Famed Islamic minaret destroyed in Syria

great mosque of aleppo minaret

In addition to tens of thousands of lives, the ongoing civil war in Syria has now claimed the minaret of one of the world’s most picturesque mosques.

The 145-foot-high minaret of the Umayyad Mosque in the city of Aleppo, dating back to 1090, was destroyed Wednesday during fighting between the Syrian army and rebel forces.

The mosque, also known as the Great Mosque, was founded by the Umayyad Caliphate in 715 on the site of a Byzantine church. It had to be rebuilt after being damaged by a fire in 1159, and again following the Mongol invasion in 1260, according to the BBC.

However, the minaret was oldest surviving part of the structure.

In addition, other parts of the mosque complex – much of which date from the 1200s – have been badly damaged by gunfire and artillery shells.

The mosque has significance for Christians as well as Muslims. It is said to hold the remains of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist

It’s unclear at present which side is responsible for the damage.

The state news agency Sana claimed rebels forces “… placed explosive materials in the minaret and the mosque’s southern door and set them off.”

Closeup of minaret of Great Mosque of Aleppo before its destruction.

Closeup of minaret of Great Mosque of Aleppo before its destruction.

However, rebels say the minaret was struck by fire from a Syrian army tank.

Internet images show the minaret reduced to rubble.

The mosque has suffered extensive damage during months of fighting.

In addition to antique furnishings and intricately sculpted colonnades affected, there have been reports that ancient artifacts have also been looted, including a box purported to contain a strand of the Prophet Muhammad’s hair.

Whichever side is responsible, there’s little question the loss is devastating.

The minaret was designed by a noted 11th century architect, Hasan ibn Mufarraj al-Sarmini, who lived in a village near Aleppo.

According to historical lore, Hasan sought to strengthen the minaret’s foundations by digging down until he reached water, then setting foundation stones and strengthening them with metal brackets, according to the 1972 work, An Outline of Islamic Architecture.

He then constructed the minaret in six sections, with a staircase featuring 174 steps.

Hasan included calligraphic bands of mixed Kufic and Naskhī script and finely engraved arches were incised into the sections.

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7 thoughts on “Famed Islamic minaret destroyed in Syria

      • You’re right. That people can have such hatred for those whose beliefs are slightly different from their own is amazing.

        I am not at all religious but I can appreciate the history behind a cathedral or temple or sacred hole in the ground for that matter.

  1. What a lovely irreplacable example of Muslim architecture – destroyed by modern warfare – by ignorant malicious people.

    I was wondering if there is inter-denominational warfare between the Shia and Sunni in Syria at work here. Could that be the reason that the minaret was destroyed? It is difficult to believe that one Muslin sect could do that to another. Perhaps there are Christians among the rebel forces?

    All throughout history invading vandals have destroyed precious artificts created by those who tried to leave a lasting imprint of beauty and culture on their civilization. (It is as if they were saying, “we were here once; we are gone now, but we leave behind symbols of who we were and what we believed.”) The destroying vandals sought to erase forever what they believed was the most important thing(s) their victims cherished. They failed to understand, in their soul-less ignorance, that they could never create such beauty so they had to destroy it…completely.

    (Sounds a little simplistic, but that is my theory.)

    • I used to question why people who adhere to a faith – any faith – would damage or destroy sites of importance to their faith. But, over time, I’ve seen that warring forces usually don’t care what’s in their way, whether it be a religious site, historic site or site housing civilians. Their end goal becomes the most important thing. What good is it to be the winner if all you end up with is a city/nation of rubble and dead bodies?

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