The mausoleum is located in a residential neighborhood of Mosul, in a cemetery surrounded by houses. It was built in 1248 by the Atabeg of Mosul Badr el-Din Lu'lu to house the tomb of Imam Ibn Hassan Awn al-Din, in reference to the Imam, grandson of Ali. The structure underwent several restorations, the first of which took place in 1744, followed by another in 1776. During the last restoration works in 1964, the exterior was covered with plaster, hiding the external decorations. Nowadays, the structure stands in ruins in the middle of the cemetery. At 30 meters high, the mausoleum is the tallest in Iraq.
Construction materials for the structure include stone, marble, rubble and brick. The lower portion of the square structure is built of regular ashlar stone, while the upper part of the four walls is made of rubble stone topped with a one meter brick band; the dome itself is built with bricks.
The mausoleum's exterior form is composed of a cube, topped by a recessed cube, which forms the support for the octagonal base of a twelve-sided dome. The relationship between the two inset cubes was articulated in 1964 when the building was covered with plaster. The lower part was apparently covered with a thicker layer of plaster while the upper one holding the brick decoration was covered with a thin layer of white plaster.
On top of the cube, the octagonal base of the multi-ribbed, pyramidal dome has tetrahedral projections on four of its sides, transforming its footprint on the square structure underneath to a twelve-sided intersection, ensuring a smoother transition from square to circle. Rectangular windows puncture four sides of the octagonal base (the axis points of the four walls of the structure) admitting light to the internal space of the dome. This affects a conical external shape with twelve ribs following the twelve subdivisions of the lower part of the base.
To the eastern side of the mausoleum, adjacent to its wall, lies an Iwan that communicates with the internal tomb chamber through a rectangular opening in the eastern wall with a carved marble frame. Attached to the northern wall is a three bay arched portico sitting on four columns. It leads to the entrance door to the mausoleum. The door (3.5 by 2.1 meters) is framed with several bands of marble carving ranging from interlaced rope motifs to floral designs and palmettes, belted with a line of inscriptions bearing the name of Badr el-Din Lu'lu'. The frame has a very shallow arch and a lintel underneath held on small spandrels on the sides minimizing the lintel span. The original door is of carved copper with intricate geometric patterns and the architect's name. This original door was replaced by a new one with minimal decoration, and is displayed in Mosul's museum.
The vertical walls are punctured by two rectangular windows not centered on the walls. They are located at the uppermost part of the lower square structure, lighting the interior space just below the dome's decoration.
The inside space is accessed by nine steps going down to the tomb chamber. It is composed of a single room of 8.4 by 8.5 by 14 meters under a muquarnas stucco dome (part of which is torn down) sitting on muquarnas squinches and decorated with complex polyhedral shapes related to Iraqi types. Between the muquarnas one can see blue red and dark red mosaic tiles. The dome sits on a twelve-sided muquarnas structure that translates the from square to circular forms. Below the twelve-sided muquarnas, on the upper-most part of the walls one can see a series of 16 arches, two of which admit light to the internal space. They are four on each wall, highly decorated, and positioned according to the twelve sides of the dome's drum. Below this series of arches runs a frieze of rosettes.
The mihrab is located in the southeast corner. Its corner niche sits on two colonettes framed with an extensive decorated frame carved with floral motifs and an inscription band again revealing the name of Badr el-Din Lu'lu and its date of construction in 1248. A one meter wide black marble band with inscriptions and large palmette motifs rises from the floor along the wall. These panels were made in 1328 by Hajj Hassan. The sarcophagus of the imam is made of wood, carved with floral motifs and holds an inscription to Badr el-Din Lu'lu.
The adjacent iwan houses a private cemetery for Ottoman Pashas and relatives. It is rectangular in shape covered by a barrel vault. It was probably added to the structure at a later period and is now partially torn down. It is accessed from the tomb chamber by a rectangular opening with an intricate marble carved frame. The structure of the opening is a shallow arch with a lintel underneath displaying two stalactite decorations on its lower side and two spandrels on the sides minimizing the lintel span, as is similarly the case for the external gate frame of the mausoleum. The frame also has a band of inscription running along its three sides. The existing external wall is stucco (currently ruined at some points) and has no sign of the decorations that appear in older photographs or drawings, where external decoration above doors, and windows covered by musharrabiyya.
The site was reported destroyed as of July 25, 2014.
Al-Janab Tariq Jawad. Studies in Medieval Iraqi Architecture, Baghdad, Ministry of culture and Information, State Organization of Antiquities and Heritage. 1982
Hillenbrand Robert. Islamic Architecture, form function and meaning. Edinburgh : Edinburgh University Press, 1994.