The Medieval World, C. 400–1300

Art of Medieval Africa

What is the Great Mosque at Djenné?

Also referred to as the Great Friday Mosque at Djenne, the Great Mosque is the largest mud-brick structure in the world. At least three main incarnations of the mosque have existed, including an original mosque from the thirteenth century, and two major reconstructions in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The city of Djenne, located in Mali, was a sophisticated urban and religious center by the thirteenth century due to its location along Saharan trade routes, and the expansion of Islam.

The Great Mosque at Djenne is characterized by its smooth, beige walls constructed of sun-baked mud bricks (the bricks themselves were composed of clay and straw), as well as the many wooden poles that stick out from the walls. Due to the fragile nature of the mud bricks, the walls of the mosque are frequently rebuilt, and the wood supports allow workers to re-plaster the exterior during a special annual festival in which the entire community participates. The grand design of the Great Mosque at Djenne influenced Islamic architecture in other parts of Africa, including the Sudan.


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