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History & Heritage


The Great Mosque of Testour: a landmark of Moorish architecture in Tunisia

Erected in the early 17th century, specifically before 1631, the Great Mosque of Testour was founded by Mohamed Tagharinou, an Andalusian settler who arrived in Testour in 1609. In the 18th century, the mosque was expanded to include a new courtyard and a room for ablutions in its northeast corner.

Dominating the northeast part of the courtyard, the minaret reaches a height of 22.5 meters, consisting of two distinct towers. The base tower is built in Toledan style, mixing materials like brick and rubble. Above this sits an octagonal tower, strikingly decorated with glazed ceramic tiles and featuring dual windows at the top. Its design mirrors that of bell towers in Aragon, and it includes pyramidal wooden lantern.

The mosque’s connection to the Andalusian migrations are visible in its design, particularly in the exterior, with tile roofs on attic trusses and various decorative elements in the domes, as well as the mihrab’s lower niche and stucco panels. The minaret also has decorations that include a staircase window, pinnacles, a double bay window cornice, panels of marble and faience, saw-toothed merlons, and a pyramidal top with spiked ornament showcasing three balls and a crescent. A distinctive feature on its south side is a backward-running clock.


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Testour’s medina itself is split into three neighborhoods: the Andalusian quarter, the Tagarins quarter, which was built by Morisco refugees from Valencia, Aragon and Catalonia. and the historical Jewish Hara. 

But who were the Moriscos?

The Moriscos, who were Muslims in Spain living in the Andalusian era, were forced by the Spanish Crown to either convert to Christianity in the early 16th century or leave the Iberian Peninsula following the conquest of Granada by Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand II But this group, even those who declared their conversion to Christianity, faced significant mistrust and fear from the Iberian monarchs, particularly due to concerns of potential invasions from the Ottoman Empire as the crown suspected they could become a fifth-column group within Iberia itself. Consequently, between 1609 and 1614, a systematic expulsion of Moriscos from the Iberian Peninsula began. A majority of those permanently expelled settled in the Ottoman Empire’s western fringe, as in Tunisia and Algeria, as well as Morocco. Moriscos brought with them a distinct cultural heritage, knowledge and skills, influencing the architectural and culinary landscape of the Maghreb region, and founding numerous towns in the countries they settled in, such as Testour.

See also

4 unusual mosques whose architecture will surprise you!

Published on 5 January 2024