Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan

The Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan is regarded as the finest piece of early-Mamluk architecture era in Cairo, an age of architectural splendour. Story has it that the construction of this complex was a tedious and tragic process. The building is a massive example of Mamluk architecture, constructed during the 14th century reign of a sultan who was famous for his extravagant spending. The massive size of the building made it a spectacle in its day, but even modern visitors are certain to be impressed by its beautiful and imposing architecture.

The founder of this gigantic monument is the Sultan Hassan, son of the great Mamluke Sultan Al-Nasser Mohamed Ibn Qalawoun. Sultan Hassan ruled twice, the first time in 1347, when he was 13 years old, only to be dethroned by the other Mamluke princes and generals. The second time was in 1356A.D, and before he had time to put an end to the power of the princes and high officials, they revolted against him, attacked by the chief of the army with other generals. It said that he escaped from the Citadel and hid in Cairo, but he was found and imprisoned, never to be seen again! Most probably he was murdered 16 years after his ascension to the throne. He left behind 10 sons and 6 daughters.

The Sultan Hassan ordered that Prince Mohamed Ibn Baylik Al-Muhssani supervise the construction of this Madrassa in 1361A.D, and the work continued for 4 years. The Mosque was almost complete when Sultan Hassan disappeared, it is rumored he was killed. It was finished by one of his functionaries, Bashir Al-Gamdar. The site of the Madrassa was previously known as Souk Al-Khayl, or the Horses Market. The Madrassa was built of stones, but some internal parts and details were built of bricks, faced with stones.

The Madrassa-Mosque resembles a cruciform (the shape of a cross), with an open courtyard surrounded by 4 iwans. An iwan is a vaulted hall with three high walls and an opening where the fourth wall should be. It contains 4 Madrassas (religious schools) and is 7,906 square meters large. Its many sides make it quite distinguishable. It has 4 facades with the 2 main ones being most important.The northeast facade is 145m long and 38m tall! Its sheer wall has 4 pairs of windows set vertically, and at the top of the wall is a massive cornice of 5 layers of stalactites, projecting about 1.5m.The mosque's sahn (court) is almost square, about 34m long and 32m wide, with a large ablution fountain in the center. It's covered with a wooden dome, carried on 8 marble columns and around its capital it is decorated with a band of inscriptions of The Qur'an (the verse of Al-Kursi). At each corner of the sahn is a door that leads to one of the 4 madrassas; the biggest one being the Hanafiyya Madrassa, which occupies an astonishing 898 square meters.