The Madrasa of Sultan Hasan

Built-in 1356-63 at the foot of the Citadel, the madrasa-mausoleum of Sultan al-Nasir Hasan is the largest medieval religious monument in Islam and one of the masterpieces of Islamic architecture.

Sultan al-Malik al-Nasir Hasan, the seventh son of al-Nasir Muhammad, ascended the throne in 1347 at the age of thirteen and, after being deposed by one of his brothers, regained power in I 354.Two years later Hasan began construction work on his madrasa, which lasted seven years.This gigantic edifice with a total area of 10,200 square meters has a
cruciform plan with four liwans opening onto the central courtyard (sahn). The courtyard measures 1,152 square meters and has a large fountain in the middle for ablutions crowned by a dome. Four madrasas were built at the four corners of the building—named the Shafi`i, Hanafi, Hanbali, and Maliki, after the four rites of Sunni Islam—and each one has its own entrance door and courtyard. The main liwan, which opens onto the qibla side of the building, has a wide vault from which 70 chains still hang; they originally held oil lamps, some of which are now kept in the Cairo Islamic Museum.

In the middle of the liwan is an impressive marble dikka (platform) supported by three pillars and a double row of four columns, in front of the mihrab: this pulpit was occupied by a person who repeated the words of the imam so they could be heard more clearly. The mihrab is finely decorated with polychrome marble paneling and is flanked by a white marble minbar. Beyond the qibla side is the mausoleum, with the tomb of Hasan in the middle (the sultan was assassinated at the age of 26), crowned by a dome 28 meters high, which collapsed during a tremendous earthquake in 1660 and was reconstructed by the Ottomans.The original minaret, on the southwest corner, is the tallest in Islamic Cairo: 81.6 meters.


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