Opposite the north entrance to the Umayyad Mosque, Damascus, Syria, Damascus, Syria
Hegira 762–822 / AD 1361–1421/2
Sayf al-Din Jaqmaq al-Arghunshawi (r. Damascus, AH 821–3 / AD 1418–20).
The Madrasa al-Jaqmaqiyya was built opposite the north entrance to the Umayyad Mosque, by order of the then Governor of Damascus, Sayf al-Din Jaqmaq al-Arghunshawi. It was constructed on the foundations of the former school for orphans, the Maktab al-Nasir Hasan, founded in AH 762 / AD 1361, and was completed and turned into a convent in AH 769 / AD 1367. The building re-used decorative elements of the previous monument that was destroyed by Timur's attack on Damascus in AH 803 / AD 1401. Jaqmaq enlarged the former building southward by constructing a turbe (mausoleum) and re-instating a maktab (orphanage). He also added windows to the north façade.
The madrasa has a rectangular plan measuring 20 m x 17.5 m. It has a two-aisled room with a covered square courtyard. Like the Taurizi Mosque in Damascus (built AH 823–6 / AD 1420–3), and the Mausoleum of al-Ashraf Barsbay in Cairo (completed AH 828 / AD 1425), it is an example of a mosque with a covered courtyard, in contrast to the formerly common riwaq-type mosque that followed the example of the Umayyad Mosque of Damascus. The covered courtyard became typical of Mamluk madrasas in Syria.
During the Mamluk period, the major cities of Aleppo and Damascus adopted features of imperial architecture developed in Cairo, although in each city these were adapted in different ways and developed into a characteristic style. The madrasas outer walls are decorated in black-and-white stone alternating in rows, a decorative technique known as ablaq, and a typical architectural feature of Damascene architecture. The high niche with elaborate masonry, seen also on the façade, is exceptional and represents a very early example belonging to the first construction phase of AH 762 / AD 1361. This feature was skilfully developed and attributed to many buildings in Aleppo and occurs frequently from the beginning of the AH 9th / AD 15th century seen also, for example, in the Utrush Mosque.
An elaborate muqarnas niche with polychrome stone ornamentation decorates the eastern facade of the mausoleum where the founder, Sayf al-Din Jaqmaq al-Arghunshawi (d. AH 824 / AD 1421) is buried.
The building was restored following bomb damage in the 1940s. Today the building accommodates the Museum of Arabic Calligraphy.
The madrasa was built by the Mamluk governor of Damascus, Sayf al-Din Jaqmaq al-Arghunshawi (r. AH 821–3 / AD 1418–20), serving as his mausoleum. Its layout is typical of Syrian madrasas in the Mamluk period: a central covered courtyard flanked by two aisles. The façade also features Mamluk decorative elements: pronounced ablaq stripes topped by a muqarnas portal and huge bands of calligraphic inscriptions, similar to Ayyubid madrasa facades but more elaborate. An elaborate high niche on its eastern facade, a feature common in Mamluk Aleppo, reveals reciprocal influences between the two cities.
According to the inscription above the entrance of the building, the madrasa was founded in the year 810 (1407–8), during the reign of Sultan Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz, by the Governor, Sayf al-Din Jaqmaq al-Arghunshawi. There is also a re-foundation date inscription of 822 (1421–2).
Al-Almawi, A. B. (d. 981 / 1573), Tanbih al-Talib wa Irshad al-Daris [The Instruction of the Pupil and the Guidance of the Student], Damascus, 1947.
Al-Nu'aymi, A. Q. (d. 927 / 1520), Al-Daris fi Tarikh al-Madaris [The Scholar's Guide for this History of Schools], Damascus, 1947.
Meinecke, M., Die mamlukische Architektur in ägypten und Syrien, 1992, Vol. I, p.190, fig. 139; Vol. II, p.329, cat. nos. 29, 58.
Sack, D., Damaskus, Entwicklung und Struktur einer orientalisch-islamischen Stadt, Mainz 1989.
Sauvaget, J., Les monuments historiques de Damas, Beyrouth, 1932, p.75ff; cat. no. 60.
Verena Daiber "Madrasa al-Jaqmaqiyya" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. 2017. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;sy;Mon01;16;en
Prepared by: Verena DaiberVerena Daiber
Verena Daiber has been a researcher at the German Archaeological Institute in Damascus since 2002, where she is preparing her Ph.D.thesis on 'Architectural and cultural history of Damascus in the 18th century'. She graduated from the Free University of Berlin where she studied Near Eastern archaeology and Arabic literature. In 1990 she obtained her MA degree with a study of medieval pottery from the citadel of Aleppo. She participated in numerous excavations in Sheich Hamad and Aleppo in Syria and Baalbek, Lebanon. She edited the third volume of the 'Raqqa' series, a compilation of studies conducted by several scholars on the site. Her latest publication is a study of the fine medieval pottery from Baalbek. In addition to her research she works as a translator for German and Arabic.
Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: SY 20
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Mamluks | Cairo, Damascus and Jerusalem: Centres of Mamluk Intellectual Life Western Influence in Ottoman Lands | Syria The Mamluks | The Sultan and his Court Arabic Calligraphy | Monumental Calligraphy
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