Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Minbar of Saladin

I recently saw a really interesting documentary called Stairway to Heaven about a fascinating subject I knew nothing about - The Minbar of Saladin. It's a story of strange coincidences, sacred objects, almost extinct crafts, a quest for rediscovery and quite bizarrely, Prince Charles. I found it really worth watching and so I'm sharing it here with you! It's not very long but I guarantee you'll be thinking about it for a while after it finishes.

A minbar is a the name in Islam for what can be compared with a Christian pulpit in a church. However unlike a pulpit, a minbar is often shaped like a small tower with stairs leading up to it and is elaborately decorated. The Iman stands at the top and delivers sermons to the worshippers below.

The most important minbar in the world, dating from 1187, was the Minbar of Saladin. This incredibly beautiful and elaborate wooden construction was installed in the great al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem by Saladin, the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria who led the 12th Century Muslim opposition against European crusaders in the Eastern Mediterranean.

For 800 years the minbar ranked among the world’s most precious masterpieces of Islamic art, being built entirely with the principles of sacred Islamic geometry and using no nails, screw or glue, only many thousands of separate pieces of precisely carved, interlocking, patterned woodwork blocks.

The original Saladin Minbar, photographed in 1900
In 1969, the minbar of Saladin was burned to ashes when the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem was attacked by a fanatical Australian Christian.  This was a incomprehensible loss to the Islamic world so very quickly, consideration of its reconstruction began. While researching the design, it was realised that the Islamic craftsmanship necessary to build the minbar was all but extinct.  And so the search began to find someone able to recreate the minbar, the final result of which would take over 30 years to realise...

The story behind this project prompted a resurgence of traditional Islamic artisanship and artistry in Jordan, with the help and support of HRH The Prince of Wales and HRH Prince Ghazi of Jordan.


If that video is awkward here's a link to a YouTube playlist with all 5 parts. The final part gets cut off but by that time the story has been told.

1 comment:

  1. I am bookmarking this as my documentary for this weekend. It sounds fascinating. Thank you for sharing!

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