Amadiya/Amedi Mosque and Minaret


ca. 15th century AD

MMM Documentation Dates
Fall 2013
Site Type
Religious Buildings and Complexes
Duhok Governorate

    Mosque & Garden

    Minaret: Full Views

    Top of the Minaret

    Historical Photographs

    The Great Mosque of Amadiya/Amedi is located in the northern end of the citadel, just south of the former palace (now lost). The present building was erected during the last century over an earlier, ruined iteration of the prayer hall. Its minaret, which stands apart several meters from the hall, is the tallest structure in the city. It was probably constructed in the 16th century AD.

    The Great Mosque of Amadiya/Amedi was reconstructed in the 20th century over an earlier structure whose origins lie in the medieval period and possibly earlier (see further in “History”). The prayer hall is longitudinal in plan. Its three aisles are vaulted through an array of low pointed arches set on massive piers; the arcades and walls are stuccoed a plain white. The mosque is accessed from the east by way of a long courtyard, which is flanked by a wall to the south and modern buildings to the north. 

    The mosque’s minaret, likely built in the 16th century, rises from the northeastern corner of this complex, next to the gate into the courtyard. It is made of ashlar blocks of a local, rosy colored limestone and stands over 30 m high. The square base measures about 5 m x 5 m; a door into the minaret is located on its east side. Each of the other three sides of the base is decorated with a blind niche with a pointed lobe at the peak, and within each niche is a small medallion decorated with intricate relief patterns. Over the niches are rectangular cartouches designed for the dedicatory inscription. However, these have been left blank for an unknown reason—hence the uncertainty around the structure’s date. The square base transitions to the circular shaft through the so-called “Turkish triangle” type of pendentive. Just above this transition is a decorative band and a simple torus molding. The shaft is plain but for another torus directly below the balcony, the brackets of which are delicately carved with floral designs; above this is a dome topped with an alem. The upper part of the minaret was rebuilt after being damaged during the military conflict of the 1960s (this is the reason for the slight difference in the coloration and condition of the blocks).

    It has been suggested that the Great Mosque of Amadiya was built over a pre-Islamic structure, though there is no archaeological evidence for this other than the low floor level.1 Exactly when the first mosque at this site was constructed is unclear. Certainly, there was a mosque standing in Amadiya/Amedi by the Zengid period. Two items originating from this building are now preserved in the Iraq Museum: a wooden minbar datable to the 12th century and a wooden door with an inscription from the reign of Badr al-Din Lu’lu’ (1225-1259 AD).2 It may be presumed, though it cannot be definitively verified, that this medieval building stood at the site of the present Great Mosque. The minaret may have been a later addition to the mosque. Its inscription was never added, and we have no other written records ascribing its construction to a particular patron. However, local tradition holds that it was constructed under the Bahdinan emir Hussein Wali (r. 1534-1573 AD).3 The mosque was in ruins by the mid-1840s, according to the reports of Western travelers (see further in “Early Publications”). It was rebuilt in the 20th century, and its minaret was repaired after being damaged during the bombing raids of the 1960s.

    • 1. This is suggested on the mosque’s signage, provided by the Duhok Directorate of Antiquities.
    • 2. Al-Janabi 1982, 191–196; pls. 190–195.
    • 3. As per the signage of the Duhok Directorate of Antiquities.

    Although earlier travelers to Amadiya/Amedi refer vaguely to a mosque, William Ainsworth and Henry James Ross—both visiting in the 1840s—provide enough detail to identify their descriptions with the precursor to the present-day Great Mosque; the latter observes: “In front of the palace were the remains of a large mosque, ruined by war and neglect; the minaret, however, was solidly built and formed a fine object.”1 Henry Binder, in the 1880s, was the only traveler who took a photograph of the monument.2

    • 1. Ross 1902, 108. Cf. Ainsworth 1842 (2), 197.
    • 2. Binder 1887, p. 207.

    Ainsworth, William. 1842. Travels and Researches in Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Chaldea, and Armenia. 2 vols. London: J. W. Parker.

    Al-Janabi, Tariq. 1982. Studies in Mediaeval Iraqi Architecture. Baghdad: Republic of Iraq, Ministry of Culture and Information, State Organization of Antiquities and Heritage.

    Binder, Henry. 1887. Au Kurdistan en Mésopotamie et en Perse. Paris: Maison Quentin.

    Ross Henry James. 1902. Letters from the East by Henry James Ross, 1837-1857. London: Dent. 

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    Matthew Peebles (2020)