Bursa and Edirne

According to everything that I have read, after the battle of Kose Dag in 1243 (where they were defeated by the Mongols)  the Seljuk Sultans really were not in power anymore as a series of weak and ineffectual Sultans were dominated by powerful emirs who were the ones commissioning buildings. In any case, by 1308 the last Seljuk died and this is noted as the year that Anatolia came to be divided into a series of beyliks (principalities) thus the period from the fall of the Seljuks to the rise of the Ottomans is known as the Beylik period. During this period there does not appear to have been too much building going on. So the next phase of architectural development is the early Ottoman, from the mid fourteenth century until the mid fifteenth when they take Constantinople.

Having visited as many Seljuk sites as I could, the next stop was thus the Ottoman sites. The Ottomans emerged as the most powerful of the Beyliks and began to consolidate their power over the course of the fourteenth century. In 1326 they captured the Byzantine city of Bursa and made it their capital. There are a number of mosque, madrasa complexes in this city which is now the fourth largest in Turkey. One can get there from Istanbul by taking a speedy ferry from Yenikapi. It is quite pleasant.

Bursa is home to the Bursa-type mosque which is composed of a centralized plan that consists of a central square area with three iwans (raised spaces that are either domed or vaulted and walled on three sides) branching off the central space north, south and east. I have seen a number of iwan buildings in the Seljuk cities, but they were all in madrasas. It seems the Ottomans were the first (not sure of this) to use the iwan type for a mosque. Apparently the central area was used for other purposes than praying, which only took place in the central iwan, an example of which can been seen here, the Ohran Gazi Cami (in Bursa) from 1339 looking into prayer hallAs I think you can see, this type of building is really very different from the Seljuk ones, except for the varying systems used to support the domes. Here there is a wonderful system of Turkish triangles in the squinches.

The other kind of mosque found in Bursa does have some connections to the Seljuk types. This is the hypostyle building with multiple domes. The Ulu Cami (Great Mosque) is the most famous example of this type in Bursa. interior, view across the aisles, minbar just visible center leftThis one also has the added interesting feature of the fountain located within the building in the second by of the central aisle interior, fountain in second bay of center aislewhich, as one can see from this image, is really quite lovely. It put me in mind of the much earlier Esrefoglu Mosque in Beyshir. Where there is no fountain but a central area of the columned hall is open to the sky.

Another interesting thing in the Ulu Cami was that I saw a group of women praying outside the confines of the women’s space. That was quite nice. interior, looking across the aisles, qibla wall on rightYou can see them in this image on the left.

The other thing that each Ottoman sultan built within the city of Bursa were markets. And the city is still teeming with commerce. In fact its labyrinthine markets rivaled those I found in Aleppo for things to see and for the number of customers (although I must confess there were not so many things to tempt one as in the Syrian city). marketIn addition, on a sunny day (which have been unfortunately few and far between) the Koza Han courtyard provides a fabulous location for endless cups of tea and Turkish coffee! Koza Han interior courtyard

For more on the Ottoman development of the city of Bursa see Aptullah Kuran,  “A Spatial Study of Three Ottoman Capitals: Bursa, Edirne, and Istanbul,” Muqarnas, Vol. 13 (1996), pp. 114-131

This is also a good place to go to find good overall information for the next city that the Ottomans developed. The city of Edirne in Thrace, which, until the Ottomans took it in 1361 was known as Adrianople (Hadrianapolis).

I actually visited Edirne before going to Bursa which was chronologically backward, but meant that I had very fine weather in Edirne and whereas there was a day of gloom in Bursa that is reflected in the images. Edirne has a number of really lovely mosques, including the Eski Cami which is reminiscent in plan to the Ulu Cami in Bursa (except where the Ulu Cami has 20 the Eski Cami has 9 domes). interior, looking from north to south across central aisleOne of the things that I found exceptionally fine about the Eski Cami was the enormous calligraphy on the walls and piers. This in conjunction with the simple bichrome accents on the arches made the space really beautiful. interior, looking toward mihrab and qibla wall

As I have been thinking about domes and their development, and particularly the dramatic domes of Sinan, Edirne provides some remarkable examples of Ottoman experiments in doming. One is the Ur Serefeli mosque built in 1438-47. interior, qibla wallThe interior of this remarkable building is really hard to get a sense of from images. But imagine a rectangular space with a huge dome in the middle section of the rectangle supported by the front and back walls and by two enormous piers (you can see them in this image at the far right) interior, qibla wall showing pier that supports central dome on rightthat create side aisles and cut the rectangle into three parts with a larger central section dominated by the central dome. interior, central domeThe doming in this building is really the thing that captivates, in the side aisles interior, looking up into side aisle domesand even between the side aisles and the central dome interior, small dome between side aisle domes and central dome

Of course, the most magnificent of Sinan’s domes is also to be found in Edirne. It is found in the Selimiye Cami that Sinan built for the Sultan Selim (son of Suleiman the Magnificent) in 1568.

This building comes after the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans (in 1453) and thus a good deal later than all the other buildings that I have been talking about.

interior, looking north to south, qibla wall on rightIt is quite difficult to describe the magnificent space of this mosque and the way that it differs from the others that I visited in Istanbul. But there is one noteworthy thing and that is that there is not even a hint of side aisles in this space. It is entirely unified and that may be the thing that is most impressive visually. The central dome is evenly supported on eight huge columns interior, detail of massive column(and they are huge!), the arches supported by these columns run around the drum of the dome creating a unified space and flow for the eye. exterior, south wallOne actually gets a rather nice view of this unity from the outside.

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