The New International Encyclopædia/Minaret
MIN'ARET. The tower of a mosque (q.v.), corresponding to the bell-tower or campanile of Christian churches, and so called (‘light-tower’) because on feast days it was illuminated at night. The Mohammedan call to prayer is not by bell, but by the voice of the official termed muezzin who at stated times (five times daily) mounts to the summit of the minaret and summons the people from its upper balcony with the prescribed formula. Each mosque has one or more minarets. The normal number for the largest Djami mosques is four, one at each angle of the inclosure. Some have as many as six, e.g. the Ahmed mosque at Constantinople. The mosque at Mecca has the exceptional number of seven.
The usual type is a slender polygonal and cylindrical structure of stone or brick, often rising from a square base and consisting of several stories marked by balconies, either projecting on stalactite supports, or with a receding story above; it is crowned by a pinnacle or small dome. The summit is reached by a winding inner stairway; only the old stone minaret of Tulun at Cairo has an external winding staircase.
The earliest mosques had no minarets. They were first built during the seventh century, the Khalif Omar being said to have erected two at Kufa and Mudina. Those earlier than the twelfth century were usually heavy square structures of stuccoed brick or stone without much ornament. This type is preserved at the mosque of Sidi Okba at Kairwan in Tunis. Amonj; the finest groups of the middle period is that of Cairo— the mosques of Ihn Tulun, Hassan, Barkuk, Kalaun, Bordeï, and Kait Bey. The Tulun mosque had a stone minaret in the centre of one of the sides on a square plan passing first to a cylindrical and then to an octagonal shape. The Hassan mosque has two minarets; that of Kait Bey only one.
The minarets of Egypt, Spain, Syria, India, Persia, and Turkey built between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries are among the most original and graceful works of Eastern architecture. The Giralda at Seville shows that the Spanish moors maintained the early square type with added delicacy and richness; generally the circular and octagonal types prevail. The old heavy simplicity has been replaced by a wealth of surface decoration in relief and color and by great slenderness. Stalactite corbels support the balconies, arabesques and colonnettes break up the surfaces, and glazed tiles, especially in Persia, add a brilliant coloring. Damascus and Bagdad preserve some of their mediæval examples. The minarets of Ahmedabad rival those of Cairo; those of Delhi and Agra are hardly less interesting. Those of the Constantinople mosques, such as Saint Sophia, Ahmed, etc., are exceedingly graceful. Sometimes the colleges or madrasah had minarets of similar style to those of the mosques, as in that of Sultan Husein at Ispahan, where the towers are similar to those of the great mosque of Ispahan, The height varies exceedingly; among the highest are Giralda (formerly 230 feet, now 308 feet), Kalaun (193 feet), and Hassan (280 feet) at Cairo, and the Kutub Minar near Delhi (242 feet). Consult the bibliography of Mohammedan Art.