Name of Monument:

Midhat al-Sultan (ablutions room)

Location:

In the Medina, Tunis, Tunisia

Date of Monument:

Begun in hegira 852 / AD 1448, finished in 854 / 1450

Architect(s) / master-builder(s):

Muhammad al-Kossentini.

Period / Dynasty

Hafsid

Patron(s):

The Hafsid sultan Abu Amr ‘Uthman.

History:

Historical sources describe the inauguration of the building by the Sultan himself and explain the hot-water system, now defunct. According to an inscription, the wooden ceilings were restored in the 12th / 18th century. In 1380 / 1960 the National Institute of Archeology and Art began restoring the building, but it is not yet functional.

Description:

The right–hand door of the building leads into a narrow hallway. On the right is a large archway opening onto the ablutions room. On the left, opposite the archway, the hallway wall is lined with arch-stones forming blind arcades. In the recess of each arcade is a square rosette of braided strap-work in black marble on a white background.
The ablutions room consists of a courtyard surrounded by four single-arched galleries. One of these is the archway giving access to the courtyard from the hallway. Under the three remaining galleries narrow basins and benches have been provided for the faithful to perform their ablutions. The arches of layered black and white marble rest on columns with winding scroll capitals of the Hispano-Maghrebin type. The walls and spandrels of the arches have been ingeniously inlaid with decorative slabs of black on white marble.
In the middle of the courtyard stands an octagonal marble dado. Each of its faces has an arch, either multifoil or recticurvilinear. In the centre remain the nozzles of the fountain which poured water into individual basins facing small stone benches.

View Short Description

This Hafsid monument is one of the few surviving parts of a hot-water conveyance system, now lost. Although the National Institute of Art and Archaeology restored it in the 1960s, the building is not functional today. The ablutions room consists of a courtyard surrounded by four single-arched galleries. The arches are made of black and white marble voussoirs and spring from columns with Hispano-Maghrebin meanders and capitals.

How Monument was dated:

The poet al-Damamini evokes the beauty of Midhat al-Sultan in a famous poem. The historian Zarkachi comments on this poem in his book on Ibn Achamma edited by Mustapha Kaak.

Selected bibliography:

Daoulatli, A., Tunis sous les Hafsides, Tunis, 1976, pp.213–21.
Marcais, G., L'architecture musulmane d'Occident, Paris, 1952, pp.22–4.
“Notes sur les coupoles de la Grande Zitouna de Tunis”, Revue de l'Occident musulman et de la Mediterranee, 1966, pp.95–105.

Citation of this web page:

Jamila Binous "Midhat al-Sultan (ablutions room)" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. 2017. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;tn;Mon01;19;en

Prepared by: Jamila BinousJamila Binous

Née en 1939 à Tunis, a étudié l'histoire et la géographie à l'Université de Tunis et l'urbanisme à l'Université de Tours (France).
Mme Binous a exercé 30 ans durant autant que chercheur puis directeur à l'Association pour la Sauvegarde de la Médina de Tunis.
A été expert de l'Unesco (mission Sanaa « Ville Historique ») en 1982 ; expert national pour le projet UNDP de reconstruction des sites historiques méditerranéens ; membre du Comité International des Villes Historiques ; co-auteur de la Charte internationale des Villes Historiques (ICOMOS-UNESCO).
Consultante auprès de l'IMED pour l'étude sur le contexte législatif, la stratégie et la politique des musées en Tunisie 2002-2003.
Coordinatrice de l'exposition la femme et le seuil in Femme, culture et créativité en Tunisie – Credif - Tunis 2001.
Mme Binous a pris part à divers congrès internationaux, écrit plusieurs articles et ouvrages tels que :
- Tunis d'un monument à l'autre, Tunis, 1970
- Tunis, Tunis, 1985
- Les chefs d'œuvres de l'artisanat tunisien, Tunis 1982
- Les maisons de la Médina de Tunis, Dar Asraf édition Tunis 2002.

MWNF Working Number: TN 19

RELATED CONTENT

 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period

Hafsids


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Water | Water Usage: Drinking and Washing

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