Note : I know that Bursa is not a part of Istanbul, in fact it is quite far from the city. Its just that the series so far had been Appreciation – Istanbul (although thinking about it I should have titled it Turkey instead, seeing that I actually went to a few cities in Turkey) so it is not right, at least for me, to change the title to something else for this post only doesn’t make sense. So I am continuing the title as it is, but also noting that for a few posts in this series I will be talking about my time in Bursa. Now that’s out of the way, let’s continue on our blog!
The next day after visiting Ortakoy mosque, my friend wanted to bring me to Yalova, a small city famed for its hot springs as well as Bursa, one of the most important city in Turkey historically. The city was the first major city of the Ottoman Empire before the conquest of Istanbul. The city is also the resting place of the founder of the Ottoman empire, Osman Gazi.
To go there from Istanbul, we had to take a ferry from Yenikapı and incidently it was not very far from the hotel where I stayed at. But I totally miscalculated the speed of my legs and I arrived at the ferry port a few minutes before they stopped selling the ticket for the morning departure. I think we got to the ferry by 8am and went to Yalova. While there we went to Termal, the hot spring area. We went there for a few hours to enjoy the baths before going to Bursa, which is a short bus ride away.
Arriving in Bursa, we went almost directly to the main square of the city where most of the attractions of the city are situated. We went straight to one of the main attraction of the city, Ulu Camii, near the city centre.
The Grand Mosque of Bursa, or the Ulu Camii in Turkish is the largest mosque in Bursa, build in 1399 by Sultan Beyazid I. This mosque was built before the conquest of Istanbul, so it is a perfect example of Ottoman architecture prior to 1453. It is a stark difference between the older architecture of the Ottomans and the newer ones, as they older ones tend to have more traditional, Seljuk influenced architectural language as opposed to the ones in Istanbul. I want to discuss this architectural difference in another post, so please stay tuned for that.
The first time I entered the mosque I was bewildered at how different this mosque looks and feels compared to the ones I had visited in Istanbul. There were lots of people here : devotees, tourists, families and children playing. The mosque feels much more open despite there are lot less of windows in the mosque, perhaps because of all the people. It was not as tall or big as the imperial mosques I had visited before, it was just a hypostyled hall full of large square pillars. However once you get your footing you realize the uniqueness of this mosque and the beauty that makes it awe-inspiring.
Almost in an instant as you step in you would be meet a literal well of light in the middle of the prayer hall. From wherever you enter (in my case I entered from a side entrance) you can always see the center of the mosque and a pillar of light. It is apparently under skylight dome of the mosque which affords the mosque a main light source. Under the pillar of light is the ablution fountain, another obvious difference to other mosques I had visited before. Another element of the mosque that you would notice straightaway would be the beautiful and very large calligraphy masterpieces dotted throughout the mosque. You can see it all over – on the four sides of the square pillars, the wall, above the entrance, underneath the dome arches…anywhere you can imagine. It is also supplemented by Ottoman style decorative paintings, although judging from the quality and style it would be a relatively recent work or perhaps a restoration. The mosque also functions as some sort of a museum – you can see historical prayer carpets and even Ottoman covering of the Kaaba Door on display at several different points inside of the mosque. When you finally came to the front of the mosque toward the Mihrab wall you can see these exquisite work of arts in the form of the Mimbar and the Mihrab itself. The mimbar is lavishly decorated – the golden calligraphic work and vegetal motifs paired with the rich dark colour of the wood makes it pop out extremely well. Also another strange thing to note about this mimbar, it is said that the left panel shows the planets of the solar system including Pluto and the Sun in the forms of bulging star shapes among the usual Islamic star pattern. Keep in mind that during the building of this mosque or even the mimbar irself, Pluto was not even discovered yet (it was discovered in 1930) so the idea alone of having the representation of the planets is astounding. From my years of observing Islamic art, this mimbar is certainly unique, especially because of the bulging shapes . I do not know the true story but apparently this is debunked by someone, citing it was only a design choice.
Similarly, the Mihrab is decorated in the same way with the Mimbar. Gold is the main decoration for the Mihrab with dark blue and red paint. Golden calligraphy is here as well, as well as exquisite Muqarnas in the arch of the Mihrab. Above the Mihrab is a huge calligraphic work depicting the name of Allah and Muhammad, flanked by two pretty stained glass windows. The design of the Mihrab is actually a very traditional one ; a painted representation of a mosque lamp between two pillars, a motif that I can see commonly here in Turkey.
Going out of the mosque from the main gate, I noticed the traditional Muqarna gate of the mosque. Although it is quite still the same with the doors that I had seen for the mosques in Istanbul, it has a slight difference although I cannot point it well enough. I think I will attempt to explain why I felt it was different in another post. I also noticed, as I passed by the gate, there are a lot of domes inside the mosque – 20 domes to be exact. Although the domes are not exactly able to be seen in the front of the gate, you can absolutely see it inside. Apparently the Sultan who built this mosque opted for 20 domes instead of 20 mosques he had promised after winning the Battle of Nicopolis in 1396 which is rather clever to be honest! There are two minarets out of the gate that I exited the mosque from, flanking each side. It is said that the mosque originally had only one minaret but another one was later added as it was detached from the main building. There are two domed ablution fountains as well out of the gate, and another smaller fountain in the middle.
Afterwards we went on to visit another of Bursa’s main attraction, the Koza Han, Bursa’s Silk bazaar, and the Orhan Gazi Mosque nearby. Afterward we visited the Yesil Camii and Turbe, which is a short public transportation ride away. These places you should never miss if you ever have the chance to visit this beautiful green city,