The Mausoleum of Safwat al-Mulk, known also as Al-Khanqah al-Tawusiyya is located outside the walled city of Damascus, in the neighborhood of Zuqaq al-Sakhr on the north bank of the Barada River, about six hundred meters northwest of the citadel. It was the only surviving Seljuk monument in Damascus before its demolition during the French mandate when it was deemed too costly to restore.
Archeologist Jean Sauvaget and architect-planner Michel Ecochard, who surveyed the building prior to its demolition, mention the presence of an inscription, incised on a marble plaque, above the main entrance, which informs that the mausoleum was built between 1110 and 1111 by Safwat al-Molk, wife of Tutush I (1078-1095), the Seljuk ruler of Damascus, and mother of Shams al-Muluk Abu Nasr Duqaq (1095-1104), his son and successor. Relying on medieval sources, Sauvaget and Ecochard situated this mausoleum in a complex called al-Khanqah al-Tawusiyya, also containing the Mausoleum of Prince Daqaq and a Sufi convent. The Mausoleum of Safwat al-Molk is the only surviving monument of the complex, which burnt in 1229.
The mausoleum had a rectangular plan measuring form the outside 9.3 meters by 6.45 meters. It was composed of a domed square room expanded with rectangular apses to the east and west which were covered with semi-domes buttressing the main dome. The semi-domes sat on octagonal drums which transitioned to the apse walls by means of three double arched squinches carved into the drum. The curvature of the semi-domes was achieved with two layers of bricks up to the middle ring and continued with one layer of bricks to the top. This procedure relieved the structure of unnecessary loads. The rectangular doorway of the mausoleum, centered on the northern wall, was mirrored on the southern wall with an arched window and a mihrab niche. Smaller windows were pierced into the east and west walls below the drum.
The wall structure was built of rubble stone assembled with mortar and the arches and domes were constructed of bricks in two different sizes. The mausoleum had little decoration; the walls and arches were covered with plaster from the inside and outside. On the north wall, the black lintel of the doorway was the only decorative element. On the south wall, the mihrab was topped with four niches and the arch of the window above was formed with light miniature arches, all carved in stucco. On the east and west apses, a band of interlaced plaster moldings ran below and wrapped the sides of the squinches. The surfaces of the squinches were decorated with embellished kufic inscriptions carved in stucco and highlighted with cobalt blue paint. These elaborately composed incriptions are believed to have been the source of the Tawusiyya appellation, meaning peacock.
Allen, Terry. 2003. "Damascus before Nur al-Din." In Ayyubid Architecture. Occidental, CA: Solipsist Press. http://www.sonic.net/~tallen/palmtree/ayyarch/ch1.htm
[Accessed February 22, 2005]
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