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  • Richard Piran McClary

This article consists of a detailed account of the mashhad of Imām Yaḥyā ibn al-Qāsim. The square-plan building, constructed on the cliff edge above the southern bank of the Tigris in the citadel of Mosul in c. 637/1239, was destroyed in an act of cultural terrorism by ISIS on 23 July 2014. This is a study of the work of earlier scholars on the building, a reassessment of the structure and its regional context, and a number of hypotheses regarding the original appearance of the tomb. In addition, the wide-ranging sources of the formal and decorative elements of the building are examined. The mashhad was the most richly ornamented of the medieval tombs in Iraq which had survived into the modern era, yet it had not been comprehensively studied in over a century. The remaining untranslated inscriptions are given in full, adding useful new information to the discussion regarding the important distinction between the ʿAlids versus Shīʿī associations of the building and its patron. Drawing on the limited published and archival images of the building, the internal appearance is reconstructed, and a series of new architectural plans and elevations are provided in order to preserve the memory of this important structure.

Corresponding author
Richard McClary, Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh, 74 Lauriston Place, Edinburgh, EH3 9DF
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Having never had the chance to visit the building prior to its destruction, I am indebted to all the scholars who have gone before. The work of Sarre and Herzfeld is critical, and the studies by Pagliero and al-Janabi have added further to the understanding of the building. My thanks go to Katie Marsh, Karel Nováček and Yasser Tabbaa for their generosity in allowing me to use their slides, and to Antoinette Harri at the Max van Berchem Foundation in Geneva for all her help. My heartfelt thanks go to Professor Robert Hillenbrand for his many insightful comments and suggestions on an earlier draft of this article. Although the loss of the Mosul mashhad, and so many other structures, is a tragedy, the scale of human suffering is incomprehensible. This article is dedicated to the countless thousands who have died in the current conflict in Syria and Iraq.

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