Last update:
7 November 2009
19 Thu AlQe'da 1430

Bourtasi Mosque

(Formerly, Bourtasiyah Madrasah)

Tripoli > History > Monuments > Mosques > Bourtasi Mosque

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Brief Notes
  • Location: Hadeed district (Hadeed Gate, near the western bank of Abou Ali river)
  • Surface area: 477 m2
  • Commissioned by: Prince Isa Ben Omar alBourtasi alKurdi. He was in charge of inspecting the government offices (Dawaween) during the Mameluke period.
  • Date of construction: 710 H/ 1310 CE
  • Historical Period: Mameluke
  • Characteristics: The mosque is considered as one of the most beautiful mosques in Tripoli. Next to the mosque is the Bourtasi Madrassah.
  • Proprietor: Private property

Architectural Features and Decorative Details

The Bourtasi Mosque is the first in the city to make use of what are now regarded as the major elements of Mameluke decorative architecture. The portal and the arched windows of the madrasah were framed in alternating courses of black and white stone, a technique called ablaq - literally, "piebald." This set the openings off dramatically from the plastered, whitewashed sandstone walls, expressions of a North African influence that came to Tripoli by way of Cairo and has almost entirely disappeared today. Muqarnas squinches appeared both in the portal and in support of the central dome. Inside, marble marquetry decorated the qibla wall, which indicated the direction of prayer, and the floor that surrounded the ablution fountain.

The portal is decorated with stalactites and has a unique decoration in the tympanum. Here we find a round white marble plaque around a circle from which emanates eleven stylized thunderbolts.

The Bourtasi chancel (Mihrab) is superior to all Lebanon and Tripoli chancels at all, with its wonderful plant decoration of golden mosaics which covers the whole gap and the upper curving of the chancel. This decoration represents a cup which sends harmonical and equal branches to the right and left and gives an atmosphere of comfort for its observer. These decorations are similar to those in front of the Umawi mosque in Damascus, that is of Byzantine fashion.

The Bourtasi Mosque is nearly a completed building containing all the artistic and graceful elements which express strongly and clearly the ingenuity of the Moslem builder, architect and artist. For instance, the minaret of this mosque stands directly on the arcade of the outer gate. This building system rarely occurs because the huge, rising of the minaret tower needs a wide, fixed and strong base to bear it. So, the building of the minaret immediately on the dome or the arc of the gate looks like a challenge from the Moslem builder and architect to the laws of architecture and the balance of burdens, and they succeeded.

The architectral style is a mixture of Fatimid, Byzantine, and Moorish. The architect was influenced by the Andalusian motifs. This influence appears on the western side of the minaret, so that the observer of this side imagines, at first, that he is observing one of the Andalusian or Moroccan minarets. The feeling grows stronger that the architect is an Andalusian who immigrated to Tripoli and shared in building its Islamic milestones, and recorded his Andalusian origin in decorating the two arcades, the twins of broken heads, where in both of them, black and white stones alternate. Both of them are based on three shoulders of white stones under which two rectangular windows are opened and separated below them by a dark gray pillar. The two windows with the two arcades are within a hollow rectangular frame going into the frontage of the minaret. The surface of the arcades appears at the same level of the minaret frontage surface. On top of these two windows, there are two other windows whose curved arcades are based on a central pillar, and immediately on top of these two last windows, there are stepped Moukarnasat that form the base of the minaret tower which overlooks to the outside whose size is bigger than the minaret stem. This tower base is the balcony on which the caller for prayers stands.

Inside the mosque is a pool of colorful marble. The whole floor of the mosque is covered with the colorful marble and mosaic work which form fine architectural decorations around the pool.

Marble covers the whole frontage of the prayers house.

Neigbourhood of the Mosque

Surrounding the mosque are rooms for the students of the Shafii order. The Bourtasi mosque stands next to Khayyateen Khan and Ezzedeen bath.

Photo Album

Qibla Wall at the Burtasi Mosque
Using polished lengths of colored marble, artisans crafted polychrome marquetry panels that are among the most striking of the applied decorations in Mamluk Tripoli. Above is the central motif of the qibla wall of the Mosque of al-Burtasi; the panel measures approximately a meter (3’) square.

The dome in the mosque of al-Burtasi

The main portal of the Bourtasi Mosque.

The mihrab of the Burtasi Mosque
The mihrab of the Burtasi Mosque.

The dome of the mosque is extremely wonderful, magnificent, high and wide.

This rare picture was taken few months after the flooding of Abou Ali river in 1955.

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