2010 World Monuments Watch
Known by locals as al-Hadba’, or the hunchback, because of its precarious slant, the minaret of the Great Nur al-Din Mosque is one of the primary landmarks of the old city of Mosul. Built by the Seljuk ruler Nur al-Din al-Zangi Atabeg, it was part of a religious complex including a mosque and a madrassa named for its patron. At the time of its completion in 1172, the minaret was 150 feet (45 meters) high, with with seven ornamental bands of brickwork at different levels around its cylindrical shaft. Five times a day, a muezzin would ascend the spiral stairway and sing the call to prayer from the balcony. By the time the famous traveler Ibn Battutah visited the city in the 14th century, the minaret was already listing significantly and had been given its nickname, which has remained ever since. In 1942, as part of a renovation campaign by the Iraqi Department of Antiquities, the mosque and madrassa were dismantled and reassembled according to a new plan, but the minaret remains as one of the few original elements of the medieval Nur al-Din complex. The minaret’s tilt has long been a source of concern. Despite efforts in the 1970s to stabilize the structures, cracks have proliferated along the minaret’s base. Meanwhile, some have built houses immediately adjacent to the minaret, and stand to lose their homes—if not their lives—were it ever to topple. The entire country of Iraq has appeared on the past two Watch lists, emphasizing the ongoing threat to Iraqi cultural heritage sites in the aftermath of the war. It is hoped that listing this specific site, deemed a priority for conservation work by the Iraqi authorities, will draw focused technical assistance to this project and reiterate WMF support for the conservation of Iraq’s heritage.
Since the Watch
On June 21, 2017 the minaret was destroyed during fighting between Iraqi government forces and the Islamic State. Explosives set by Islamic State militants destroyed the minaret and the Great Mosque of al-Nuri as Iraqi forces approached. In July 2014 the group proclaimed the establishment of a caliphate from this site, after seizing Mosul by force. Mosul was captured by the Islamic State only days after UNESCO and the Governorate of Nineveh announced the launch of a project that would have resulted in the stabilization of the minaret. UNESCO and the Governorate of Nineveh first agreed to collaborate on a project to study and conserve the Al-Hadba’ Minaret in September 2012.