Sultan Hassan mosque(757-760)A.H

Sultan Hassan mosque(757-760)A.H

Madrasa & tomb of Sultan Hassan It’s one of the largest mosques in the world, if the pharaohnic Egypt has to be proud of the pyramids; Islamic Egypt has to be proud of the mosque & the madrasa of sultan Hassan1.
This building combines strength and splendour, elegance and beauty, as well as a multiplicity of decoration.

The founder 

Sultan Hassan mosque..
Sultan Hassan mosque..

The founder is Sultan Al Malik Al Naser Hassan, Son of sultan Al Nasir Mohamed, Son of Sultan Al Mansour Qala’un
He ruled for 2 main periods2:

The 1st from 748 to 751 AH

The 2nd from 755 to 762 AH

As some of his princes plotted against him & killed him in Syria

The location of the madrasa

It’s located in Mohammed Ali square which is known as Salah El din Square, facing Bab El – Azab of Salah el Din citadel
It was built replacing 2 palaces that belong to the princes: Yalbugha Alyahyawi – Tanbugha Al Maradany.

Dating OF Sultan Hassan mosque

1 Abd al-Wahab, H., Tarikh al-Masajid al-Athariya bil Qahira [History of Monumental Mosques in Cairo], Cairo, 1994.
2 Herz, M., La Mosquèe du Sultan Hassan au Caire, Cairo, 1899.

Sultan Hassan mosque
Sultan Hassan mosque..

It was found in 757 A.H & finished in 760 after 3 years of Continuous work.
When Sultan Hasan died in AH 762 / AD 1361, the building was almost complete except for some supplementary works that were completed by Bashir al-Jamdar.
The date of contraction found on the door of the Hanafi Madrasa in the courtyard, another inscription of same date found inside the mausoleum, and was inscribed as well on the building’s two great copper door leafs, which were removed by Sultan al-Mu’ayyad Sheikh.

Muhammad ibn Bailick al-Muhseini, the chief architectural designer of his day, supervised construction of the building. He placed his name after that of the sultan on the inscription band inside the Hanafi Madrasa.
The description of the Madrasa

It occupies an area of 150 by 68 meters. It’s distinguished by its many sides that extend from North West to south east.
The Facades: It has 4 facades

The 2 main facades: North eastern facade 145 min length & 37.80 min height, it’s decorated with stalactites, with various relief. At its northern end there is the main entrance
South eastern facade: 68 meter in length, it’s over looks Salah al din square.
The 2 others facades: Northern western facade, under which there is a lavatory on its west lies a water wheel that supplied the school with water through accurse supported on stone carpels.

South western faced which includes the windows of Al madrassa Al Hanbalyya3.

The Dome & the 2 minarets:

Sultan Hassan and Rifa'i Mosques
Sultan Hassan and Rifa’i Mosques

The dome is in the middle.

The big minaret (81.60 cm in height) stands at its southern corners. While the small one stands at its eastern corner.
Both minarets consist of a square base followed by two octagonal stories in the manner of Mamluk minarets. The minarets were renovated in the 20th century.
The main entrance

It lies at the northern end of the main northern east faced

It’s regarded as one of the greatest entrances in the Islamic buildings in Egypt
It’s 12 m in width & 37.8o m in height

sultan hassan plan
sultan hassan plan

The façade OF Madrasa & tomb of Sultan Hassan

consists of a variety of stone and marble decoration and ends at the top with a splendid and exquisite cornice, consisting of nine tiers of minute stalactite “muqarnas” which resemble a honeycomb.
This façade includes a towering portal, considered among the most imposing entrances to an Islamic building in Egypt.
The portal is characterised by an arched ceiling which is a semi-dome decorated with a superb series of muqarnas tiers. Influenced by Seljuq architecture, it belongs to an era when entrances were distinguished by lavish decoration.
3 For further details: Creswell K.A.C., The Origin of the Cruciform Plan of the Cairene Madrasas, Cairo, 1922.

The façade OF Madrasa & tomb of Sultan Hassan
The façade OF Madrasa & tomb of Sultan Hassan

The Main entrance leads to square entrance lobby (derkah) covered with a dome (supported an rows of stalactites)
At its eastern side, there is a passage (ascended to through a stair with seven steps) leading to in turns the open courtyard of the mosque “Sahn”.

The Sahn OF Madrasa & tomb of Sultan Hassan

It’s almost square (34 by 32 m) with a big ablution fountain in the center covered with a wooden dome carried on 8 marble columns, around its neck the text of Al kursi and date of construction are inscribed. The Sahn is surrounded by 4 Iwan.

The Sahn OF Madrasa & tomb of Sultan Hassan
The Sahn OF Madrasa & tomb of Sultan Hassan

The Iwans

The Sahn is surrounded by 4 Iwans, the biggest one is the qibla Iwan, while the other 3 Iwans are approximately equal in area.
All Iwans overlook the Sahn by a pointed arch.

Its walls are faced with marble and colored stone above them, frieze of stucco, decorated with floral kufic inscription representing koranic texts on a back grand of fine floral decoration.
The Iwan includes a lot of the master pieces of the Islamic art, the qibla iwan contain the following:
Qibla Iwan

the iwan of sultan hassan mosque
the iwan of sultan hassan mosque

It should be noted that the qibla iwan is the largest Iwan of the mosque, and that it is spanned by an enormous pointed vault.
The Iwan overlooks the courtyard by means of an arch, the largest arch set over an iwan in Egypt.

This Iwan includes a number of splendors contents of Islamic art like:

Dekkat –al – muballegh:

Dekkat –al – muballegh
Dekkat –al – muballegh

It is made out of marble and locates in the front of the Iwan.


The iwan

also includes a decorated mihrab ornamented with polychrome marble and gilded inscriptions, considered to be one of the most beautiful mihrabs in Egypt. It’s located behind Dekkat Al Muballegh and flanked by 4 columns.

mihrab or quibla wall from the Mosque of Sultan Hassan, in Cairo, Egypt, showing Geometric Pattern using stone inlay or mosaic.
mihrab or quibla wall from the Mosque of Sultan Hassan, in Cairo, Egypt, showing Geometric Pattern using stone inlay or mosaic.

The Minbar:

It is located to the right of the Mihrab made of white marble, considered a unique minbar.
The Madrassas

All each corner of the Sahn there is a door, leading to one of the 4 schools which designated for teaching one of the 4 rites.
The biggest of these schools is the southern eastern one al madrassa al Hanafyia, the other 3 schools Al madrassa Al Shfiyya, al madrassa al Malikiya & al madrassa Al Hanbalyia
Each School consist of an Iwan, Sahn with a fountain in the center & 3 floors over locking the main Sahn from inside, this floors includes the dwellings of the students and teachers.

The Mausoleum

IN THE Madrasa & tomb of Sultan Hassan There are 2 doors in the Qibla wall leading to the mausoleum dome behind the Mihrab. They were plated with copper inlaid with gold and silver4.

The facing one is still existing bearing the name of the sultan.
The wall of the mausoleum is faced with colored marble. Above it a wooden frieze decorated with Nasr inscription ending with the following “this dome was finished in 764 AH”
At the top of this wall, there are a wooden window and stalactites.

mihrab or quibla wa Mosque of Sultan Hassan
Mosque of Sultan Hassan

A cenotaph was constructed in the center of the Mausoleum to be a tomb for sultan Hassan, but he wasn’t buried there and his sons Al- Shehab Ahmed & Ismail were buried there.
In this dome, a Quraan stand made of wood inlaid with ivory & ebony is preserved its regarded as the oldest one in Egypt.
When Sultan Hasan died in 762 AH /1361 AD, the building was almost complete except for some supplementary works that were completed by Bashir al-Jamdar.
These works comprised the execution of the marble wall revetment and the marble floors, the dome of the fountain in the courtyard and the two great door-leafs belonging to the copper doors that can now be found in the Mosque of al-Mu’ayyad Sheikh. The building of the mausoleum was completed in 764 AH / 1362 AD.

4 Hillenbrand, R., Islamic Art and Architecture, London, 1999. P.123

Sultan Hassan Mosque – Out Overview

Sultan Hassan Mosque Facing Refaai Mosque – Saladin Square

Fountain of Sultan Hassan Mosque

Qibla Riwaq of Sultan Hassan Mosque

Inscription on Stucco of Sultan Hassan Mosque

Stalactites on the façade of the entrance

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