Name of Monument:

Great Mosque (Ulu Cami)

Location:

Birgi, İzmir, Turkey

Date of Monument:

Hegira 712 / AD 1312–13 (the Minbar, hegira 722 / AD 1322–23)

Architect(s) / master-builder(s):

Minbar master: Muzaffereddin bin Abdülvahid (Muzaffar al-Din bin ‘Abd al-Wahid).

Period / Dynasty:

Aydınoğlu Beylik (Emirate)

Patron(s):

Aydınoğlu Mehmed Bey (r. AH 708–34 / AD 1308–34).

Description:

Mehmed Bey, founder of the Aydınoğlu Emirate, conquered the city of Birgi in AH 707 / AD 1308 and made it his capital. He ordered the Great Mosque (Ulu Cami) to be built in AH 712 / AH 1313. He died in AH 735 / AD 1335 and his tomb is located in the same courtyard as the mosque.
The Great Mosque of Birgi is one of the earliest buildings from the Aydınoğlu Emirate. It has a basilical plan with five aisles extending perpendicular to the mihrab wall, and the bay before the mihrab covered with a dome. The building materials include rubble, ashlar and marble blocks, and brick, of which the marble blocks in the east and south walls, as well as the lion sculpture in the south-east corner, are spolia. There are two rows of windows, and a marble portal in both the east and north walls. Each portal has an inscription. The minaret, contrary to custom, is built adjoining the west end of the qibla wall. Its cylindrical brick body rises from a cubical foundation clad in re-used marble blocks.
The prayer hall is rectangular, almost square. Five aisles extending perpendicular to the qibla wall are defined by pointed arches supported by columns. The columns and their capitals are spolia. The central aisle is wider and higher than the others. The prayer hall has a wooden roof that slopes down in two directions and which is covered with metal plates. The square area defined by arches in front of the mihrab is covered by a dome supported on pendentives. The mihrab niche in the middle of the south wall is rectangular. The entrance to the minaret is on the west end of the south wall.
The Great Mosque of Birgi has abundant decorative woodwork and tiling. The minaret is decorated in turquoise-glazed brick and unglazed brick, and tile mosaic. The mihrab features tile mosaics in aubergine-purple and turquoise; similar decoration is also found on the north arch of the domed bay in front of the mihrab.
The minbar and window shutters are important examples of 8th- / 14th-century woodwork. The minbar is made of walnut wood in the kündekari technique; its whole surface is densely decorated with geometric compositions of three-, five-, eight-, and ten-pointed stars and four-, six-, and eight-sided polygons, and each geometric motif is adorned with dense floral patterns. In addition, there are a number of inscriptions in Arabic, many with religious content. Three inscriptions providing the names of the patron and architect as well as the date of construction are found on the surface of the right side. According to them, the minbar was made in AH 722 / AD 1323 by a master named Muzaffereddin bin Abdülvahid. In 1995 the door-wings of the mihrab were stolen, only to be recovered as they were being sold at a London auction. The wooden shutters of the lower row of windows are also densely decorated. Made of walnut wood, they feature compositions of floral and geometric motifs. In addition, there are religious inscriptions.
The building has undergone various restorations and continues to serve as a place of worship.

View Short Description

The Great Mosque of Birgi, the first capital of the Aydın Emirate, was commissioned by Mehmed Bey, the founder of the emirate, who is buried in a mausoleum to the west. The mosque is a five-aisled basilica and the bay before the mihrab is covered with a dome. The tile mosaic mihrab follows the Anatolian Seljuq tradition and the minbar and window shutters are important examples of AH 8th- /AD 14th-century woodwork. The door-wings of the minbar were stolen in 1995 but fortunately were recovered at an auction in London and returned.

How Monument was dated:

Two inscriptions found on the north and east portals provide similar information: according to them, the building was ordered to be built by Aydınoğlu Mehmed Bey in AH 712 / AD 1312–13. The inscription on the minbar indicates that it, too, was ordered to be built by Aydınoğlu Mehmed Bey in AH 722 / AD 1323.

Selected bibliography:

Kuyulu, İ., “Birgi Ulu Cami [Birgi Great Mosque]”, Erken Osmanlı Sanatı, Beyliklerin Mirası, [Early Ottoman Art: The Legacy of the Emirates] Madrid, 1999, pp.71–2.
Oral, Z., “Anadolu'da Sanat Değeri Olan Ahşap Minberler, Kitabeleri ve Tarihçeleri [Anatolian Wooden Minbars of Artistic Value, Their Inscriptions and History]”, Vakıflar Dergisi, V (1962), pp.23–77.
Önkal, H., “Birgi Ulu Camii ve Selçuklu Geleneğiyle İlişkisi Üzerine [On the Birgi Great Mosque and Its relation with the Seljuq Tradition]”, I.-II. Milli Selçuklu Kültür ve Medeniyeti Semineri Bildirileri, [Proceedings of the First and Second National Seminars on Seljuq Culture and Civilisation] Konya, 1993, pp.51–5.
Önkal, H., “Birgi Ulu Camii Hakkında Bazı Mülahazalar [Some Observations on Birgi Great Mosque]”, 9. Milletlerarası Türk Sanatları Kongresi, Bildiriler, [Ninth International Congress of Turkish Art,] Vol. III, Ankara, 1995, pp.31–5.
Ünal, R. H., (ed) “Ulu Cami”, Birgi Tarihi, Tarihi Coğrafyası ve Türk Dönemi Anıtları [Birgi, Its History, Historical Geography and Turkish Monuments], Ankara, 2001, pp.59–79.

Citation of this web page:

İnci Kuyulu Ersoy "Great Mosque (Ulu Cami)" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. 2019. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;tr;Mon01;12;en

Prepared by: İnci Kuyulu Ersoy
Translation by: Barry Wood, İnci Türkoğlu
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez


MWNF Working Number: TR 18