THE MOSQUES OF EGYPT
5.THE MAMLUK PERIOD, 648 - 923H. (1250- 1517 A.D.) .
32- THE MOSQUE- MADRASA OF AL- ASHRAF BARSBAY (AT SHARI' AL- MU'IZZ LI- DIN ILLAH) 826- 827H.(1423- 1424) . AL- MALIK AL- ASHRAF ABU AN- NASR BARSBAY was one of the Mamluks of az- Zahir Barquq. He came to Egypt when still a young boy. He was set free and kept on progressing from one post to another until he became a prominent Dawadar (Secretary of State) , in the days of az- Zahir Tatar, and remained as such until Tatar died and was succeeded by his son as- Salih Muhammad; the latter was soon succeeded by Barsbay, who ascended the throne in 825H. (1422). He reigned for sixteen years and a few months and died in 841H. (1437). This mosque is situated at Shari' al- Mu'izz li- Din Illah at its junction with Shari' Gawhar al- Qa'id. It was founded by al- Malik al- Ashraf Barsbay, who began its construction in 826H. (1424). It is one of three mosques, still existing, built by al- Ashraf Barsbay. The second is the mosque to which is annexed his tomb and Khanqa, situated in the Mamluk Cemetery and which he built in 835H. (1431/32). The third is his great mosque which he built at Khanqa, in 841H. (1437/38). All these mosques are masterpieces of architecture and decoration. Marble carving, especially in the mausoleum, has attained a very high standard of skill. This mosque was built according to the cruciform madrasa plan, i.e. an open sahn with four iwans around it, the mausoleum being placed next to the qibla iwan which, as in other madrasas, is the most important and is more highly decorated than the others. The important features, in this iwan, which attract attention, are its beautiful marble floor and its fine stucco windows, recently modelled on the old ones of the mausoleum of the founder in the Mamluk Cemetery. Its wooden minbar is rich in ivory inlay and zarnashan, as is usual in the minbars of mosques founded in the ninth century H. (15 th A.D.). Of the original ceilings of the mosque, there only remains that of the western iwan, facing the qibla one. The latter has lost its original ceiling and had another one built in its place. This ceiling of the western iwan is similar to that of the qibla one of the Mosque of Barquq as regards the richness of its beautiful gilt decoration. The main faade of the mosque overlooks Shari' al- Mu'izz li- Din Illah, with the entrance at its southern end, and a sabil and a kuttab next to it. The entrance is ornamented with coloured marble and is vaulted with stalactites. The wooden door is plated with brass tracery, there being a medallion in the centre, four corners, and two upper and lower bands of inscription bearing the name of the founder and date of renovation (1332H.) Above the madallion are two beautiful knockers of pierced brass. The arrangement of the design of the copper plating is met with in the Mosque of Barquq, and those of al- Ashraf Barsbay, as well as in other mosques constructed in that period. Previously it had been the custom to cover the whole surface of the door with decorated plating, as is the case with the door of the Mosque of Sultan Hasan, which was transferred to the Mosque of al- Mu'aiyad, and others. The minaret stands to the right of the entrance, with its first storey square, the second cylindrical and ornamented with an interlacing pattern, and the third a pavilion of marble columns with a cap on top. This latter storey was renewed in 1945. At the northern end of the faade is a stone dome, decorated with a chevron pattern carved on the stone. The faade between the entrance and the mausoleum has two recessed panels crowned with stalactites; in each recess are two tiers of windows. It is crowned with foliated cresting. Plates 112- 113.