The Great Mosque of Samarra is a mosque from the 9th century CE, commissioned in 848 and completed in 851, located in Samarra, Iraq. At the time of construction, it was the world’s largest mosque. The mosque is known for its 52 meters (171 ft) high minaret encircled by a spiral ramp. It is located within the 15,058-hectare (37,210-acre) Samarra Archaeological City UNESCO World Heritage Site, listed in 2007.
Spiraling up from the ground, the remaining minaret of the Great Mosque of Samarra is the most prominent of the remaining structures of the mosque
Known as the malwiya or the snail shell minaret, this 180-foot tower was the main focal point of the mosque, which covered 42 acres at its peak. In the mid-9th century, the great work was commissioned by the Abbasid caliph Al-Mutawakkil who allegedly rode a white donkey up the spiraling paths to the top. Over time, the mosque was slowly destroyed and fell into disuse by the 11th century. However, its memory was always preserved in the malwiya minaret that towered over Samarra. The pillar was given something of a new life during the war in Iraq, as US troops used it for observation. Sadly, in 2005, the famous minaret was partially destroyed during a bombing raid by insurgents.
The mosque has a rectangular layout encompassed by an outer baked brick wall 10 m high and 2.65 m thick and supported by a total of 44 semicircular towers including four corner ones. One could enter the mosque through one of the 16 gates. It has been told that featured over each entrance were several small arched windows. Between each tower, a frieze of sunken square niches with bevelled frames runs the upper course of the entire structure. The mosque had 17 aisles, and its walls were panelled with mosaics of dark blue glass. The courtyard was surrounded on all sides by an arcade, the greatest part of which was the one facing the Holy Mecca.
Image Credit: HAUS of T