The Citadel of Aleppo, one of the oldest continuously occupied settlements in the world, richly preserves layers of its occupation from the Hittite, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Zangid, Ayyubid, Mamluk, and Ottoman periods. The Mamluks, an Islamic dynasty of “slave soldiers,” occupied Aleppo starting in 1260 until the early sixteenth century, when the Ottomans conquered Syria. Following a sack of the citadel by the conqueror Timur, known to the West as Tamerlane, in 1400, the Mamluk governors of Aleppo embarked on a large-scale reconstruction program. During the restoration of the citadel a magnificent throne hall was added on top of the twelfth-century fortified entrance complex. The new throne hall was the grandest space in the citadel and it was used for official functions and for entertaining by the rulers of Aleppo and by Mamluk sultans visiting from Cairo. Damaged in a devastating earthquake that struck Aleppo in 1822, the throne hall was heavily restored in the second half of the twentieth century.
How We Helped
In 2007 WMF and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture restored the surviving Mamluk-era forecourt to the throne hall. This rectangular court, with portals on the long sides and windows onto the citadel, still provides access to the reconstructed throne hall. Openings in the limestone walls are surrounded with polychrome marble and basalt, and the portal leading into the throne hall contains exquisitely sculpted muqarnas decoration. Atmospheric pollution had caused a disfiguring crust to develop on the limestone walls, which could result in serious deterioration if left untreated. The stone walls were carefully cleaned, and cracked stone blocks were repaired. The interior walls and paving of the forecourt had been inappropriately repaired using cement-based mortar, which was replaced with a traditional, lime-based material. Lastly, the drainage of the court was improved to prevent damage from the presence of water in the long term.
Why It Matters
The throne hall was the most important Mamluk architectural contribution to the Citadel of Aleppo. Even though it has not survived in its authentic state, it remains one of the most visited spaces in the historic citadel. The forecourt preserves Mamluk-era historic fabric and plays an important role in the choreography of visiting this impressive audience chamber.