A Tale of Two Mosques: Marrakesh’s Masjid al-Jamiʿ al-Kutubiyya

in Muqarnas Online
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Abstract

The Kutubiyya Mosque, the hallmark monument of the Almohad dynasty (1121–1269) in their capital city of Marrakesh, has resisted scholarly interpretation due to its unique plan, featuring two prayer halls wedged apart by the monumental minaret. The south-facing qibla and the architectural use of a prior dynasty’s palatial remains further complicate the narrative surrounding the function of the mosque within the urban fabric and the Almohads’ dynastic self-concept. This article argues that such idiosyncrasies are indicative of the Almohads’ sensitivity to the intellectual, religious, and legal arguments of the day, expressed through a deliberate adaptation or repudiation of the architectural precedents in the Islamic West. The Kutubiyya must be understood as a monumental record of the dynastic shifts in ideology and identity as the Almohads struggled to define themselves against their predecessors and competitors. The site’s unique plan and complex construction history are the physical evidence of this struggle, which makes the role of the Kutubiyya in the urban history of Marrakesh all the more significant.

A Tale of Two Mosques: Marrakesh’s Masjid al-Jamiʿ al-Kutubiyya

in Muqarnas Online

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Figures

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     Aerial view of the Kutubiyya Mosque. (Photo: Yann Arthus-Bertrand, reprinted fromJonathan Bloom, The Minbar from the Kutubiyya Mosque [New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998], ii)
  • View in gallery
     Map with various qiblas in Marrakesh. The Kutubiyya (marked by a K), showing the earlier and later orientations (right and left, respectively). (Plan: reprinted from Michael Bonine, “Sacred Direction and City Structure: A Preliminary Analysis of the Islamic Cities of Morocco,” Muqarnas 7 [1990]: 63)
  • View in gallery
     Folio from a twelfth-century copy of ʿAbd al-Rahman al-Sufi’s Kitāb ṣuwar al-kawākib. Bodleian Libraries MS ­Huntington 212. (Photo: courtesy of Bodleian Libraries, 2017)
  • View in gallery
     Hypothetical reconstruction of ʿAli ibn Yusuf’s mosque in Marrakesh. (Reprinted from Gaston Deverdun and Charles Allain, “Le minaret almoravide de la mosquée Ben Youssef à Marrakech,” Hespéris Tamuda 2 [1961]: plate 3)
  • View in gallery
     Ground plan of the Kutubiyya Mosque (excavated and extant). (Plan: Ali Asghar Alibhai)
  • View in gallery
     Photograph showing the integration of the northern arcade with the base of the minaret. (Photo: Abbey ­Stockstill)
  • View in gallery
     Aerial view showing cistern excavation. (Photo: Abbey Stockstill)
  • View in gallery
     Minbar from the Kutubiyya Mosque. (Photo: reprinted from Jerrilynn D. Dodds, Al-Andalus: The Art of Islamic Spain [New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992], 363)
  • View in gallery
     View toward the northwest of the remains in Rabat of the Almohad mosque, including its unfinished minaret, now known as the Tour Hassan. (Photo: Abbey Stockstill)

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