As places of worship go, mosques tend to be among the most fascinating architectural wonders out there. From simple structures to magnificent monuments, mosques have often wowed visitors with their aesthetic and their architecture.
Besides functioning as sacred sites, many mosques around the world have a rich history as well. Here are some with fascinating stories to tell.
1. Hagia Sophia (Turkey)
Built by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I in 537 AD, Hagia Sophia functioned as a Christian cathedral for over 900 years.
It is a gorgeous stone and marble building, topped by a golden dome measuring over 30 metres in diameter, an engineering feat during its construction.
During the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the building impressed the victorious Mehmed II enough that he ordered its conversion into a mosque.
While it was turned into a museum by Turkish president Kemal Ataturk in 1934, the Hagia Sophia reverted to functioning as a mosque in 2018.
So superior is its architecture and design that the Hagia Sophia continues to be listed among the most beautiful buildings in the world.
2. Great Mosque of Djenne (Mali)
During the Middle Ages, this part of Africa enjoyed a great boom in trade, leading to prosperous and powerful empires emerging in the region.
After having converted to Islam, Sultan Koi Konburo erected the Great Mosque of Djenne in the 13th century, intending it to be a centre of learning and worship.
Over the centuries, the mosque has been demolished and rebuilt numerous times, with the latest incarnation built in 1906.
Today, the mosque remains the pride of the local population, who hold an annual festival where they repair the building to ensure its longevity.
3. Great Mosque of Xi’an (China)
Many would come to reside in the ancient capital of Chang’an (Xi’an today), where a large expatriate community resided.
In 742 AD, Tang emperor Xuanzong ordered the construction of a place of worship for the Muslim community, hence the birth of the Great Mosque.
However, the fall of the Tang dynasty also saw the destruction of the mosque, which was only reconstructed in 1378 under the Ming dynasty.
While the mosque was turned into a steel factory during the Cultural Revolution, it has since resumed its original function and is an active place of worship today.
4. Ummayad Mosque (Syria)
Some Christians and Muslims believe John the Baptist’s head is buried here, and Muslims also believe Jesus will appear here before the End Times.
The mosque stands on the remains of an ancient Greco-Roman temple, of which some parts can still be seen today.
During the conquest of Damascus by Timur the Lame, the Umayyad Mosque was razed to the ground and had to be painstakingly rebuilt in the years that followed.
Sadly, the civil war in Syria also left the ancient mosque in ruins, with much work needed to restore the historical site to its former glory.
5. Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba (Spain)
Hence, he constructed a beautiful mosque in 783 AD, which became the world’s third largest.
To remind him of his former home, Abdul Rahman imported fruit trees from the Middle East. Orange trees still grow in the mosque’s courtyard.
The mosque was the epitome of Islamic architecture, with its beautiful arches and mosaics still aweing visitors today.
Following the Christian conquest of Cordoba in 1236, the mosque was converted into a church, though the new rulers decided to preserve its exquisite architecture.
6. Imam Mosque (Iran)
Previously known as the Shah Mosque, it was renamed to Imam Mosque after the Islamic Revolution which saw Iran becoming a republic.
The mosque was built during the Safavid era, with the building being a good example of Persian architecture.
The building apparently has impressive acoustic properties; with anyone speaking, even softly, beneath its massive dome, hearing their voice echo loudly and clearly.
Tourists and shutterbugs often stop by to capture photos of the mosque’s beautiful mosaic tiles and calligraphic inscriptions.