Al-Mawardiyya Madrasa has no foundation inscription to identify or date the structure and its founder is unknown. However, there are government records from the period that provide some information that is used to identify it as the al-Mawardiyya. Evidence suggests that it was built in the Ottoman period, and there is also evidence suggesting that it was a late Mamluk building. It is located on the south side of Aqabat al-Takiyya Street near the palace and the Mausoleum of Lady Sitt Tunshuq, the only other Mamluk building in this mostly sixteenth-century section of the city.
The two main levels of the madrasa are lifted from the ground above its sloping site. The ground level provides entry from the street and access to the two main levels above. The entry sequence consists of a portal in the north elevation leading into a cross-vaulted vestibule with two inaccessible chambers to its east and south sides and to the west of the vestibule are the stairs leading up to the main spaces. Eleven steps from the original stairway survive, although multiple alterations were made at later times when additions were built into the madrasa. At the landing of the steps, a trefoil arched doorway leads into the mosque hall of the madrasa. One reaches the two remaining spaces of the first level by then continuing up the steps to the second level, then descending another flight of steps and following a series of irregular passages. Other spaces on the first level include two large halls, two chambers and two small rooms in addition to two open rectangular courtyards. The second level consists of a domed square chamber, a cross-vaulted rectangular chamber, and a series of modern additions.
The north elevation primarily consists of a large portal recess built with red, white and black ablaq masonry. Stone benches flank the door, which is topped by a plain lintel above that is a string course of black and white joggling. A second course of black and white joggling is built above a small grilled window that lights the mosque space behind the facade. The portal recess, flanked by two identical rectangular windows, terminates at the top with a round arch and a ribbed semicircular hood.
The interior of the rectangular mosque space is divided into three parts and is lit by six windows, three on the north wall, two in the east wall and a window in the south wall centered above the mihrab. The center of the mosque is a square measuring about three meters square and is framed on all four sides by four pointed arches, which support the shallow dome above. Muqarnas pendentives transition the supports from the corners of the arches to the base of the twelve-sided drum of the dome.
Folded cross vaults cover the southern section of the mosque with a small saucer dome at the groin of the vaults. Ablaq masonry of white, black and red stone demarcate the south wall as the focal point of the mosque with the mihrab niche built in its center. A pointed arch supported by two reused marble columns form the mihrab, which concaves to a depth of about one half of a meter and is adorned by various marble panels. The niche is topped by a semi-dome that corresponds to the shape of the pointed arch.
Due to insufficient endowments, the madrasa was transformed into a residence and thus underwent various alterations to accommodate its new function. Many chambers were added at later dates, which are not determined although some architectural details such as arches are clearly of the Ottoman style and period.
Auld, Sylvia. 2000. Ottoman Jerusalem: The Living City 1517-1917. London: Altanjir World of Islam Trust, 868-881.