Hegira 6th / AD 12th century
The name ‘Hasan’, which appears on the monument, could be the name of its architect, about whom we have no information.
Almohad king Abu Yusuf Ya‘qub al-Mansur (AH 579–95 / AD 1184–99).
When Ya'qub al-Mansur acceded to the throne, he decided to create a new capital, Ribat al-Fath. He chose a site near to the kasbah of Wadi Sala (modern-day Salé), surrounded it with an enormous rampart and began work on a vast mosque, which was to be the largest in the Muslim West and capable of accommodating an entire army.
Huge numbers of workers were involved in the project, including 700 Christian captives, but construction was halted with the death of the monarch and the unfinished building suffered serious damage at various different stages: plundering and re-use of materials (stone and marble for the construction of other buildings, wood for the construction of boats, etc.), earthquakes (shockwaves from the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, which knocked the top off the minaret) and fire, traces of which were discovered during the construction of the Muhammad V mausoleum.
The mosque was to include a prayer room of more than 2.5 ha, with a roof supported by 300 columns and 100 pillars, as well as a minaret 64 m high (more than 80 m with the top lantern).
The outer wall of the building, 183 m long and 139 m wide, would have had 12 gateways and its immense hall would have been split into 19 naves of 21 bays each.
The columns, in a Roman Byzantine style, consisting of superimposed shafts crowned with almost shapeless capitals, are exceptional in Almohad religious art.
Dominating the river valley and the seafront, the minaret ('the Hasan Tower'), a symbol of the town of Rabat and its most famous monument, currently rises to 44 m in height and, with its 6.20 m square base and 2.50 m thick walls, gives an impression of strength and majesty. Each of its four sides, made of roughly cut stones, has been worn to a different shade over time, from silver-grey to dark red ochre. Each side has elegant apertures that light the interior ramp, which can be negotiated on horseback. They are decorated with several layers of arcatures crowned with classical architectural knotwork, with nascent arch motifs that rest on small marble and stone columns, crowned with capitals, some of which came from al-Andalus and date from the Caliphate of Córdoba (AH 4th / AD 10th century).
The mausoleum of King Muhammad V (1927–61) was constructed between 1961 and 1969 inside the wall of the great mosque, which is now lost.
Having completed the outer wall of his future capital, Ya'qub al-Mansur started building a magnificent mosque with a prayer room of more than 2 ha, a roof supported by 300 columns and 100 pillars, and a minaret more than 80 m high. Work stopped with the king's death and the building went on to suffer serious damage (earthquake, fire, plunder, etc.).
The esplanade, part of the outer wall, the colonnades and part of the minaret have survived. Each side of the minaret, now rising to 44 m, is decorated differently, with its apertures adorned with arches, interlacing designs and columns with capitals.
The mosque is an integral part of the great Almohad Ribat al-Fath capital project, conceived and commenced by Ya'qub al-Mansur to celebrate, according to some authors including Marmol (17th century), the victory of Alarcos over the Christians in 1195.
Caillé, J., La ville de Rabat jusqu'au Protectorat Français, Paris, 1949.
Caillé, J., La mosquée Hassan de Rabat, Rabat, 1954.
Marçais, G., L'architecture musulmane d'Occident, Paris, 1954.
Andalusian Morocco: A Discovery in Living Art, pp.227–8.
Kamal Lakhdar "Hasan Mosque" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. 2017. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;ma;Mon01;8;en
Prepared by: Kamal LakhdarKamal Lakhdar
Linguiste et sociologue de formation, c'est en autodidacte que Kamal Lakhdar s'est adonné aux études d'histoire du Maroc et du monde arabo-musulman, en axant tout spécialement ses recherches sur l'histoire de Rabat.
Sa carrière de haut fonctionnaire l'a conduit à occuper des fonctions de premier plan auprès de différents ministères. Il a notamment été membre du cabinet du ministre de l'Enseignement supérieur, conseiller du ministre des Finances, conseiller du ministre du Commerce et de l'Industrie, directeur de cabinet du ministre du Tourisme, chargé de mission auprès du Premier ministre et directeur de cabinet du Premier ministre.
Parallèlement, Kamal Lakhdar mène des activités de journaliste et d'artiste peintre – il a d'ailleurs été membre du Conseil supérieur de la Culture.
Copyedited by: Margot Cortez
Translation by: Laurence Nunny
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen
MWNF Working Number: MO 10
Islamic Dynasties / Period
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Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Muslim West | Andalusian-Maghrebi Art
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