Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Turbe as new Building Type

The Türbe 

       Differing from other Islamic cultures the Ottoman royalty and high officials of the Empire liked to be buried in a mausoleum, called türbe. The patrons of these buildings often included the construction of  this building type in a mosque complex, either as their own burial place or to honour someone preceding them. These burial chambers are usually small buildings with a single chamber covered by a dome, most frequently on a hexagonal or octagonal base. Two types of türbes can be distinguished: the closed one and the open type with arches sustained by columns. Its walls are made of brick or stone masonry, their exterior most frequently being rather plain following the characteristic Ottoman austerity. In contrast, their interior might be lavishly decorated with tile revetment or painted decoration. One of the most stunning examples of tile-decorated tü rbes is Yesil Türbe in Bursa, Turkey.

       Türbes containing  sarcophagi are generally kept closed, but the interior sometimes may be glimpsed through metal grills. The bodies repose in plain sarcophagi with a simple inscription, or more often they lie below the floor level, underneath the symbolic tombs. Sometimes a gravestone, covered with a turban in fabric or in chiselled stone was placed at the head of the tomb when the deceased was male. Of course, only prominent persons were buried in a türbe, the others were laid to rest in the mosque grounds with a tombstone that may have been more or less elaborated.

Pasha Bey Türbe in Skopje
       This türbe, located on the grounds of Ishak Bey Mosque, is probably the most exquisite Islamic mausoleum in Macedonia. It has been built by the 15th century ruler of Skopje, Ishak Bey, for his deceased son. Its architecture represents the perfect example of a classical Ottoman mausoleum of the type of closed türbes, with a hexagonal base and a vaulted dome supported by a polygonal tambour. A glimpse through the windows reveals  the Turkish triangle decoration underneath the dome. All six sides with its respective windows are framed in artistically profiled stone. Its door is enhanced by a stepped arch while the windows are surmounted by pointed arches.
       What makes this mausoleum a most outstanding object of Ottoman heritage in Macedonia is its decoration with the famous Iznik tiles. Sharing this high quality embellishment only with the portal of Yeni Mosque in Bitola, the artistic value of Pasha Bey Türbe is considerable. Iznik tiles in turquoise-blue colours cover the tambour with a characteristic Islamic design while six-pointed stars decorate the upper corners of the arches.

       For a comprehensive study of Ottoman heritage in Macedonia I suggest my recently published book:
Teresa Waltenberger, Architecture in Macedonia:The Ottoman Heritage, Skopje 2014