Djeneé Mosque

Djeneé Mosque
Djeneé Mosque

When we think of architectural constructions made of clay, insignificant works, small in size and rather ephemeral, automatically come to mind, nothing is further from reality. The work that we analyze here is one of the most significant constructions of Islamic architecture and is completely made of clay; It is the great mosque of Djenné. Located in the city of the same name, in the Sahel region of Mali, it is the largest building built in mud in history,as well as the oldest built in this material.


The origins of the construction are not entirely clear and its dating still raises many disputes today, but according to the texts found in this regard, it seems that the work must have been built between the 13th or 14th century. In some chronicles written in the mid-seventeenth century, it is related how around the year 1180 the sultan Kumburu had his own palace demolished to build a mosque after converting to Islam; the mosque was built in mud like the rest of the buildings in the city. It was his successor who was in charge of raising the construction towers and his successor who surrounded the mosque with a defensive wall.

Raised on a kind of three-meter-high platform that prevents structural damage in the event of flooding of the Beni River, the mosque has a more trapezoidal plan thanrectangular and its exterior walls have been made of adobe or ferey and have been covered with a putty also made of clay that waterproofs them and gives them a more uniform appearance. On the other hand, the exterior walls have been reinforced with palm wood up to a height of sixty centimeters, the palm trunks serve both as decoration and as fixed scaffolding in case of having to carry out repairs on the façade. The same wood was used to cover the building where, in addition, a kind of gutters made of ceramics were incorporated that prevented the rainwater that sporadically falls in the area from slipping down the mud walls of the mosque.

Access to the venue can be done through six different entrances, however the entrance to the north is the main one. In the shan or inner courtyard we find three minarets or minarets, the largest of which is about twenty meters high. Three of the four sides that make up the courtyard are arcaded galleries while the other is open-air.

For its part the prayer hall or haram measures about 50 x 26 meters and has multiple quadrangular pillars that support the wooden roof. It is a dark space that barely has lighting, the light enters through small and irregular open openings in the mud walls.

In 1988 both the Great Mosque of Djenné and the entire city were added to the list of World Heritage Sites.

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