A large list of Bosniaks were prominent military commanders, admirals, viziers, pashas, scholars and artists in the Ottoman Empire. Many left behind numerous monuments like mosques, madrasas, hammams, bezistans, residential facilities, bridges, etc. In this article we present four selected mosques in Istanbul, sponsored by Bosniaks.

Historical Background

Bosniaks are, besides the Basques in Spain, the oldest European people, as their ancestors are the continuous residents of Bosnia since the period of the last ice age. Unlike the dominant Slavic neighbourhood, Bosniaks are mostly of Illyrian, Gothic and Celtic origin, and Slavic to a lesser extent. Bosniaks are also the youngest Muslims, considering that they have embraced Islam in the 15th century, when the Ottomans came to Balkans. Before that they were Christians, to be more precise, the members of the Bosnian Church, who were a special direction inside the Catholicity, often in conflict with Vatican.

Between 12th and 15th century, the Bosnian kingdom was governed by powerful Bosniak families, with the king as a leader, dominating Balkans politically and military. In the first half of the 15th century Bosnia was under the increasing religious and political pressure from Europe. That was the time of the political crisis and dissatisfaction. In that period Bosniaks embraced Islam and become the citizens of the Ottoman Empire. At the beginning, Islam has been embraced mostly by nobility which lead to the acceptance of Islam by the lower social classes.

In the 15th century, Bosniaks became the important part of the Ottoman Empire on all areas of social activities, including the religion and the culture. Many nobles become the sons-in-law of sultans. Some of the most famous Ottoman Grand Viziers were Bosniaks:

  • Ali Pasha, the Grand vizier of Sultan Bayezid II
  • Ahmed Pasha Hercegovic, the Grand Vizier of Sultan Bayezid II and Selim I
  • Rustem Pasha, the Grand Vizier of Suleyman I
  • Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic, the Grand Vizier of Suleyman I, Selim II and Murad III
  • Ibrahim Pasha, the Grand Vizier of Ahmed II.

A large list of Bosniaks were prominent military commanders, admirals, viziers, pashas, scholars and artists. Many left behind numerous monuments like mosques, madrasas, hammams, bezistans, residential facilities, bridges, etc.

The four selected mosques in Istanbul, sponsored by famous Bosniaks

The Atik Ali Pasha Mosque

It was built in 1496, by the Grand vizier Gazi Ali Pasha who held that position at the time of Sultan Bayezid II. Ali Pasha was born in Sarajevo and educated in Istanbul. He distinguished himself as a very successful general and a man of confidence, which made him the tutor of the prince Abdullah. Before he became the Grand vizier (1501-1504 and 1506-1511) he held several very important positions. He was murdered in 1511, during the political conspiracy and buried in the Mosque’s graveyard.

The Atik Ali Pasha Mosque is one of the oldest monumental mosques in Istanbul. The Mosque’s complex includes the madrasa, the imaret, the haniqah and the elementary school. The Mosque is located near the Kapali Bazaar, close to the Constantine’s column. The Mosque was built in the early Istanbul style, with a central dome, semi-dome above the mihrab and the side chambers, vaulted by two smaller domes. Unfortunately, the architect remains unknown.

image Atik Ali Pasha Mosque / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

image Atik Ali Pasha Mosque, interior / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

The Rustem Pasha Mosque

The Grand vizier Rustem Pasha is one of the most important persons of the Ottoman Empire. He was born in Sarajevo, sometime between the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th century. He was the Grand vizier of Sultan Suleyman I. Educated in Istanbul, he gradually progressed in his career. He was married to the Sultan Suleyman’s daughter, the princess Mihrimah. Besides being a good administrator he is also known as the art lover and the art collector.

The Rustem Pasha Mosque was built in 1562, after his death. The architect was famous Mimar Sinan. The Mosque is well known by its amazing Iznik tiles that ornate almost the entire interior.

image The Rustem Pasha Mosque / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

image The Rustem Pasha Mosque, interior / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

The Sinan Pasha Mosque

Sinan Pasha was an admiral of the Ottoman fleet, between 1550 and 1554. He was Rustem Pasha’s brother, born in Mostar or Sarajevo. His mosque is located in the district of Besiktas, near the tomb of Hajrudin Barbarossa, built in 1555. The architect was Mimar Sinan. Besides the Mosque, the madrasa and the hammam were built close to it, but unfortunately, they do not exist any more. Mimar Sinan, in his design, was inspired by the Uc Serefeli Mosque from 15th century.

image The Sinan Pasha Mosque / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

image The Sinan Pasha Mosque, interior / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

The Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic Mosque

The Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic was the most famous Grand vizier in history of the Ottoman Empire. He was born at the beginning of the 16th century, in the East part of Bosnia. He was Grand vizier of three sultans: Suleiman I, Selim II and Murat III. During that time, it was mostly his merit that the Ottoman Empire reached its expansion and political peak. He was married to the daughter of Sultan Selim II. He was assassinated in 1579.

We are presenting one of his two big mosques, the Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic Mosque, located in the district of Kadriga and built in 1572. The Mosque is known as one of the best achievements of Mimar Sinan. Inside the Mosque there are extraordinary Iznik tiles in Hatayi style. In the Mosque’s complex there is the famous madrasa, still in use today.

image The Mehmed Pasha Sokolović Mosque / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

image The Mehmed Pasha Sokolović Mosque, interior / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine


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