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Hafsid

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The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture What is This? Provides in-depth historical and cultural information on over a thousand years of Islamic art and architecture

Hafsid

Dynasty that ruled in Tunisia and eastern Algeria from 1228 to 1574. Descended from Abu Hafs ῾Umar (d. 1176), a disciple of the founder of the Almohad movement, Abu Zakariya Yahya I (r. 1228–49) was governor of the region for the Almohads. He declared his independence in 1237 and expanded his territory as far as Constantine, Annaba, Algiers and Tlemcen, obliging the Marinid dynasty of Morocco to acknowledge his supremacy and engaging in trade and diplomatic relations with Christian governments. His son Abu ῾Abdallah (r. 1249–77) assumed caliphal titles, and his court was equally celebrated for its culture and international relations. Violent family rivalries, Christian intervention and independence movements, particularly in the cities of the interior, led to a period of decline at the end of the 13th century. Abu῾l-῾Abbas (r. 1370–94) reunified the country, and during the 15th century the Hafsid Empire enjoyed its last period of prosperity and expan sion. Spain and the Ottoman Empire threatened North Africa in the 16th century, and in 1574 Tunis fell to the Ottomans and the last Hafsid sovereign was taken captive to Istanbul.

The first responsibility of the Hafsids was to repair the damage and neglect to the land that had been devastated by the Hilali Bedouin in the 11th century, and such religious buildings as the Great Mosque in Kairouan were restored (see Architecture, §VI, D, 3). The city of Kairouan, the traditional capital, was supplanted by Tunis, and Hafsid buildings there show a change from Almohad models, as in the kasba of the 13th century, to Andalusian ones, as at the Bardo Palace of the 15th. Abu Zakariya and his widow, the princess ῾Atf, introduced the institution of the Madrasa (e.g. Tunis, Shamma῾iyya Madrasa, 1249), and similarly the use of dichromatic masonry in the 14th century seems to have been the result of contacts with Egypt. A distinctive feature of Hafsid architecture is a type of capital ultimately derived from Classical acanthus models and used long after the dynasty fell. The cosmopolitan nature of Hafsid society was enriched by Italian, Spanish and French merchants who founded trading establishments (Arab. funduq; see Caravanserai) and Muslim craftsmen and intellectuals fleeing the Christian reconquest of Spain. Hafsid decorative arts reflect this Hispano-Moresque heritage: ceramics, for example, continue Almohad techniques of molding and applied decoration, as well as Andalusian techniques of luster and cuerda seca, particularly after the fall of Granada in 1492. Other examples of this heritage can be seen in silks and coffered ceilings. In sum, Hafsid art synthesizes eastern traditions first introduced by the Aghlabid dynasty and western Spanish ones already used by the Almoravid and Almohad rulers.

Bibliography

  • Enc. Islam/2: “Ḥafṣids” R. Brunschvig: La Berbérie orientale sous les Hafsides: Des Origines à la fin du XVe siècle, 2 vols. (Paris, 1940–47)
  • G. Marçais: L’Architecture musulmane d’occident (Paris, 1954)
  • J. Revault: Palais et demeures de Tunis, I (XVIe et XVIIe siècles) (Paris, 1967)
  • J. Revault: “Une Résidence Hafside: L’῾Abdalliya à la Marsa,” Cah. Tunisie, xix (1971), pp. 53–65
  • A. Daoulatli: Tunis sous les Hafsides (Tunis, 1976)
  • J. Akkari-Weriemmi: “La mosquée Ḥarmal: Etude et travaux de restauration,” Africa [Tunis], x (1988), pp. 293–316
  • A. Daoulatli: La céramique de la période hafside (Paris, 1995)
  • N. Mahjoub: “Un monument funéraire hafside de la fin XIVe siècle à Tunis,” Africa [Tunis], xiv (1996), pp. 179–211
  • F. Arnoulet: “Les derniers princes hafsides à Tunis (1526–1574) à partir de documents espagnols et italiens des XVIe et XVIIe siècles,” Arab Hist. Rev. Ottoman Stud., xv–xvi (1997), pp. 41–51
  • A. Saadaoui: “The Inscription on the Foundation of the Hafside Mosque of Moknine [Tunisia],” Inst. B.-Lett. Arab., lxii/1 (1999), pp. 3–14
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