A foundation inscription located above the door identifies al-Tankiziyya, its founder Amir Sayf al-Din Tankiz, and its completion date of 1328-29. The founder ruled over the Syrian territories after being appointed as the governor of Damascus in 1312. His authority declined rapidly due to unknown events, and he was arrested and sent to Alexandria, where he was executed in 1340. His corpse was moved to his tomb chamber in Damascus in 1343.
Al-Tankiziyya was built on the south side of Tariq Bab al-Silsila Street. It holds the madrasa space, which dominates the first level, along with shops and a series of secondary spaces. A vestibule with axial doorways links the portal with the north iwan of the madrasa courtyard. The ten-meter-square roofed courtyard is centered among four iwans that vary in depth with a mihrab in the southern iwan. Folded cross vaulting culminating at an octagonal oculus, (which is directly above an octagonal basin below), roofs the central courtyard. Two cross-vaulted square rooms flank the south iwan. A doorway in the northwest corner of the west iwan leads to a five-meter-square room topped by folded cross vaults, which then leads to a narrow vaulted space and two small barrel vaulted chambers. Along the street and west of the portal recess are four deep recesses used as shops. East of the vestibule are stairs in the northeast corner of the plan. These stairs lead to a mezzanine and a second level largely built over the western portico of the Haram, including an assembly hall.
The street elevation is dominated by a tall portal recess, which is symmetrically centered within a wall of ashlar masonry. East of the portal, the ashlar wall terminates at the outer wall of the Bab al-Silsila gate, while to the west of the portal the ashlar masonry abruptly ends at a symmetrical distance. Further west on the principal elevation, four shops belonging to the al-Tankiziyya are built under a barrel-vaulted portion of Tariq Bab al-Silsila Street and are loosely demarcated as belonging to the building.
A pointed semidome tops the two-meter deep portal recess and is supported by three tiers of muqarnas corbelling. Two benches flank the doorway, which is topped by a monolithic lintel. Above the lintel is a band of joggled ablaq inlay and directly above it is an inscription band with the stamp of Tankiz repeated on each side of the recess. Higher up is a third band of ablaq joggling utilizing a more complex motif than that of the lower ablaq band. At the top of the recess, chevron fluting radiating from three equidistant points at the base of the semidome terminates at a single point below the keystone of the portal.
The building was used for its intended purpose as a madrasa well into the fifteenth century. By 1483 al-Tankiziyya had become the regular seat of the judge of the town and used for court hearings. During Ottoman rule the building was repaired, particularly on its Haram elevation and the supports of the second floor over the western portico. In the nineteenth century it was still being used as a law court, while also serving as the residence of the head of the Supreme Muslim Council. It was used as a law court and for conferences as recently as 1964. Although the shops that belong to the building are still used for their original purpose, al-Tankiziyya has been used by Israeli troops since 1967.
Bahat, Dan. The Illustrated Atlas of Jerusalem, 114. Jerusalem: Carta, 1989.
Burgoyne, Michael. Mamluk Jerusalem: An Architectural Study, 223-239. London: The British School of Archeology in Jerusalem Press, 1987.
Meinecke, Michael. Die Mamlukische Architektur in Ägypten und Syrien (648/1250 bis 923/1517), I/79, II/147-148. Glückstadt: Verlag J. J. Augustin, 1992.