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The Hassan II Mosque

In the historical context



               THE HASSAN II MOSQUE does not convey to us only the movement, the interpretation and the strong and striking voice of a worship dedicated to The Almighty; it at the same time breathes into us the incarnation of its message today, of the ardent desire to have its call heard by the entire Mankind in the full extent of its authenticity, of its magnificence, of its gratitude and of its passion to understand others, -in its humanism and its tolerance. The Hassan II Mosque is part of the tradition of religious monuments, in the phases of their history, in the quest of the architectural art it consecrates by bringing it to the heights of fame, by renewing it, by adapting it to the means that enable it to get free from the impact and stamp of the cities of another age. The first monumental mosques date back to the Omeyyade era. Abd al-MaIik ordered the construction between 688 and 692 of the Dome of the Rock (Qubbat as-Sakhra), which is, along with Masjid al-Aqs, one of the most famous Islamic monuments.

 It opens the way to great architectural achievements Of an Islam, deeply urban but continental. The reconstruction of The Grand Mosque of Madinah between 705 and 710, and the founding, between 706 and 715 of the Grand Mosque of Damascus are attributed to his son al-Walid. The Grand Mosque of Damascus, whose transverse naves are separated by lines of two-level arches parallel to the qibla wall and crossed in their middle by a central nave, is the prototype of the mosques of the Muslim west. This layout characterizes the pattern called `medinian`. It will gain widespread acceptance and will even bring its impact to the Qarawiyyne Mosque of Fez. In the Muslim west, the Grand Mosque of Kairouan is considered as the ancestor of all the mosques in the Maghreb. The Kairouan mosque, founded by 'Oqba ben Nfi', demolished and then reconstructed at the end of the VIIth century, was enlarged in the second half of the VIIIth century by Caliph Hicham, then refurbished by Ziydat Allah before going through a last extension during the IXth century.

      The layout of the naves directed in depth, perpendicular to the qibla wall, a layout called 'basilical' and already adopted by the al-Aqs Mosque, will be reproduced and perpetuated in the mosques of IFriqiya, Spain and Other parts of the Maghreb. The second monumental mosque of the Muslim West is the Grand Mosque of Cordoba, the dean of the mosques of Spain. Edified by 'Abd al-Rahmn I in 785-786, it was enlarged successively by Abd al-Rahmn II in 833, by al-Hakam in 961 and finally by al-Mansour in 987. This building that its founder, who was keen on reproducing in Andalusia the splendor of the Omeyyad Caliphate, wanted to construct on the pattern Of the Grand Mosque of Damascus, is, more than the Kairouan mosque, the prototype of all the Arab-Andalusian monumental mosques, mainly those of Saragossa and Toledo. Besides, it provide a catalogue of the ornamental designs that the art of the following centuries will reproduce in Morocco. It was in the IXth century, and more precisely in 859, that the two Moroccan monumental mosques were constructed: The qarawiyyne Mosque and the Andalous Mosque. The Qarawiyyne Mosque, wich has since the start outshone its sister mosque, witnessed several extensions in 956 and 1135 under the reign of the Almoravids. Its transverse naves layouts breaks with the layout of other Almoravid shrines in the Maghreb: The Grand Mosque of Tlemcen(1136) and the Grand Mosque of Algiers (1096) for example.

The construction of the two Fassi shrines mentioned above marks the birth of a specifically Moroccan art which developed, from the different Andalusian and eastern influences, local characteristics that became its own proper. The vestiges of this era testify to the excellent skill of Moroccan craftsmen and artists who, getting inspired from the East as well as from Andalusia, managed to derive from the local traditions what was necessary to create an original Moroccan style. Henceforth, this capacity to integrate external contributions to enrich the local creation will ceaselessly characterize Moroccan art in general and architecture in particular. Even under the reign of the Almoravids, who were charmed by Andalusian

culture, and even more under the Merinid dynasty this tradition of faithfulness to the ancient heritage will never be failing. If the Almohad Sovereigns, especially 'Abd el-Moumen and his son Yacoub al-Mansour, were the greatest builders of religious shrines in the Muslim west, their works were nonetheless stamped by a kind of serenity and austerity matching their ideas system.

Thus, the mosques of Tinmel and Marrakesh, like the Hassan Mosque in Rabat, The Grand Mosque of Taza and the Giralda of Sevilla, which was built by Abou Yacoub in 1171, are clear evidence to the greatness and force of this architecture expressed by specific forms. They testify to a steady sense of volumes and a great mastery of the line. This sobriety characterizes the large decorum that befits the austerity characterizing the Almohad Dynasty. These buildings and their ornamental characteristics will be a source of inspiration to the works achieved later on. After the Almohad Dynasty Morocco witnessed several monumental works: in this vein, lets mention the Merinid madrassas and mosques in Fez, Sal and Oujda, or the Sadian mausoleums of Marrakesh and finally the magnificent Alaouite mosques and palaces in Fez, Marrakesh and Mekns. All these works consecrate a style become classical. With the reign of His Majesty King Hassan II, we witness a profusion of audacious projects that enable to recover, not to say to go beyond the ambitions of the greatest builders of the stature of the Omeyyads: al-Walid in the East or Abd al-Rahmn I in Andalusia and of the Ottoman Ahmed I, founder of the blue Mosque, or the Almohad Yacoub al-Mansour. The Hassan II Mosque today testifies more than ever to this capacity to assimilate external influences and at the same time reflects a new proclivity in harmony with the technological know how that is called to make more effective, more present a past that was so far passively copied because, more respected than mastered, it was with nostalgia considered. While remaining faithful to the traditional inspiration, The Hassan II Mosque uses all the sophisticated technological gains and thus reflects the personality of His Majesty The King who is tightly attached to the spirit of contemporary civilization as well as to the teaching of Islam. The Hassan II Mosque thus operates a genuine return to the sources. The quotation of Al-Idrss about the Grand Mosque of Damascus seems, oddly enough, still valid in this last decade of the twentieth century: "There is a mosque and there is not a similar one in the world. There is no other mosque with so beautiful proportions, nor is there one which is so solidly constructed, nor is there one which is so surely arched, nor is there one which is so marvelously drawn, nor is there one which is so admirably decorated with mosaics of gold and varied designs, with enamelled tiles and polished marbles". One must not forget however that Hassanian architecture begins mainly with the edification of the Mohammed V Mausoleum and of a set of great projects that enabled the refurbishing of royal palaces in Fez, in Marrakesh, in Rabat, in Casablanca as well as the construction of new royal palaces in Agadir and Nador. Thus, the Almoravid-inspired foiled arches, the wood, turned, assembled, painted and engraved, cherished by the Merinids: the floral ornamentations and inscriptions on chiselled plaster are harmoniously interlaced with new designs and original chromes in our tradition. The Hassan II Mosque undeniably marks the continuity of a Modernized ancestral art and bears the sign of innovations that are due not only to technical reasons but also to a fertile exploration of new aesthetic possibilities.



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