Mamluk Jerusalem: A Study of Cultural, Political and Religious Influences on the Architecture and Buildings of the City

Mamluk Jerusalem:
A Study of Cultural, Political and Religious Influences on the Architecture and Buildings of the City
(Seminar Paper)
Hebrew University
Fall 2008-9
Dr Shaul Sapir
Historical Geography of Jerusalem

Andrew C. Smith

Table of Contents
Introduction 1
The Mamluks 2
Mamluk Influence on Jerusalem 6
• Political Factors 6
• Religious Factors 12
Mamluk Buildings in Jerusalem 23
Religious Buildings 25
• Mosques 25
• Madrasas 26
o Al-Ashrafiyya 28
o Al-Tankiziyya 31
• Mausoleums 34
o Turba of Barka Khan 35
o Turba of Sitt Tunshuq 36
• Minarets 37
• Haram al-Sharif Beautifications 40
Non-Religious Buildings 42
• Ribats/Khans and Khanqahs/Zawiyas 42
• The Cotton Merchants Market Complex 44
• The Palace of Sitt Tunshuq 46
Mamluk Architectural Styles and Techniques 47
• Mamluk Materials in Jerusalem 49
• Architectural Arenas 50
o Surface Decorations: Blazons and Inscriptions 51
o Surface Decorations: Ablaq 52
o Surface Decorations: Arabesque, Mashrabiyya and Muqarnas 52
o Structural Elements: Portals/Entryways 53
o Structural Elements: Arches, Vaults and Lintels 55
o Structural Elements: Joggle Voussoirs 56
o Structural Elements: Domes 57
o Structural Elements: Windows 58
o Layout and Planning: Land Issues and Space Problems 59
o Layout and Planning: Visual Illusions 60
Conclusion 61
Bibliography 64

Jerusalem stands today as one of the cities of the ages: a city cherished by many differing nations, empires and peoples throughout the history of the world. As such, it has been ruled for centuries by rulers from many different traditions and religions; from the Jebusite rulers before David made it the capital of his Israelite nation to the return of Jews to reclaim it as the capital of their modern state of Israel, Jerusalem has stood to capture the hearts and minds of millions. Through those millennia, it has been ruled by various strains of polytheists (Greeks and Romans) and Monotheists (Jews, Christians and Muslims) alike. Each of the ruling empires has shaped the city to fit the needs of the people as well as putting their own cultural, religious, and political stamp on its landscape. The city has been rebuilt and restored, repaired and refurbished many times and each new ruling elite accumulated their own additions and embellished their previously established holy locations and buildings.
One of the ruling powers that left a most distinct mark on the both the skyline and the street level of the city (as is seen today) was the Islamic Mamluk Emprire which ruled all of greater Syria and Egypt. This paper will attempt to provide a comprehensive, albeit somewhat brief, overview of the lasting architectural influence that the Mamluks exerted over Jerusalem by recounting quickly their rule over the city and its environs, the effect of their socio-political system and historical context on their architectural projects and programs in the city and reviewing some of the most inspiring and important architectural examples which were erected during their reign with an eye to discuss the unique architectural characteristics and attributes used by the Mamluks to beautify the city.
The Mamluks
Following the rule of the four Rightly Guided Caliphs, the whole of the Islamic empire fell under the sway of the Umayyad Caliphate- a series of caliphs who ruled their territory from Baghdad. This dynasty, lasting roughly from 750 -1250, sowed the seeds of its own defeat by certain specific policies of military control and conscription. In order to form a military structure loyal solely to the person of the Caliph, one of the Caliphs (al-Mu’tasim, 833-842 CE) instituted a “slave” system in order to create a military unit exclusively under his control and thus solidify his rule. This slave system became known as the Mamluk system as “mamluke in Arabic is a past participle meaning owned.” [1] Under this system, the Caliph literally owned the soldiers who became his personal army. This new “system was merely a modification of the common system of hiring foreign mercenaries,” [2] and it must be pointed out that the word “slave” in this context is in many ways a complete misnomer because “although Mamluks were indeed purchased as children, they spent their lives as free, powerful and privileged men. They were trained as horse archers, a highly skilled avocation requiring many years of training; during this time they became Muslims and were freed at the age of eighteen.” [3] To go beyond that, “they were certainly not to be confused with slaves for menial and lowly tasks, who might often be black, and for whom the word ‘abd was used.” [4]
In the past, many have assumed that these boys were kidnapped or taken from their families at a tender age, yet most scholars today agree that “the boys came freely and…it seems probable, therefore, that Egypt appeared to the poor nomads of the north an earthly paradise, its streets paved with gold.” [5] One noted scholar defined the term Mamluk as:
a person imported before he has reached mature years from beyond the boundaries of the Islamic world, to be turned into a good Muslim, to serve at court or in the army, where with his fellows he helped to form a trusty power base for his master, devoid as he was of any previous social or political ties, bound into a cohesive group through shared experience and interest with his immediate fellow Mamluks, and exercising his admired talent for the art of Turkish warfare, namely as a mounted archer. [6]
It would hardly seem that it would have been necessary to kidnap these children considering the preferential treatment and the positions of power and privilege they were to receive. These children were brought from many differing areas “beyond the boundaries of the Islamic world” as the rulers of the various Caliphates searched for the heartiest of peoples on earth to enlist and contribute to their militaries. For the most part, at this time in history, those who were brought into service came from Turkish areas northeast from the heartland of the Islamic empire, though this did vary at different times throughout the Mamluk empire’s reign contributing to a influx of differing lineages and bloodlines. It should be mentioned though that the “slaves” were “were never Arabs, for Muslims could not be enslaved.” [7] The areas from which the Mamluks came changed slowly over time, with new units of slave soldiers (and subsequently dynasties) rising as the general population varied with time. This led to “the Mamlukes [being] generally divided into two dyanasties. The earlier one was called the Bahri Mamlukes, from the fact that their barracks were near the Bahr, the ‘sea’, i.e., the Nile…The second Mamluke dynasty…was called the Burji Mamlukes, from Burj, ‘tower’, their headquarters being in the Cairo citadel.” [8] The first dynast established, that of the Bahri, consisted mostly of “Kipchak Turks, a people scattered by the Mongols. The great Mamluk sultan, Baybars, was a Kipchak.” [9] The second dynasty, the Burji, was made up of a different people: the Circassians. “As the supply in the southern Russian steppes [where the Kipchak had been recruited] dried up, Circassians began to be recruited; in 1382, the Bahri (Kipchak) sultans were succeeded by the Circassian Burji Mamluks.” [10]
These “slaves” formed an important element within the court and political life of the Caliphate as well as forming the military backbone of the empire. They were fiercely loyal to the Caliph’s person because “a freedman was thought to be under a moral obligation to remain as a loyal retainer of his patron…This devotion to the man who had brought him up and freed him was an obligation of honour on which the whole Mamluke system was founded.” [11] This contributed largely to the political and military capital of a Caliph and allowed him to gain unprecedented powers over his domain.
This power though became a liability when the Caliphs relied too heavily upon their Mamluk power base. “The Ayyubids [another Islamic Dynasty] relied on Mamluks, who later supplanted them” [12] in order to create their own Mamluk dynasty or “self-perpetuating junta of military rulers in Egypt and Syria.” [13] This coup’d’état, as was common, occurred “once this body-guard became conscious of its corporate powers as armed men, [and] turned against their masters…and established the rule of their own leaders.” [14] This take over was to become the most important of many such that occurred through the ages since, instead of creating a short-termed rule, “the regime that followed the Ayyubids is the only one that is qualified as ‘Mamluk’, because it alone was dominated over such a long period, two and a half centuries, by a hierarchy of mamluks as a self-perpetuating ruling elite, even if the men who held the highest office in the state were not themselves at all times mamluks.” [15]
This overthrow occurred in the year 1250 CE, with the Mamluk sultans taking control of the capital at Cairo and extending their powerbase north and eastward while keeping the Abbasid Caliph as a figurehead puppet. Their power was further solidified as they consolidated rule in the area under their control. The Mongols entered the region, conquering Baghdad in 1258 (leaving Cairo as the de facto center of Arab-Islamic culture [16]), but “their seemingly inexorable advance was permanently halted by the Mamluks in 1260” [17] allowing the Mamluks to extend their dominance and “as a result of their victory, the Mamluks became the masters of Syria and ruled it and Egypt until 1517.” [18] The Mamluk also succeeded in “finally expelling the Crusaders, a process completed, with terrible bloodshed, at the fall of Acre in 1291.” [19] These two major military achievements, along with the “legitimacy” provided by the retention of an Abbasid puppet-Caliph, helped secure strong legitimacy for the regime which lasted until the middle of the 16th Century. Subsequently, the Mamluk regime, as early as 1260, came to exert a strong (and lasting) cultural and political hold over the development of medieval Jerusalem.
Mamluk Influence on Jerusalem
During the reign of the Mamluks, Jerusalem as a city underwent a period of significant change which would affect the development of the city in many different ways. Salah al-Din and the Ayyubids had successfully regained control of the city from the Crusader powers, but following the years of Christian control in the city, the period that would follow would see the city’s importance fall to near non-existence within the political scene of the region. This fall in political import would be mirrored by a large rise in Islamic religious resurgence within the region. Both of these changes would contribute dramatically to the future of the city, affecting specifically the physical appearance of the city.
Political Factors
The Crusaders had naturally made Jerusalem the center of their political kingdom because of its theological and religious importance. To the Muslim Mamluks though, Jerusalem failed to retain the same political power. One scholar points out that “there was little apart from its status in religion to keep the city in the forefront of mens’ minds.” [20] Following the re-conquest, the city “had limited political, strategic or administrative importance” [21] and notably “guards no great trade route and no great source of commercial wealth.” [22] Significantly, the Mamluks at the time refrained from fully rebuilding the protective wall of the city after the defeat of the Crusaders. This “absence of a wall surrounding the city completely, and the local governors failure to recognize the need for it, was not solely a result of the absence of the real military challenge or of the minimal strategic importance of the town; it was also a result of Jerusalem’s political status and prestige at the time.” [23] The political insignificance within the realm of the greater politics of the Mamluk Empire is also illustrated by the lack of mention in the records of any part taken by Jerusalem in a number of large scale political intrigues (some reaching the level of civil war) during the time period. While speaking of one coup attempt, occurring in 1387 in the area of greater Syria and involving a large number of Syrian cities, one historian points out that “the silence of contemporary historians over the role of al-Quds in this coup strongly suggests that the city was outside the military and political battle over the sultanate. It may also indicate that al-Quds did not harbor a significant military force that might enable it to become involved in this military strife.” [24]
The apparent insignificance of the city politically within the Mamluk empire overall is made clear by a few characteristics that were introduced because of largely social and political aspects of the Mamluk governance system.
The Mamluks effectively divided their kingdom into many different political divisions in order to better govern such a large area of land. First, there was a great division of the kingdom into two large areas: Cairo with the lands surrounding it and Syria. “Syria was the less important province, and was dependent to a large extent on the Sultan of Egypt,” one historian explained. He continued, saying that
Greater Syria was divided into seven areas (mamlaka): Damascus, the largest and most important one; Aleppo; Triplo; Hamat; Safed; Gaza (some of the time); and Karak. Jerusalem was one of the many subdistrics (‘amal or wilaya) in the administration which received its orders from Damascus, as were Hebron, Nablus, Salt, ‘Ajlun, Beit shean and Banias. [25]
Yet, even this arrangement was understood to be so low in the scope of governance that at times it was shifted (depending on the whims of the rulers to be certain) so “for most of the Bahri period Jerusalem was dependent in terms of administrative organization on the governor of Gaza,” [26] a step down again as Gaza, for some of the time, was still under the overall control of Damascus.
The fall of Jerusalem as the capital of the Latin Kingdom of the Crusaders to a lowly position within the overall hierarchy of the Mamluk Empire was a political blow to the city. The city was further hit by the politics of rule at the highest levels of Mamluk hierarchy and the seemingly entirely arbitrary changing of leadership of the city. “One striking facet is the number of persons sent from time to time to govern Jerusalem and in many cases the brevity of their stay…[Resulting in] a change of governor on average about every 17 months….What this implied for the good governance of Jerusalem can only be guessed at.” [27] This was more than likely exacerbated since “in the time of the Mamluks, as in previous periods, ministers who were foreign to the country and knew nothing of its particular problems were appointed to rule, because of their military achievements or their ties with the sultan and not because of their ability to deal skillfully with local urban problems.” [28]
As a further blow, “Jerusalem’s limited political significance was also apparent from the absence of a regular and direct line of communication between it and the center of the state.” [29] In the 1260s, one of the most important of the Mamluk sultans, Baybars, had undertaken to establish a network of roads and bridges to span the empire in order to facilitate the transfer of news (specifically of security concerns) from the provinces. “These communication lines were not used by merchants, nor were they planned for economic interests; [nor for] the convenience of the local residents...The communication routes were created solely to serve the ruler and his government” and despite reaching to the farthest ends of the empire “they did not reach Jerusalem.” [30]
This review of the political importance (or lack thereof) of Jerusalem during the period of Mamluk control could be somewhat misleading because “Jerusalem played its part, although a minor one, throughout the Mamluk period in the internal politics of the state.” [31] The city was not without its uses in political affairs (not to mention other reasons, to be touched upon later). The political use to which it was put most commonly was as a place of exile for members of the court who had fallen out of favor with the Sultan or perhaps as a place of retirement for those voluntarily leaving political life. In a rather lengthy description of this aspect of Jerusalem, Michael Burgoyne writes that
Jerusalem features prominently in the Mamluk period as a place to which individuals were sent when battal. This term meant ‘being on the inactive list’. It was normally applied to men in the military sphere but not exclusively. The term could be used of administrative cadres…An individual could receive this status because he was out of favour. Illness or incapacity could also be the reason. It was, however, possible in the right circumstances to return to full service…If in the battal status there was at times an element of wishing to remove individuals from the political scene into a quiet backwater, that could explain why Jerusalem was so often selected. On the other hand, it was clearly deemed preferable to other places…and people requested transfers to Jerusalem. [32]
Whereas some might interpret this as a negative aspect of Jerusalem’s political expediency [33], others see it as a boon for the city; “contemporary Mamluk chronicles contain frequent references to military officials who retired to al-Quds for peace and quiet…The religious attraction of the city, its pleasant climate and the absence of strong military force must have made it a haven for those seeking a quiet life.” [34]
All of these political factors combined to affect the architectural development of Jerusalem in a variety of different ways. The cities lack of political influence within the empire would have significantly hampered any kind of funding for administrative or public development of the city from the royal coffers. The city’s relevance to the overall wellbeing of the kingdom (i.e. none) would not have helped at all in any attempt on the part of the local residents to obtain the resources necessary for large-scale secular building plans (religiously motivated building plans would have been a different story which will be handled separately in the next section). Thus, secular building projects within the city would not have found royal funds easily forthcoming. This accounts for the lack of governmental administrative buildings within Jerusalem along with the fact that there was nothing administered from the location thereby negating any need for administrative building projects on a large scale. Royal funds were being used to expand secular building projects elsewhere in the kingdom, particularly in the capital Cairo and to a lesser extent in provincial capitals such as Damascus.
Yet, despite all this, Jerusalem would see a magnificent increase in building projects at the time period with a number of them being secular. This was a function of the fact that the city housed a relatively large number of the high ranking members of court, who had either fallen out of favor or retired to the city, and who would subsequently beautify it. These people would have been fairly wealthy (in some cases probably very wealthy) and would have been accustomed to an extravagant lifestyle and level of living that could not have been supported in such a “backwater” area (as Jerusalem was) without extensive efforts on their parts to remake the city in the image of Cairo, or any other former metropolitan home. Thus, many of these people would undertake private building projects, in order to fulfill this goal of improving the level of existence, to prove their willingness to serve the Sultan better and regain their former status, or as a religious expression. The most prominent example of these inhabitants would be the Lady Tunshuq who would eventually construct for herself a magnificent palace and a prominent mausoleum within the city limits.
So, while Jerusalem lacked the political capital to be within the scope of royal building projects, it would have been one of the few places within the kingdom of the Mamluks that could have boasted large-scale architectural projects. This would combine with a major religious revival to affect a complete “face-lift” for the city. In sum, “Jerusalem under the Mamluks had limited political, strategic or administrative importance; nevertheless, it had great religious importance, best seen in the distinctive mark left on the city by the Mamluks.” [35]
The Religious Factors
Religiously, Jerusalem retained much of its importance, and even made gains as an international center of religious activity during the period of the Mamluk control. The city had long been regarded as a sacred religious locale of the three major monotheistic religions. The Jews anciently had held it as their capital, and still revered it as the City of David and the home of the Temple Mount. The Christians had just fought a number of well planned and well financed (as well as some not so well planned and not so well financed) wars to regain control of the city and redeem it from the “heathens.” The Muslims throughout this time period were coming into their own as a world religion, and whereas previously, Jerusalem figured less strongly (although still being somewhat prominently) in their religious conception of the world, this was to change dramatically with the coming of the Mamluks to power.
In contrast to Mamluk Jerusalem’s limited political importance, its non-strategic location, and the minimal economic activity with its walls, ‘al-Quds al-Sharif’ enjoyed remarkable prominence as a religious symbol having Islamic associations (ancient and contemporary) for the common people as well as the ruling class. [36]
Early on, Muhammad had striven to associate the Holy City with Islam. He was in fact “quick to realize the city’s religious significance for the great monotheistic religions of Judaism and Christianity. Considering Islam to be a continuation in the tradition of these two religions, he wanted to re-enforce its legitimacy by establishing strong spiritual links to the Holy City.” [37] This was accomplished from the Muslim perspective in a couple different manners. First, Jerusalem was established as the first qibla, or direction of prayer. He later placed more spiritual and religious emphasis on the city as he related “that it was from al-Quds that he had ascended to Heaven in his Nigh Journey.” [38] But the Arab Muslims from the Arabian Peninsula were slow to fully come to appreciate and accept Jerusalem.
The process of integrating the town’s holiness into Muslim consciousness was, in the first generations, slow and at times even controversial. However, military changes and political pressures in later centuries helped establish Jerusalem as a generally accepted emotional symbol in Islam, not subject to argument or internal disagreement. [39]
Building upon these “ancient” associations within Islam to the city of Jerusalem and because of certain “contemporary” military challenges and political pressures, “the Mamluks endeavored, with some success, to make Jerusalem an international Muslim religious center.” [40]
To truly understand their efforts it is necessary to discuss somewhat the general themes of religiosity contemporary among the Mamluks as well as the religious context of the time. As has been noted above, the Mamluks formed a self-perpetuating “military class of former slaves who converted to Islam.” [41] The fact that they were converts to the religion (whether forced or not is irrelevant for this discussion) played a major part in their contributions to the religious atmosphere of the time. As such, the Mamluks would conceivably have felt societal pressures from other sections of society resenting their rule under the assumption that they were not true believers, and instead were solely using the religion to attain a false legitimacy for their rule. A careful study of the ceremonial habits and beliefs of the Mamluk rule assures us that this is not the case. One historian describes the inauguration of Baybars in 1261:
Baybars rode in state through the streets of Cairo with the emblems of royalty….It is notable that, for such inaugural ceremonies, the Mamlukes had taken over the traditional dress of the Abbasid Khalifs of Baghdad. On his head, the new sultan wore a large black turbarn, from which two black ribbons hung down his back. His voluminous black robes were without gold embroidery or ornamentation. At his side hung an antique Arab sword…alleged to have belonged to Umar ibn al Khattab, the second successor of the Prophet. It is significant that the clothing worn by the Mamluke sultans on such occasions was purely traditional Arab costume, with nothing of Turkish origin. This fact suggests that the Mamlukes were not merely arrogant foreign conquerors, but that they respected the ancient culture and traditions of their subjects. [42]
Certainly, the reasoning behind this was to provide an additional sense of legitimacy (aside from the military control they possessed) for the rule of the Mamluks. There can be no doubt that they were striving to continue the tradition of religious rule. Yet, this in no way denotes a false regard on the part of the Mamluks for Islam as a religion.
The Mamluk regard for their new religion is further shown in their massive building projects undertaken to further Islamic learning, study, and religiosity. Discussing the needs for these building campaigns, Joseph Drory notes two reasons distinctly related to their religious nature. The first was “the need felt by the Mamluks, the descendents of poor, anonymous, pagan families to express their loyalty and gratitude to the Muslim culture which had offered them protection, had given meaning to their life and had helped them gain social standing which they would not have attained in their lands of origin.” [43] Their conversion to Islam and their subsequent military service would have changed the lives of the young men who were ‘pressed’ into servitude. As a freedman, with considerable power and prestige in their new culture, it would have been only natural for them to attempt to give something back.
The second reason for the apparent “mania for building religious institutions may be attributed to the Mamluk’s desire to eradicate any doubts in the hearts of their subjects that they were converted by Islam against their will.” [44] This was very likely one of the greatest deterrents to the Mamluk power base, and something they would have desired to control as much as possible. Even though they headed a “militocracy” (in no way, shape or form any type of democracy), to allow their subjects to harbor even the slightest resentment over a “supposed” conversion to Islam would have been to invite cracks into the base of their rule. Rulers and dynasties through the ages have been dethroned for less.
Having defeated a religiously minded kingdom (the Latin Kingdom of the Crusaders) as they consolidated their power, the Mamluks must have been well aware of the power of religious expression. The Crusades, as a Christian effort to relieve the Holy Land from control of the Muslims, quite expectedly had an opposite effect in the long term perspective. Whereas before the Crusades, Jerusalem had had simple and tenuous ancient connections to the traditions of Islam (after all, the qibla had been moved to Mecca, and what was the place where Muhammad ascended to Heaven when compared to the most holy places of Mecca and Medina?), after the Christians successfully had attacked and retaken land from the Dar al-Islam, a surge of nationalist [45] fervor swept the Muslim world and urged their subsequent interest in the city and land of Jerusalem. “It was after the successive threats of the Crusades that Muslim interest in al-Quds and Palestine was heightened,” one historian notes,
Throughout the Ayyubid and especially the Mamluk period this interest was manifest in the counter-propaganda literature (Fada’il al-Quds) as well as the continuous provision of revenue and facilities for the city by Mulsim rulers. As a result, the city was to experience during the Mamluk period a surge of Muslim architectural and intellectual activities, ensuring for al-Quds a strong Muslim character. [46]
As was noted previously, the royal coffers were not so interested in endowing and funding Jerusalem building projects from a political standpoint. Yet, because of the intense revival in religious importance, the dynasties of the Mamluks felt a great pull to fund religiously motivated projects.
This “re-Islamizing of city” was a main part of the religious legacy that followed the defeat of the Crusaders by the Mamluks. “Churches were destroyed or transformed into mosques and the two main sanctuaries on the Haram were systematically cleansed of as many traces of Christian occupation as possible.” [47] Throughout the time of Saladin’s rule and extending through the next three centuries of Mamluk reign, enormous building activities took place to achieve this goal. The Mamluks took this beyond Saladin’s early efforts (which were confined mainly to the Haram al-Sharif) “launching one of the most sustained and impressive campaigns of construction in the city’s history.” [48] This building campaign was characterized by two defining characteristics: first, its locality and second, its continuity. The building activity “was almost entirely concentrated on the Haram proper and on its western and northern sides, either alongside the sanctuary itself or along the streets leading to it…and it was a continuous activity.” [49]
This attempt to remake the city as that of a Muslim city was also bolstered by the political-religious interpretation given to the control of the city. Indeed, “the Mamluk state viewed its continuing control of the city as a symbol of Muslim victory over the Crusaders.” [50] This was to provide a large impetus for the continual beautification of Jerusalem. As long as it bore the architectural and religious marks of the Islamic re-conquest, it would stand as a symbol of religious dominance.
The Mamluks were accustomed to holy wars against infidels—a basic tenet of the Ayyubid tradition from which they had emerged—and to the Islamic tradition of degrading the “people of the book” (i.e. Christians and Jews). Their status as Muslim successors to the Crusades obligated them to work energetically to glorify Jerusalem as a Muslim city. The Mamluks accomplished this objective by a massive building program, adding religious places to the town, renovating and maintaining existing shrines, and destroying any offensive remnants of the previous Crusader culture. [51]
This need to re-Islamize, coupled with the Mamluk need to prove their conversion and gratitude to Islam as discussed above, would have made it nearly impossible for the Mamluks not to lend their royal funds and support to religious rectification and embellishment in Jerusalem.
As interest in the city grew, the number of pilgrims to the city also grew. Muslims from all over the empire wanted to visit and feel of its spirit- “the city of sacred buildings, mosques and areas of solitary meditation, was like a magnet attracting mystics, God-fearing people, religious teachers and pious people from all corners of the Muslim world.” [52] The Mamluks quickly recognized that “in order to make al-Quds an important Muslim religious and pilgrim centre, accommodations for pilgrims, sojourners, visitors and mystics had to be made available.” [53] Thus the Mamluks actively built many hostels (ribats), caravansaries (khans and khanqahs), and necessary auxiliary structures, such as hammamat (baths) and water sources. These were very necessary for the upkeep of the city, “whose raison d’etre was its religious function, and whose economy depended on its ability to play the role of pilgrim city.” [54]
Another interesting side effect of religious fervency on the architecture of Jerusalem was the apparent connection of the Holy City with eschatological events of Judgment Day. This belief seems to have entered Muslim thought from Jewish sources sometime before the advent of the Mamluks (probably around the 10th century) but played a role in the architectural tradition of Jerusalem throughout their rule. [55] This belief, “that the Holy City was to be the site of the Last Day of Judgement (sic),” was to have a curious effect on the population of the city as “those who could arranged for their burial there.” One wonders if this also had an influence on the city as a place of refuge and retirement. It would make perfect sense for the city to be seen, not only as a good place to leave behind court life and retire, as was discussed above, but also as a place to live out the rest of one’s life in peace and be buried. This would also affect the architecture as “this particular theme permeated the religious significance of many of the city’s architectural structures.” [56] For this reasons, there are built throughout the city a number of mausoleums to commemorate the dead who were buried there as well as a large Muslim cemetery on the western side of the Haram al-Sharif.
These tombs (as well as many other religious structures) were connected in many respects to charitable institutions or endowments (waqf) which could be set up by individuals for a variety of reasons, yet essentially come down to caring for others. Religious giving in order to care for the poor and widows has a long history (back to Muhammad himself) within Islam. Thus, endowments were enacted to fulfill certain social needs and functions in accordance with religious wishes and general charity. This legal system of giving was undertaken to both bless those in need as well as secure for the donor a legacy, especially considering that, as far as popular religion is concerned (ignoring the views of formal religion), “charitable acts continue to win merit after a person’s death, and prayers for his soul and pious readings done in his name can store up benefit.” [57]
The reputation that Jerusalem had gained as a holy city did nothing but expand on the practice within the area.
If a person was moved to make an endowment to meet a social need, to provide for the poor, to support students in an institution dedicated to Islamic learning, and such like, then there was a whole tradition to persuade him that Jerusalem was an especial place to do so. A good action done there was multiplied many times in its effect and reward, it was said. [58]
This ability to finance an institution that contributed to the good of society and people’s souls would serve as a major impetus for the establishment for buildings such as mosques, madrasas and other social and religious institutions.
In the sphere of social interactions and inheritance though, the practice became influenced by specifically political factors that enhanced its meaning beyond that of giving to the poor and those in need to that of caring for one’s dependents and descendents.
Firstly, within the overall Mamluk kingdom, both their political structure “where succession was a deathly game of king of the mountain, and the ethnic distinction between sultans and the populace encouraged the sultans to enter into a social pact whereby in return for the right to rule, they would lavishly endow complexes to provide social services to the community.” [59] Thus, sultans and rulers who “built hostels (ribat) and soup kitchens for the needy, and provided for all their basic needs” [60] were pressured or nudged into doing so in order that they could reinforce the legitimacy of their rule.
Secondly, the political underpinnings of this unstable and tenuous rule, i.e. the “rootless military caste” [61] of the Mamluk slave soldiers, ensured that the practice of endowing waqfs became a way to protect ones personal fortune. “Family waqfs (waqf ahli) met the needs of sons and future descendents. Tying up one’s property in this way was an attempt to avoid the exactions of the authorities…and, generally, to circumvent the provisions of the law which tended to lead to the fragmentation of property.” [62] This practice came to be especially important for the slave soldiers because “children of a Mamluk, who were born Muslims… were not admitted to the military educational institutions, and did not inherit their father’s titles and high standing. Furthermore, the Sultan could censure a Mamluk and confiscate his possessions for the state treasury if he so desired. [63] Because of these political expediencies, it became necessary for the Mamluk, who had risen quite high in society, to find some way to care for his offspring after his deaths.
One of these ways was through the family waqfs which not only allowed them to demonstrate their commitment to Islam and caring for the poor, but “could also be a way of providing for descendants by designating them as inspectors (sing. nazir) of the waqf, for which employment a salary was drawn or the surplus income could be assigned to them.” [64] High-ranking Mamluk officers and other rulers were enabled to create for themselves and their families a basic trust fund which would continue to function as a source of income for generations. They would successfully guard their riches from the greedy desires of Sultans because “the ruler dared not confiscate such holy endowments, and the son responsible for them was legally guaranteed a regular monthly income.” [65]
One of the most prominent Mamluk officers who acted as both a religiously and governmentally motivated funder of building projects in Jerusalem was Amir Tankiz, having “accumulated a vast fortune during his 28 years as governor of Damascus and viceroy of Syria (1312-40), he spent much of it in beautifying Jerusalem.” [66] His influence was felt in many areas of the city as he, either using public (acting on behalf of the Sultan) or private funds, provided financial backing for a number of projects. His additions and influence will be discussed at greater length below.
Because of these laws and practices, the political system once again influenced the architectural buildings and projects within Jerusalem. Because of a conflux of these forces, the religious (in the form of charitable giving, coupled with Jerusalem magnifying the blessings received from these actions) and the political (the necessity of waqfs in the passing of family wealth), the number of waqf territory and building in Jerusalem was vastly increased during the reign of the Mamluks. These social factors merged with the aforementioned religious factors necessary to re-Islamize the city and create an international pilgrimage center as well as reinforce the Muslim nature of the city.
Mamluk Buildings in Jerusalem
The rehabilitation of Jerusalem took centuries. The building projects, while very quick in comparison to contemporary techniques and timetables, were still lengthy. More than that though, the volatile political situation meant that there were consistent changes in both the fortunes and abilities of people rising and falling from the court in Cairo. This also would mean a meandering path of progress for the architectural growth of Jerusalem as donors, patrons, and funds ran out or became available. Having discussed various factors that contributed to these building processes, we will now turn to discussing some of the buildings themselves, chosen as prime examples of their building types. [67] The buildings to be discussed will be divided into 2 different sections: religious and secular (with an understanding that many of those discussed will fit in both categories to some extent).
At this time though, it is necessary to mention another social facet of Mamluk society that distinctly affects the topic of study. When it comes to the buildings that will be studied in depth (and even more so for all the other buildings that were erected throughout the era), in most cases the names and positions of those who commissioned the buildings will be known and enshrined in plaques, memorandums or other records. Yet, the names of the specific architects and artists who designed and built the buildings themselves remain conspicuously absent. In fact,
we know very little about the artists and builders who conceived of and created Mamluk art and architecture. Not only have they left us no written testimonies about themselves or their work…but they very rarely, and then only cursorily, appear in the copious Mamluk biographical dictionaries, which otherwise accorded countless people from various walks of life their place in history. [68]
It should be pointed out though that artists and architects were not conceived of in the Middle Ages in the same manner as they are today in the Western world. Even in our specific tradition, the modern concept of praise and honor to artists and architects did not arise until after the Renaissance. [69] This lack of recognition, thus, points to the fact that “the majority who remained anonymous clearly had a rather modest status not so very different from other craftsmen.” [70] This is a very interesting problem considering how important the Mamluks considered art and architecture to be.
As another note, while not discussed in detail with respect to all of these buildings, the elements that distinguish Mamluk architecture (i.e. extensive ablaq, muqarnas, and other specific techniques and styles) are prominently displayed in each of the buildings considered. They will be addressed and described later, yet it is necessary to recognize and remember while these buildings are discussed that these building techniques and architectural styles are a large part of the architectural legacy that the Mamluks left on Jerusalem.
Religious Buildings: Mosques
Within the context of buildings erected by the Mamluks in Jerusalem, the lack of significant mosques is prominent. This is characteristic of the times. It seems that the grand mosques built by earlier dynasties and kingdoms still sufficed throughout the Mamluk kingdom, in Cairo and Damascus as well as within Jerusalem. It can safely be assumed that the al-Aqsa mosque was filling its role as the major mosque of the city, with other smaller mosques perhaps in more supplementary roles. “The relative scarcity of major mosques in this period not only reflects the primacy of the great early jami’s still in use, which made further such buildings redundant; it also marks a shift in patronage away from mosques towards mausolea, madrasas, khanqahs, and the like.” [71] This shift would play a major role in the city as madrasas and other structures would abound.
Religious Buildings: Madrasas
The madrasa would come to be one of the most prominent additions of the Mamluks to Jerusalem. As was said above, the Mamluks exhibited a slow shift away from building mosque, building madrasas instead. This was indicative of the whole Middle East at the time. “Indeed, one might say that in the late Middle Ages the madrasa replaced the mosque as ‘the characteristic Muslim building.’ People of various social classes donated money to such projects.” [72] This was especially true for the Mamluks as “they considered the building of the madrasa—and especially the allocation of funds for teachers and pupils—an extraordinary opportunity to strengthen and glorify Islam’s spiritual power,” [73[ which was especially important in their quest to re-Islamize Jerusalem.
The madrasa had originated during the late tenth century into the eleventh century as “institutions devoted exclusively to teaching jurisprudence and housing students” and was intended mainly as “a primary weapon in the orthodox arsenal to counter the spread of heterodox Shiism.” [74] These types of buildings would function to teach the Islamic sciences such as hadith, tafsir, and fiqh as well as the four orthodox schools of thought in classical Islamic jurisprudence. [75]
The Mamluks adopted many styles of the madrasa that had developed in many other lands. Most notable of these architectural was the four-iwan plan which originated in the area of Persia. [76] This was an architectural plan dominated by a square inner courtyard which was flanked on all four sides by large ornamental niches or recessions which most often contained doorways into other rooms meant for instruction or as David Kroyanker described: “the design of the medieval madrasa followed a centralized plan, with four domed rooms (known as iwans) built around a central hall and open to this space. Like a mosque, the madrasa commonly has a prayer niche (mihrab) in the southern wall (qibla) facing Mecca.” [77] This was a dominant theme in the Mamluk architectural styles in Cairo and “the significance of the Egyptian madrassas is the four-iwan plan where each iwan represented on of the four orthodox schools of law…Another significant development which took place in Egypt is the madrassa becoming the dominant architectural form with mosques adopting their four-iwan plan.” [78] As madrasas became more and more common, their building plan style was slowly co-opted and turned into the distinct Islamic style to be used in most Muslim buildings.
This style though found difficulty being realized in Mamluk Jerusalem. As has been mentioned, the Mamluks confined most of their building to the areas directly abutting the Haram al-Sharif. Because of the large amount of buildings already extant in the area, and the amount of building undertaken by the Mamluks, the space in the area for new buildings and expansion of old was severely curtailed. Thus, the architectural techniques developed and mastered in Cairo which needed much space needed to be modified. This
shortage of space…ensured that in residential madrasas the cells were disposed on two or even three storeys. There is even a case of a madrasa being extended over the roof of an adjoining ribat…In such cramped conditions it is not surprising to find that the four-iwan plan used on more spacious sites in contemporary Cairo is apt to be reduced, for example by the suppression of lateral iwans. [79]
This fact can be seen in two of the main madrasas which the Mamluks constructed in Jerusalem. While the design of one, the Al-Ashrafiyya madrasa, has been modified almost to the point of completely departing from the four-iwan plan, the other, al-Tankiziyya, preserves a uniform and largely unmodified form of the plan. We will now turn to consider some specific elements of each of these madrasas within the context of the overall building styles and work of the Mamluks. [80]
The madrasa al-Ashrafiyya occupies a position of prominence on the western edge of the Haram al-Sharif portico, with the Bab al-Silsila (Chain Gate) just to its south and the madrasa ‘Uthmaniyya to its north. The position had previously housed two former madrasas which had been torn down completely in turn to make room for the following. The last of the three was completed in 1482 CE by Sultan al-Malik al-Ashraf Sayf al-Din Abu Nasr Qaytbay al-Mahdudi al-Zahiri (Qaybay for short), from whom the madrasa would gain its name. The building is also positioned on top of another madrasa (Baladiyya) and extends a little bit onto the portico of the Haram itself. The madrasa, “when new,” was apparently so beautiful that it “had the reputation of being ‘the third Jewel of the Haram’ (Mujir al-Din)” [81] behind the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
This madrasa was made especially important for reasons discussed by Robert Hillenbrand [82] (in greater detail than here). First, it held the honor of patronage and even personal visitation by the Sultan Qaytbay (something quite uncommon for provincial madrasas). Second, the madrasa’s physical positioning would have lent it great prestige- “its location in a favoured site along the inner façade of the Haram al-Sharif would confer baraka (blessing) on it to an unusual degree.” [83] Thirdly, Qaytbay had recently also raised madrasas in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, thus giving this madrasa the distinction of being linked with the holiest sites in Islam directly.
The madrasa is also remarkable because of its architecture. The building consists of two floors- a ground floor and an upper floor, “of which the upper is the more extensive and important.” [84] The upper floor is the portion of the building which contains what Hillenbrand refers to simply as the madrasa, while meaning the distinct four-iwan plan.
Barely the skeleton of the four-iwan plan has survived. It would perhaps be more accurate to describe this part of the building as a continuous spatial unit with a powerful drive along the north-south axis. The lateral iwans are not only much narrower than the qibla iwan and its opposite number, but also project far less forcibly from the walls behind them. Their relative suppression of course serves to highlight the other two iwans. This technically cruciform unit is in fact essentially a two-iwan qa’a [a reception hall [85]]…The resultant layout suggest very strongly that it was the north and south iwans that served the traditional functions of a madrasa while the lateral iwans shrink to the dimensions of mere niches in comparison. [86]
This seems to be simply an architectural necessity given the landscape and room being used. In fact, the east iwan could possibly be considered the most important of the iwans because it faced out directly to the Dome of the Rock. To call it an iwan though might be a little too strong because it is only “suggested, not present in full, for there is only the arch of the façade borne on columns with no walls perpendicular to it. It has in fact been transformed into an open loggia offering spectacular views over the Haram,” [87] a change wrought simply because of religious considerations. It also housed a great stain glass window of apparent exquisite detail. [88] The west iwan, though, was reduced dramatically, containing only an ornate an ornate window looking down into the courtyard of the Baladiyya madrasa beneath. The south and north iwans were elaborately decorated with various stone and much larger than the others. The south also housed the elaborate qibla to designate the direction of prayer south towards Mecca.
It is also of note that Qaytbay “took the major step of sanctioning the extension of the madrasa façade, which until then had remained flush with the open arcade fronting the inner side of the Haram enclosure, so that it projected well beyond the arcade. It was a brutally simple way of drawing attention to his new foundation.” [89] This provided the madrasa with a never before seen prominence among the other buildings on the Haram, as well as among all the other Muslim buildings throughout the world.
It seems that Qaytbay took very seriously the religio-political mission of re-Islamizing Jerusalem, probably both to glorify Islam, as well as to prove himself true to its tenets. Considering all of Qaytbay’s other building projects (in Jerusalem, Cairo, Medina and Mecca), it can easily be seen that “the Ashrafiya falls into place as one component in a religio-political master-plan expressing imperial Mamluk involvement in the holy places of Islam.” [90]
While not as prominent or as well positioned as the Ashrafiyya madrasa, al-Tankiziyya [91] occupies a position of importance within the city as well. Located on the south side of the Tariq Bab al-Silsila (the Gate of the Chain Road) just outside of the Haram gate on the west side of the Temple Mount, the building was commissioned by Amir Sayf al-Din Abu Sa’id Tankiz, from whom the building draws its name. The date of completion of the building is set in an inscription
situated in a band about the door of the grand entrance portal. It runs as follows: In the name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate. This blessed place was erected, in the hope of God’s reward and His forgiveness, by his noble Excellency Sayf al-Din Tankiz, the servant of al-Malik al-Nasir (may God forgive him and reward him), [during the months of] the year seven hundred and twenty-nine [1328-29]. [92]
The building consists of three floors, each with differing functions, and “attached to the main building are four shops to the west of the main entrance… [which] appear to belong to the original construction, presumably intended to supplement the endowment.” [93]
The man responsible for this building is an apt illustration of the political instability of the Mamluk reign and the subsequent influence it had on building projects. As is shown by the inscription above, the building was completed rather quickly, within a few months (not more than one year). Achieving a rapid rise to power, Tankiz was appointed to positions of power granting him rule over all of Syria. He used his power to construct many buildings and endow many waqfs throughout the area, being “particularly noted for the series of urban works he carried out in Damascus, Jerusalem and elsewhere, founding religious institutions, building caravanserais and baths and ensuring water supplies.” [94] However, Tankiz apparently fell prey to swift undercurrents in the Mamluk political system, halting his architectural advancements when “for reasons that are far from clear but in a manner that can be often paralleled, the mighty subject fell suddenly and was arrested on the…20 June 1340. He was taken to Alexandria and imprisoned there for less than a month before he was put to death.” [95] Tankiz’s experience illustrates well the political shifting and problems that would have plagued the leadership of the time and given reason for abrupt starts and stops to building projects at the times. Hence, it is no surprise that buildings, such as al-Tankiziyya, were completed so quickly. One could never know when or how he might fall out of favor with the authorities.
The layout of this building speaks to the needs and abilities of the architects and craftsmen to both innovate as well as rely on traditional and established forms of architecture and religious norms. As with al-Ashrafiyya, al-Tankiziyya occupies more vertical space than horizontal, as was necessitated by the land restrictions of Jerusalem. This facilitated a multi-storied building, with the first two floors being the typical madrasa, while the top floored served as a khanqah, or hostel specifically suited for Sufi mystics. This illustrates the desires of the Mamluks to pack as many functioning religious type buildings into the area around the Haram al-Sharif as possible.
This would, of course, create spacing problems as “in Mamluk Jerusalem the [building] site was almost invariably bounded by existing structures and was frequently strewn with the remains of earlier buildings.” [96] This would necessitate an amazing level of ingenuity for the architects and builders who would need to decide how the traditional forms of buildings would need to be reshaped and adapted to the specific area. In contrast to al-Ashrafiyya, al-Tankiziyya followed the traditional four-iwan plan much more closely with less of a mind to adapt it. Their commitment to the traditional plan is revealed as a
large purposeless block of masonry…[near] the south-west corner room of the madrasa shows that the Mamluk builders felt obliged to maintain the regularity of the four-iwan layout rather than attempt to make use of this awkward corner which they must simply have filled with rubble when they connected the madrasa to the pre-existing structure to the west. [97]
Without a specific reason (such as a magnificent view of the Dome of the Rock), the architect must have felt that a commitment to the traditional layout was more important to show religious continuity and orthodoxy.
Yet, still this traditional layout was affected by the site. “The four iwans opening off the courtyard are of varying depths, mainly as a result of the restrictions imposed upon the builders by the site.” [98] While the south iwan is the deepest (because of the qibla), and the east iwan is only slightly less so, the north and the west iwans are reduced much more because “the space available for the north iwan is restricted by the vestibule and entrance portal, while the depth of the west iwan is curtailed by the pre-existing structure to the west.” [99]
Both al-Ashrafiyya and al-Tankiziyya followed the conventions of architecture established within the Mamluk system. Each though is distinct in that their founders allowed the plan to be adapted in order to fit the building site available to them. The extent to which the plans were adapted is a product of the political powers and norms of the time. The much more provincial power held by Tankiz could ill afford to possibly anger religious authorities or engender resentment among the unstable political court in Cairo by distinctly abandoning the accepted architectural styles in his attempts to proclaim his conversion to Islam. Qaytbay, on the other hand, as the highest ranking political official in the empire, had the ability to discard precedents and adapt norms to establish the monument that would stand as his religious testimony.
Religious Buildings: Mausoleums
As was pointed out, Jerusalem became associated in the Jewish and Muslim traditions with the Final Judgment, and as such became a prime place for the burial of the religious dead. Besides the many cemeteries to be found to the east of the Haram al-Sharif, many people build commemorative tombs and burial places within the walls of the city closer to the Temple Mount. Here we will discuss briefly two examples of mausoleums built to both commemorate the deeds and/or religiosity of the deceased or his/her family as well as to provide the family waqfs as mentioned previously.
Turba of Barka Khan
Located on the Tariq Bab al-Silsila (Gate of the Chain Road), the turba (mausoleum) of Barka Khan is a good example of the tendency of people during the Mamluk rule to build mausoleums in Jerusalem for those who die elsewhere. Amir Husam al-Din Barka Khan b. Dawlat Khan is definitively “a curious figure to have a monument in Jerusalem.” [100] As “one of the four chiefs, and the most important one, of the Khwarizmian [Tartar] bands who operated in Mesopotamia, Syrian and Palestine in the 1230s and 1240s,” [101] it is highly unlikely that Barka Khan considered Jerusalem his home. It is an indisputable fact though that his turba was built by someone else.
While it is not factually known exactly, most consider some ancillary facts to indicate that the building was originally funded and built by his son, Badr al-Din Muhammad Bey, who had married into the family of Mamluk Sultan Baybars, [102] sometime between 1246 and 1280. Since then, it has undergone multiple phases (at least two of them during the Mamluk era) of construction introducing additions, magnifications, and renovations.
What is important for our consideration here is that this building was originally intended to house the remains and as a commemoration of a man who had little connection whatsoever with the Holy City, but whose son (probably upon further, deeper conversion to Islam and introduction to the Mamluk court through his marriage) felt that his father should have a place of honor among the dead at Jerusalem in order to take part in the eschatological traditions of Resurrection associated with the place. This is one example of many such people who were either moved posthumously after an original burial or whose bodies were initially taken to be interred near the Haram al-Sharif. Thus, the social, political and religious influences of the Mamluks again affected the architecture of the city by adding more Mamluk buildings.
Turba of Sitt Tunshuq
In contrast to Barka Khan, who was moved to the city after his death, the Lady Tunshuq al-Muzaffariyya resided in the city for many years before her death and interment in the tomb she had constructed. Built opposite of the palace that she had erected for herself (to be discussed briefly later) on the north side of the street known modernly as Aqabat al-Takiyya, the tomb dates from around 1398 CE. Lady Tunshuq died in July or August of that year and was buried there.
Little is known of the origins of Lady Tunshuq. While “her full name, Tunshuq, daughter of ‘Abdallah, cerainly (sic) suggests that she may have been at some time a Turkish slave,” [103] other factors, such as her laqab (nickname or honorary name) al-Muzaffariyya suggests possible connections to either Mamluk royalty, such as Sultan al-Muzaffar Hajji (1346-47), or even to the Muzaffarid dynasty of West Persia. [104] This second possibility seems to have greater credence as there are certain Iranian influences present in the architectural techniques of both her palace and her tomb; “Iranian influences are otherwise virtually unknown in the Mamluk architecture of Jerusalem and there must be some reason for it.” [105]
Any of these possibilities though speak of an interesting and eventful life, as she either was able to rise to prominence from a state of slavery or fled the destruction of her dynasty by Tamerlane and established herself in Jerusalem. Either way, the existence of her palace and tomb serve to show the cosmopolitan nature of Jerusalem, not as the center of Mamluk court, but as a city of refuge for many seeking to escape such politics and to live in relative peace for the remainder of their lives. This also illustrates the point that many would have come to Jerusalem and, intent on keeping the same standards of living they were used to, would have privately funded many building projects.
Religious Buildings: Minarets
Minarets, although not universally accepted throughout the Islamic world, have generally been intimately associated with Islam and seen as a symbol of the religion since shortly after the time of Muhammad. Besides the obvious intent to point out and draw one’s eye to the important buildings of the city and remind of their founders, [106] at earlier times “the purpose of the minaret in [certain] mosques was to demonstrate the power of Abbasid religious authority.” This general purpose had to have extended into the conscious of other Islamic empires, despite the fact that “those opposed to Abbasid power would not adopt this symbol of conformity,”[107] (namely the Fatamids).
It would seem that the Mamluks definitely adopted this technique in their desire to re-Islamize the Holy City following the expulsion of the Crusaders. In the century and a half after their retaking the city, the Mamluks built anew or refurbished 8 major minarets. The number of minarets grew incredibly from that observed in other eras as “whereas under the Abbasids minarets had been restricted to congregational mosques, during the Mamluk period all kinds of buildings could have minarets including smaller mosques, tombs, khanqas and madrassas.” [108] The Mamluks in Jerusalem followed the trend of the greater empire placing the new minarets on madrasas (such as the Muazzamiyya minaret), on khanqahs (such as the Salahiyya minaret), on the gates leading to the Haram al Sharif (such as Bab al-Silsila or the Bab al-Asbat minarets), and even just somewhat freestanding (such as the Ghawanima or the ‘Fakhriyya minarets). They also continued the tradition of building minarets attached to mosques, such as the Minaret in Harat al-Yehud as well as the Minaret of ‘Jami ‘Umar. [109]
This flowering of minarets in Jerusalem attests strongly to their efforts to create a more intense Muslim flavor within the city and assert the dominance of Islam. Their efforts also were staged to enforce their dominance specifically over the minorities in the city as certain of the minarets (as well as other buildings) were constructed deliberately in the non-Muslim quarters of the city. In addition to adding minarets to the Haram al-Sharif and Muslim Quarter, the Mamluks also “erected two more in the Christian Quarter and a third near the site of the Hurvah Synagogue in the Jewish quarter. All three stood in non-Muslim sections, probably intentionally, to stress the Islamic presence in the city.” [110] Some historians see deliberate efforts on the part of the Mamluks to cow their minority populations. By connecting the Mosque of Omar minaret and that of the Khanqah Salahiyya with a direct line reveals that the “mid-point…drawn between the minarets falls approximately at the entrance of the tomb of Christ in the Holy Sepulchre. There can be no doubt that this arrangement was intentional. The Mamluks may have desired to ‘nullify’ the Holy Sepulchre, which is the only site associated with Christ that the Muslims do not accept.” [111] Indeed, it is generally assumed that many of the minarets were placed deliberately and “appear to have been built mainly as symbolic gestures against the non-Muslim population.” [112]
The minarets shown here all bear the mark of distinctly Mamluk architecture. Yet, they are also examples of the differing styles and techniques from the wide area of influence and control that the Mamluks had. All of the minarets listed above conform to the “characteristic Egyptian division of the minaret into separately conceived superposed tiers.” [113] This style traditionally built the minaret with “each tower…composed of three distinct zones: a square section at the bottom, an octagonal middle section and a dome on the top. The zone of transition between each section is covered with a band of muqarnas decoration.” [114] All of the minarets discussed here follow the traditional Egyptian style of distinct stories, but differ from the tradition by maintaining a typical Syrian [115] tower (or middle section), square in shape (excepting the Bab al-Asbat minaret whose tower is rounded), instead of the Egyptian octagonal. Thus, the Jerusalem minarets came to depict Islamic religious dominance over the city and Mamluk political power extending from Cairo to Damascus by exemplifying a conglomerate of styles from many areas under Mamluk control.
Religious Buildings: Haram al-Sharif Beautifications
As the holiest and most revered place within the city, the Haram al-Sharif was the focus of many of the building projects and received the most attention from the Mamluks. Yet, because of the extremely limited space on top of the Temple Mount built by Herod, the desire to keep it cleared and open, and the overall sanctity of the platform, the area itself was not the site of buildings such as madrasas or khanqahs. Instead, it was built up and beautified by the addition of generally smaller and more dignified commemorations and constructions in the attempt of the Mamluks to re-establish it as a center of holiness after the apparent “desecration” of the Crusaders.
One of the most impressive structures built upon the west esplanade of the Sanctuary platform is the Sabil (Turkish: fountain) of Qaytbay. Built a short distance away from his madrassa, al-Ashrafiyya, the sabil was another integral part of Qaytbay’s attempt to attach specific connection between himself as sultan and the most holy sites of Islam, thus legitimizing his reign as well as proving his commitment to Islam. Qaytbay was dealing with a particular tumultuous time economically and politically, and as well as consolidating power in those spheres, “his reign was also a time of great revival of the arts, in which architecture was characterized by elegance and harmony rather than size.” [116]
The fountain is essentially a three-tiered construction consisting of a square room for a base with transition elements forming a middle section and crowned with a pointed dome. The building itself is rather small (especially as it is overshadowed by the Dome of the Rock nearby), but constitutes a “superb example of Mamluk decorative architecture” [117] and is “one of the finest examples of the Mamluks’ use of highly ornate stone-engraved calligraphy.” [118] It is also a good example of arabesque elements (both inside and out) of both geometric and floral patterns.
The Noble Sanctuary was further beautified by the re-construction of other elements that had either fallen into disrepair by the time of the Mamluks or had otherwise been destroyed. The most prominent of the structures to be fully renovated or rebuilt are the elements of the North and West Porticos. The porticos simply consist of a number of arches and bays lining the northern and western edges of the Haram al-Sharif. Also reconstructed were a number of qanatirs or colonnades that stand at the heads of a number of staircases leading up from the lower platforms to the upper platform of the Dome. Consisting of freestanding pillars and arches the colonnades serve to add an aesthetically pleasing aspect to the otherwise open surroundings. Other elements and structures that were added include the Well of Ibrahim al-Rumi (a small structure over a cistern to provide water to visitors to the Haram) and the Summer Pulpit (a minbar set on the west side of the southern colonnade of the Dome of the Rock terrace).
Non-Religious Buildings: Ribats/Khans and Khanqahs/Zawiyas
We now move to consider some of the building projects that were built for non-religious purposes, meaning that they were constructed solely for non-religious functions unrelated to express religious observances, learning or commemoration. It must be noted, however, that almost all of these buildings retain some connection to religious observances and came about because of distinctly religious social conditions. Hence, referring to them simply as “secular” would be a misnomer.
Within the Mamluk Jerusalem stand many buildings that are referred to as either ribats or khans. Originally these terms denoted different structures: a khan being a “building which combines the function of hostel and trading centre” [119] and a ribat being a “fortified enclosure for religious warriors.” [120] Over time though, the functions and forms of these buildings expanded. The ribat apparently lost its purely militaristic meaning becoming simply “square or rectangular courtyard structures, two storeys high, with storage rooms and stables on the ground floor and sleeping accommodation and mosque on the upper floor.” [121] The khan eventually simply “would become centres for trade. Also at this time the caravanserai is established as a more specialized form of khan catering specifically for caravans.” [122]
By the time of the Mamluk builders, the ribat came to mean a simple pilgrims hospice whereas the khan came to be a similar hospice except meant for caravans and traders, denoting a difference merely in patronage, not in function. This was a very important distinction for the time because, while Jerusalem had a bustling economy based in agricultural and livestock goods (as shown by the construction and refurbishment of such important structures as the Suq al-Qattanin or Cotton Merchants Market), it was also a major center for pilgrimage. As such, Jerusalem was home to many ribats. Here, we will only mention one that was of some importance: the Ribat of Sayf al-Din Kurt al-Mansuri.
Built alongside the west border of the Haram on the north side of Tariq Bab al-Hadid, the ribat held a prominent place very close to the Sanctuary itself. Built in 1293-94, it has even been suggested “that the gate [Bab al-Hadid] was opened precisely to give access to the ribat.” [123] This would suggest the power and influence that the pilgrimage nature of the city would have lent to the building and shaping of the city. The Mamluk intention of transforming the city into an international pilgrimage center seems to have had great impact on the architectural heritage as they constructed at least 6 major ribats which have survived within the area of the Old City during their rule.
Another type of buildings that was built to accommodate religious persons in the city was the khanqah (a monastery or hostel for sufis or dervishes [124]). These slowly built up as the sufi movements grew through the ages, in most cases appearing on the site of a zawiya (“the place where a holy man both lived and was buried” [125]). These buildings also abounded, with nearly a half dozen in the vicinity of the Old City as well. This influx of Sufi pilgrims definitely “influenced the character of the population of Jerusalem, as well as the attitude of the authorities toward them,” [126] resulting in the funding of new khanqahs by high ranking political figures. The Tankiz khanqah has already been mentioned as an example of a sufi hostel established close to and overlooking the Haram al-Sharif as part of the madrasa founded by the Amir Tankiz.
Analyzing the records of the Arab historian Mujir al-Din, one historian concludes that within Jerusalem “there were more ribats and zawiyas than khanqahs…[for] though Mujir al-Din mentions only one khan (Tankiz), the documents reveal that the city had four more, indicating that there were more accommodation for traders than we know of…[and] the appearance of five monasteries in our sample indicates that the city may have contained many more.” [127] This reasserts the fact that the city was primarily a religious destination, housing many more pilgrims, Sufi or otherwise, than merchants. What this truly indicates is that according to official records there were more of each type than the physical buildings that remain attest.
Non-Religious Buildings: The Cotton Merchant’s Market Complex
Amir Tankiz was also integral in the construction of one of the largest and most fantastic of the Mamluk building projects- the Cotton Merchant’s Market Complex. This popular name has been adopted, since the fifteenth century, to refer to a large area which was specifically designed and laid out “as a sort of commercial centre,” [128] the seeming equivalent of the modern shopping mall. Three inscriptions placed at different locations within the complex identify Tankiz as involved in the construction, indicate that it was built between 1335 and 1337 and “that the foundation was a royal one. Tankiz was responsible for the undertaking on behalf of the Sultan, al-Nasir Muhammad.” [129]
The market complex was built on the remains of an earlier market, probably of Crusader origin. [130] The main street of the market follows the same line of this earlier market but expands beyond the scope of the earlier market to reach all the way to the Haram al-Sharif, “where a monumental new gate, Bab al-Qattanin, was erected.” [131] The opposite end of the market street was also capped with a monumental entry. The covered street was lined with shops, and living quarters were established above the shops. The complex was completed with the addition of two bath-houses (hammamat), Hammam al-Shifa and Hammam al-‘Ayn, and a khan for merchant caravans. “The ceiling consists of a series of cross vaults, with an illumination opening at the center of every second vault” [132] to allow daylight into the otherwise darkened market street.
The complex provides a most important example of secular building within Jerusalem with governmental backing, although the market “was built in order to provide revenue from rents to support charitable works,” [133] including waqf endowments and upkeep for structures such as Tankiz’s madrasa and ribat. [134] Thus, while this complex was constructed for distinctly non-religious purposes (mercantile activities as well as living space, water sources and toiletry functions), it was still subtly incorporated into the overall religious overtones of the city. Still, it should not be overlooked “that the construction of a huge cotton market as well as a khan for merchants coincided with a period in which the cotton trade was thriving in the Syrian region of the Mamluk empire.” [135] This would account for a certain amount of interest from the political spheres that funded the construction.
Non-Religioius Buildings: The Palace of Sitt Tunshuq
As was mentioned earlier, the Lady Tunshuq resided in Jerusalem for a number of years previous to her death and interment in the tomb she had erected in the year 1398 CE. It is recorded that the Lady Tunshuq was residing in Jerusalem at least by the year 1391 because she is mentioned in the records of the Islamic historian Mujir al-Din. [136] As has been mentioned before, she was a lady of no little importance. This is especially shown by the palace that she was able to erect for herself in the city.
The palace occupies a place of honor along the street now referred to as ‘Aqabat al-Takiyya. This area would have been a prized spot as it was “sufficiently high on western slope of town’s central valley (al-Wad) to have enjoyed a clear view of the Dome of the Rock (sic).” [137] The building itself is rather large, comprising two floors with three different entrances on the same street. The palace was built some time during the years 1391-1392, and was sufficiently large and impressive that “by 795/1393 a Haram document names ‘the Lady’s Hill’, which means that her presence and her ‘grand edifice’ had already made their mark on the city by then.” [138]
Sadly, the palace retains almost none of its initial form. Subsequent renovations and building projects, particularly of Ottoman origin, have rendered the original palace indistinguishable: “repairs and alternations, mostly undocumented, [occurred] that make it difficult now to establish with precision the initial layout of the palace.” [139] Thus our knowledge that a magnificent edifice once stood is maintained mainly by Haram and waqf documents.
The palace, like her tomb, still remains though as evidence of a certain aristocratic population within the city which was willing to construct their own palaces and edifices in order to retain a higher standard of living. It is also noteworthy that the Lady Tunshuq used her wealth to provide for certain Sufi orders- “she favoured a Shaykh Ibrahim of the Qalandariyya Order, whose zawiya was in the middle of the Mamilla cemetery…She also constructed a precinct around the zawiya.” [140] This indicates that these wealthy gentry acted out of religious inclinations as well as personal desires to beautify the Holy City.
Mamluk Architectural Styles and Techniques
As has been mentioned, the motivations behind the building projects which the Mamluk rulers undertook in Jerusalem were influenced by many factors, political as well as religious. Mamluk architectural styles and techniques were influenced along the same lines reflecting facets of the Mamluk culture. Despite what some would claim [141], it seems that the Mamluk militant characteristics influenced much of their architecture, albeit in a more indirect way. “Mamluk architecture reflects the confidence derived from its military successes and is one of the most distinctive Islamic styles of building.” [142] This militaristic society left its stamp by producing strong, stark buildings with elaborate façades and monumental entries made from generally sturdy materials meant to last as well as to reinforce the power and grandeur of the ruling military junta and of Islam.
Of course, Mamluk architecture drew inspiration from and was influenced by the styles of the empires around and preceding them. The main influence came from the Ayyubid empire, which the Mamluks had deposed, but other influences came from other sources, “in particular Italian and Andalusian architecture.” [143] The Mamluk Empire also encompassed a large territory, and as such it incorporated many varying styles from within its own borders. Most notable and influential among these were those from Syria and Egypt (as have been mentioned previously), whose differences “can be explained by the availability of materials and differing traditions of building.” [144] This would have specific influence on Mamluk architecture within the city of Jerusalem because “its position midway between Damascus and Cairo made it susceptible to influences from both Syria and Egypt.” [145] Thus, Mamluk buildings in Jerusalem contain elements derived from both traditions. This convergence of styles and characteristics was reinforced by the fact that “most of the work was done by local artisans and workers, although evidence suggests that itinerant craftsmen from Egypt and Syria also participated.” [146] There are also firm records describing the sending of specific craftsmen from Cairo to undertake certain building projects of special importance, such as al-Ashrafiyya and the Sabil of Qaytbay. [147] Here we will discuss many of the differing elements that became standard in the architecture in Jerusalem, ranging from the specific materials used to the methods they were employed.
Mamluk Materials in Jerusalem
The main construction material used by the Mamluks in Jerusalem was stone. Specifically, the Mamluks employed ashlar masonry, a particular style of plainly dressed stones of moderate size, to construct their buildings. This was probably because of the seasons of heavy rainfall in the Jerusalem hills, whereas brick, which would not have withstood the rain as well, was the standard material in Egypt. The stone used was the standard limestone found in the region as well as some other types quarried locally. It should be pointed out that although it was incorporated into their buildings, “no marble was quarried by the Mamluks.” [148] Because of this lack of marble quarrying, “there was never a plentiful supply and marble remained a prized building material.” Subsequently, the Mamluks “appropriated marble from Crusader and Byzantine buildings.” [149]
The Mamluks became very skilled at manipulating stone for building and beautification purposes. Builders would shape and design the ashlars to specifications, shown by “the joints between stones [being] for the most part extremely accurate, leaving exposed only a very thin line of bedding mortar.” [150] The lack of large quantities of mortar stands as testament to the ability of the Mamluk engineers and artisans to adapt the stones to the position they would hold simply and efficiently. The Mamluks prized uniformity in their building presentation and, as such, “on façades, the stone facing is very finely dressed. Interior surfaces, which were usually plastered, are less carefully finished.” [151]
Plaster and stucco make up another of the major components of the Mamluk building styles. Generally, internal surfaces were in some way plastered, (although, in some cases, examples of well dressed plain ashlars and even marble paneling can be found) shown by certain places “where traces of original plaster survive…suggest that interlacing mouldings were used to outline the main surfaces…Specialist plasterers were obviously employed.” [152]
Architectural Arenas
Mamluk architects used the somewhat limited materials just mentioned in a variety of ways and means to construct creative and elaborate buildings. The specific styles and techniques used are best described under three overarching headings or arenas: surface decorations, structural elements, and layout and planning techniques. [153]
Surface Decorations: Blazons and Inscriptions
Mamluk architecture is perhaps best identified by the use of specific inscriptions and heraldic blazons. These were both placed on the buildings in an effort to draw attention to specific details that the founders and architects wanted the building to be known for. Thus,
Many façades are enlivened by inscriptions which often include a Koranic passage as well as details of the nature of the foundation, the name of its founder and the date. They were generally carved on recessed panels above door or window lintels. Occasionally inscriptions are punctuated by, or flanked by, heraldic blazons that were the personal badge or emblem of the founding amir. [154]
The blazons are of particular interest because they provide a large amount of information as well as being an indication of the militaristic nature of the Mamluk empire. The blazons “are usually round discs divided into three fields with various emblems (e.g. cup, horn, disc, etc) set into the middle. Each sultan and group of Mamluks had their own blazon which would be applied to any objects belonging to the group including buildings.” [155] These blazons help to identify the builders and patrons of many of the major buildings in Jerusalem, and seem to be the medieval equivalent of the specific badges common to many military units throughout the modern world which are used to denote both their affiliation (i.e. military unit) as well as a rank within that unit.
The inscriptions are also very informative for dating and identifying buildings. These inscriptions “would usually state the name and rank of a building’s founder” written in Naskhi script. [156] Outside of just inscriptions, decorative calligraphy carved into stone remains one of the most recognizable elements of Mamluk architecture. In Jerusalem, the sabil built by Qaytbay “furnishes one of the finest examples of the Mamluks’ use of highly ornate stone-engraved calligraphy” outside of Cairo. [157]
Surface Decorations: Ablaq
One of the most distinctive elements of Mamluk architecture is the use of ablaq- “alternating layers of different colours, or shades of masonry.” [158] Whereas many of the standard elements to be discussed within Mamluk architecture originated in Egypt, ablaq “seems to have originated in southern Syria where volcanic black basalt and white limestone naturally occur in equal quantities” [159] and spread south into Egypt; “this was used in Syria in Ayyubid times but is not found in Egypt until 1300.” [160] In Jerusalem, “courses of the excellent cream-coloured local limestone alternate with courses of stone of a different colour, commonly red but also black and yellow. Stones of alternating colour were also used for decorative effect in the construction of arches and other features,” [161] particularly large portals and over doorway and window arches and lintels.
Surface Decorations: Arabesque, Mashrabiyya, and Muqarnas
Some other common elements in Mamluk architecture (though by no means largely descriptive of Mamluk architecture because of their prevalence in other periods and styles) are arabesque patterns, the use of mashrabiyya and the use of muqarnas. Arabesque, “the use of interlocking geometric motifs…especially in stone and wood, is an outstanding decorative element in Mamluk (and other Muslim) architecture, which the Qayt Bay fountain shows to good advantage.” [162] Mashrabiyya (“wooden grille or grate used to cover windows or balconies” [163]) were used to provide privacy as well as decorative purposes, though most often they were restricted to upper stories or floors and internal use. Muqarnas is a complex “system of projecting niches used for zones of transition and for architectural decoration.” [164] This technique was rather widespread before the advent of the Mamluk Empire, and as such was adopted as a standard for decoration. While the Mamluks expanded its typical use to creating bands of separation around the differing stories of minarets as well as other decorative use, “it is in its use for domes and vaults that muqarnas was to have its most significant impact.” [165] Thus, a very large percentage of domes, vaults, entryways, and portals exhibit muqarnas to a dramatic extent. Stylistic differences existed as well for muqarnas; for the arches of the moldings “in Egypt they are angular points whereas in Syria they have a rounded profile.” [166]
Structural Elements: Portals/Entryways
Within the limited spaces and tight streets of Jerusalem, the extensive and elaborate entryways and portals constructed by the Mamluks are particularly majestic. Within the Mamluk conception, “the general rule is that the more modest the foundation, the plainer the doorway, though some large foundations like the Taziyya have very plain doorways while some relatively unpretentious ones like the Bistamiyya , Lu’lu’iyya and Qiramiyya zawiyas have surprisingly elaborate portals.” [167] This appealed largely to the Mamluk architects among whom “the façade, and especially the main entrance, assumed unusual importance. The entrance was a structure in its own right, formed as a high niche within a rectangular frame.” [168] Perhaps these entryways reflect to some extent the militaristic underpinnings of the Mamluk society as the doorways themselves were necessarily small and easily defensible but were set deep within the portal niche which would extend upward and outward away from the door to impress the eye with its grandeur. Yet, more than likely “the entrance doorways [were] set in an arched or vaulted recess, usually with stone benches on either side” [169] simply because of space issues and problems with building plot sizes.
Many of the most important of the portals (generally those founded by the richest of the elites) exhibit multiple of the techniques already discussed. They are accompanied by inscriptions and blazons in some cases, and almost always display some degree of ablaq, while “undoubtedly the most accomplished doorways are those with muqarnas vaulting over the recess.” Another feature common to Jerusalem portals is the presence of a trefoil arch, a “feature introduced by the Ayyubids…The central doorway of the Palace of Sitt Tunshuq has a cinqfoil arch with five lobes instead of three.”[170] The portal, or doorway, became very distinct within the Mamluk era as a way to distinguish buildings from those to which they were very likely connected closely on both sides. Indeed, the “portals might exceed the height of the adjoining walls, in which case they were crowned with a rectangular pediment known as a pishtaq, the Persian word for this feature.” [171]
Structural Elements: Arches, Vaults and Lintels
As was mentioned above, the arch became ubiquitous within Mamluk Jerusalem, spanning not only doorways and portals, but also any type of opening. Indeed, Mamluk architects seem to have striven to enhance their works by developing “intriguing combinations of arches, vaults, and domes, the result of complex engineering techniques that produced sophisticated geometric spaces of unusual form and proportion.” [172] When arches were not possible, lintels were placed in their stead, decorated or otherwise made to look elegant. In some cases the lintels were composed of interlocking stones and would be referred to as a flat arch. At the time, the “true arches are almost invariably pointed,” [173] while other types of arches that were employed include the standard trefoil arch already mentioned, as well as “the horseshoe arch which was introduced during this period.” [174]
More elaborate than the relatively standard use of arches in Mamluk architecture was the ability and use of vaults. The Syrian method of vaulting was extensively used in Jerusalem providing for stone vaults to support either upper stories or roofs. “The only exception was the timber roof of the Ashrafiyya, the last major Mamluk building in the city, which was built in the Egyptian style by craftsmen from Cairo” [175] consisting of a wooden ceiling. The types of vaults varied depending on the spaces to be covered; the general rule (sometime broken) was that elongated, rectangular spaces called for a barrel vault, while square spaces were covered with cross vaults. All of the vaults (both barrel and cross) were pointed. In addition to these standard vault types, another style was perfected. “In Jerusalem an elaborate form of vault called the folded cross vault was developed…This is basically a cross vault with a large circular hole in the roof” [176] which could be topped by any number of other structures; a dome was most common.
This has been called in German Faltgewölbe (‘folded vault or more specifically ‘folded cross vault’)…The earliest known example of this type of vault spans the central courtyard of the Tankiziyya Madrasa (792/1328-29). It was immediately copied and can be found in nearly all important Mamluk building in the Jerusalem erected after the Tankiziyya. In the ninth/fifteenth century more elaborate forms with mutliple (sic) facets rising to blind lozenges and crosses as well as octagons were developed, notably in Cairo, and used in the construction of later buildings in Jerusalem…The origins of the folded cross vault are unclear…It seems likely that these early [Ayyubid] vaults in military installations inspired the builders of the more fully developed forms found in Mamluk religious architecture. [177]
Structural Elements: Joggled Vossoirs
Lintels and stonework over doorways and windows were decorated in a number of different ways. In effect, the area became a canvas for Mamluk architects to showcase their stonework abilities. The joggled voussoirs of portals and openings became a distinct way to decorate further their monumental entryways. This term refers to “a method of construction where stones in an arch or composite lintel are interlocked and under the Mamluks…they are one of the main decorative features in architecture and are cut into very complex patterns. At this stage the patterns become more important than the structural design thus the patterns are sometimes achieved by inlaying one type of stone into another or even painting the design on.” [178] This can be seen not just in entryways, but also in many façades of buildings such as palaces (Lady Tunshuq’s especially) and mausoleums.
Structural Elements: Domes
Domes are prevalent in Mamluk architecture in Jerusalem, although they are generally simpler than other places in the Mamluk Empire. “The domes usually have slightly pointed horseshoe profile and are carried on eight-sided, twelve-sided and occasionally circular drums. None of the drums are two-tiered like those in Ayyubid and Mamluk Damascus.” [179] It seems that most of the domes in use in Jerusalem are fairly standard in material and construction, though the plastering on them all makes this somewhat difficult to fully determine. [180] “Domes were common in buildings of this period and could be made from a variety of materials including baked brick, wood and stone. Wooden domes were often used in houses and palaces because they were lighter and easier to build, although mausoleums tended to be covered with brick or stone domes.” [181] One exception that is worth noting is the dome crowning the Sabil of Qaytbay (1482) which “has the only significant arabesque sculpted ashlar dome outside of Cairo.” [182]
Structural Elements: Windows
Windows come in two basic types in Mamluk architecture: small and large. The size of the window was largely determined by the type of building in which the window was being built as well as where within that building the window was placed. Religious foundations and domestic buildings were generally constructed based around internal open courtyards which generally allowed for generous ventilation and illumination, thus windows that faced the street were more often set high in the wall and were smaller to achieve greater privacy and security. [183] Other types of buildings used their ground floor windows for different purposes. “Tomb chambers, for example, had windows through which passers-by could look in and, perhaps, listen to Koran recitations. Other examples include windows overlooking the Harams, windows of assembly halls…and windows which match tomb windows in order to maintain the symmetry of a façade.” [184]
These ground floor windows, whether small or large, were usually rectangular in shape and were always reinforced with iron grilles intended for greater security. Also, windows (regardless of where they were placed) were often constructed in aesthetically pleasing arrangements: “Windows were often arranged in groups. A common group consists of a large central opening flanked by smaller ones.” [185] The arrangements changed throughout the ages as styles and preferences changed.
Layout and Planning: Land Issues and Space Problems
One of the greatest factors of building in Jerusalem that the Mamluks were faced with was the fact that the city was congested and cramped with extant buildings and building plots were irregularly sized and spaced. Learning from similar experiences in Cairo, where “land was expensive and difficult to get, so buildings were wedged into narrow and irregular plots squeezed into the cityscape,” Mamluk architects and designers in Jerusalem would have had to learn also “to make the most of these difficult parcels.” [186] Compensating for this lack of space, the Mamluks erected many buildings “attached to one another, or to earlier structures” [187] in an attempt to conserve space in general as well as allowing the maximum amount of space to be used for the interiors as possible.
This cramming together of the buildings brought with it new challenges. By connecting all of the constructions along a given street “a continuous façade is thus created, with each building projecting a physical presence that is two dimensional (since the main entrance is visible from the street),” meaning that for buildings to be seen and easily recognized they would have needed extreme methods of drawing attention and thus, as has been mentioned, “in the Mamluks’ linear form of construction, the façade, and especially the main entrance, assumed unusual importance.” [188] With this in mind, it is easy to see why the decorative elements already discussed (such as ablaq, muqarnas, blazons, and calligraphy) would have become so ubiquitous. Easily fit within small and flat places they would have provided an easy manner with which to decorate and glorify the more important buildings. These same techniques would have provided a good way to overcome another disliked fact associated with the irregular sizes and shapes of land plots: asymmetry.
Layout and Planning: Visual Illusions
To the Mamluks, as is common with many other styles of Islamic art and architecture, symmetry was of large importance. This can be seen in the arrangements of calligraphic arts, arabesques and other buildings throughout the Arab and Islamic world. Thus, any types of asymmetry would have been undesirable as a large interruption of desired order. [189] This asymmetry would need to be overcome is some manner. Thus, “the architects were able to make the buildings appear square by a variety of techniques such as horizontal lines (ablaq) and controlled access (passageways) which distort perspective.” [190] By these techniques, the architects were able to fool the eye and the observer into thinking that the buildings did in fact fall into symmetrical order.
To overcome another problem of perspective, the Mamluk architects developed another aspect of their building style which has already been somewhat discussed. Because of the cramped conditions, it would have been difficult to fully appreciate the decoration of their buildings- “narrow streets tend to detract from the visual impact of a building façade.” This problem or detraction from their work “was overcome by use of recessed entrances, domes, and projecting corners which have a cumulative effect of a staggered façade which can be viewed from the side.” [191] Thus, the monumental type entryway that has been discussed was developed, not only as a way to provide greater emphasis to important buildings, but also as a way for the architects to better display their work and overcome the spatial distortion and denigration caused by the narrow streets.
The Mamluk Empire left a lasting impression on the architectural history of Jerusalem. This influence was largely a product of their historical context and their socio-political system which drew its underlying foundation from the “slave-soldier” structure. The historical context of the rise of the Mamluks to power by defeating both the Crusader armies as well as those of the invading Mongol hordes combined with the overall militaristic outlook of the converted Mamluk soldier-class to form a society and political system heavily steeped in military pomp and prowess, but also one that was strongly involved with the Islamic ethos of the “holy warrior,” a warrior committed to the propagation and teachings of Islam.
In Jerusalem, this socio-political system which relied heavily on the influence and power of Islam turned the city from the political center of the Latin Kingdom into a relative political backwater, while at the same time building it into an international religious capital. Because of its lack of political might, it was used as a city of exile and refuge. Because of its large amount of religious importance, it was a city of pilgrimage and holiness. Thus, the architecture reflects this lack of political influence by the lack of administrative buildings and low amount of royal involvement in non-religious building projects. But the religious import is shown in the veritable explosion of religiously motivated building funded and built by individuals (including Sultans and Amirs) seeking greater heavenly influence in their lives as well as a religious way of circumventing political realities of the time (non-hereditary inheritance laws for Mamluk officers, political instabilities, etc.)
The Mamluks soldier class relied on these building projects to solidify their rule in the eyes of their subject. This was to appease the masses by providing social services needed as well as to convince them of the solid conversion of their rulers to Islam. This mass support of building projects also served as a reflection of personal desires to glorify the religion and the God who had rescued them from a life of veritable poverty.
The inherent tradition of Jerusalem as Holy City proved to reinforce this religious preponderance as it combined with the desires of the ruling class to build religious institutions to increase (almost exponentially) the number of religious buildings and awqaf (plural of waqf) within the bounds of the city. Jerusalem’s connection with Judgment Day also boosted the architectural tapestry of the city by the creation of many mausoleums and monuments to the righteous dead.
In short, the socio-militaristic and socio-religious underpinnings are largely responsible for the Mamluk interest in and drive to build, re-Islamize, and glorify Jerusalem.

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[1] Glubb, John, Soldiers of Fortune: The Story of the Mamlukes, (London; Camelot Press Ltd., 1973), 36.
[2] Glubb, Soldiers, 36-37.
[3] Isichei, Elizabeteh, A History of African Societies to 1870, (Cambridge, UK; Cambridge University Press, 1997), 192.
[4] Burgoyne, Michael H., Mamluk Jerusalem: An Architectural Study, (London; Jolly and Barber Ltd., 1987), 53.
[5] Glubb, Soldiers, 37.
[6] Burgoyne, Mamluk, 53.
[7] Isichei, Societies, 192.
[8] Avi-Yonah, Michael, The Saga of the Holy City, (Jerusalem, 1954), 38.
[9] Isichei, Societies, 192.
[10] Isichei, Societies, 194.
[11] Glubb, Soldiers, 37.
[12] Isichei, Societies, 192.
[13] Bloom, J and Blair, Sheila, Islamic Arts, (London; Phaidon Press Ltd., 2006), 133.
[14] Avi-Yonah, Saga, 38.
[15] Burgoyne, Mamluk, 53.
[16] Bloom, Arts, 133.
[17] Isichei, Societies, 193.
[18] Cleveland, William, A History of the Modern Middle East (3rd Ed), (Boulder, CO; Westview Press, 2004), 34.
[19] Isichei, Societies, 193.
[20] Burgoyne, Mamluk, 58.
[21] Kroyanker, David, Jerusalem Architecture, (New York; Vendome Press, 1994), 45.
[22] Burgoyne, Mamluk, 58.
[23] Joseph Drory, “Jerusalem During the Mamluk Period”, Levine Lee I (ed.), The Jerusalem Cathedra, (Jerusalem, 1981), 193.
[24] Lutfi, Huda, Al-Quds al-Mamlukiyya: A History of Mamluk Jerusalem Based on the Haram Documents, (Berlin; Klaus Schwarz Verlag, 1985), 113.
[25] Drory, “Jerusalem”, 193.
[26] Burgoyne, Mamluk, 59.
[27] Burgoyne, Mamluk, 60.
[28] Drory, “Jerusalem”, 191.
[29] Drory, “Jerusalem”, 194.
[30] Drory, “Jerusalem”, 194-195.
[31] Burgoyne, Mamluk, 58.
[32] Burgoyne, Mamluk, 61.
[33] Drory, “Jerusalem”, 196.
[34] Lutfi, Al-Quds, 113.
[36] Kroyanker, Architecture, 45.
[37] Drory, “Jerusalem”, 197.
[38] Lutfi, Al-Quds, 110.
[39] Lutfi, Al-Quds, 111.
[40] Drory, “Jerusalem”, 197-198.
[41] Kroyanker, Architecture, 45.
[42] Kroyanker, Architecture, 45.
[43] Glubb, Soldiers, 71.
[44] Drory, “Jerusalem”, 208.
[45] Drory, “Jerusalem”, 208.
[46] I admit, this is a very anachronistic use of this term, but in the context of the times and the feelings expressed it seems appropriate in some respects.
[47] Lutfi, Al-Quds, 111. (emphasis added).
[48] Grabar, Oleg, Jerusalem: Constructing the Study of Islamic Art (vol IV), (Hampshire, England; Ashgate Publishing Ltd., 2005), 125.
[49] Kroyanker, Architecture, 45.
[50] Grabar, Jerusalem, 126.
[51] Lutfi, Al-Quds, 112. (emphasis added).
[52] Drory, “Jerusalem”, 198. (emphasis added).
[53] Drory, “Jerusalem”, 199.
[54] Lutfi, Al-Quds, 114.
[55] Lutfi, Al-Quds, 112.
[56] Lutfi, Al-Quds, 112.
[57] Lutfi, Al-Quds, 112.
[58] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 65.
[59] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 65.
[60] Bloom, Arts, 174.
[61] Drory, “Jerusalem”, 204.
[62] Avi-Yonah, Saga, 39.
[63] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 65.
[64] Drory, “Jerusalem”, 207.
[65] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 65.
[66] Drory, ”Jerusalem”, 207.
[67] Murphy-O’Connor, Holy Land, 44.
[68] It would be well beyond the scope of this paper to attempt to account for all of the examples of the building types and functions that will be discussed here. For a more comprehensive treatment, the reader is referred to Michael Burgoyne’s Mamluk Jerusalem.
[69] Rabbat, Nasser, ”Architects and Artists in Mamluk Society: the Perspective of the Sources”, Journals of Architectural Education, vol. 52, no. 1, (Sept 1998), pp. 30-37, 30.
[70] Rabbat, “Architects”, 36.
[71] Rabbat, “Architects”, 36.
[72] Hillenbrand, Robert, Islamic Architecture: Form, Function and Meaning, (New York; Columbia University, 1994), 100.
[73] Drory, “Jerusalem”, 205.
[74] Drory, “Jerusalem”, 205.
[75] Bloom, Arts, 171.
[76] See Hillenbrand, Architecture, pp. 173-180; as well as the entry under madrasa in Andrew Petersen, Dictionary of Islamic Art, (London; Routledge, 1996), 168.
[77] Hillenbrand, Architecture, 174-176.
[78] Kroyanker, Architecture, 47.
[79] Petersen, Dictionary, 168.
[80] Hillenbrand, Architecture, 203-204.
[81] As it would be impossible and completely outside the scope of this work to describe comprehensively all of these buildings, here I will simply try to describe some of the more important elements within these buildings and their relation to Mamluk architecture and building styles as well as connecting them to the social, political and religious influences already discussed where possible. For a more complete description and discussion of the physical architecture of these buildings, the reader is referred to Burgoyne’s Mamluk Jerusalem.
[82] Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome, The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (5th ed.), (Oxford, UK; Oxford University, 2008), 99.
[83] Hillenbrand, Architecture, 204-206.
[84] Hillenbrand, Architecture, 204.
[85] Burgoyne, Jersulem, 589.
[86] Petersen, Dictionary, 235.
[87] Hillenbrand, Architecture, 205-206.
[88] Hillenbrand, Architecture, 206.
[89] Because most of the upper floor has since been dismantled or otherwise destroyed, it is necessary to consult descriptions and records by visitors to the madrassa in the past for a full view.
[90] Hillenbrand, Architecture, 204.
[91] Hillenbrand, Architecture, 204.
[92] See Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 223-239.
[93] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 223.
[94] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 223.
[95] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 224.
[96] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 224.
[97] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 234.
[98] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 232.
[99] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 232.
[100] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 232.
[101] Murphy-O’Connor, Holy Land, 47.
[102] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 110.
[103] For a more in-depth treatment of the connection and facts of Badr al-Din, see Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 110.
[104] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 485.
[105] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 485.
[106] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 509.
[107] Bloom, Arts, 175.
[108] Petersen, Dictionary, 188.
[109] Petersen, Dictionary, 188.
[110] For further information and in-depth discussion of each of these minarets, their particular styles and architectural peculiarities, the reader is referred to Michael Burgoyne’s Mamluk Jerusalem, in which each minaret is discussed in detail.
[111] Kroyanker, Architecture, 47.
[112] Murphy-O’Connor, Holy Land, 63.
[113] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 89.
[114] Hillenbrand, Architecture, 165.
[115] Petersen, Dictionary, 188.
[116] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 127.
[117] Archnet: Islamic Architecture Community, “Sultan Qaytbay Sabil,” Archnet Digital Library,, (accessed April 7, 2009).
[118] Murphy-O’Connor, Holy Land, 99.
[119] Kroyanker, Architecture, 51.
[120] Petersen, Dictionary, 146.
[121] Petersen, Dictionary, 246.
[122] Petersen, Dictionary, 246.
[123] Petersen, Dictionary, 146-147.
[124] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 144.
[125] Petersen, Dictionary, 147.
[126] Petersen, Dictionary, 318.
[127] Drory, “Jerusalem” 204.
[128] Lutfi, Al-Quds, 116-117.
[129] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 273.
[130] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 276-277.
[131] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 273.
[132] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 273.
[133] Kroyanker, Architecture, 50.
[134] Murphy-O’Connor, Holy Land, 43.
[135] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 277.
[136] Lutfi, Al-Quds, 118.
[137] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 485.
[138] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 485.
[139] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 485.
[140] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 485.
[141] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 485.
[142] Petersen, Dictionary, 174
[143] Petersen, Dictionary, 172.
[144] Petersen, Dictionary, 172-173.
[145] Petersen, Dictionary, 173.
[146] Petersen, Dictionary, 173.
[147] Kroyanker, Architecture, 52.
[148] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 97-98. Interestingly enough, Burgoyne speaks of a team led by a “Christian ‘from among the builders (muhandisin) of Cairo, who was equipped with special skill in building construction (handasa)’. He condemned what had already been done (presumably by local builders), and had part demolished and replaced by his own design.”
[149] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 97.
[150] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 97.
[151] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 89.
[152] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 89.
[153] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 96.
[154] Borrowed from Andrew Petersen’s Dictionary of Islamic Architecture.
[155] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 96.
[156] Petersen, Dictionary, 173.
[157] Petersen, Dictionary, 173.
[158] Kroyanker, Architecture, 51.
[159] Petersen, Dictionary, 173.
[160] Petersen, Dictionary, 2.
[161] Petersen, Dictionary, 173.
[162] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 89.
[163] Kroyanker, Jerusalem, 51.
[164] Petersen, Dictionary, 177.
[165] Petersen, Dictionary, 206.
[166] Petersen, Dictionary, 208.
[167] Petersen, Dictionary, 173.
[168] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 92.
[169] Kroyanker, Architecture, 50.
[170] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 92.
[171] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 92.
[172] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 92.
[173] Kroyanker, Architecture, 52.
[174] Brugoyne, Jerusalem, 89.
[175] Petersen, Dictionary, 173.
[176] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 90.
[177] Petersen, Dictionary, 173.
[178] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 90.
[179] Petersen, Dictionary, 137.
[180] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 91.
[181] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 91.
[182] Petersen, Dictionary, 173.
[183] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 91. (emphasis added).
[184] Kroyanker, Architecture, 51.
[185] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 93.
[186] Burgoyne, Jerusalem, 94.
[187] Bloom, Arts, 174-175.
[188] Kroyanker, Architecture, 50.
[189] Kroyanker, Architecture, 50.
[190] It should also be noted that in many cases architecture, as the art of building and creating both habitations and religious buildings was seen to, in some way, parallel the creation of God, and as such should in no way lack the symmetry and order with which Allah endowed his creations. Many times, architectural techniques seem to have drawn their inspiration from theological sources. For instance, with regard to muqarnas Andrew Petersen writes: “A view which combines both decorative and structural functions suggests that the origins of muqarnas may be found in Islamic theology which promotes an occasionalist view of the universe whereby the continued existence of anything is dependent on the will of God. Muqarnas is then a way of expressing this view of the universe where the dome appears to stand without visible support.” (Petersen, Dictionary, 208).
[191]Petersen, Dictionary, 174.
[192] Petersen, Dictionary, 174.