides; unfortunately, its decoration has not survived. Alongside the mihrâb, two doors provide access to little oblong rooms. One of these still has its ingenious system of rails on the floor for moving the minbar—fitted with wheels—from the storage room to the prayer hall. In conservation at the National Museum of Antiquities and Islamic Arts, the mosque’s minbar is the oldest and most finely sculpted of its kind in Algeria.

In the north-eastern corner we find the Bâb al-Jenina with its various service rooms, which, along with the minaret, are reserved for the imam. A characteristic of the productions of the Abd al-Wadides, who tended to imitate the Almohads’ organizational plan, is their placement of the minaret, namely in the north-eastern corner, as we see in the Kutubiyya mosque (Marrakesh) and the Qasaba mosque in Seville (Andalusia). Its quadrangular shaft is topped by merlons set at an angle and a lantern, similarly set. The surface is punctuated by rectangular niches with poly-lobed blind arches and blue and white ceramic tiles, which were added when it was restored during the colonial period.

REFERENCE BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bourouiba, R., Les inscriptions commémoratives des mosquées d’Algérie, Algiers, OPU, 1984, p. 81-86

Bourouiba, R., L’art religieux musulman en Algérie, Algiers, S.N.E.D., 1983

Bourouiba, R., Apports de l’Algérie à l’architecture religieuse arabo-islamique, Algiers, OPNA, 1956

Devoulx, A., Les édifices religieux de l'ancien Alger, Algiers, Bastide, 1870

Marçais, G., L’architecture musulmane d’occident, Tunisie, Algérie, Espagne et Sicile, Paris, Arts et Métiers Graphiques, 1954



Transversal sheets
islam
islam
Almoravids (1056-1147)
Almoravids (1056-1147)
Artistic patronage
Artistic patronage
Power
Power
Places of prayer and religious practices
Places of prayer and religious practices
Religious life
Religious life