Fusion Of Tradition And Modern: Nûr-u Osmâniye Mosque

“Our ancestors were not building but worshipping. They had a soul and believe that they wanted to concretize. Stone was coming to life in their hands, and it was turning into a piece of soul.”
                                                                                             Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar

Places reach today by assuming a specific soul with their filtrated identities coming from the past, and change and transformation that they underwent in time. This adventure brings with great wealth and transformation. When we step into a historical place, we enter not only into that moment but into a great time range. The pillar that we touch is not only stone but a pillar in which many sounds are echoed and soul has been blown inside it. According to the principle of our civilization adopting the expression of “The place gains honor with the individual in it.”, place finds its real value with the person who comprehends, integrates, and gives its original meaning to it. Turgut Cansever, who said that “If you forget to revive the generation when building the city, the generation that you have neglected will destroy the city that you have built.”, No doubt mentions about the integrity of human being and place.

Historical places that combine the archaic and the modern, the earthly and the spiritual one have always been impressive. It is no doubt that aesthetic places bearing traces from two different religions, races, cultures are so. One of the most important characteristics of Ottoman city civilization is building spiritual and earthly images one within the other. The most apparent reflection of this is the presence of downtown and Grand Bazaar next to the image of the mosque constituting the city center. This points out the identity of an individual bearing the principle of “becoming with Allah in all his/her deeds” regarding the consciousness of civilization.

In this context, the mosque of Nûr-u Osmâniye, located on one of the seven hills of Istanbul and threshold of Grand Bazaar, is an exceptional example. The construction of the mosque of Nûr-u Osmâniye, the first major work of late Ottoman architecture with baroque style, began in 1748 at the time of Mahmud I, but it was completed in 1755 at the time of Osman III. The mosque of Nûr-u Osmâniye, which left its mark on the city as it was an aesthetic product of the new architectural concept within Selatin mosques, was built in a social complex adjacent to the Grand Bazaar. The social complex includes hunkar pavilion, madrasah, library, shrine, public fountain, fountain, soup kitchen, imaret, and shops. There are views about that the mosque has the meaning of “the light of Ottoman” and it has taken this name due to Osman III. who is addressed as its builder in the epitaph. Another view is that the mosque has been given this name because it is very light and bright. The mosque was built by a master-builder named Simeon (Simon) who is estimated to be Greek under the control of construction official Ahmed Effendi.

14 domed cloisters, which are stepped out with stairs from the outer court, is the first example of the inner courtyard which has been built in half round form in the art of Turkish architecture. The ablution taps are located on the side walls of the mosque since there is no fountain in this courtyard which has been designed for the first time in a non-rectangular way. In addition to this baroque environment, which becomes clear just at the entrance of its garden and dominates the whole structure, inscriptions written by the best calligraphers of the period seen inside and outside, perfect calligraphies has written with fine workmanship from mosque to door knockers are important examples of classical Turkish art.

The center of the mosque is covered with a large dome, one of the largest domes used in Ottoman mosques. 174 windows of colored stained-glass aligned following the square planned mosque are important elements that provide light and modern environment. Calligraphy on which six different calligraphers worked were chosen specially according to their meaning. Verse 35 of Surah Al-Nûr, which means “Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth.” is written on the dome. The longest handwriting of 11 meters high and 115 meters long mosque is the first and only example as it has been continuously written. This handwriting contains all 29 verses of Surah Fetih. 103rd verse of Surah Nisa meaning “Prayer is undoubtedly made obligatory to believers at certain times.” is written on the calligraphy at the main door. 99 names of Allah beginning with basmala inside oval shapes in sub-windows are written.

“The Exhibition Of Mekândan Tasanlar” 
An unknown granary, with a total of 19 divisions of which 12 are rooms, and a functioning well, has been discovered under the Mosque of Nûr-u Osmâniye in recent years during the restoration works. This cistern defying the years with its resistant structure, engineering success and aesthetics has been opened to visitors for the first time after the completion of restoration under the auspices of Presidency within the scope of Yeditepe Biennial organized by Fatih Municipality and Classical Turkish Arts Foundation. “Exhibition of Things Overflowing from the Place” opened at the granary under the Mosque of Nûr-u Osmâniye, which is included in the World Heritage Tentative List by UNESCO, has provided a unique experience for art lover visitors. I must say that it is very pleasant to watch the meaningful works of art in the dusty atmosphere of this cellar that has been hidden for years. Nûr-u Osmâniye Mosque, which has come to the present day from its construction by being accumulated and beautified, is a highly aesthetic and valuable structure, and it points out a special meaning for us who will contribute to the value of it by understanding it. This meaning is its characteristics symbolizing Istanbul, where people of different colors, languages, and cultures have been living together for centuries. Everybody happening to pass by this work of art, reminiscent of tolerance with a unifying and eclectic spirit by blending the traditional and the modern, the old and the new with its every detail, will certainly have a share to take.

Embroideries, on which the prayer of “open us auspicious doors” is written at the right and left door handles of mosque entrance, have worth-seeing craftsmanship and elegance. Nûr-u Osmâniye is a turning point in Ottoman architecture with its first used stone cones, mihrap decorated with ornament resembling the Hanging Gardens of Babylon inside semidome, side wall stoas shaped like lace, light and high windows, colorful rococo style adorn.

By: Meryem Dilara Can 

*This article was  published in the  May– June issue of Marmara Life.

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