Jami' al-Kabir
Tinmel, Morocco
The Great Mosque of Tinmal was constructed by Almohad sovereign 'Abd al-Mu'min (reg. 1130-1163) in 1153/547 AH. It is located in the village of Tinmal, a small settlement in the Atlas Mountains approximately 75 kilometers south-southeast of Marrakech. During the rule of the Almohads between 1130 and 1269, Tinmal was the spiritual capital of Morocco and the site of religious pilgrimages, as it was the home of religious leader Ibn Tumart during his later years when he founded the Almohad sect. This building was erected during the break between the construction of the first and second Kutubiyya Mosques in Marrakech (also commissioned by al-Mu'min), and consequently it is similar to those mosques in plan and ornamentation.

The mosque is roughly square in plan, at 48 meters wide east to west and 43 meters long north to south. The longitudinal axis of the plan is rotated twenty-three degrees counter-clockwise from the north-south meridian to account for qibla orientation. This degree of rotation is similar to that of other Almohad mosques constructed during the late twelfth century. This mosque is similar in its organization and proportion to the plans of other significant twelfth century mosques, such the Giralda at Seville (1172) or the Kutubiyya at Marrakesh (1147-1162), but at a smaller scale. The prayer hall is nine longitudinal arcades wide east to west and eight arcade bays long north to south, plus an additional widened transverse aisle adjacent to the qibla wall at the south. The central longitudinal aisle is also slightly widened to create the customary Maghribi T-shaped plan.

The sahn is five arcades wide and four arcades long and is located adjacent to the north wall of the mosque, opposite the qibla wall. This reflects the common practice in western Islamic mosque design of placing an oblong sahn, smaller in area than the covered prayer hall, along the side of the mosque far from the qibla. There are three large arched entries along each of the east and west elevations that project prominently beyond the exterior faces of the walls, as well as one smaller archway in center of the north elevation on axis with the mihrab.

A dome overhead marks the point at which the mihrab opens to the prayer hall, located at the intersection of the central longitudinal arch and the transverse arch parallel to the qibla wall. The mihrab niche projects far behind the exterior face of the qibla wall, creating a rectangular projection along the south elevation of the mosque. The projection allowed the mihrab to take a larger-than-customary dimension and to function as a separate room rather than as a simple niche. The mihrab is an octagonal space within the mass of the rectangular projection, separated from the prayer hall by a short corridor that is as wide as one of the room's eight sides. This technique was inherited from the Great Mosque at Cordoba, as the Almohad empire at that time extended well into Spain and exchange with Andalusian architectural traditions was widespread. However, the Great Mosque at Tinmal is unique in that this projection also forms the base for the rectangular minaret. This placement of the location coincident with the mihrab is highly unorthodox in Maghribi mosque design, in which a typically square minaret is almost always placed along the elevation of the mosque that is opposite the qibla wall.

The Great Mosque of Tinmal was constructed of sandstone brick. The brick structure of the arcades was formerly covered with a layer of plaster that is now intact only in small isolated areas within the spandrels of the arches. The exterior entries are articulated with large brick pointed horseshoe arches, which proliferate within the arcades of the prayer hall. The interior of the prayer hall was relatively spare of decoration according to the Almohad tradition of mosque design, which favored limited areas of minimalistic ornamentation and a dominant spatial regularity to achieve an embodiment of purity and unity, concepts central to Almohad faith. The plaster that covered the structure was thus left plain in some areas and delicately carved with subtle geometric and abstracted vegetal patterns elsewhere, specifically within the mihrab niche. Pointed polylobed arches separate the final transverse arcade in front of the qibla wall from the longitudinal arcades of the main hall. The dome in front of the mihrab features muqarnas vaulting in a relatively simple composition of smooth, intersecting, curved plaster surfaces.

Today the village of Tinmal remains a small remote mountain village, and the partially ruined mosque is the settlement's best-known structure. The Great Mosque of Tinmal has been a tentative UNESCO World Heritage Cultural site since 1995.

Sources:

Bonine, Michael E. "Sacred Direction and City Structure." Muqarnas VII: 1990. 52.

Bosworth, Clifford Edmund. The New Islamic Dynasties. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996. 39-40, 63-65.

Deverdun, Gaston. Marrakech, des origines à 1912. Casablanca: Editions Frontispiece, 2004. 181-184.

Ettinghausen, Richard and Oleg Grabar. The Art and Architecture of Islam: 650-1250. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987. 141-143.

Ewert, Christian. The Mosque of Tinmal and some new aspects of Islamic architectural typologies. Mortimer Wheeler archaeological lecture, 1986. London: British Academy1986.

Hillenbrand, Robert. Islamic Architecture. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press,1999. 89, 422-423 (plate 15), 475.

Tabbaa, Yasser. "The Muqarnas Dome: Its Origin and Meaning." Muqarnas III: 1985. 63, 73.

Yeomans, Richard. The Story of Islamic Architecture. Reading: Garnet, 1999. 91.

"Almohad" The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture. Ed. Jonathan M. Bloom and Sheila S. Blair. © Oxford University Press 2009. The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture: (e-reference edition). Oxford University Press. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). http://www.oxford-islamicart.com/entry?entry=t276.e89.
[Accessed November 4, 2009]

"Architecture" The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture. Ed. Jonathan M. Bloom and Sheila S. Blair. © Oxford University Press 2009. The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture: (e-reference edition). Oxford University Press. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). http://www.oxford-islamicart.com/entry?entry=t276.e89. [Accessed November 4, 2009]

"Mihrab" The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture. Ed. Jonathan M. Bloom and Sheila S. Blair. © Oxford University Press 2009. The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecturee: (e-reference edition). Oxford University Press. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). http://www.oxford-islamicart.com/entry?entry=t276.e597.
[Accessed November 4, 2009]

"Mosquée de Tinmel." 2009. UNESCO World Heritage Centre. http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/452/. [Accessed November 4, 2009]

"Stucco and plasterwork" The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture. Ed. Jonathan M. Bloom and Sheila S. Blair. © Oxford University Press 2009. The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture: (e-reference edition). Oxford University Press. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). http://www.oxford-islamicart.com/entry?entry=t276.e891. [Accessed November 4, 2009]
Location
Tinmel, Morocco
Images & Videos
Documents
Associated Names
Associated Collections
Events
1153-1154/547-548 AH
Style Periods
Almohad
1130-1269
Variant Names
Jami' al-Kabir
Great Mosque
Translated
Congregational Mosque
Alternate
Jamaa Kebir
Vernacular
Grand Mosquée
Alternate
Building Usages
mosque
religious
Materials/Techniques
brick
sandstone