Madrasa al-Nasiriyya
Tripoli, Lebanon
"The madrasa was built by Sultan Hasan ibn Muhammad, son of Qala'un.

History and Inscriptions:

No known written sources mention the Madrasah Nasiriyyah, but a medallion set above its door identifies its builder and, by inference, the date of its construction. The inscription escaped the notice of Sobernheim, probably because heavy coats of paint have until recently obliterated the details on the facade. First read by Conde and then copied by Salem, the inscription was recorded as: "Glory to our Lord Sultan al-Malik al-Nasir." The building was consequently attributed to Nasir al-Din Muhammad ibn Qala'un and dated between 1293 and 1340. More recently Heinz Gaube provided a longer version recorded by Tadmuri:

"Glory to our Lord Sultan al-Malik al-Nasir Hasan bin Muhammad," which more accurately attributes the building to Sultan Hasan ibn Muhammad "al-Napir," son of Qala'un, who was sultan of Egypt and Syria at three different times. Since he was rather young to have had a madrasah built during his first reign, the Madrasa Nasiriyyah should probably be placed in his second, between 1354 and 1360.


The madrasa's facade runs the length of its southern wall and forms the centerpiece for the line of madrasahs facing the Great Mosque. It is separated by an old house from the Madrasa Khayriyyah Hasan and by a modern street from the Madrasa Nuriyyah.

The facade is built in alternate courses of black and white stone and is completely enclosed by a framing band of zigzag, a motif that would later be copied for, and is accentuated by, the Mashhad across the street. The facade is opened by three simple windows-the lower two topped by a course of joggled stones above the lintel-and a tall gate to its extreme right.

As is often the case, the portal is the focal point of the construction and rises higher than the rest of the building. In contrast with the rest of the facade, the gateway is built entirely of white stone. It includes a simple rectangular door and a high muqarnas niche consisting of an empty half-dome over two rows of a stalactite muqarnas on a row of flat muqarnas resting on two flat triangular pendentives. On the wall and in between the pendentives is set the circular medallion containing the inscription. Considering its founder, the Nasiriyyah is modest, but it still provides a good example of a well-organized Mamluk facade for a small provincial madrasa.

The interior of the madrasa is a single large area. An awkward arrangement by the entrance leads, not into a vestibule, but directly into the madrasah proper on the left side. Of an uneven cruciform shape, this large room has a mihrab set between the two windows and is covered by simple cross-vaulting. It is of no particular architectural interest. The madrasah seems in fact to have been built as an excuse to provide a facade that would broadcast the importance of its patron. The Nasiriyyah still houses the library of the Great Mosque, but is now used primarily as the headquarters for a group called the Organization for the Help of Pilgrims; it is therefore open only during the Hajj and is inaccessible during the rest of the year (Salam 1983: 132-135).

(Source: Salam-Liebich, Hayat, 1983. The Architecture of the Mamluk City of Tripoli. Cambridge: The Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture.)
Nouri District, Tripoli, Lebanon
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Associated Names
1354-60/754-61 AH
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Madrasa al-Nasiriyya
al-Madrasa al-Nasiriyya
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