|Al-Firdaws Madrasa in the early 20th century|
|Bab al-Maqam district
Al-Firdaws Madrasa (Arabic: مدرسة الفردوس) is a madrasah complex located southwest of Bab al-Maqam in Aleppo, Syria. It is the largest and best known of the Ayyubid madrasas in Aleppo. Due to its location outside the city walls, the madrasa was developed as a freestanding structure.
Al-Firdaws was built in 1235-36, during the Ayyubid era of rule in Syria. Its patron was Dayfa Khatun, the wife of the Ayyubid governor of Aleppo, al-Zahir Ghazi. She was the queen of the region between 1236-1243 and one of the most prominent architectural patrons in Syrian history; she established large endowments for the maintenance and operation of her charitable foundations. Although built by the Ayyubids, Roman and Byzantine heritage of Aleppo is reflected in the madrasa as it is the only one with an arcaded courtyard.
Facade and courtyard
The Ayyubid building has a stark facade that appears as a solid mass of stone, with eleven domes. Although the madrasa has four entrances, three of the secondary ones are now blocked up, leaving the main eastern entrance as the only current entry point inside. The main entrance is typical of Ayyubid architecture, with its elongated and narrow proportions and three-tiered muqarnas vault.
Through a vaulted corridor, the portal leads to the rectangular courtyard of al-Firdaws. Three large chambers and residential cells are arranged around the rectangular courtyard, which is enveloped by an arcade (riwaq) on the eastern, western and southern sides, with a large iwan on the northern side. The columns have muqarnas capitals. The Roman and Byzantine heritage of Aleppo is reflected in this Ayyubid madrasa as it is the only one with an arcaded courtyard.
The madrasa has a large iwan, or classroom, is across the courtyard from the prayer hall. Its walls are carved with three niches used for book storage. This iwan is backed by a larger iwan that faces north. Though this iwan currently faces a wall due to the dense urban growth around al-Firdaws, it is believed to have been originally open to a walled garden and a large pool.
Firdaws's double-sided iwan is similar to those in madrasas in Baghdad, palatial structures in Mardin, and early Islamic palaces in Samarra, tracing its origins to the palatial typology. Residential cells are located in the northeastern and northwestern parts of the building.
The southern chamber of the madrasa is used as a mosque. The structure has two domes on the corner bays. All the domes were built alike, except for the mihrab dome, which has an elaborate muqarnas base and twelve small openings. The mihrab is made of veined white marble, red porphyry and green diorite. Its niche is composed of granite columns with muqarnas capitals.
- Al-Sultaniyah Madrasa
- Al-Uthmaniyah Madrasa
- Al-Zahiriyah Madrasa
- Ancient City of Aleppo
- Khusruwiyah Mosque