Contested Memories in Colonial Morocco: The Construction of Hubert Lyautey’s Mausoleum in Rabat, 1935

By Stacy E. Holden
Submitted to Session P2992 (The Long Shadow of Lyautey: Long-term Effects of French Colonialism on Contemporary Morocco, 2012 Annual Meeting
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
Maréchal Hubert Lyautey died in July 1934, and the French government immediately commissioned a mausoleum for him in Rabat, Morocco. As a French officer, Lyautey had been the first Resident General of this North African Protectorate. And yet, the mausoleum eschewed architectural mention of his national heritage. Instead, the mausoleum paid visual homage to Morocco’s Islamic past, for it was designed in the style of a Muslim saint, or marabout. Thus, the fifteen by fifteen structure was enclosed by modest white walls and capped with a sloping roof of green tiles. The mausoleum represented an effort by the French to construct a “new” historic monument, thereby connecting the colonial venture to Morocco’s medieval grandeur.

The placement and design of the mausoleum was controversial. For France’s public officials and private citizens, the construction of this mausoleum and its placement in the Moroccan capital seemed logical, for, as first Resident General, where he ruled between 1912 and 1925, Lyautey had, in their view, founded modern Morocco. For some Moroccans, however, particularly those sons of the mercantile elite who were beginning to forge a nationalist movement, the architectural perpetuation of this Frenchman’s memory was much more problematic. Thus, French archives and Moroccan memoirs are rife with incidents of nationalist protests as the monument came to be built in Rabat.

My architectural analysis of the mausoleum of Lyautey will provide insights into colonial tensions in the 1930s. My paper will respond to the following questions: How and why did French officials decide to build this mausoleum? How and why did they invest the mausoleum with symbolic meaning? Who was the intended audience for the architectural meanings of the mausoleum? How and why did Moroccans from different socio-economic strata respond to the medievalizing vision of French colonial officers? This paper demonstrates the fragility of Franco-Moroccan colonial relationships as this North African kingdom moves toward contemporary period that is the focus of this panel.