Fez (Old Town / medina), Morocco
Hegira 245 / AD 859
Maryam, a pious woman from Kairouan, daughter of Muhammad ibn ‘Abdallah.
In AH 202 / AD 818, fleeing the reprisals that followed the riots of Córdoba, hundreds of respected families left al-Andalus and took refuge in Morocco. Having settled on the right bank of the Wadi Fez, these new inhabitants would soon participate in the construction of a huge mosque that would bear their name.
The original building was a modest one. In the AH 4th / AD 10th century, the geographer al-Bakri described a mosque 'made up of seven rows of benches and a small courtyard planted with walnut and other trees that has an abundant supply of water from a canal known as the Wadi Masmuda'.
Since its foundation in AH 245 / AD 859, the mosque has undergone a long succession of restorations and extensions. In the AH 4th / AD 10th century, the Umayyads of Córdoba added the minaret, which has survived to the present day. Constructed on a square base and of modest height, it is identical to its contemporary at the Qarawiyyin.
Later, 'Ubayd Allah, the Fatimid governor of Fez, transferred the Friday khutba (sermon) from al-'Achyakh mosque, the first mosque built that side of the Wadi, to the Andalusian mosque.
With the arrival of the Almohads, Caliph Muhammad al-Nasir (r. AH 595–610 / AD 1199–1213), who had a particular interest in the Fez Medina, had the 14-step monumental gateway that dominates the north façade built. Crowned with two domes, one in sculpted plaster and the other in cedarwood, this gateway is decorated with harmonious compositions in faience and wood, probably restored under the 'Alawids. The Muslim historian and great promoter of the arts Georges Marçais considered this to be one of the most impressive monuments of North African art.
Al-Nasir also provided the mosque with a pool (which was fed by the Wadi Masmuda), a fountain and an ablutions pavilion similar to one at the Qarawiyyin Mosque in Fez. On the first floor, above the women's prayer room, a two-room apartment was built for the imam.
Finally, the Marinids were responsible for the restoration of some of the ceilings and pillars, as well as the fountain situated on in north façade of the building.
All of this work would make the Andalusian mosque the second largest religious building in the town. It provided seven teaching positions and two libraries.
Founded by Maryam, the sister of Fatima al-Fihriya, founder of the Qarawiyyin Mosque, the Andalusian Mosque, which stands in the quarter of the same name, has witnessed all of the revolts that have taken place in Fez. The modest original building was extended first in the AH 4th / AD 10th century by the Cordoban Umayyads and later by the Marinids. With a minaret identical to the one belonging to the Qarawiyyin, a monumental gateway and two cupolas, the mosque could accommodate up to 4,200 worshipers. Serving as a cultural centre for the town, it is flanked by two madrasas and has seven teaching chairs and two libraries.
Ancient texts, such as the Rawd al-Qirtass by Ibn Abi Zara al-Fassi, provide the date AH 245 / AD 859.
Marçais, G., L'art de l'Islam, Paris, 1946.
Terrasse, H., La mosquée des Andalous à Fès, Paris, undated.
Andalusian Morocco: A Discovery in Living Art, pp.116–17.
Mohamed Mezzine "Andalusian Mosque" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. 2017. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;ma;Mon01;2;en
Prepared by: Mohamed MezzineMohamed Mezzine
Mohamed Mezzine is a heritage historian and the director of an established graduate program at the university of Fes on the history, preservation and restoration of architectural heritage in ancient (Moroccan) cities. He studied at University Mohamed V (Rabat) and obtained a Doctorat d'Etat in history from the University of Paris (7). Pr. Mezzine has been a visiting lecturer at the Universities of Metz, Tours (URBAMA) and Aix-en-Provence. He has likewise co-directed a number of joint research heritage projects involving French and Spanish academics. He has authored books and articles on the architectural heritage of the Islamic world including Fès médiévale, ed. Mohamed Mezzine (Paris : Ed. Autrement, 1992) ; “Political Power and Socio-Religious Networks in 16th-Century Fes,” in Islamic Urbanism in Human History: Political Power and Social Networks, ed. Tsugitaka Sato (London: Kegan Publ. de la Faculté des Lettres Sais-Fès, 2003). Pr. Mezzine is also a member of the national “Commission for the Preservation of Fes.”
Copyedited by: Margot Cortez
Translation by: Laurence Nunny
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen
MWNF Working Number: MO 03
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)Women | Muslim Women as Patrons
Related MWNF Tour Related MWNF Travel Book
Virtual Visit Exhibition Trail
DownloadAs PDF (including images) As Word (text only)