THE MOSQUES OF EGYPT
5.THE MAMLUK PERIOD, 648 - 923H. (1250- 1517 A.D.) .
14- MOSQUE- MADRASA- MAUSOLEUM OF SULTAN QALA'UN 683- 684H.(1284- 85) . QALA'UN was one of the Turkish Mamluks bought by the Amir 'Ala as- Din Aqsunqur. The Amir bought him when a young man for one thousand dinars, hence his nickname "Al- Alfi" (Alf = one thousand). 'Ala ad- Din was succeeded by al- Malik as- Salih Negm ad- Din Aiyub. Qala'un was called as- Salihi an- Negmi, after his new master. He became a prince and was promoted to the rank of Atabek al- 'Asakir (Senior Prince) , during the reign of al- Malik al- 'Adil Salamish, son of al- Malik az- Zahir Baybars. He remained so until he ascended the throne after the dethronement of Salamish in 678H.(1279). He chose the title "al- Malik al- Mansur". Soon after defeating the ruler of Damascus and annihilating the Tartars, he established order in Egypt and Syria. His rule lasted eleven years and several months; he died in 689H. (1290) and was buried in his own domed mausoleum described below. Despite the fact that rule was not hereditary in the Mamluk Kingdom, the choice of ruler depending on personal qualities and military capacity, together with sound leadership and innumerable followers and adherents, the dynasty of Qala'un lasted for a long time. Muslim architecture, during this reign, flourished greatly, and acquired a characteristic style. When speaking of this Mosque- Madrasa we must mention the Mausoleum alongside, and the bimaristan (hospital). These three building form an architectural group of unparallel beauty. They were all built by Sultan al- Malik al- Mansur Qala'un, on part of the site of the smaller (western) Fatimid Palace. Work was begun in Rabi' II, 683H.(1284) , and completed in Gumada I, 684H.(1285) , i.e. it took fourteen months only. The main entrance of this wonderful group is in Shari' al- Mu'izz li- Din illah. The two halves of the door are covered with brass plates, engraved and pierced with beautiful ornament. This entrance leads into a long corridor which separates the mausoleum from the mosque- madrasa. At the end is a door that once opened into the bimaristan, of which little remains except a few of its once great and numerous halls. It once contained many sections for the treatment of various diseases, and a dispensary was attached to it, for the preparation and distribution of medicine to the sick. A special section was reserved for lectures on medicine. Qala'un put this bimaristan at the service of both rich and poor. According to historians, it was the pride of eastern civilization in the middle ages. The mausoleum is on the right hand side of the great corridor. It has two entrances, one direct from the corrdior, the other from a small sahn; the windows above the latter entrance are enclosed in a beautiful stucco frame; another doorway opens direct from the corridor into the mausoleum. The central part is covered with a dome, supported on a ring of four piers and four granite columns with gilded capital, placed so that two columns alternate with two piers. The walls and pillars are lined with a coloured marble dado, decorated with elaborate designs inlayed. A band of gilded inscription runs along the top of this dado; it contains verses from the Qur'an, and the date of restoration, 1326H. (1908). The mihrab, with its fine marble craftsmanship and geometrical decoration, is one of the most beautiful in Egypt; it may even be the most beautiful of them all. At the top of the walls are pierced stucco windows, with stained glass, in beautiful designs. The ceiling, all round the dome, is of two kinds; over the corner sections it consists of octagonal coffers with geometrical designs; the rest is covered by a ceiling of round beams, decorated with polychrome ornament. The gilding of the restored section of these ceiling has produced a wonderful effect. In the centre, under the dome, lies the tomb of al- Malik al- Mansur Qala'un and his son an- Nasir, with a cenotaph above, on which are inscribed the name of Sultan Qala'un and some verses from the Qur'an. The tomb is surrounded by a screen of turned wood made by an- Nasir Muhammad, son of Qala'un. The Department for the Preservation of Arab Monuments restored this mausoleum in 1321- 1330H. (1903- 1912). They repaired some of the masonry, the marble work and the ornaments. They also replaced all missing ornament, renewed the stucco windows, restored the ceilings and built a dome above the tomb, similar to contemporary domes. Opposite the two entrances of the mausoleum are two entrances that lead into the mosque- madrasa. The plan of this mosque- madrasa is of the madrasa type; it has two opposite iwans, overlooking an open sahn. The larger of these iwans is the sanctuary. Its faade is composed of three arches, supported on two marble columns. It is divided into a main aisle, separated from the two side ailses by means of two arcades, supported on marble columns. At the back is a mihrab that was once similar to that in the tomb; it has, however, lost some of its elements. Its hood and spandrels are decorated with gilt mosaics. Next to the mihrab is a plain minbar that was made by order of the Amir Azbak ibn Tatakh in 889H.(1484). The opposite iwan had fallen into ruin and its features were lost. The Department for the Preservation of Arab Monuments recently started to restore it. The faade of this edifice, which overlooks Shari' Bayn- al- Qasrayn, is quite original. It is composed of two parts; the northern, on the right hand side of the main entrance, forms the faade of the mausolum with its dome. At the end of this part stands a huge minaret, of three storeys, which was restored during the reign of an- Nasir Muhammad ibn Qala'un, in 703H.(1303/4) , after its top had fallen as a result of an earthquake in 702H.(1302/3). The projecting southern part forms the faade of the madrasa. The whole faade is divided up into arched panels, the arches of which are supported on marble columns. In the centre of each panel are two windows; the upper have stucco grilles pierced with beautiful geomtrical designs, while the lower ones have grilles of iron. A band of inscription, in Mamluk Naskhi, runs below the stucco windows, recording the name of the founder, his titles and the date of foundation. The faade is crowned with cresting, with arabesque designs engraved on its outer face. Next to the southern faade, and to the left of the entrance, is a small sabil that was built by Sultan an- Nasir Muhammad, in commemmoration of his father Qala'un. This faade is continued to the north by those of the Mosque of an- Nasr Muhammad and Barquq, forming a wonderful group, admirable for its beautiful treatment, magnificient dome and graceful minarets. Plates 38- 44.