Beni Hammad fortress

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Kala'a Beni Hammad
UNESCO world heritage UNESCO World Heritage Emblem

Citadel of Beni Hammad قلعة بني حماد 12.jpg
Mosque ruins and minaret
National territory: AlgeriaAlgeria Algeria
Type: Culture
Criteria : (iii)
Surface: 150 ha
Reference No .: 102
UNESCO region : Arabic states
History of enrollment
Enrollment: 1980  ( session 4 )

The fortress of Beni Hammad ( Arabic قلعة بني حماد, DMG Qalʿat Banī Ḥammād ) are the ruins of a Muslim mountain fortress from the 11th century in the province of M'Sila in northern Algeria .


The ruins are located almost 300 km southeast of Algiers near the provincial capital M'Sila on a mountain slope at an altitude of about 1000 to 1050  m .


The site was already inhabited in Roman times: at the end of the 19th century a mosaic depicting the “Triumph of Amphitrion” was found, which is now in the Archaeological Museum of Algiers.

The formerly important Islamic fortress city with a wall circumference of seven kilometers was founded in 1007 by Hammad , son of the founder of the Hammadid dynasty (Arabic Banu Hammad) in Algeria, as a capital and residence. In the following period it was richly equipped with a mosque as well as palace and residential buildings. During its existence it was the capital of the Hammadid emirs. The geographer El Bekri describes the city in the 11th century - without ever having been there - as a "center of trade that all caravans from Iraq, Egypt and Syria and from all parts of the Maghreb visit". In 1090, however, the settlement was abandoned under pressure from the Banu Hilal Bedouin tribes and largely destroyed by the Almohads in 1152 (or 1163) . For those interested in archeology, there is the picture of a fortified Muslim city of that time, of which only the foundation walls have been preserved.


The foundation walls of the approximately 63 × 53 meter main mosque with its 13 lengthways and 8 transepts and the inner courtyard ( sahn ) located directly in front of the minaret can still be seen. Accordingly, it was a pillar mosque as it was in the al-Aksa Mosque ( Jerusalem ), the Umayyad Mosque ( Damascus ), the Sidi-Oqba Mosque ( Kairouan ) and the Mezquita de Córdoba - with a slightly widened central nave and Transept directly in front of the qibla wall, which is why one can speak of a T-shaped floor plan. In front of the mihrab niche was a demarcated area ( maqsura ) reserved for members of the ruling family ; to the left of the mihrab niche was the separate entrance for the imam , to the right was the compartment for the minbar . The time of construction of the mosque has not been recorded - it is probably the 2nd half of the 11th century, since after the (temporary) abandonment of the city in 1090, major construction work is hardly to be expected.


Minaret up close

Of the many buildings in the once important city, only the stone minaret of the main mosque with its current height of around 25 m has been largely preserved; One can only speculate about a lantern attachment that used to exist . As in Kairouan and originally also in Cordoba, the minaret stood exactly opposite the mihrab .

While three outer walls of the tower remained undivided and undecorated, the facade facing the mosque is decorated with arched niches and opened in the middle field, which is set back and covered by a high arch. The upper middle niche - closed by masonry - shows to this day a filling made of ogival blinding ' tracery ', which (on a reconstruction drawing) recurs in the arched area of ​​the window below. At the sides, two high and slender niches with arched ends are embedded in the masonry - above each there are two only slightly recessed fields, in which (according to the reconstruction drawing) a diamond or lattice decoration may originally have been incorporated, but nothing has survived.

What is striking is the fact that the arched fields of the window openings or the side niches are not (yet) - as was generally the case in later art of the Maghreb and Andalusia - rectangular encased ( alfiz ).


Only the foundations of the two most important palaces in the city have survived.

Manar palace

The Manar Palace is located in a slightly elevated area of ​​the city separated by a wall: it was a two-story building, unusual for the Maghreb - probably with a domed hall on the upper floor. Its outer walls were divided by high niches. The entire architecture is more reminiscent of oriental buildings. Inside, some fragments of tiles were found - the earliest in the Maghreb and thus a further indication of oriental influences.

Dar-al-Bahr Palace

The building - which has been expanded several times - with a total area of ​​around 250 × 160 m is reminiscent of a Roman villa in its overall layout with spacious inner courtyards and water basins. Tile remnants were also found here.


Even if the Almohad armies destroyed the city - which was perhaps re-populated in parts - on their conquest and raids, they largely adopted the three-lane facade design of the Qal'a minaret for the new construction of the minaret of the Great Mosque in Seville (" Giralda ") . The Norman summer palaces La Zisa and La Cuba near Palermo (Sicily) may have been inspired by the Manar Palace in the Qal'a of Beni Hammad.

The archaeological site of Beni Hammad has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1980 .


  • Hans Strelocke: Algeria. Art, culture and landscape . DuMont, Cologne 1974, ISBN 3-7701-0721-7 , pp. 87f.
  • Alfred Renz: History and Sites of Islam from Spain to India. Prestel-Verlag, Munich 2001, p. 183 ISBN 3-7913-0360-0 .
  • Markus Hattstein, Peter Delius (Ed.): Islam - Art and Architecture. Könemann, Cologne 2000, ISBN 3-89508-846-3 , p. 146f.

Web links

Commons : Beni Hammad Fortress  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Kala'a Beni Hammad - Map with altitude information
  2. UNESCO World Heritage Center: Al Qal'a of Beni Hammad. Retrieved August 20, 2017 .

Coordinates: 35 ° 49 ′ 21 ″  N , 4 ° 47 ′ 24 ″  E