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

In: Muqarnas Online
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  • 1 Department of Art History, Southern Methodist University


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.

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