Wednesday, May 30, 2018

News, Cairo: Part of Arcade Ceiling Collapses at Cairo's Medieval Sarghatmish Mosque and Madrassa

Five wooden beams that were installed during the restoration work carried out at the mosque in 2005 collapsed, leading to a collapse in the ceiling of one of the arcades. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

The restored wooden beams holding up the ceiling of part of the arcade in the medieval mosque and madrassa of Sarghatmish collapsed on Tuesday morning, Egypt’s antiquities ministry has said.

Gamal Mustafa, head of the Islamic and Coptic Antiquities Department at the ministry, told Ahram Online that five wooden beams that were installed during the restoration work carried out at the mosque in 2005 to hold up the wooden ceiling of the mosque qibla’s riwaq (arcade) had collapsed.

He said that there are no casualties reported and the mosque, located in Cairo’s Sayyeda Zeinab, is in good conservation condition, except for the fallen beams, and the decorative element that runs along the upper level of the mosque’s main façade.

An engineering company will now consolidate the mosque to avoid any further risk, and start the restoration of the ceiling, Mustafa said, while a cleaning crew from the Arab Contractors cleans the debris.

The mosque-madrassa comprises an open court with a water fountain at its centre, surrounded by eight marble pillars and four iwan (vaulted halls). The mihrab (the point faced during prayer) of the mosque has a panel of white marble with a medallion in the centre and four quarter-medallions in the corners.

Hidden among the leaf and stem forms of the arabesque design are six birds and five hands. On the north corner of the facade are finely carved mashrabiya (wooden lattice) windows.

14th-century treasure

The mosque is located in Saliba Street close to such important Islamic monuments as the mosque of Ibn Tulun, the madrassa and sabil-kuttab of Sultan Qaitbay, the Gayer Anderson House, the mosque of Raghri Bardi and the mosque and madrassa of Hassan Pasha Tahir.

Until the 14th century, the area was dotted with waste and rubbish heaps along with cemeteries and private estates. The redevelopment of the citadel under Sultan Al- Nasser Mohamed led to the transformation of this zone into an urban area, and Saliba Street became a major thoroughfare. Princes built town houses, palaces, mosques and schools in the area.

The mosque and madrassa of Sarghatmish are attached to the northeast wall of the Ibn Tulun mosque and were originally part of the Ibn Tulun complex, but were later turned into houses. 

In 1356 these houses were demolished by Prince Sarghatmish, a Mamluk in the reign of Al-Nasser Mohamed Ibn Qalawun, so he could build his own mosque and madrassa.

This renowned Mamluk prince was the jamandara (wardrobe keeper) of Al-Nasser Mohamed Ibn Qalawun. His prominence dates from the reigns of Al-Nasser's minor sons, when he took an active part in battles waged on their behalf. In 1354, supporting Prince Shaykhu, he was one of the principal agents in the re-election of Sultan Hassan, and after Shaykhu's assassination he became the amir kabir or "great prince".

He was virtual ruler of Egypt for Hassan, who in 1358 had Sarghatmish thrown into prison and put to death. He was buried under the dome of his madrassa. The Sarghatmish madrassa is a good example of the type founded in the mid-14th century by Mamluk emirs in support of higher Quranic studies, prophetic traditions and jurisprudence.

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