The Zitouna Mosque

The mosque is at the heart of the city of Tunis, the core around which the city such as we know it today has developed.

It is said that originally the site was occupied by the retreat of a Christian monk and that nearby there was an olive tree, hence the name of the sanctuary: jemaa ez Zitouna or the mosque of the olive tree. Its foundation is dated precisely to the year 732 AD, but the mosque was rebuilt in the mid IXth century. Since, it underwent several modifications, each dynasty seeking to improve the appearance or the functionality of what some consider to be the first Islamic university. The last work dates to the XIXth century with the remodelling of the minaret, which stands 44 meters high.

Consequently, the monument reflects the evolution of the art of building in the country since the early middle ages and even further back, if one takes account of the reclaimed materials from antiquity that are part of the building, such as the sculpted marble lintels or the forest of columns and capitals supporting the prayer room ceiling or the external galleries mostly dating to the Roman and Byzantine periods.

Besides the prayer room, the courtyard and its surrounding galleries giving access to the monument constituting the main body of the building – the Zitouna mosque has ancillary rooms and outbuildings, such as the midha, for ablutions or the library, founded in 1450.


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