From Abbasid North Africa to Seljuk Anatolia
Abbasid North Africa 750-940
Abbasid power stretched from Baghdad to the Moroccan coast of the Atlantic. Especially the North African mosques show peculiar early local designs. Splendid examples with a strong sense for desert architecture.
Wall enclosure and gate (Photo Archnet.org)
Algiers, Great Mosque, Streetview
The floorplan is reminicent of the Mesquita in Cordova (Plan Archnet.org)
Photo from I-CIAS, Tunisia
Abbasid-Saffarid-Buyid Persia 7th-12th cent
The Persian heartlands under Abbasid rule have left us with a number of unique buildings. There are Ktesiphon's astounding ruins of the Taq-i-Kisra, Samarra's al-Muttawikil (847-892) with its "Babylonian" minaret, and Damghan's Masjid-i-Tarik Khana.
The Minaret in the ruins of the Mosque
Masjid-i Tarik Khana
The oldest extant mosque in Iran, the Tarik Khana, or 'House of God' incorporates a simple Arab plan with Sassanian construction techniques. An arcade lines the central courtyard, a single bay deep on all but the qibla side where it increases to 3 bays. The central aisle on the qibla arcade is wider and taller than the others, a form that presciently indicates the later ubiquitous monumental axis of Persian architecture. The arcades, recalling Sassanian precedents, are formed of fired brick arches, elliptical and sometimes slightly pointed, and massive circular brick piers. (Text and photos Archnet.org)
consisted of two cities, Seleukia on the left and Ktesiphon on the
right bank of the Tigris. It was the residence of the Parthian and
the Sassanidian kings. Together the two cities had a population of
500 000. With the foundation of Baghdad in the 8th cent AD the city
lost its importance.
The last remains of Ktesiphon is the great arch of Taq-i-Kisra ("Arch of Chosrau") (Sassanid, 7-8th cent?). The technology of erecting large arches over square or rectangular bases seems to have come with the Parthians from Khorassan. The Romans only knew how to erect copulas on circular tambours. The "Iranian" cupola using spherical Pendentives reached Byzantium in the 6th cent (Aghia Sofia) and Western Europe only in the Renaissance (Brunelleschi's dome in Florence). See also Bukhara.
Abbasid and Tulunid Cairo 9-10th cent
Ahmad ibn Tulun, the son of a Turkish slave of the Abbasid caliph al-Ma'mun was sent to Egypt in 868 as governor. Refusing to send the annual tribute to the Abbasid court, he established himself as an independent ruler of the province. His family ruled in Egypt for 135 years, until 905.
Ibn Tulun Mosque
This mosque built for Ahmad ibn Tulun, is a rare and unique architectural expression of the cultural influence of al-Andalus and Samarra's al-Muttawikil (847-892), Ibn Tulun's home. The minaret is, obviously a Cairene copy of al-Muttawikil, but the mosque is built entirely of well-fired red brick faced in carved stucco; it has ziyadas and a roof supported by arcades on piers. Andalusian influence, which came with refugees from Spain, is manifested in the use of double-arched, horseshoe windows. (Text and photos from Archnet.org)
Fatimid Cairo 969-1171
Fatimid Cairo is the high point
of Cairene architecture with such buildings as the al-Azhar Mosque
and its famous Islamic University and the al-Hakim mosque.
Al Azhar Mosque
Fatimid mosque in Cairo. The Mosque was founded by Jawhar al-Siqilly,
the Fatimid conqueror of Egypt, in 970 as the congregational mosque
for the new city of al-Qahira. The first khutba was delivered from
its minbar in 972. A university was established there in 988, one of
the oldest universities and to this day the most influential Islamic
school in the world.
The courtyard was originally enclosed with three arcades. Caliph al-Hafiz (1138) added an arcade around all four sides of the courtyard, displaying keel-shaped arches, roundels, and keel-arched niches. (Text and photos Archnet.org)
Mosque of Caliph al-Hakim bin Amr Allah
990 - 1004
The Mosque of al Hakim was begun by the Fatimid Caliph al-'Aziz in 990 and finished by his son al-Hakim bin-Amr Allah and his overseer Abu Muhammad al-Hafiz 'Abd al-Ghani ibn Sa'id al-Misri in 1013. (Photos and plan Archnet.org)
Samanid Turkestan and Persia 874-1001
Since the time of Alexander's Diadochian Kingdoms Sogdiana and Baktria (West Turkestan) were Buddhist territory as excavations in Ai Khanoum, Balkh, Merv, Bamiyan, Marakanda-Afrasiab show. It was ruled by satraps of the Persian Sassanids (to 712). Islamic Arabs arrived in the early 8th cent ( Merv 641, Marakanda 712, Talas 751) and Abbasids ruled the area from 750- 874. Islamic architecture, making use of Sassanid examples, began to blossom only under the Persian Samanids (874-1001). Their earliest buildings survive in Bukhara, a mausoleum (914), the Balkh No-Gumbad Mosque, and in Na'in (Iran), a Masjid e-Jame (960)
Samanid Mausoleum in Bukhara, built by Nasr ibn Ismail (914) square
canopy tomb is the earliest Islamic monument in Central Asia. It
exhibits especially the unique architectural solution of the support
of the dome, which differs from Westen examples.
The technology of erecting large parabolic arches or domes over square or rectangular bases seems to have come with the Parthians from Khorassan. The Romans only knew how to erect copulas on circular tambours. The "Iranian" cupola using spherical Pendentives reached Byzantium in the 6th cent (Aghia Sofia) and Western Europe only in the Renaissance (Photos from mit.edu)
The unique eastern squinch (Pendentive) in the support of the dome on a square base.
The Nine Domes Mosque (Masjid No Gumbad) 925, also known as Masjid-i-Hadji Piyada in Balkh. This exquisitely ornamented mosque is the earliest Islamic monument in Afghanistan. The mosque is in ruins, Its nine domes have collapsed.
The forest of stucco-covered columns, standing in 3 feet of rubble is still extant. (Photo and plan Archnet.org)
of pre-Seljuk mosques, the Masjid-i-Jame at Na'in exhibits a simple
hypostyle plan, which has remained uncomplicated despite the
additions and alterations of subsequent years. A courtyard is
accessed through the arcades that are built from bays of irregular
spacing and number. The courtyard façade probably dates to
reconstruction work of the Seljuk period, although the most unusual
feature - the angled piers flanking the central nave on the
southwestern (qibla) side - is dated to the original period of
The minaret represents an important transition from the early square form to the Iranian minarets of the 11th and 12th centuries. Maintaining the early square plan at the base, a tall tapering octagonal mid-section rises to a short cylindrical shaft.
The Masjid-e Jame at Na'in is renown for the extensive and masterful carved stucco of the mihrab and adjacent bays, including the oldest extant epigraphic friezes in Iran. Stylistically it bridges the stucco decoration of the Sasanian and Abbasid periods with that of the Seljuks. (Text and photos Archnet.org)
View from the southeast including the mihrab
Elaborate carved stucco decorations around the mihrab
Seljuk Persia 11th-13th cent
In the 11th century the Abbasids were replaced by the Turkic Seljuks, whose major architecture is found in Damghan and Ardestan. A separate example of their rule is the fortified city of Bam, deep in the Iranian south on the borders to Beludjistan. Long in ruins, it was recently restored only to fall victim to a disasterous earthquake in 2003.
pre-Seljuk to early Seljuk transition
Il-Khan-Mongolic(?) influences and Safavid dome (1539)
The current form of the mosque, consisting of a four-iwan courtyard surrounded by arcades, represents the successive work of several building periods. (Text and photos Archnet.org)
The earliest elements suggest an original pre-Seljuk hypostyle mosque, into which early Seljuks inserted a dome chamber and adjacent iwan (dated 1158 and 1160 respectively).
Courtyard and arcades.
However, the arcades as they stand cannot be dated to the pre-Seljuk original, as they include domed and barrel vaults that display wide variety in brickwork, height, and shape, the supporting piers are also ranging in size and shape.
View of vaults in the oldest parts of the complex ( southern corner, with view through arch to the southeast iwan)
The iwans and the dome other than that of the
sanctuary appear to be either Safavid construction or reconstruction;
an inscription in the northwest iwan cites a restoration in 1539.
The earliest stucco fragments, found in the western corner of the courtyard, have been dated to the end of the 10th century. The interior of the dome chamber and iwan are extensively covered in plaster. The dome and zone of transition are articulated with simulated brickwork; the iwan vault is uniquely faced with a complex stucco design of interlacing arabesques. The mihrab exemplifies skilled stucco carving, and may represent an Ilkhan restoration.
Detailed view of the stucco near the mihrab
Chihil Dukhtaran Gunbad
Built in the year 1054-55, this monument is the second oldest remaining tomb structure from the time of Tughril Beg (1040-1063), the first Seljuk monarch. (Photo from Archnet.org)
Rum Seljuks in Persia and Asia Minor 1077- 1570
After the defeat of the Byzantine knights at Manzikert (1071) on the hands of the Seljuks, Asia Minor lay wide open to Turkic advances and was taken by the "Rum Seljuks" (11-14th cent) (Rum = Roman or Western). Their capital became Konya.
Alaeddin Mosque, 'Ala al-Din Kayqubad I Camii
Evidence of an early building program dates
from the time of Mesud I. An inscription dates the fine, ebony minbar
to 1155; the minbar is the first dated example of Seljuq art in
Anatolia. The polychrome ceramic frame of the mihrab and the dome
above may date to this period.
Kaykaus I began a major rebuilding program in 1219. He changed the main entrance from the west to the north, opposite the mihrab. He added a monumental façade on the north side, overlooking the city and facing the Seljuq palace. A marble tomb was begun in the courtyard. Kaykaus’ building was cut short by his death in the same year, only to be resumed thereafter by his brother and successor Kayqubad I. With the exception of Izzeddin Keykavus, all of the Seljuk sultans after 1156 are interred in the complex. (Text and photos Archnet.org)
North façade. The white stone columns are reused from a Byzantine building
Interior: the peristile prayer hall
Its portal displays alternating stones of light and dark, a sign of Syrian influence. A copy of the portal of the nearby Alaeddin Mosque.
The entrance is through a somewhat truncated muqarnas niche, and leads in to a large room with a tiled iwan at one end. It is surmounted by a tiled dome open to the sky. Directly below the oculus is a pool for rain water . The transition from the square room to the round dome is accomplished by way of Turkish triangles intracately decorated in black, white, and turquoise tiles. Today the Madrasa serves as a tile museum. (Text and photos Archnet.org)
The polychrome marble entry
The interior tiled dome. The triangular penditives, known as Turkish triangles, are an architectural speciality of the Rum Seljuks.
Photo Rolf Gross 1990
Ince Minareli Medrese, Dar al-Hadith
Ince Minareli Madrasa takes its name from what was once its extremely
tall minaret, currently reduced to only the lower portion. Much of
the minaret collapsed in the early twentieth century. The lowermost
portion of the minaret is square and built of stone, which gives way
to a brick cylinder, which must have formed the bulk of its height.
The brick was once covered in green tile.
However, the extraordinary feature of this medresa is its sculptural decorations. (Text and photos Archnet.org)
Main Portal with folded inscription
Base of the minaret
The Mevlana Tekke
The green-domed mausoleum of Sufi mystic and
poet Jalal al-Din Mohammad al-Rumi (1207-1273, known as Rumi or
Mevlana) is the heart of the convent in Konya that includes a mosque,
ritual hall (semahane), dervish cells and kitchens in addition to
numerous other tombs and cemeteries. The site, a royal rose garden to
the east of the walled city, was a gift in 1228 from the Seljuk
sultan to Mevlana's father, theologian Baha al-Din Walad of Balkh (d.
1231), who chose to settle in Konya after his long flight from the
Mongol army then approaching his hometown.
The earthen graves of Mevlana and his father were soon after Rumi's death covered with a shrine, and a Tekke (takiyya) was built around the tombs to house the Mawlawi brotherhood.
The first tomb built over Mevlana's grave, a simple domed structure, was commissioned in 1274 by Gürcü Hatun, wife of Seljuk vizier Süleyman Pervane and built by Tabrizi architect Badr al-Din. In 1397, Karamanid ruler Ala' al-Din Ali Bey (1361-1398) replaced the dome with the sixteen-sided conical crown covered with green tiles. The shrine grew with additions and redecorations during the rule of Ottoman sultan Bayezid II (1481-1512). Between 1983 and 1987 the complex was extensively restored.
For a collection of 129 beautiful images see Archnet.org Photos of the Mevlana Museum to which the following images - except the first - are linked.
First visit to Konya. On the right the Selimiye Mosque (Photo Gerhard Gross 1954)
Essentially the same view 1970
View from west showing lead-covered domes of the Dervish Tekke, with its chimneys. The green tiled Türbe of Rumi's shrine is seen behind (All other Photos Archnet.org)
Western wall of shrine facing the takiyya courtyard, with tomb of Fatma Hatun seen in front
The gilt sarcophagus of Mevlana and his son Sultan Veled
Muquarna dome over Rumi’s tomb
Built by Sultan Süleyman I or by his son Selim II as prince. (Photo Archnet.org)
Architects Hibat Allah al Gurgani, Selame oglu Mehmet
The Great Mosque of Diyarbakir is the oldest and one of the most significant mosques in Anatolia. Following the Muslim capture of Diyarbakir in 639, a church in the city was used in part as a mosque. The church was eventually fully converted to a mosque, but the building fell into disuse and ruin. In 1091 Sultan Malik Shah directed the local Seljuk governor Maidud Davla to rebuild a mosque on the site. Completed in 1092, the mosque is similar to and heavily influenced by the Umayyad Great Mosque in Damascus (which was repaired by Malik Shah in the twelfth century prior to work in Diyarbakir). The influence of the Damascus mosque brought Syrian architecture and decoration to Anatolia. Included in the complex are the Mesudiye Medresesi (1193) and, not connected to the courtyard, the Zinciriye Medresesi (1189) . (Text and photos Archnet.org)
The main prayer hall and minaret from the courtyard. The influence of the Damascus Omayyad Great Mosque is clearly visible.
View of the western wing of the prayer hall
is a true mosaic of Anatolian history. The city was founded as a
trade colony in the fifth century AD named Theodosiopolis in honor of
the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II (408-450).
Turkish tribes of the Saltukid dynasty took Theodosiopolis from the Byzantines and made it their capital in 1080. In 1179, they built the Great Mosque.
The independent Seljuks Mughith ed-Din Tughrul and Rukh ed-Din conquered the city in 1202 and ruled there until 1230, after which Erzurum was incorporated into the Anatolian Seljuk Empire based in Konya. Following the Seljuk capture, work on the Çifte Minaret Madrasa was begun.
The Ilkhanids took the city from the Seljuks in 1242, but they didn't build any monumental architecture until the Yakutiye Madrasa in 1310. The most prominent features of the Ilkhanid architecture in Erzurum are the tombs (kümbets) that were built in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, such as the Cimcime Sultan Kümbet, the Karanlik Kümbet, or the Üç Kümbetler.
After the Ottoman conquest in 1514, Erzurum's commercial and military stature increased, as did the size of the city.
In 1829 and again in 1916-1918 the Russians occupied the city and built a new citadel in its center.
(Text and photos from Archnet.org )
Two tombs are unidentified. Legend has it that the third is the mausoleum of Emir Saltuk Sultan, which woukld date it to the end of the 12th cent. . Some scholars attribute the mix of Seljuk, Armenian, and Georgian styles of the masonry to the fourteenth century. The fusion of these styles makes this mausoleum unlike any other in Anatolia. (Photos Archnet.org)
The masonry, and the conical domes are related to contemporary 12th cent Armenian architecture, e.g. in Ani and near Lake Van.
Detail of a window in Emir Saltuk's Tomb.
Ulu Cami - Great Mosque
Architect: Abu'l-Fath Muhammed
The Great Mosque of Erzurum was commissioned by Saltuk Emir Nasrettin Aslan Mehmet in 1179. Substantial alterations took place in 1639, in 1839 by Sultan Mahmut II, in 1860, and the last in 1957-1964. These repairs have resulted in numerous modifications especially of the old dome. A portion of the central aisle and large sections of the qibla wall are remaining from the original Saltukid mosque. (Photos Archnet.org)
An interesting feature is the timbered dome structure obtained by stacking planks in the way shown in the photo. This method was still in use in Georgia in the 19th cent. It may go back to Kashmiri and Central Asian (Serindian) practices of the 4th-7th cent. AD
Çifte Minarets Medrese, Hatuniye Medresa
The construction of this madrese, also known as the Hatuniye Medresa, has been alternately attributed to Hande Hatun, the daughter of Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad I (1220-1236), and to Padisha Hatun, the wife of Il Khanid Sultan Gaykhatu (1291-1295). The two attributions also suggest two different dates of construction: 1253 or 1290. Neither date is convincing, however, as it is more likely that the madrasa was completed before the demise of the Seljuk state in Erzurum in 1277, and after the Gök Madrasa in Sivas was built in 1271, a building which has been suggested as a model. The medrese has two minarets remindful of Timurid medrese in Samarkand.
A recent photo of the medrese and the Üç Kümbetler Türbe behind it.
Text and floor plan from Archnet.org
Seljuk Hani – Caravanserays
near Akseray, Cappadocia
One of the Seljuk caravanaserays in Cappadocia. Photos from Archnet.org
A lonely dog