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On display in the Exhibition(s)The Muslim West | Mosques: A Place for Prayer
Name of Monument:
Djama’a al-Kebir (Great Mosque)Location:
Algiers, AlgeriaDate of Monument:
Hegira 490 / AD 1097Period / Dynasty:
Yusuf Ibn Tashufin.Description:
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.
View Short DescriptionHow Monument was dated:
Dated by G. Marçais to be from 490 / 1097, based on an inscription on the minbar.Selected bibliography:
Bourouiba, R., Apports de l'Algérie à l'architecture arabo-islamique, Algiers, 1986.Citation of this web page:
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. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;dz;Mon01;2;en
Prepared by: Ali Lafer
Copyedited by: Margot Cortez
Translation by: Maria Vlotides
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen
MWNF Working Number: AL 02