Madrasa al-Halawiyya
Aleppo, Syria

The Halawiyya Madrasa sits on the site of Aleppo's great Byzantine cathedral, which dated to the fifth century AD. According to medieval Arabic sources, the cathedral was converted to a mosque at the order of the qadi Abu al-Hasan ibn al-Khashshab in 1124/518 AH along with three other churches inside the city walls.1 The seizure of the churches was apparently a response to the desecration of Muslim mausolea on the outskirts of town at the hands of the Crusaders, who had besieged the city and caused havoc to its citizens.2 Originally named Masjid al-Sarrajin (Mosque of the Saddlers), it was converted to a madrasa during the reign of Nur al-Din Mahmud ibn Zangi (r. 1146-1174/541-569 AH).

The madrasa is located immediately west of the Umayyad Mosque of Aleppo, accessible via a narrow lane between the two buildings. The entrance portal is arched and bears a foundation inscription dated 1149/543 AH.3 The portal gives onto the northeastern corner of a central courtyard that takes the form of an irregular rectangle with a fountain at its center. The western facade of the courtyard gives onto two sanctuaries while the southern facade of the courtyard is a triple arcade giving onto a covered aisle.

On the northern end of the western courtyard facade, a large pointed arch with a joggled stone extrados leads to the first of the madrasa's two sanctuaries notable for an intricate wooden mihrab set into its southern wall. An inscription dates the mihrab to 1245/643 AH during the reign of Ayyubid sultan al-Malik al-Nasir Salah al-Din Yusuf (r. 1236-1260/634-658 AH).4 

A double entry on the south end of the western facade gives onto the second sanctuary, which consists of a central domed bay leading to an apse on the west side and two lateral bays to the north and south. Parts of this structure are remnants of the fifth century cathedral. The apse, vaulted by a semi-dome supported with six majestic marble columns with Corinthian capitals, belongs to the Byzantine church. The southern bay contains a later mihrab.


  1. Herzfeld, Alep, 206.
  2. Allen, A Classical Revival, 7-9.
  3. Herzfeld, Alep, inscr. 100, p. 209-210.
  4. Herzfeld, Alep, inscr. 101, p. 217-219.


Allen, Terry. A Classical Revival in Islamic Architecture. Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert, 1986. 

Allen, Terry. "Madrasah al-Halawiyah". In Ayyubid Architecture. Occidental, CA: Solipsist Press, 2003. [Accessed August 2, 2005]

Hadjar, Abdallah. Historical Monuments of Aleppo, 25-26. Aleppo: Automobile and Touring Club of Syria (ATCS), 2000.

Herzfeld, Ernst. Matériaux pour un Corpus inscriptionum arabicarum. Part 2: Syrie du nordInscriptions et monuments d’Alep, 205-2212 vols. in 3 parts. Cairo: Institut Francais d'archéologie orientale, 1954-1956.

Rihawi, Abdul Qader. Arabic Islamic Architecture in Syria, 104. Damascus: Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, 1979.

Aleppo, Syria
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Associated Names
1124/518 AH (converted to mosque)
1149/543 AH (madrasa constructed)
Style Periods
Variant Names
مدرسة الحلاوية
Madrasah al-Halawiyah
Building Usages