Zaytouna Mosque

Topics: Mosque, Islamic architecture, Islam Pages: 8 (3316 words) Published: May 24, 2013
Tunis, Tunes, or Tunis governorate is a province in Tunisia that is declared to be a pre-Arab living area that dates back to 8th century. It was established by the Muslim Arabs and declared to be the capital of Ifriqiya or central North Africa by the 12th century. The province was exposed to many invading groups including the Carthage-Romans, the Spanish-Arabs, the Ottoman-Spanish, the Arabs, the Hafsids, the Vandals, the Venetians, the Turkish-Algerian, the Mamluks, and finally the French. These groups had a manipulative effect on the architectural styles and classification of Art types in Tunis. Although the Early Arabs appeared in Ifrikiya in 670 CE they got to conquer and rule the land by 705 CE till 1574 CE. After the fully settled they started off with many architectural projects specifically mosques. Jami’ Al- Zaytouna or Zaytouna Mosque (Figure 1) was of the early mosques of the whole millennium and was the only Friday mosque during this period. The mosque was built in 116 A.H/ 732 or 734 CE and went under restoration by 864 CE. The Zaytouna mosque was was of the seven hundered monuments included in Medinat Tunis. The mosque was a trademark of the Islamic Identity of the city as it was built on the remains of a Roman Christian Basilica sort of declaring Tunisia as an Islamic country. It served as a protective or defensive building, with two north-east and south-east angle overlooking towers that resemble the one in the Great Mosque of Mahdeya. The mosque was so called “The Heart of the Medina”. The mosque is also referred to as the Great Mosque of Tunis, Zaytouna Mosque, Zaituna Mosque, Jami’ Ezzaitouna or Zaitouna Mosque that all translate into the same meaning which is “The Olive Tree Mosque”. It was rebuilt due to the request of the Aghlabid patron Amir Abo Ibrahim Ahmed (856-863). The mosque stood as a dominant and significant figure during many dynasties and periods as the Abbasid, Zirid, Hafsid, Aghlabid and Fatimid. During the 9th, 10th and 15th centuries the building remained of one function and usage; a religious building for Muslim prayers or a mosque. The original structure of the building does not stand today but its construction is linked back to the builder Hassan Ebn Noaman till Abo Ibrahim requested its rebuilding. Throughout the 9th century the mosque was reconstructed by Fathallah- a slave of the caliph- as it is indicated at the bottom of the mosque’s mihrab. As Tunis was adjusted several times to the invading groups, so was the Zaytouna mosque. It was renovated and changed under many circumstance, for example in year 991, the 11th, 13th, 15th, 19th and late 20th centuries. After this number of considerable interventions, renovations, and distortions done to any building, the greatest possibility is that it would lose its identity or its significance. This was never the case with the Zaytouna as it continued to be of the most superior buildings of the Aghlabid architecture along with the Great Mosque of Kariouan. The Great Mosque of Kairouan (Figure 2) and Zaytouna Mosque were both constructed following the same style, techniques, plans, and substructures. The two mosques were completed during mid-9th century as they share the same architect’s vision and once contemporary message. Both mosques also link back to the design and the type of architecture of the Great Mosque of Cordoba (Figure 3). Actually it is believed that the Zaytouna Mosque was originally based on the inspiration from the Cordoba and Kairouan Mosques. The imitation between the two mosques is very clear and is clearly identified even from the relevancy in their development phases (Figure 9). Back in time, twenty-five years ago, the Kairouan mosque did not consist of the same internal forms as it does today. For example the intersecting zone of the center nave and the qibla area form reflecting space of the mihrab dome. A second example is the axis of the mihrab which is articulated by a significantly wide and towering arch...

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