20 September 2007


In the photograph below, a Mu'eddin calls to prayer atop a minaret in Jerusalem. The architectural style of the minaret seems to me not that dissimilar from minarets found in many villages across Lebanon. (Maybe Poshlemon can elaborate on that topic and offer art history nutrition for those of us hungry for that dish of knowledge.)

date of photograph: 1940, not that long ago.

(click for larger image)



Anonymous said...

Well, to begin: I think that the ascend of the tower like structure represents something of an anomaly characterized by stones that are similar to those used in mosque construction in south Lebanon. I only wish that this anomaly can be more bridging in nature considering that the two peoples are, without question, engage in different masonry styles. The stones are what bring that similarity to light, but under further examination the similarity is differentiatingly exhausted trying to tell us that there is no similarity at all in the architectural styles.

Al3a ti2la3ak said...

tower like structure? asamara foe you?

poshlemon said...

Ibn Bint Jbeil,

excuse me. I had been away for a while and did not check my emails nor my blog.

Well, many Islamic empires have entered Palestine and left their mark, one of which would be the Ottoman. On the other hand, Saida too is famous for its Ottoman heritage as much as Tripoli is famous for its Mamluk heritage. This is where Saida and Jerusalem meet and thus, when comparing Jerusalem with Saida, it would only be natural to find similar architectural styles and motifs. While they may retain certain differences, Ottoman architecture through out Bilad al-Sham was unified and a bit different from what was being produced in Ottoman Turkey. Generally, Bilad al-Sham had a whole unique identity, which was prevalent through out and only continued to evolve within the confines of time and rarely geography.

The Ottoman architecture of Bilad al-Sham borrowed much from the local architecture, tendencies and previous dynasties such as that of the Mamluks. One could notice that Ottoman work in Bilad al-Sham has much more Mamluk in it than the work being produced in Turkey. It is true that later Ottoman architecture in Bilad al-Sham began to stand out, however, the first century or so witnessed an entire amalgamation of the Ottoman with that of its Mamluk predecessor.

The Mamluk minaret of Bilad al-Sham was characterized by its square shafts while the Ottoman minaret of Bilad al-Sham evolved to the octagonal or cylindrical shaft, usually slender and long. However, when I speak of an Ottoman style in Bilad al-Sham which is in keeping of its preceeding tendency, that would be the balcony with its canopy. This minaret is an Ottoman minaret because of its slender and pencil-like shape, but it also borrows from the Mamluk minaret of Bilad al-Sham, the canopy. (Mamluk architecture in Egypt was not very similar to that of Bilad al-Sham, which had a Mamluk idiom particular to it.)

Ibn Bint Jbeil said...

thanks posh. i want you to be my teacher. if i was rich i would bankroll a book or documentary that you would oversee.

now when you say for example, "One could notice that Ottoman work in Bilad al-Sham..." who exactly was doing the designing and building of, say, a mosque in some small village in southern lebanon or northern palestine? to what extent, as far you know, would local work have been an influence on the building modes used in a certain locale such as the lebanon-palestine region. i am very interested in the anthropological vestiges that present themselves in local architecture, as much as i am interested in the main archetypes of major architectural relics.

shmart art said...

damn, aristocratic sour citrus, I could listen to you all day.

pig's feet gone yonder said...

Tuna casserole anyone?

poshlemon said...

Ibn Bint Jbeil,

you know how to make me feel good about myself and you definitely attribute to me more than I deserve;) I wish all men would learn from you!

Religious architectural patronage in Ottoman Lebanon is one aspect I will begin to research soon and I am hoping to conduct a year-long fieldwork and thus, I will be able to study religious patronage patterns in Lebanon with connection to Syria (good excuse to keep going back home!).

So far, I can only speak from my general knowledge without specific lending to any detailed findings. I also draw my observations from the many art historians and books, in which I have been indulging myself.

Allow me again to confine myself to the Ottoman era, since I already started in that direction, also it would be impossible to discuss all eras/styles here and my area of expertise is Ottoman studies so I would be the most insightful in this section.

Concerning the identity of the builder, I think that towards the early/mid 17th century, it was no longer confined to the royals or the royal's delegate in the Ottoman provinces. Yet, I think it remained within a certain social stratum that mainly included the governors or the local leaders of the cities in question, who may have built the mosque under their own initiative or in certain cases, built the mosque upon imperial order. That's why it is important to look at the waqf documents and compare whatever documents one has. Sometimes, it is quite obscure to answer certain questions due to many renovations and lack of supporting documentation or due to contradicting accounts within the waqf, other documents, and actual textual inscriptions in the mosque itself. In the absence of archaeological findings, it is up to the genius of the art historian to come up with a convincing analysis. And trust me, many times you would encounter several renowned art historians, each with a theory so convincing yet contradicting with the other theories!

Anyways, in Ottoman terms, a mosque that had more than one minaret and especially, a minaret with more than one serefe(balcony), implied that it was an imperial undertaking. From the Ottoman surviving monuments that I have come across in Lebanon and Syria(so far, not extensively), imperial religious monuments are less common as the trend for mosque patronage undertaken by local leaders grew significantly by the 17th century. This meant that the mosques were not necessarily monumental, great, brilliant, outstanding, ostentatious, like the imperial mosques that obviously tried (succeeded always) to incorporate the above adjectives. Thus, the mosques that were built were functional and impressive enough for the local leader to feel he has incorporated himself within the socioreligious atmosphere of the time (it's all about politics). Usually, if the local leader was capable, the mosque would be built within a complex that would actually serve its locality and bring in economic gain for the waqf supporting the complex.

As for the local influence, I can tell you, borrowing from anthropological learnings, that local tendencies were adopted many times and it is evident upon study of the stylistic, architectonic and urban features. Firstly, these features reflected a lanuage common to the locals; they were comfortable with it, they expressed themselves through it, they came into contact with it, it constituted an element of their collective memory and they eventually felt part of it. Thus, any other language foreign to the locals adopted by the royal/governor/leader would be utter political suicide for this dignitary whose political office depended on the use of religious monuments as a language of communication with the locals.

However, many times you would notice that the patronage of religious monuments turns into an actual game play between rival elites/leaders of certain cities or locales. Thus, where you would find it normal behaviour to have a minaret with a canopied balcony (Ottoman/local style of Bilad al-Sham), you may find a mosque built in a completely synonymous style to that of what was being built in Ottoman turkey: here, the minaret may lose its canopied balcony and its several shaft divisions, a style that addressed the locales and the local style, into a slender minaret with a balcony resting on intricate muqarnas, a style that echoed pure Ottoman. Therefore, in this case, we learn that this is a message of imperial implications and a message of affiliation with the Ottoman Empire; one of the excellent tools utilized to get on the better side of the Sultan. Bel Arabeh el mshabra7, Tobyeed wejj ... bas men ta7et la ta7et ;)

Ibn Bint Jbeil said...

posh, i'm incessantly and increasingly intrigued. i'm interested in understanding more about the "jami3-el-kabir" in my hometown of bint jbeil, and other architecture there. having left the place in 1978 as a child, i have little direct connection to it, but i am perpetually drawn to it. i would like you to look at pictures of it. give me time and i'll compile some.

poshlemon said...

Ibn Bint Jbeil,

definitely... any pictures and plans would be important.