Tinmal Mosque

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The Tinmal Mosque (مسجد تينمل), also spelled as the Tinmel Mosque, or the Great Mosque of Tinmal (المسجد الاعظم بتينمل) is a 12th-century CE mosque located in the village of Tinmel in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco. It was built at the site where Ibn Tumart, the founder of the Almohad movement, was buried and it is considered an important example of Almohad architecture. Although no longer operating as a mosque today, its remains are preserved as a historic site.


The first mosque was built at the site around 1124 or 1125 CE or shortly after. When Ibn Tumart died in 1130 CE he was buried here and a religious sanctuary and pilgrimage site subsequently developed at the site of his tomb.

Abd al-Mu'min, who took over leadership of the Almohads after him, decided to build a new mosque nearby or on the same site in 1148 CE, as confirmed by historical documents of the time – although the foundation date of 1153-1154 CE (548 Hj.) given by the Rawd al-Qirtas is still cited by many. The new mosque most likely replaced the existing mosque of Tinmel that was present here. Construction of the mosque thus began very soon after the conquest of Marrakesh (1147 CE) and the beginning of construction on the Kutubiyya Mosque there.

Later, as the Marinids wrested control of Morocco from them, the Almohads of Marrakesh made a final stand in Tinmel until their last leaders were defeated and captured here in 1275 CE.

The mosque eventually fell into ruin and was partly restored in the mid-20th century CE. Today the mosque is no longer operating but is open to visitors as a historic/archaeological site, also making it one of the few mosque buildings in Morocco that is open to non-Muslims.

circa 1145 CE

The architecture of the Tinmal Mosque demonstrates many similarities with the Kutubiyya and was likely designed and built by craftsmen from Marrakesh. The mosque was smaller in scale than other major Almohad mosques as it was designed for a small town. The building has a fortress-like exterior appearance with thick plain walls, which was characteristic of other Almohad mosques and buildings as well. It has a roughly quadrangular floor plan measuring 43 by 40 metres. The mosque has seven entrances: three on both its east and west sides and one central entrance to the north.

The mosque is a notable example of the "T-plan" or "T-type" mosque which is found in earlier Almoravid architecture and was standard for later medieval Moroccan mosques.


circa 1145 CE

The minaret of the Tinmel mosque and its position is an unusual feature along with it's form, located at the middle of its southern wall on top of the mihrab; a design feature which is not found in other historic mosques. The minaret has a rectangular base and projects outwards from the surrounding outer wall, but has a truncated or unfinished appearance, contrasting with the bold and monumental minarets of other Almohad mosques that came after (such the minaret of the Kutubiyya or the Giralda in Seville).

circa 1145 CE

The mihrab (niche symbolizing the qibla), situated in the middle of the southern wall, is very similar in form and decoration to that of the Kutubiyya Mosque and other Almohad mosques, consisting of an octagonal alcove covered by a small muqarnas cupola. The wall surrounding the mihrab's opening is decorated with carved geometric and interlacing motifs. Unlike the Kutubiyya Mosque, the decorative capitals (inspect) of the engaged columns around the mihrab are carved from stucco rather than marble. On either side of the mihrab are two tall arched openings: one led to a small chamber where the minbar (pulpit) was stored, while the other led to the imam's entrance at the eastern base of the minaret.

circa 1145 CE

Qibla Transept
In the Great Mosque of Tinmal's plan, the qibla transept is extended to become a three-armed walk-way down the entire depth of the mosque on either side. It surrounds the prayer hall, and the outer isles repeatexactly the same width of the qibla transept. In the elevation, lambriquin arches stress the unity of this ambulatory. They are resrved solely for it, apart from a blind projection at the start of the central nave.

The aisle running parallel to the qibla wall and the middle nave leading to the mihrab, running perpendicular to that wall, are wider and more prominent than the other aisles of the mosque and thus draw a "T" shape in the floor plan of the building. The southern aisle of the qibla wall also features three muqarnas ("honeycomb" or "stalactite") cupolas: one at the middle (inspect), in front of the mihrab, and one at either end, at the southern corners of the mosque. Each cupola is also flanked by "lambrequin" or "muqarnas" arches below, whose intrados are enhanced with carved sebka, muqarnas, and palmette/seashell motifs. Multifoil arches also run along the northern edge of this aisle, further setting it apart from the rest of the mosque. All these decorative flourishes also served to emphasize the southern aisle and middle nave in the T-plan of the mosque.

circa 1145 CE

Hypostyle Prayer Hall
Inside, the mosque has a typical hypostyle layout with an interior courtyard. The main prayer hall is divided into nine "naves" (running roughly north to south) by rows of pointed horseshoe arches.

circa 1145 CE

The rectangular courtyard (sahn) of the mosque occupies a large part of its northern section, corresponding to the width of the mosque's five middle naves and the length of three aisles of arches. It is surrounded on all sides by the arches of the prayer hall and its extensions, of which some bases of pillars remain. A small fountain (inspect) lies directly in front of the central nave.

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