Mosquée Missiri

( Missiri mosque )

The Missiri Mosque is a former French military community center inspired by sub-Saharan Islamic architecture. It was constructed in 1928–1930 for the Senegalese Tirailleurs based in military camps in Fréjus, southern France. Although its appearance evokes that of a mosque, its purpose and uses remained secular.

The building was included in the supplementary inventory of French historic monuments on 18 June 1987.

The Senegalese Tirailleurs (French: Tirailleurs Sénégalais) was a corps of colonial infantry in the French Army. They were initially recruited from Senegal and subsequently throughout the sub-Saharan regions of the French colonial empire.[1] These infantry units took on the adjective "sénégalese" since that was where the first African Tirailleur regiment had been formed in 1857 by Louis Faidherbe, governor-general of French West Africa.

At the outbreak of World War I, 37 battalions of French, North African and Senegalese infantry were transferred from Morocco to France. Five Senegalese battalions were soon serving on the Western Front, while others formed part of the reduced French garrison in Morocco. On the Western Front, the Senegalese Tirailleurs served with distinction at Ypres and Dixmude during the First Battle of Ypres in late 1914, at the capture of Fort Douaumont in October 1916, during the Battle of Chemin des Dames in April 1917 and at the Second Battle of the Marne in 1918. Losses were particularly heavy in Flanders (estimated from 3,200 to 4,800) and Chemin des Dames (7,000 out of 15,500 tirailleurs engaged).[2]

In 1915, the French high command realized that the war would last far longer than they had originally imagined. They authorized a major recruitment drive in West Africa and 93 Senegalese battalions were raised between 1915 and 1918.[3] The harsh conditions of trench warfare were a particular source of suffering to the un-acclimatized African soldiers and, after 1914/15, the practice was adopted of withdrawing them to the south of France for training and re-equipping each winter.

 The departure of Senegalese tirailleurs at Fréjus for the front in 1915.

Fréjus welcomed, on the initiative of General Joseph Gallieni, then military governor of Paris, the first overseas troops in 1915 and became a transition site for these soldiers, allowing them to acclimatize before their departure for the front. Military camps and hospitals were then built to accommodate troops coming from the then French colonies in Africa and French Indochina.

After the war, not everyone is repatriated. As early as 1925, the military imagined building a community center for the colonial troops so that the soldiers would not feel too isolated outside their home country and to combat homesickness and improve moral.[4] They decided to build the Missiri after tensions with their comrades-in-arms, the Tirailleurs indochinois who had built in Fréjus, as early as 1917,[5] the Hông Hiên Tu pagoda dedicated to Vietnamese Buddhism of the Mahayana tradition.[4]

During the interwar period and after the Second World War, the military camps around Fréjus developed their role as training centers, before departure for external operations for the French Far East Expeditionary Corps in Indochina, Madagascar and later North Africa. The last unit of Senegalese Tirailleurs was disbanded in 1962.[6]

The building was included in the supplementary inventory of French historic monuments on 18 June 1987.[7][8] The site is nowadays more a monument than a place of prayer and worship in this roofless building with its unfinished murals.[9] The mosque is the property of the French Ministry of Armed Forces. The museum of the Troupes de Marine in Fréjus is in charge of its preservation.[10]

^ Deroo, Eric (2006). La force noire : gloire et infortunes d'une légende coloniale. Champeaux, Antoine. Paris: Tallandier. p. 223. ISBN 978-2-84734-339-7. OCLC 300280743. ^ Le Naour, Jean-Yves (2014). Dictionnaire de la Grande guerre. Paris: Larousse. pp. 70, 170. ISBN 978-2-03-589746-6. OCLC 880348710. ^ Lunn, Joe (October 1999). "'Les Races Guerrieres': Racial Preconceptions in the French Military about West African Soldiers during the First World War". Journal of Contemporary History. 34 (4): 517–536. JSTOR 261249. ^ a b Cite error: The named reference :0 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ "Pagode Hông Hien Tû à Fréjus -". OT Frejus. Retrieved 2020-01-11. ^ "Historique des tirailleurs sénégalais". (in French). French Defense Ministry. Retrieved 2020-01-12. ^ Base Mérimée: Mosquée de Missiri, Ministère français de la Culture. (in French), au lieu-dit Caïs ^ Base Mérimée: mosquée de Missiri, Ministère français de la Culture. (in French) ^ Arkoun, Mohammed (2006). Histoire de l'Islam et des musulmans en France du Moyen Âge à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel. ISBN 978-2-226-17503-8. OCLC 300941483. ^ "Le musée des Troupes de Marine". Retrieved 2020-01-12.
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