This Umayyad mosque, in the heart of the old city of Aleppo, was founded in 715, ten years after the Umayyad Mosque of Damascus. The mosque's site reveals a richly layered history, highlights are found in its function as a Roman temple and then a Byzantine church. Throughout its history the building has endured multiple adaptations and reconstructions in response to natural disasters-earthquakes and fire-and to modify its use, resulting in the development of its surroundings. In contrast to the comparably intact Umayyad mosque of Damascus, the Great Mosque of Aleppo bears little resemblance to its original form; rather it is a structure of fragments that map the city's varied histories.
The oldest part of the mosque is the prominent and noteworthy square 45 meter minaret. The minaret's earliest restoration dates to 1090 during the Seljuk dynasty. The minaret boasts intricate bands of carved Kufic inscriptions along its length that alternate with bands of stylized ornaments in patterns and muqarnas.
The Ayyubids also contributed a major reconstruction in 1159 after a fire, and the mosque was destroyed yet again during the Mongol invasion of 1260.
The mosque is arranged around a vast courtyard that connects to different areas of the mosque that are placed behind the colonnaded arcade. The courtyard is famous for its black and white stone pavement that forms complex geometric patterns. The courtyard holds the two ablutions fountains.
The main prayer hall holds the key elements of the mosque: the shrine of Zachariah (father of John the Baptist), a fifteenth century minbar, and an elaborately carved mihrab. This large prayer hall originally had a basic straight rooftop with a central dome but was replaced by the Mamluks with an intricate cross-vaulted system with arches and a small dome over the arcades. The mosque has recently (2003) undergone a renovation, during this project the courtyard and the minaret were attended to.
Allen, Terry. 2003. "Great Mosque of Aleppo". In Ayyubid Architecture. Occidental, CA: Solipsist Press. http://www.sonic.net/~tallen/palmtree/ayyarch/ch2.htm#alep.gm [Accessed August 2, 2005]
Burns, Ross. 1992. Monuments of Syria. London: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd., 34-35.
Ball, Warwick. 1994. Syria A Historical and Architectural Guide. New York: Interlink Books, 133.
Rihawi, Abdul Qader. 1979. Arabic Islamic Architecture: Its Characteristics and Traces in Syria. Damascus: Publications of the Ministry of Culture and National Leadership.104.