Djama’a al-Kebir (Great Mosque)
Hegira 490 / AD 1097
Yusuf Ibn Tashufin.
The Great Mosque of Algiers – with its naves perpendicular to the qibla wall and its rectangular courtyard bordered on both its narrower sides by a riwaq (gallery) – was destined to become a model of religious architecture, particularly in al-Aqsa Maghreb.
The main body of the building, with its rectangular layout, is wider than it is deep. The minaret, of later construction, rises up from the northwestern corner. Bab al-Djenina can be found in the northeastern corner, with its various offices reserved for the iman; the building looks onto a courtyard, across which one reaches first the galleries then the prayer hall.
Pillars and semi-circular arches made of lime-washed masonry divide the prayer hall into 11 balatat (naves), each of which is covered by a double sloping roof. According to L. Golvin, the strong transverse poly-lobed arches that link them look as if they have been added for structural stability. The mihrab is undecorated except for two small spiral columns that flank it on both sides, which are characteristic of AH 12th- / AD 18th-century Algiers, as well as some stucco relief in the shape of lobed arches that underline the ogee arch of the mihrab. This is not the original mihrab, as the original was destroyed during the bombardment of AH 1093 / AD 1682.
A portico of columns and poly-lobed arches created at the beginning of the colonial period precede the façade of the mosque because of the revised alignment of streets. The minaret, according to an inscription on its base, was added in AH 732 / AD 1332. It should be noted that the three Almoravid mosques of the central Maghreb did not originally possess minarets. The supposition that the Almoravids considered the minaret to be a bid'a (innovation) is dispelled by the fact that they preserved the minaret of the Kairouan mosque of Fez during its reconstruction.
This rectangular building follows a model typical in religious architecture, built around a courtyard that leads to the galleries and subsequently to the prayer room, which is divided by pillars and horseshoe arches into 11 naves covered by double tiled roofs. The reconstructed mihrab is flanked by two small, spiral columns and crowned with a pointed arch decorated with relief stuccowork. The minaret, also a later addition, stands at the northwest corner. A portico was built in the early days of colonisation.
Dated by G. Marçais to be from 490 / 1097, based on an inscription on the minbar.
Bourouiba, R., Apports de l'Algérie à l'architecture arabo-islamique, Algiers, 1986.
Bourouiba, R., L'art religieux musulman en Algérie, Algiers, 1973.
Cresti, F., Contributions à l'histoire d'Alger, Rome, 1993.
Marçais, G., “La chaire de la Grande Mosquée d'Alger. Étude sur l'art musulman occidental au début du XIe siècle”, Hespéris, Vol. I, 4, 1921, pp. 359–85.
Marçais, G., “Note sur la chaire à prêcher de la Grande Mosquée d'Alger”, Hespéris, Vol. VI, 4, 1926, pp. 419–22.
Ali Lafer "Djama’a al-Kebir (Great Mosque)" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2016. 2016. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;dz;Mon01;2;en
Prepared by: Ali LaferAli Lafer
Architecte diplômé de l'École nationale d'architecture et des beaux-arts d'Alger, stagiaire du Centre international pour la conservation et la restauration des biens culturels (ICCROM) à Rome, Ali Lafer a été architecte en chef des Monuments au ministère de la Culture pendant son service civil. Directeur de l'Atelier Casbah chargé des études d'aménagement de la médina d'Alger, il a également enseigné au cours de Tunis pour la formation d'architectes du patrimoine maghrébin. Membre fondateur de l'association “Les amis du Tassili”, il est aussi chercheur dans les domaines de la numérisation de la documentation graphique et du relevé photogrammétrique.
Copyedited by: Margot Cortez
Translation by: Maria Vlotides
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen
MWNF Working Number: AL 02
Islamic Dynasties / Period
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