A bedesten or covered market is a building type of Persian origin. The Ottomans continued to build covered markets in their own style all over the vast Empire. Generally built in the central bazaar area, only the most relevant trading centers could afford to build a covered market, as for instance Skopje, Bitola and Shtip.
This type of building was conceived as a secure building for the transaction of the most valuable goods as jewelry and high quality fabrics providing guarantee against robberies. Solid materials used for its walls and heavy doors that could be locked by night served this purpose. Their space conception can be basilical as the one in Bitola or multi-domed as the one in Shtip, presented in this post.
The town of Shtip located in the Eastern part of Macedonia complied with the commercial requirements for the construction of a bedesten. In its heyday the town counted with 450 shops, a kervansaray, 27 mosques and 7 trading inns. Wars, natural decay but also a generalized negligence towards all Ottoman reduced this vast heritage to only one mosque, a clock tower and the bedesten to which we refer here. An impressive fortress-like building in the center of town, this covered market gives evidence as to the relevance of Shtip as trading center. This monument from the 16th century has a rectangular shape and is made of stone. In spite of the absence of decorative elements on its outer walls the monument appears most imposing. The roof is set back on three levels and surmounted by three shallow domes covered with lead. This gradual transition of the spacious rectangular surface into three circular ones by means of shallow tromps stands out as a prominent feature of the monument. For security reasons only two massive entrances on the opposing short sides give access to the building.
The interior reflects this tripartite plan with three halls, separated by massive stone pillars which are connected with pointed arches. Well crafted stone corbels can be seen above these arches. The central hall is emphasized by a higher drum supported by concave squinches. A harmonious portico along the outer walls sustained by columns leads to numerous rooms. In the past, these spaces housed the shops of luxury items, each one equipped with suitable niches for the display of the wares.
When the Empire entered in decadence, particularly during the 19th century, the bedesten was used as a prison. Restoration works in the 1960's returned the splendour of this significant building of Ottoman heritage to the town of Shtip, adapting it to an Art Gallery.
If you want to know about the other bedestens in Macedonia or get the complete picture of Ottoman architecture in this country you now have at your disposition my recently published book with lots of images:
Teresa Waltenberger, Architecture in Macedonia: The Ottoman Heritage, Skopje 2014