The Minaret of Mosul's Nur al-Din Mosque was constructed in 1170-2 by Nur al-Din Zangi and is the only component from the complex, which included a prayer hall and madrasa, that survives intact in its original form today. It is famous not only for its exuberant brick decoration but also its pronounced lean which has earned it the affectionate nickname al-hadba' ("the hunchback") among the residents of Mosul.
The brick minaret lies in the northwestern corner of the mosque courtyard. It is built on a tapered stone cubical base 15.5 meters high and 8.8 meters deep. Its four sides have different decoration patterns. The north, south and eastern sides can be grouped, having stepped squares motifs placed on their edges; they are framed by a six pointed stars band; whereas the western side is decorated with a central medallion with geometric and vegetal motifs, a field and border very similar to carpet designs. The center is occupied by an eight-sided star, surrounded by eight five-sided stars. The field is filled with patterns similar to the ones of the three other sides of the cube but here the squares are larger and filled with smaller ones. The border of the western panel consists of hexagons filled with arabesque interlaces. An arcaded door on the eastern side of the square, define the entrance point to the minaret. The tapered cylindrical brick shaft, 45 meters high, leaning eastward, has a circular plan that rests on the square base. It is decorated with seven bands of different brick motifs separated with six thin friezes some of which display hazarbaf detailing (brick ornament which is part of the surface, not just applied to it). The balcony sits on metallic consoles supporting the slab and the metallic balustrade. The balcony dates from 1925 when it was repaired after its destruction in 1796 by lightning. The spire is made of simple brickwork topped with rope motif just below the dome ending.
This minaret demonstrates the impact of Iranian architecture in both construction and decoration where hazar-baf is known from as early as the first half of the eleventh century. This type of minaret construction and decoration with a square base is considered to be a typical feature of the later Abbasid minaret constructions and remains in the architectural vocabulary of Iran and Afghanistan.
It was reported that on July 26, 2014, the minaret damaged by explosives in an attempt to fully decimate the structure. On June 21, 2017, it was reported that the minaret and mosque were destroyed in an explosion.1
Al-Janabi Tariq Jawad. Studies in Medieval Iraqi Architecture, 207-211. Baghdad, Ministry of culture and Information, State Organization of Antiquities and Heritage, 1982.
Ettinghausen, Richard and Oleg Gabar. The Art and Architecture of Islam 650-1250, 298. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994.
Michell, George, Ed. Architecture of the Islamic World, 249. London: Thames and Hudson, 1978.
Bosworth, Clifford Edmond. The New Islamic Dynasties, 190-191. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.
Tabbaa, Yasser. "The architectural patronage of Nur al-Din (1146-1174)." PhD Diss., New York University, 1982.
"Culture Under Threat Map," theantiquitiescoalition.org, accessed May 04, 2016. https://theantiquitiescoalition.org/resources/maps/