Chapter 5

Ottoman Turkey

13th –16th Century

In the 12-13th century the Turkic Rum Seljuks conquered Asia Minor from the Byzantines. They were followed and displaced by the Ottomans in 1290, an Uighur Turk tribe which had slowly moved from eastern Central Asia west. After capturing Bursa they made it their capital. For 150 years they watched the corrupt and debauched Byzantine Empire crumbling. Having crossed the Dardanelles and conquered Greece and the southern Balkans they finally succeed in 1543 to storm Constantinople, which had never recovered from and was weakend to the core by the fourth crusade (1204).

The Ottomans began a building program sine qua non in Bursa. Under Süleyman the Magnificent the Ottoman empire reached its first height in architecture. Süleyman's genial architect Mimar Sinan built over 300 buildings all over the 16th-century Ottoman possessions. A special chapter is devoted to him alone. (Text from Wikipedia)


Bursa the capital of 12th to 14th century Ottoman empire deserves a longer chapter than this. Beautifully located below Mount Ulu Dag I never spent enough time there to explore the many mosques, Türbes, and especially the hamams fed by hot springs. So, this list of buildings is incomplete and calls for another visit

Sultan Emiir Camii
Built for Sultan Selim II

13th cent. Rebuilt in 1804.

(Photo Rolf Gross 1990)

Hüdavendigar Külliyesi
Murat I Complex


View of the northern façade of the mosque with five-bay portico and gallery above (Text and photo

The imperial complex of Murad I, bearing his epithet Hüdavendigar, consists of a mosque with madrasa (medrese) and dervish lodge (zaviye), mausoleum (türbe), fountain, a soup kitchen (imaret), a hamam and a Koran school for boys (sibyan mektebi).
The mausoleum was commissioned by Bayezid I after the death of his father Murad I in Kosovo in 1329 and is located to the south of the mosque. It is a single-unit with dome resting on double arches and Byzantine columns and houses the tombs of Murad I and seven other members of the Ottoman family.

Yildirim Beyazit I Medresa and Tomb

Architect Hüseyin bin Ali

General view from northwest, showing madrasa in front of the mosque (Photos and plan

Exterior view of the mausoleum from the the west, with pishtak portal of madrasa visible on lower left

Detail from entrance to the mausoleum showing inscriptive plaque in Arabic characters, recording the patronage of Süleyman Çelebi and the name of architect Hüseyin bin Ali, with the date of construction 1394.

Floor plan of complex showing (1) gate, (2) mausoleum, (3) madrasa, (4) site of royal garden palace, (5) convent-masjid, (6) hospice, (7) bathhouse, (8) gate, (9) reconstruction of precinct wall, (10) aqueduct

Ulu Cami

1396 – 1400

View of the southern façade and the roof with its twenty domes, with the Atatürk street in front and the Bursa plains in the distance. Photo from

Interior after Friday services (photo Rolf Gross 1990)

Murad II's Tomb and Külliye


The Complex of Murad II, known as Muradiye, was built following the completion of the Yesil Complex and consists of a mosque, madrese, soup kitchen, a Koran school for boys, hamam, and twelve mausolea (türbe) belonging to the Ottoman family. (Photo

This is one of the most peaceful places in Bursa (photo Rolf Gross 1990)

Mosque of Mehmed I
also  known as Yesil Camii, "Green Mosque"
Architect Haci Ivaz Pasa


Yesil Türbe
Mehmed I's Mausoleum


 The famous mausoleum of Mehmed I, known as Yesil Türbe (Green Tomb) was built by his son and successor Murad II following the death of the sovereign in 1421. The architect was Haci Ivaz Pasa, who also designed the mosque. - The color of the tiles is really blue to Western eyes - or at best turquoise.  -  In Chinese green and blue have the same character and are indistiguishable in their view. – (Photo Rolf Gross 1990).


Long before the Ottomans were able to conquer Constantinople they crossed the Dardanelles, occupied Adrianople and renamed it Edirne.  15 th-cent Edirne has a number of conservative,  but architecturally notable buildings to show, topped by the sober, but grand design of the Beyazit II Külliye.

Didymotikho, Greece
Çelebi Mehmet Mosque - Bayezid Camii

1420 - 1421
Architect Ivaz Pasa

This mosque made its way into this collection not only because I know this last village on the road to Edirne - but because the village is Greek and Turkish (di= two, dymotikhon= people).  The mosque was built in 1420 by Sultan Mehmed II. In the Greek archives the mosque is named Bayezid Camii.  The mosque - without a dome – may be unfinished: Like the Green Mosque in Bursa - another mosque built by Ivaz Pasa under Mehmet II – which was also left incomplete with the Sultan's death in 1421. (Photo

Eski Camii - Old Mosque

Architect Haci Alaeddin of Konya

The construction of the Old Community Mosque of Edirne began in 1402 on commission of Emir Süleyman and was completed under the rule of his brother Mehmed I in 1414. Built as a Friday Mosque in the market neighborhood of Edirne, the mosque took on its current name following the completion of the new Üç Serefeli Mosque in 1447. The mosque was restored between 1924 and 1934 and in 1965 after the 1953 earthquake. Text and Photographs from

The Prophet’s Name (peace be upon him) etched adjacent to a window on the northern façade (19th cent)

The interior of the mosque is a low, heavy space, an excellent example of pre-Sinan architecture. It has painted decor and large calligraphy dating from the second half of the 19th century. The older stone mihrab and minbar have been retaind despite damage by fire. The mihrab is unique with small muqarnas niches placed inside the primary niche.



The Muradiye Mosque was built by Murad II in 1435 on a hill northeast of the city that overlooks the palace grounds (Sarayiçi). Originally conceived of as a Sufi tekke for the Mevlevi order, the building was later converted into a mosque.
Text and Photographs from

Exterior detail showing carved wooden door and an inscriptive plaque in Arabic giving the name of the donor and date of completion.

Uç Serefeli Mosque and Külleyi

1437 – 1447

The Üç Serefeli Mosque, named after its unusual wound minaret, was built by Murad II. Damaged in the 1752 earthquake, the mosque was repaired in 1763 by order of Mahmud III. A major restoration took place in 1930, with additional work on frescoes in 1999. The Koranic School and the soup kitchen of the larger complex no longer exist, while the two medrese and the hammam have survived in heavily restored condition. They can be seen on the satellite image. Text and Photographs from 

Exterior view with the "wound" minaret on the left.

Inner courtyard with typical colored masonry inserts

Exterior detail from portico, showing tiled tympanum of window with prayers in Arabic mentioning the founder of the mosque.
Here the masonry has been painted.

Beyazit II Külliye


A conservative, late 15th-century complex commissioned by Sultan Beyazid II shortly before Sinan built the Selimiye.

The floor plan of complex along the Tunca river, shows (1) mosque, (2) hospice, (3) caravanserai, (4) hospital, (5) madrasa, (6) site of bathhouse. Text and Photographs from


Istanbul is a continent of its own for architecture lovers. Despite that it is one of the youngest cities in the Eastern Mediterranean, having been founded only in 324 AD by Emperor Constantin, its historic layers reach quite literally from the depth of its Byzantine cysterns to the minarets of Sinan's Sülemaniye.  The profusion of architecturally important buildings can be overwhelming. Fortunately, on two extended visits (1954 and 1990) I saw many of them and with the help of Evliya's "Interested in Ottoman Architecture?" located Mimar Sinan's numerous buildings on GE.

The material is broken up into 4 sections: Byzantine, Before Sinan, Sinan, and After Sinan. One or two examples of Baroque Istanbul are appended, because of its retro-influence on Western European Nouveau Art.

Istanbul Byzantine Churches
4th-15th cent

The Byzantine Churches of Constantinople are not part of this investigation. However architecturally they have been of such an important influence on Ottoman architecture that I include a selection here.  After the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 most of them were converted into mosques. Some still are mosques, others are in very bad repair. A few were converted into museums in the 20th century. I will only discuss those in detail that have been the great models of Islamic architecture.

From Byzantine Churches of Istanbul

Aghia Eirene (11)
Originally built by Emperor Justinian I, 4th cent

Present building: 548

The building ranks, in fact, as the oldest church built in Constantinople. The Byzantine emperor Constantine I commissioned the Hagia Irene in the 4th century. It was burned down during the Nike revolt in 532. Emperor Justinian I had the church restored in 548. It served as the church of the Patriarchate before Hagia Sophia was completed in 537. The nave measures 100m x 32 m. It has the typical form of a Roman basilica, consisting of a nave and two aisles.

After the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 the church was converted into an armoury. It was restored by Field Marshall Ahmed Fethi Pasha in 1846 and became the first Turkish museum. It was used as a Military Museum from 1908 until 1978. Today, it serves mainly as a concert hall for classical music performances, due to its extraordinary acoustics and impressive atmosphere. (Text and photos from Wikipedia)

The cross in the main apse is a, for Constantinople rare left-over from the Iconoclastic period in Byzantine art (730-787) in which, following Islamic precedent, all images of men and saints were forbidden by imperial decree.

Monastery of the Sts. Sergius and Bacchus (29),
Küçük Ayasofia Camii (Little Aghia Sofia)
Built by Justinian I


Considered the pre-cursor to the Hagia Sophia. It was built by Justinian I shortly after his ascention to the throne. The church of Sts. Sergius and Bakkhos was joined at its north wall to a basilica dedicated to Sts. Peter and Paul. The two churches shared a courtyard to the west and were surrounded by monastery buildings managed by Monophysites(!) presumably from Syria.  The adjacent church of Sts. Peter and Paul was demolished during the construction of a raiload in the 1860s.
Hüseyin Aga, the chief officer of the Ottoman Palace during the rule of Bayezid II (1481-1512), converted the Church of Sergius and Bacchus into a mosque. The mosque now has a single minaret on the southwest corner, which dates from 1955.
The Küçük Ayasofya has been included in the list of
World Monuments Watch as one of the "100 Most Endangered Sites" in 2002. - Text and photos from

The church and the rail tracks in the foreground - without minaret (i.e., before 1955?)

Photo from before 1955 - without minaret.

Interior, photo early 20th cent.

Aghia Sofia (31)
Built by Emperor Justinian I

Present building: 532-537

(Photos and Plan from Wikipedia)

Cross section of the building

Looking at the floor plan of the Aghia Sophia, it is immediately evident that this is not a cruciform church, but a basilica with a centralized plan, which evolved from rectangular Roman architectural forms. Only the marriage between the dome and the rectangular base goes back to eastern examples (see e.g., Ktesiphon). The central floor measures an immense 220 feet by 250 feet and the four arches around the nave are 70 feet high. Everything about the various elements is designed - contrary to Islamic practice, which conceals the "heaven" from the viewer by interspersing a "ceiling" of lamps - to draw the eye higher and higher into the dome and, presumably, into heaven itself. Only Westerners look at the domes of mosques - and are occasionally reminded by the keeper that this is not "done".

It is virtually impossible to photograph the interior without a specialized camera. This photograph - the only one I could find - is from 1890 before the mosque was converted into a museum (Photo Harvard Archives/

My own attempt (Photo Rolf Gross 1990). The spherical marble urn is from Bergama and was placed there by Selim III (1566-1574)

Sultan Ahmed Mosque seen from a window of the women's gallery in the Aghia Sofia (Photo Rolf Gross 1990).

Church of the Monastery of Pammakaristos (36), Fetiyeh Camii

11th or 12th cent

Few churches in Constantinople have had an as varied history as the Pammakaristos. The church was converted into Fethiye Cami or "Victory Mosque" in 1591 by Murad III to commemorate his conquest of Georgia and Azerbaidjan. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchy, who had taken refuge there in 1453, was evicted and transferred to its current location in Fener.   The fire of Balatkapi damaged the mosque in 1640. It was repaired in 1845, and finally restored in 1936-38. Abandoned after the restoration, the main space was re-opened to Islamic prayer only in 1960. The Parekklesion, restored to its pre-Ottoman state by the Byzantine Institute of America, is now open to visitors as a museum. The obove photo shows mainly the Parekklision with its copulas. (Text and photo from Wikipedia)

Chora Ekklesia (8), Kariye Camii

Present building: 11th cent

(Text and photos from

The Kariye Museum, formerly the "Church of the Monastery in the Chora", was, prior to the building of the Theodosian walls, outside the city, hence its Greek name Chora Ekklesia, "Church in the Fields".   Restored after an earthquake in 557, the basilica was rebuilt in its current Greek-cross form in the 11th century. Additions and renovations (1316-1321) were sponsored by Theodore Metochites, a scholar and prime minister under Andronicus II. One of the last churches built before the Fall of Constantinople (1453).
Its importance does not lie as much with its architecture but in the mosaics and frescoes which grace its interior and that of the attached Parekklesion. After it was declared a museum, the Byzantine Institute of Washington D.C. and the Dumbarton Oaks Center of Byzantine Studies restord it in 1948.

My free-hand photographs (before digital cameras) of the mosaics of the vault of the main church

(Photos Rolf Gross 1990)

and the frescoes of the Parekklision (1990)

Pantocrator Church (10),
Zeyrek Camii
1118 – 1143

The Church of the Monastery of the Pantocrator was built by Byzantine Emperor John II Comnenus and his wife, Empress Irene. The famous middle Byzantine monastic foundation included a triple-church, a hostel, a hospital, and a hospice for the elderly, richly endowed by its imperial founders.   The main tract, used as a mosque is in poor, the right Parekklision in better condition. (Text and photos Wikipedia)

Christ Pantepoptes (9), Eski Imaret Mosque

11th century

Eski Imaret Mosque was a Byzantine church dedicated to Christ Pantepoptes, "Christ the all-seeing". It is the only documented 11th century church in Istanbul which survived intact, and represents a key monument of middle Byzantine architecture. Despite that, the building remains one of the least studied churches in the city. Photo from Byzantine Churches of Istanbul

Aghios Theodoros
(50), Vefa Kilise or Molla Çelebi Camii
11th century

Vefa Kilise Mosque or Molla Çelebi Camii, to distinguish it from the other kilise camiler of Istanbul: (also known as Molla Gürani Camii after the name of his founder) is a former Byzantine church converted into a mosque by the Ottomans. The church was possibly dedicated to Aghios Theodoros, but this dedication is far from certain. The complex represents one of the most important examples of Komnenian and Palaiologan architecture of Constantinople.
Photos from Byzantine Churches of Istanbul  

Mosques before Sinan 15th-16th cent

Mehmet Sultan Complex


The mosque was first built in 1458 by Mehmet the Conqueror on the site where Ebu Eyyüb el Ensari, who was Mohammed's standard-bearer, was killed under the walls of Constantinople during the first siege by the Arabs (672-677). His tomb, in the walls surrounding the mosque, has beautiful Iznik tiles. The mosque was reconstructed by Sultan Selim III between 1798-1800. It is of no particular architectural interest - except for the large number of pilgrims visiting the tomb of Gazi el Ensari. It is also a favorite place for circumcision ceremonies of young boys. (Photo Rolf Gross 1990)

Fatih Mehmet the Conqueror Camii

1462-1470, 1771, interior restored 2000
Architect Atik Sinan (Old Sinan), reconstructed by head-architect Mehmed Tahir

The Fatih Mosque is the sanctuary of the imperial complex built by Mehmed II to commemorate his conquest of Constantinople in 1453. It stands at the center of an extended precinct that was entered through gates along the northern and southern walls. It was intended to be a center of learning and is flanked by 16 medreses to the east and the west, which were the first Ottoman educational institutions in Istanbul. Education was no longer based on religious studies alone, but now included the rational sciences such as mathematics, astronomy and philosophy . The architect of the mosque and the complex was Atik Sinan (Old Sinan). Built between 1463 and 1470. The complex was severely damaged during an earthquake in 1766. On Mustafa III's behest the mosque was demolished and rebuilt by Mehmed Tahir (1771) in the Baroque style.
The mosque is currently under restoration to repair damage caused by the earthquake of 1999. (Text Wikipedia)
(Photos by Dick Osseman 2005)

Beyazit II Camii and Külliye

Architect Mimar Hayreddin or Yakupshah bin Sultanshah

(Text, photos and plan from

This complex and its surrounding neighborhood and square, all named after Bayazid II, was built between 1501 and 1505 on the grounds of the Forum Theodosius (Forum Tauri), which was flanked by the Roman Capitol. It is the second large Ottoman complex built in Istanbul after Fatih, and the third complex built by Bayazid II (1481-1512) after Amasya and Edirne, and was operated with the income of Pirinç Han in Bursa and a han, bedesten and baths in Salonica.
The mosque's dome was partially rebuilt after the 1509 earthquake, and Mimar Sinan conducted repairs in 1573-74. The structure of the Bayezid mosque is considered a stepping stone between early and classical Ottoman architecture, characterized by a central dome held by semi-domes on all four sides.

Floor plan of complex showing (1) mosque with mausoleums of Bayezid Seldjuks II and his daughter Selçuk Hatun,
(2) hospice and caravanserai, (3) madrasa, (4) double bath, (5) elementary school, (6) old palace

Main courtyard portal known as Palace Portal (saray kapisi) facing northwest, with domed ablution fountain seen through the entryway

The courtyard

Interior: main dome and two side half-domes
Photos and Text from

Yavuz Sultan Selim I Mosque

Architect: Alauddin

As stated on the inscriptive plaque on the mosque's portal, the complex was commissioned by Süleyman I (Kanuni, the Magnificent) in honor of his late father Selim I (Yavuz Sultan Selim). It was completed in 1522. Only the mosque, hospices, Quranic School and royal tombs remain of the külliye which once also included a hostel for pilgrims, a medrese, double baths, and soup kitchen. The buildings occupy the fifth hill of the historic peninsula, a prominent site adjoining the 5th-century open air cistern Aspar. It is widely accepted that the complex is the work of chief architect Alaüddin, known as Acem Ali (Slave or Persian Ali). (Photos from )

Muquarnas (stalaktites) above the entrance to the mosque

Detail of a column supporting the courtyard porch