The Khusrawiyya complex was built as a Friday mosque (jamiʿ), an Islamic college (madrasa) and a lodge for travellers (here: takiyya). For nearly 500 years it had been dominating the open space facing the citadel’s gateway, until it was destroyed in 2014.
The completion date of the mosque (953 AH / 1546–47 AD) and the names of the Ottoman sultan Suleiman I (r. 1520–1566) and of the patron Khusraw Pasha, fourth vizier and previous governor of Aleppo (ca. 1532–1534) were given in the foundation inscriptions above the mosque’s entrance.
The Khusrawiyya complex is widely regarded as one of the first major ‘public’ projects of Sinan, chief architect of the imperial atelier in Istanbul at the time. Apparently, the design was executed on-site through an unknown architect, possibly by local craftsmen.
The Khusrawiyya was the first Ottoman building in Aleppo: It signifies a transformation from Mamluk to Ottoman style based on the construction of a freestanding mosque with an enormous hemispherical central dome and a polygonal, pencil-shaped minaret. On either side of the cubical structure, there was a small domed room (recalling the tabhane – a special “guest room” of early Ottoman mosques) and an arcaded five-domed entrance gallery (portico) on a podium in front of the main facade.
Originally, the madrasa occupied just the southwestern, the takiyya with adjacent public kitchen the southeastern part of the complex. For the first time in Aleppo, there was a complex comprising several buildings with different socio-religious functions: in the history of Ottoman architecture this is referred to as “külliye”. Newly introduced Ottoman elements were, for example, the lead covered dome with its buttresses and the polychrome painted underglaze tiles for window lunettes and a frieze of the minaret. However, some design elements remained rooted in the local building tradition.
The complex had been restored and modified since the massive earthquake of 1237 AH / 1822 AD; around 1302 AH / 1885 AD it was reopened as a madrasa. Yet, the structure of the mosque had preserved its original layout.
The Khusrawiyya marked the beginning of the ‘Ottomanization’ of both the mosque architecture and the skyline of Aleppo. This was continued with the ʿAdiliyya and Bahramiyya complexes during the following decades of the 10th century AH / 16th century AD.