Sultan Hassan Madrassa & Mosque

This is one of the extraordinarily wonderful Islamic Monuments In the Islamic World. If Ancient Egypt is proud of the Pyramids of Giza, Islamic Egypt has to be proud of the Sultan Hassan Madrassa. The founder of this gigantic monument is the Sultan Hassan, son of the great Mamluke Sultan Al-Nasser Mohamed Ibn Qalawoun. Sultan Hassan ruled twice, the first time in 1347, when he was 13 years old, only to be dethroned by the other Mamluke princes and generals. The second time was in 1356A.D, and before he had time to put an end to the power of the princes and high officials, they revolted against him, and the chief of the army with other generals attacked him. It said that he escaped from the Citadel and hid in Cairo; but he was found and imprisoned, never to be seen again! Most probably he was murdered 16 years after his ascension to the throne. Either way, he left 10 sons and 6 daughters.

The Sultan Hassan gave order for the construction of this Madrassa to be under the supervision of Prince Mohamed Ibn Baylik Al-Muhssani in 1361A.D, and the work continued for 4 years. The Mosque was almost complete when Sultan Hassan disappeared or was killed. It was finished by one of his functionaries whose name was Bashir Al-Gamdar. The site of the Madrassa was previously known as Souk Al-Khayl or the Horses Market. The Madrassa was built of stones, but some internal parts and details were built of bricks, faced with stones.

The Madrassa-Mosque was built according to the cruciform, an open courtyard surrounded by 4 iwans. It contains 4 Madrassas or religious schools and is 7,906 square metres big. It is very distinguishable due to its many sides. It has 4 façades, the most important being the 2 main façades.

The most remarkable façade is the northeast one. It is 145m long and 38m tall! Its shear wall has 4 pairs of windows set vertically, and at the top of the wall is a massive cornice of 5 layers of stalactites, projecting about 1.5m.

The Sahn, or the court, of the Mosque is almost square, about 34m long and 32m wide, with a large ablution fountain in the centre, which is covered with a wooden dome, carried on 8 marble columns around its capital decorated with a band of inscriptions of The Qur’an (the verse of Al-Kursi). At each corner of the sahn is a door that leads to one of the 4 Madrassas (schools); the biggest one being the Hanafiyya Madrassa, which occupies an area of 898 square metres. The quibla iwan is the biggest of the 4 iwans of the Mosque. In its wall, 2 windows in recesses, and an oculus above the mihrab, the pointed-arched mihrab is fine, and covered with marble, and there are small double columns supporting the frame with complex joggled voussoirs. On the rectangular outer frame is a band of Naskhi inscription. Flanking the Mihrab are windows with bronze grills. The marble Minbar is covered with coloured panels of marble decorated in its upper part by floral motifs.

The Dekkat Al-Mouballegh or the bench of the repeater is situated at the front of the quibla iwan, and it is made of marble, raised on 8 pillars and 3 piers. There are 2 doors opened in the Quibla wall leading to a mausoleum dome behind the mihrab, where the Sultan is supposed to be buried. The Mausoleum dome is 21 square metres and its decoration is similar to that of the quibla iwan. The grave itself has an Iwan in the centre with a coffin of coloured marble, surrounded by a small wooden screen. It was intended to be a tomb for the Sultan Hassan but it contains the bodies of 2 of his sons named Al-Shehab Ahamd and Ishmael. Actually 4 minarets were intended to be built in the original plan but only 3 were erected, The one over the entrance fell in the year 1361A.D and now there are only 2 minarets. One dates back to the Ottoman period in the 17th Century, while the bigger, and the most beautiful one, is the original, which is 81.6m high. This remarkable minaret stands at the southern corner of the eastern façade, and is still one of the amazing features of this elegant structure.

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