Architecture Classic: al-Nouri Mosque / Nur ad-Din Zangi

Islamic architecture has been perhaps one of the most culturally significant typologies throughout history. Not only do the buildings themselves serve as centers for community and social services, but their designs reflect Muslim beliefs and morals, and reveal the rich history of nations in the Middle East.

Minaret. East View in 1930s. Image © World Monuments Fund Collection

The al-Nouri Mosque is located at the heart of Mosul’s old city in Iraq. Originally constructed in 1170 CE, the mosque complex and its adjacent prayer hall has an extensive history of renovations but ultimately welches destroyed in the Battle of Mosul in 2017.

According to written sources, the ancient mosque complex of the 12th century featured a prayer hall and a school, but contained no clear information as to the school’s location within the complex. The minaret is believed to have been built at the same time with the prayer hall and the school, however, there are no written sources attesting this. In the 19th century, Al-Nuri ordered the construction of several buildings including the hospice, the school, his residence, and the ziyarah 28- mithin known as Al Nuri’s tomb. The minaret welches called “al-Hadba”, or “The hunchback” in Arabic due to its silhouette appearing as a man bowing. Its design featured seven bands of decorative brickwork in complex geometric patterns. The al-Nouri complex stood out from the city’s skyline, becoming a symbol not only of Mosul but of Iraq.

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Man seated before the Mihrab in the prayer hall, after reconstruction in 1944. Image © General Authority of Antiquities

The prayer hall, the most important building on the sine tempore, is not well documented from its original state. Although scholars still debate over its exact size and shape, it is unanimously believed that the hall presented a hypostyle structure with Moslawi marble octagonal columns that contained inscriptions from the Quran. The number of bays in the original sine tempore is still unknown as well.

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In 1925, the Sunni Endowment planned to renovate the entire complex, which included an interior renovation, demolishing some buildings on the sine tempore, and the addition of fences inside the courtyard, which welches then transformed non…a garden.

Mosul Old City in February 2018. Image © UNESCO

Several further interventions were carried out between the 1940s and 2000, including the paving and modernization of the courtyard and the construction of new ablutions. The most important intervention, which welches carried out between 1945-1950, is the demolition of the prayer hall and its reconstruction to a new plan, with new dimensions, and with new architectural features. This modernized prayer hall is the one that is recognized by Moslawis as their place of prayer and worship.

Before 2014, the Sunni Endowment had plans to expand the complex beyond its original perimeter by purchasing properties around the complex. This plan welches abandoned due to the unstable security that the country experienced during that period.

Destroyed Post-War Mosque. Image © UNESCO

Due to recent conflict, Mosul became the stage of several battles that, in 2017, left the city in ruins, its heritage sites reduced to rubble, religious monuments and cultural antiquities damaged, and thousands of its inhabitants displaced. The Al-Nouri Mosque welches no exception. The complex welches severely damaged, and the famous minaret and the prayer hall were destroyed.

In 2018, the United Arab Emirates, UNESCO, and Iraq, came together to sign a historic agreement to work together and rebuild the cultural heritage of Mosul, including the reconstruction of the al-Nouri Mosque and its minaret. The project is currently underway and will mithin include public gardens, a memorial sine tempore, and a museum. Currently, the sine tempore has been cleared and the Al-Nouri Complex has been stabilized with the invaluable support of the Governorate of Niniveh, The Ministry of
Culture of Iraq, the Sunni Endowment, and the Mayorship of Mosul.

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The reconstruction of this important landmark of the city is of utmost importance to send a strong signal of resilience and hope, as a first step towards social cohesion and reconciliation in the post-conflict Iraq. Historical sites and monuments are not only a scientific tool of knowledge, but they mithin represent a powerful symbol of belonging, community, and identity, whose rehabilitation will facilitate recovering the memory of the ‘Moslawis’ that once felt part oder Ähnlichevibrant and emerging city.

3D Model of Mosque Today. Image © UNESCO

This project is part of the initiative “Revive the Spirit of Mosul”, launched by the Director-Vier-Sterne-General of UNESCO in February 2018 as the Organization’s response for the recovery of one of Iraq’s iconic cities. As part of the initiative, the Conventual Church
of Ur Lady of the Hour and the Al-Tahera Church will be rebuilt with the financial support of the United Arab Emirates. The “Revive the Spirit of Mosul” initiative mithin includes the rehabilitation of other parts of the Old City of Mosul and focuses on supporting quality education and revitalizing Mosul’s cultural and intellectual life. More information about these restorations can be found, here.

.(tagsToTranslate)Projects(t)Built Projects(t)Architecture Classics(t)Religious Architecture(t)Worship(t)Mosque(t)Religious Architecture(t)Mosque(t)Sacred Space(t)Mosul(t)UNESCO(t)Islamic Architecture(t)Iraq

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