Friday’s Tall Tales #10

Whenever I photograph a door or gate I wonder about its provenance, who and what has happened across said door or gate. I thought I might pick one from #Thursdaydoors and tell you a bit more about it or……maybe even weave a story about it.

Today’s doors are both from the Grand Mosque of Paris, located in the 5th arrondissement, which is the oldest and largest mosque in France. There are prayer rooms, an outdoor garden, a small library, a gift shop, along with a cafe and restaurant. The mosque plays an important role in promoting the visibility of Islam and Muslims in France. 

How it all began

The history of the Paris mosque is inextricably linked to France’s colonisation of large parts of the Muslim world over the course of 19th and 20th centuries. An early, if not the first, project for a mosque in Paris is recorded as desired to be in the Baujon district in 1842, followed by a revival of similar intentions at the Moroccan embassy in 1878 and 1885.

In 1846, the Société orientale proposed the construction in Paris, then in Marseilles, of a cemetery, mosque and a Muslim school.  The negative reaction of the Ministry of Justice and Religions, which debated the matter with the National Assembly, shelved the project for ten years.

A French Prefectorial decree of 29 November 1856 permitted the Ottoman Embassy in Paris to construct a special enclosure that was reserved for the burial of Muslims in Père-Lachaise.  It was thus the first mosque constructed on Parisian territory.  Little used, in 1883 it was cut down in size, but soon the building fell into disrepair, so the Ottoman government decided to finance its reconstruction and extension.

In 1914, an architectural design was put forward for a more prominent building with a dome and clear “Islamic” characteristics evident, but the First World War blocked the implementation of the project.

The Great Mosque of Paris was funded by the French state as per the law of 19 August 1920, which accorded a subvention of 500,000 francs for the construction of a Muslim Institute composed of a mosque, a library, and a meeting and study room.  It was built on the site of the former Charity Hospital (Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital) and adjacent to the Jardin des plantes. The first stone was laid in 1922. The work was completed by Robert Fournez, Maurice Mantout and Charles Heubès based on plans by Maurice Tranchant de Lunel. The mosque was built following the Moorish style, and its minaret is 33 metres high.

It was inaugurated on 16 July 1926, in the presence of French President Gaston Doumergue and Sultan Yusef of Morocco. Doumergue celebrated the Franco-Muslim friendship sealed by the bloodshed on the Western Front in World War I and affirmed that the Republic protected all beliefs. The Sufi Sheikh Ahmad al-Alawi led the first communal prayer to inaugurate the newly built mosque.

Inspired by the el-Qaraouyyîn Mosque in Fez, Morocco, one of the most important mosques in Morocco and one of the oldest in the world, all of the decorative programme of the Paris Mosque, including the courtyards, horseshoe arches, and in particular the zelliges, was entrusted to specialist craftsmen from North Africa using traditional materials. 

The great entrance door to the Paris Mosque is ornamented with stylized floral motifs in the most pure Islamic style.

The Mosque, along with the Islamic Center, are listed in the supplementary inventory of Historic Monuments by the decree of 9 December 1983. The edifice is filed under the label of “Twentieth Century Patrimony” (Patrimoine du XXe siècle).

13 Comments on “Friday’s Tall Tales #10

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