Moslem Architecture


Plan of the City
The Ruins
Colonnaded Streets
Nabataean Remains
Civic Bulidings
Ecclesiastical Architecture
Moslem Architecture
Bosra Today


Moslem Architecture

bullet ID-DDABAGHAH 1225 A.D .
bullet  Djami il-Mebrak
bullet THe CASTLE

  The Mohammedan (Islamic) architecture of Bosra, that is the mosques and the Castle, is almost all of the later Mediaeval period. The mosques are the earlier; most of them being apparently of the 12th. century. There is an undated inscription in the Djâmi il-OmarI, in Cufic characters that may be of the 9th. or 10th. century. Another Arabic inscription mentions four inns that were built in 561 A. H., that is 1165—66 A.D. The Castle belongs unquestionably to the 13th. century. The mosques inside the walls, of which there are ruins, or other records, were eight in number as follows: the Djami il-Omari or the great Mosque, the Djami il-Khidr, the Djami Fatmeh, the Djami il-Mebrak, and id-Dabbaghah, all of which are given in red on the Plan of Bosra, a small tomb mosque beside the Birket il-Hadjdj, near id-Dabbaghah, which bears a dated inscription of the year 654 A. H. or 1256 A. D., the little mosque in the Castle, and the Djami' il-Kandil, or "Mosque of the Candlestick", which is known only from being mentioned in an inscription of the year 561 A. H., 1165-66 A. D.; but which was, in all probability, situated near the Central Arch which is still called il-Kandil by the natives; the arch perhaps formed the front of the mosque, and the ruins to the south of it may be the ruins of the Djami' il-Kandil. As I have said in the introduction to this part, the construction of mosques in Bosra followed the ancient methods of construction that had been known in the Hauran for at least seven hundred years before the Hegira. The leading structural principle in all is the principle of the girder-arch and the flat roof of stone slabs. The ground plans vary greatly, there are round arches and pointed arches; but the ancient arch-and-slab construction obtained in all. Two at least of the later mosques could boast of domes, as we learn from earlier writers; but the dome was used in connexion with the old system of roofing Almost all of these buildings were built of second-hand materials and, for that reason, they are difficult to date wherever inscriptions are lacking; and the use of ancient carved ornament in a slovenly and unsystematic manner, while lending a sort of pictu-resqueness to the mosques as ruins, detracted from their beauty as monuments of Islamic architecture.
DjAMl' IL-OMARI or MOSQUE OF OMAR. The great mosque of Bosra has been mentioned in the notes of many travellers. M. Rey gives an unsatisfactory plan of the building, and others have published photographs, the best of which are those of Brunnow and of Kondakow . This mosque is generally believed to have been erected

by the Khalif Omar ibn al-Khattab. The undated inscription in the building, which I mentioned above, may be as early as the 9th. or 10th. century; another inscription of the year 506 A. H. (1112-13 A. D.) records only the rebuilding of a wall. The date of the original building may be as early as the time of the great Omar. This mosque was the chief, and perhaps for a long time the only, mosque of Bosra. It was built almost entirely of cut stones and architectural fragments taken from Pagan and Christian edifices, and appears to have been often restored. Columns of many sizes and of all orders, of basalt and of precious marbles, were utilized in the original construction and in the restorations; while ornament of all descriptions and inscriptions of many periods have been wrought into the structure. The outer walls of the building are still well preserved, the minaret is quite intact (111. 254), many of the interior columns are standing, and about one third of the roof is intact. The west façade (111. 254) is a conspicuous landmark (111. 199), the east fagade (111. 255) is well preserved, but difficult to see owing to later constructions in front of it, the interior (Ills. 256-257) is an interesting ruin. The plan (111. 258) is very nearly a square of about 34 metres; but the walls are of slightly uneven lengths making the angles a little irregular. \From the east side projects an arcaded portico, from the northeast corner, the minaret On the south was a paved, and slightly elevated platform, or terrace ; while opposite the east façade are the ruins of a bath of the Moslem period, which is how inhabited and impossible to measure. The east wall of the mosque lies almost directly upon the line of the west colonnade of the main north-and-south avenue of the Roman city. The interior columns and arches were arranged to carry a roof of stone slabs above two

aisles on every side of the building, leaving an oblong space in the middle open to the sky (PL XVII, Sect, C-D); this will be seen to have been the case by an examination of the photograph (111. 256) which shows finished walls and cornices above the arches, and at a level above that of the adjoining roof slabs. The arches of the arcades of the aisles at the north and south were originally parallel, running east and west from one wall of the building to the other, and at right angles to those of the east and west aisles which were only two bays long; but in later restorations this system was altered in the northeast angle, and the northwest' angle is in

complete ruins, my plan of this part being almost wholly conjectural,. The most interesting part of the mosque, and apparently one of the oldest, is the complete system of supports between the two southern aisles. This is shown in 111. 257 and in Section A-B of Plate XVIII. Here we have in front of the mihrab a broad middle arch, 6.72 m. wide, slightly pointed, and carried on oblong piers. This is flanked on either side by three round arches, about 3.70 m. wide, supported by four slender and graceful columns of cipollino marble, with capitals of the Corinthian order

in white marble. These columns were taken from some Christian edifice, as an inscription on two of them will attest, and probably belonged originally to some Pagan building. The combination of the low pier and the high column, (x), where the narrow arches join the broad arch on either side, is a beautiful piece of design. South of this arcade is a wall arcade quite similarly designed, but having slightly pointed arches and Ionic columns of basalt taken from Roman buildings and rather badly put together. This arcade partly blocks up the windows in the south wall, and is, I believe, one of the earlier restorations, having been inserted to decrease the width of the aisle and to reduce the required length of roofing slabs. North of the arcade first described was an arcade similar to it in every detail, but now in ruins. This was reinforced, at

some later period, by an arcade of pointed arches carried on piers and set directly beside it on the south. All these later columns and piers are marked (L) on the plan, and are shown in broken lines in Section C-D. This reinforcing arcade served, like the wall arcade, to narrow the space to be spanned by the stone slabs of the roof (111. 256). These two south aisles extended through the building from the east wall to the west; the east aisles terminated at the arches of the inner south aisle. The arches of the first two bays are of unequal width, both are semicircular, but the narrower is stilted. Their common support is a column of extreme slenderness in white marble (Y). The arches of both arcades in these two bays lie parallel, and north and south. They carry their roofs of stone slabs intact. The next two columns to the north (Z), and the column east of it, both in basalt, carried each two pairs of arches at right angles to each other, in the Gothic manner.

 To accommodate this scheme a third column was placed against the east wall, but this is not part of a wall arcade. The spring-stones of the fourth arch carried by column (Z) are to be seen in 111. 256 at the extreme left. There has been much restoration in the northeast angle, and the northwest angle is a mass of ruins preserving one broken column in situ encased by piers on three sides. The north wall which is nearly intact is 2.50 m. thick, more than double 'the thickness of the other walls.
The eastern portico is well preserved. It begins flush with the south wall of the mosque, but does not extend as far as the base of the minaret by about 2 metres. It is composed of a row of arches indiscriminately round and pointed, and carried on the stumps of Ionic columns taken from the ancient street colonnades. In a general way the arches are spaced so that the broader ones are opposite the entrances to the mosque, and that the narrower arches are pointed (111. 255), but these rules have several exceptions. The arches carry a corbel course opposite a similar feature in the wall, and the space between was roofed with slabs of basalt. It is evident that this portico is a later edition to the mosque, for it blocks up the lower half  of two important windows.

 There are  five of these large windows in the east wall, the middle one of which is pointed; the windows which flank it are set lower in the wall than those at the ends, and it is these that were partly closed by the roof of the arcade. The minaret is about 25 metres high, having a square tower-stair within, four tall narrow coupled openings of Romanesque appearance in the top storey, and a complete roof of stone. It does not belong to the original structure, but is probably an addition of the twelfth century.


DJAMI IL-KHIDR: 1133-34 A. D. This is a small mosque situated near the centre of the ruins, but well to the northwest of the present
village. It appears incidentally in 111. 205, is in an excellent state of preservation, but is not in use. Its plan (111. 259) is very simple, the interior being a square of 7.40 m. spanned by two semicircular transverse arches carried on low piers. The walls are 1.10 m. thick, the doorway is only .90 m. wide, and the little windows which are set high in the wall are in several cases filled with stone grilles like those shown in 111. 260. The minaret which is slightly detached from the main building is of the same type as that of the great mosque, and belongs to the same period; the staircase within it is very narrow, but quite accessible. An inscription in Arabic gives the date 528 A. H.

DJAMI FATMEH  : To the west of the Cathedral, and near the northern limits of the present village of Bosra, is this little mosque which is the only one in the villagenow in use. It has been called by several names, Djami is-Sala and Dêr il-Muslim , in addition to the name given above.The building is of the same type and probably

 of the same epoch as the Djami il-Khidr; but in ground plan (111. 261) it is a little longer and departs from the square. It is spanned by three transverse arches. The whole building has the appearance of having been often repaired. As this mosque was constantly in use, I did not wish to disturb the worshippers by taking measurements inside of it; and I am therefore indebted to my native assistant, George Cavalcanty, for the measurements given here. The minaret of this mosque is detached, and is not exactly placed in the plan presented herewith. The parapet of its upper storey is partly in ruins, the call to prayer is given from the windows below. Early travellers saw the parapet in a perfect state of preservation. Two panels of a pierced balustrade of white marble are still in place, supported on either side by posts of basalt. These sections of balustrade are ancient, probably of Roman date, and may have come from the Palace.

Id-Dabbaghah: 1225 a. d. This building, situated near the northeast angle of the great reservoir called Birket il-Hadjdj, and having its south wall flush with the wall of the reservoir, was perhaps not a mosque at all. But it is certainly Moslem work, is dated in the thirteenth century, and has a mihrab in its south wall. The name signifies tannery; but whether it was itself a tannery, or was merely the mosque of the tanners, or of the quarter of the tanneries, is not clear. The plan (111. 262) is totally unlike that of any other mosque in Bosra, or elsewhere so far as my experience goes. It consisted originally of a long hall spanned by six transverse, pointed arches (Sect. A-B) carried on short and slender columns, the third arch from the south end being carried by piers.



 The three southernmost arches are still in place although many of the stone slabs they supported have been carried away. The south and north walls of the building are heavy, the former is pierced with a mihrab and two doorways; but the building has no side walls in the ordinary sense, but in their place a series of square exedras, each detached from the others, which open upon the long main hall. These almost independent structures are placed sufficiently near together (Sect. C.-D.) for the spaces between them to be spanned by the slabs of the roof, so that the roofing was continuous over all. This is certainly a very unusual kind of plan. At the southeast angle the building assumes a more connected plan (111. 263); for here the minaret is situated, and a low octagonal tower, built to receive a dome, was placed beside it. The minaret is just like those described above, but for the fact that it has no stone stairs and no roof of stone. The south wall of the building was placed so near the reservoir that corbels had to be inserted at its base to carry a platform from which the south doorways could be reached. Between these doorways, but high in the wall, is a sunken panel with the Arabic inscription upon it which gives the date 622 A. H.

DJAMI IL-MEBRAK : This mosque, is situated at the northeast corner of the city, just outside an obtuse angle in the ancient wall of the town. It seems probable that part of it at least was built before the Castle, for the construction of which the city walls were almost entirely destroyed; since a part of the ancient wall is incorporated with those of the mosque. The name means the "Mosque of Kneeling" and has reference to the kneeling of the camel which bore the Koran upon the spot where this mosque stands. The building is partly ruinous and partly in a fair state of preservation (111. 264). It consists of three main divisions, each having its prayer niche, and several other subdivisions (111. 265). The most ancient and most sacred part of the mosque is the section on the west, embracing subdivisions (A) and (B); for in (B), in front of the mihrab, is the stone upon which, according to the natives, the historic camel knelt. Some of the people profess at least to believe that the four depressions in the stone were made by the knees of the camel. This chamber (B) has for its west wall a section of the city wall which appears to have been one side of a redout, as is shown in the plan; but, owing to the state of the ruins, this has not been definitely determined. Its north wall, marked "ancient wall" on the plan, is an example of masonry so beautiful that it might

be assigned to the Nabataean period; but, with its inlay of white marble (111. 266) and its flat carving in imitation of Roman work, is probably to be assigned to some very good period of Moslem architecture, specimens of which are sufficiently rare in Syria. The chamber is spanned by a single transverse arch carried on columns, but is roofless in spite of its sanctity. Chamber (A) is an ordinary room opening into (C) by a broad arch. Chamber (C) is a square bounded by recessed wall-arches, and may have supported a dome. Chamber (D) is spanned by a transverse arch; it was filled with straw and was impossible to measure accurately when I saw it. It is said to have a prayer niche to the south. The whole of the eastern section of the building (E) was published by Professor Brunnow; but parts of it were left as doubtful in his drawing, Fig. 923. I have found his measurements to be correct and have embodied them in the plan; but I have omitted the two chambers flanking the south end of the main hall, as these do not exist, as may be seen in 111. 264. The cruciform part of the interior was originally covered with a dome at the intersection, if we read the old descriptions rightly , The chambers at the four angles are in two storeys.


Up | Introduction | Plan of the City | The Ruins | Walls | Gates | Reservoirs | Colonnaded Streets | Nabataean Remains | Arches | Temples | Civic Bulidings | Ecclesiastical Architecture | Moslem Architecture | Bosra Today

© All Rights Reserved 2010.