The Great Mosque
municipality of Mahdia
When the first Fatimid Imam Ubayd Allah al-Mahdi, founded Mahdia in 909, he chooses to build the mosque in an area of ??the walled city near the Caliphate residence.
The fortified appearance of the monument is still suffering from the pioneering spirit that accompanies the development of religious architecture in Ifriqiya in the early centuries of the Arab conquest. Moreover, Mahdia is designed by its founder as a safe city, as
illustrated in the office caused by the increasing hostility of the Sunni population to the imposition of Shiism by the Fatimids. However, two important mosque corner towers are not designed for the defense of the complex, but as a reservoir for collecting rainwater. It is likely that, for a time at least, they were fueled by the water pipe which served the al-Mahdi palace and went underground sources Miyyanish, six kilometers from the city.
The building underwent several changes over the centuries, especially during the Ottoman period, after the destruction of the city by the Spaniards in 1554.
Between 1961 and 1965, he was completely renovated by French architect Alexandre Lézine that respects broadly the project tenth century. Of the original structure are preserved monumental portal and the north portico, while the rest is the result of previous
Architecture: The outdoor areas
The building consists of a large irregular quadrilateral, about 85 meters long and 55 meters wide, with its south - home to the mihrab - slightly longer than the north side. Viewed from the outside, the mosque is like a fortress, because of its massive walls without openings except the facade, the extensive use of stone and especially the presence on the facade two square towers and truncated to the northeast and northwest
corners. Since it appears that the mosque was never equipped with a minaret, it is likely that the call to prayer is made from one of the towers.
The main entrance, located in the center of the north wall and flanked by two small openings, is marked by a large arch resting on jambs and crowned by a short attic.
The gate solemnity is enhanced by the simplicity of moldings that share the surfaces and decoration: blind arcades and horseshoe in the lower register and niches in the upper register of the archivolt, which take the section pattern of the cornice. Inside is a large
courtyard surrounded by arches on all four sides.
The north portico retains its original vaulted arches resting on stone pillars, while the rest are horseshoe arches resting on Corinthian columns: Individual east and west, south and twin front the prayer room.
The great pillared hall dotted with Corinthian columns, has nine naves perpendicular to the qibla and four bays. The central nave much higher and wider than the others, is flanked by a thick row twin horseshoe arches supported by groups of four columns instead of twin
columns used in the aisles. Thus defined, the trace nave inside the hypostyle structure, strongly marked axis in the direction of the mihrab. The intersection with the span of equal amplitude and parallel to the qibla wall, resulting in a T-shaped plan, architectural feature
whose central point is highlighted by a cross.
Open along the axis of the ship by a horseshoe arch, this cross is delimited by pillars and pillars half angles bundles formed of groups of columns, on which a hemispherical dome.
This is based on an octagonal drum pierced by 24 windows in green glass. The thrust is supported by pendants angles, while a band of black marble decorated with inscriptions from the Koran marks the transition between the two figures of the complex structural mechanism.
The focal point of the architectural composition, in front of the mihrab niche is plunged into darkness but bathed in a soft green light (color of Islam) passing through the windows of the drum.
The mihrab shaped horseshoe, white-stone Kedd?l, is supported by two columns of dark green marble. Inside is a rich sculptural decoration, on two separate registers separated by an arch of white marble band covered with Qur'anic verses in Kufic script. In the lower
end are nine furrows, the top shell shaped five and ten lobes, followed by a frieze in high relief clovers; grooves converge in the upper part in a single point at the top of the arch. The unusual presence of a second and smaller mihrab - a simple recess without decoration - in an eccentric position on the west wall of the prayer hall is due to the controversy between Shiism and Sunnism the correct direction Mecca.
The mosque draws heavily in its plan and other architectural elements of the Great Mosque of Kairouan (ninth century), monument served as a model for the Muslim religious architecture in Ifriqiya.
However, the large gate projecting reserved for the caliph and his entourage, is a major turning point in Islamic architecture as it allocates for the first time an aesthetic and symbolic meaning to the entry of a place of worship, totally anonymous previously even in the case of prestigious monuments. Inspired by Roman triumphal arches, but also the inputs of the Umayyad desert castles, the monumental gate marks the beginning of a ceremonial route inside the mosque, ending at the bottom of the prayer hall. Indeed, from the main entrance, an unusual swath cut in two the court then undertook through the nave to the mihrab, where the Fatimid Caliph performed his imam of the community functions.
The basilica structure of the prayer hall divided into naves perpendicular to the qibla, with a focus on the symbolic axis directional "nave - mihrab" marked by a cupola but already revealed through the front focus on the central arch (large size combination of pillars and
columns instead of the usual double columns, etc.), was successfully tested at the Great Mosque of Kairouan a century ago. However, the architectural complex syntax elements - in itself exceptional in the case of the gate and the covered corridor - is unique to the Great Mosque of Mahdia.