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Mosul

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The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture What is This? Provides in-depth historical and cultural information on over a thousand years of Islamic art and architecture

Mosul

City in northern Iraq. Located on the west bank of the Tigris River, opposite the ancient city of Nineveh, Mosul is surrounded by fertile plains. It replaced Nineveh under Byzantine rule and was conquered in 637 by Muslim Arabs, who used it as a base from which to conquer Azerbaijan and Armenia and as an important entrepôt for overland trade between Iran and Syria. It served as the capital of the Hamdanid (r. 905–91) and ῾Uqaylid (r. 992–1096) dynasties, and, after a brief interregnum, became the capital of the Zangid dynasty (r. 1127–1222). ῾Imad al-Din Zangi (r. 1127–46) restored the fortifications and expanded the city. Under Nur al-Din Zangi (r. 1146–74) several important buildings were erected (see Architecture, §V, B, 5), but most have been extensively rebuilt. The most important was the congregational mosque (1170–72; see Architecture, fig. 23), of which the only medieval parts to remain are the brick minaret, some columns and the mihrab (1148), which came from another mosque. The Mujahidi (Khidr Ilyas) Mosque preserves a fine mihrab (1180). Power passed to the atabeg Badr al-Din Lu῾lu῾ (r. 1222–59), whose palace had three iwans overlooking the Tigris. Several shrines to minor Shi῾ite saints, such as those of Imam Yahya ibn al-Qasim (1239) and Imam ῾Awn al-Din (1248), are square buildings containing tiled mihrabs and covered with muqarnas vaults under pyramidal roofs. The typical building material in the medieval period was rubble masonry revetted with stone and vaulted with brick. Zangid buildings were often decorated with a wide inscription band made of deep-blue marble inlaid with white alabaster. Following the Mongol attack in 1262 the city declined in importance. After a period of Mongol rule, the city passed to the Aqqoyunlu Turkmen in the 15th century, the Safavids of Iran in 1508 and the Ottomans in 1535. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 destroyed its trade position, but the discovery of oil in the region has made it the third-largest city in Iraq.

Mosul was known in medieval sources for fine textiles called mawṣilīn, from which the word muslin is derived, although these luxury fabrics with gold and silver threads were quite different from the cottons and silks usually associated with this term. Under the patronage of the Zangids and of Badr al-Din Lu῾lu῾, fine illustrated manuscripts were produced at Mosul (see Illustration, § IV, C). They continue the Classical tradition of technical and naturalistic illustration and often have frontispieces depicting the enthroned sovereign. A school of metalwork also flourished there in the 12th and 13th centuries (see Metalwork, §III, B), and the epithet al-Mawṣilī came to be associated with the finest practitioners of the craft. Inlaid with gold and silver, vessels of copper alloy were decorated with scenes of the hunt, pleasures of the court and signs of the zodiac. The city was also known for its fine woodwork, such as a pair of wooden doors from the mosque of Nabi Jirjis and a minbar (1153) from the ῾Amadiyya Mosque (both Baghdad, Iraq Mus.; see Woodwork, §I, A, 2).

Bibliography

  • Enc. Islam/2: “Mawṣil”
  • F. Sarre and E. Herzfeld: Archäologische Reise im Euphrat- und Tigris-Gebiet, 4 vols. (Berlin, 1911–20), ii, pp. 203–305
  • S. al-Daywahji [Dewachi]: “Jāmi῾ al-nabī Jurjīs fī῾l-Mawṣil” [The mosque of Nabi Jurjis in Mosul], Sumer, xvii (1960), pp. 100–12
  • S. al-Daywahji [Dewachi]: “Mashhad al-imām Yaḥyā b. al-Qāsīm” [The shrine of the Imam Yahya ibn al-Qasim], Sumer, xxiv (1968), pp. 171–81
  • N. Y. al-Tutunji: “Jāmi῾ al-mujāhidi fī῾l-Mawṣil” [The Mujahidi mosque in Mosul], Sumer, xxviii (1972), pp. 193–200
  • D. Patton: Badr al-Din Lulu: Atabeg of Mosul, 1211–1259, Occasional Papers of the Middle East Center of the Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington, 3 (Seattle, 1991)
  • H. Al-Harithy: “The Ewer of Ibn Jaldak (623/1226) at the Metropolitan Museum of
  • Art: The Inquiry into the Origin of the Mawsili School of Metalwork Revisited,” Bull. SOAS, lxiv/3 (2001), pp. 355–68
  • Y. Tabbaa: “The Mosque of Nūr al-Din in Mosul 1170–1172,” An. Islam., xxxvi (2002), pp. 339–60
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