Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Clock Tower as New Building Type

The Clock Tower
       With the 18th and especially the 19th century, parallel to the Tanzimat or Reform Period, a new architectonic attraction was introduced in most towns of the Empire: the Clock Tower or Saat Kule. Decreed by the Sultan, this new building type was meant to symbolize the ongoing Westernization and reforms. Among many others, the Reform Edict from 1856 promised equal rights and justice to all, regardless of religion. In any case, the new clock towers introduced a radical change in people's perception of time. Until then it was the muezzin's call from the minaret that marked the praying time for Muslims, but from now on the hour was given by the centrally placed clock tower to people of all credos.
       Although an Oriental phenomenon, these towers mostly followed West European styles, at least when newly built. Size and artistic qualities of these towers stand in direct relation to the towns' commercial significance.
       Sometimes an old tower from a previous period was transformed into a Clock Tower by adding a tambour with the clock mechanism in its interior. Veles, Shtip or Kocani  in the Central and Eastern region of the country are representative examples of this practice.
      The region of Macedonia had twenty-one Saat Kules, out of which twelve are completely or partially preserved. The finest examples can be found in Skopje, Gostivar, Bitola and Prilep.

The Clock Tower in Gostivar

      The town of Gostivar, in the Western part of the country, is rather poor in architectural heritage. Nevertheless, it boasts one of the most beautiful clock towers in the country, located as usual in the very centre next to the main mosque. Its solid square stone base with the original arched entrance in cut stone dates from the 17th century. A chiselled stone plate above the door gives testimony to this origin. The tower then turns into an eight-sided shape, the lower part in stone and the upper one in vertical wood panelling. The clock mechanism with a dial on alternating sides is placed under the roof. A small octagon on top of the roof crowns the building.
       After having served as a notorious prison during the decline of the Empire, recent restorations returned the tower to its former glory.

       For a complete survey of Ottoman heritage in Macedonia you have now at your disposition my recently published book:
Teresa Waltenberger, Architecture in Macedonia: The Ottoman Heritage, Skopje 2014

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