Laribanga Mosque

The Ancient Mosque

Laribanga Mosque Interior

The Ancient Mosque

Only 3Km southeast of the entrance gate to Mole National Park, at the T-junction with the main road between Damongo and Sawla, stands the best known and possibly the oldest of the few Sudanese structures that survive in northern Ghana. Few visitors to Mole would want to miss out on seeing Laribanga Mosque, which is not only a masterpiece of west Sudanese architecture, but also an important pilgrimage site for local followers of Islam.

History and background

According to a legend, in 1421 an Islamic trader named Ayuba had a dream while staying here, near a "Mystic Stone", instructing him to build a mosque. Strangely, when he awoke, he found that the foundations were already in place and he proceeded to construct the mosque until it was completed. It is believed that Ayuba's remains are buried under a baobab tree, next to the mosque.

Unlike mosques situated in urban settings in West Africa, the Laribanga Mosque is comparatively small. Rural mosques, like Laribanga's, were usually conceived by a single marabout and loosely based on styles seen elsewhere such as in the Great Mosque of Djenne. In order to achieve a physical resemblance to the architecture used elsewhere, the Laribanga Mosque had to incorporate large buttresses in order to compensate for the poorer quality of building materials.

Laribanga is one of the eight ancient and highly revered mosques in Ghana and is also it’s oldest. It is a place of pilgrimage and is considered the Mecca of West Africa.

In the 1970s, a mixture of sand and cement was applied to the external faces of the mosque hoping that it would protect the mosque from getting damaged in the wind and rain. However, this treatment resulted in substantial damage to the building as moisture became trapped in the walls built of mud and started a deterioration process of the structure, with termites infesting the wooden supports under humid conditions.[ This resulted in part of the mosque collapsing and during the repair work it caused some distortions of the structural elements and the exterior of the mosque.

Owing to the effect of prevailing winds and rains on the walls, the mosque has needed several renovations and restoration work which over the years have altered some of its exterior designs. In September 2002, a severe storm destroyed the mihrab and the minaret. As a result, the World Monuments Fund (WMF) placed the mosque on the 2002 World Monuments Watch, also considering the damage sustained after an inappropriate restoration from the 1970s. The Ghana Museums and Monuments Board decided to fully restore the mosque and sought advice from CRAterre, an architectural firm based in Grenoble, France which has expertise in building earthen structures. The renovation work was supported by a WMF, with a grant fund of US$50,000 from American Express. The local community also provided support. The conservation process involved removal of the earlier cement plaster from the surfaces of the mosque, the wooden structural components were replaced, the minaret and the mihrab were reconstructed, the portal was redone, and the interior and exterior surfaces were plastered in the traditional way. The renovation resulted in reassessing the state of conservation of the site, involving a team of local artisans and laborers. It helped to restore the monument with special emphasis on reviving the knowledge of mud-plaster maintenance.

Laribanga Mosque

Only 3Km southeast of the entrance gate to Mole National Park, at the T-junction with the main road between Damongo and Sawla, stands the best known and possibly the oldest of the few Sudanese structures that survive in northern Ghana. Few visitors to Mole would want to miss out on seeing Laribanga Mosque, which is not only a masterpiece of west Sudanese architecture, but also an important pilgrimage site for local followers of Islam.

History and background

According to a legend, in 1421 an Islamic trader named Ayuba had a dream while staying here, near a "Mystic Stone", instructing him to build a mosque. Strangely, when he awoke, he found that the foundations were already in place and he proceeded to construct the mosque until it was completed. It is believed that Ayuba's remains are buried under a baobab tree, next to the mosque.

Unlike mosques situated in urban settings in West Africa, the Laribanga Mosque is comparatively small. Rural mosques, like Laribanga's, were usually conceived by a single marabout and loosely based on styles seen elsewhere such as in the Great Mosque of Djenne. In order to achieve a physical resemblance to the architecture used elsewhere, the Laribanga Mosque had to incorporate large buttresses in order to compensate for the poorer quality of building materials.

Laribanga is one of the eight ancient and highly revered mosques in Ghana and is also it’s oldest. It is a place of pilgrimage and is considered the Mecca of West Africa.

In the 1970s, a mixture of sand and cement was applied to the external faces of the mosque hoping that it would protect the mosque from getting damaged in the wind and rain. However, this treatment resulted in substantial damage to the building as moisture became trapped in the walls built of mud and started a deterioration process of the structure, with termites infesting the wooden supports under humid conditions.[ This resulted in part of the mosque collapsing and during the repair work it caused some distortions of the structural elements and the exterior of the mosque.

Owing to the effect of prevailing winds and rains on the walls, the mosque has needed several renovations and restoration work which over the years have altered some of its exterior designs. In September 2002, a severe storm destroyed the mihrab and the minaret. As a result, the World Monuments Fund (WMF) placed the mosque on the 2002 World Monuments Watch, also considering the damage sustained after an inappropriate restoration from the 1970s. The Ghana Museums and Monuments Board decided to fully restore the mosque and sought advice from CRAterre, an architectural firm based in Grenoble, France which has expertise in building earthen structures. The renovation work was supported by a WMF, with a grant fund of US$50,000 from American Express. The local community also provided support. The conservation process involved removal of the earlier cement plaster from the surfaces of the mosque, the wooden structural components were replaced, the minaret and the mihrab were reconstructed, the portal was redone, and the interior and exterior surfaces were plastered in the traditional way. The renovation resulted in reassessing the state of conservation of the site, involving a team of local artisans and laborers. It helped to restore the monument with special emphasis on reviving the knowledge of mud-plaster maintenance.

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Larabanga Mystery Stone

Legend has it that, during the British Rule in Ghana, a road was to be constructed through Larabanga (Northern Region) a stone was removed during the process to make way for the construction of the road. The next day, the stone was found again on the same spot it was displaced from. The stone was again removed from the way and the same thing happened the next day. They tried severally but they couldn't move the stone. Later the officials decided to build the road around the stone and it became the mystic stone.

Till date, the stone remains at the same spot and it’s believed to have some mystical powers. People visit the stone and ask for various blessings. E.g. Good Luck, Children, Healing etc.