Thursday, September 13, 2018


Haseki, Fatih - İstanbul - Turkey

GPS : 41°00'30.8"N 28°56'30.6"E / 41.008556, 28.941833


Haseki Hürrem Sultan Complex is located on Sami Pasha (Özbek Süleyman Efendi) street, on Haseki neighborhood in Fatih district a little further up from the Bayram Pasha Complex, and built between 1539 and 1551 behalf of Hürrem who was the haseki (favorite concubine) of Sultan Süleyman I.

Haseki Külliye is located in the Haseki region which takes its name from this complex of buildings built in the name of wife of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificient, Hürrem Sultan (Roxalana). Since the primary date of the construction is 1538-1539 the architect of this complex is said to be Sinan. But there is a controversy on this topic since the buildings are not listed in the architect’s works. But the construction date and the fact that these are built in the name of Süleyman’s dearest companion it must be under the chief architect’s control.

This complex has built in different in stages in different time periods. There is a mosque, an imaret (big house for kitchens and related functions) darüşşifa (house for health) madrasah, sibyan mektebi (school for young children, primary school), small cemetery and a wooden house in the complex. The mosque has been changed from the original state and the other ones damaged and rebuilt after the fires and earthquakes. (1918 big İstanbul fire, 1894 earthquake) All buildings except the mosque group together within a wall, but the mosque is left standing alone on the other side of the road.

Built for Haseki Hürrem Sultan, this kulliye is the first important complex to be taken on by Sinan after he was appointed chief architect. It is composed of a mosque, a medrese, a primary school, a hospital and a refectory which was later added to the complex (1550). In situating his buildings at different angles and leaving narrow passages and gaps between them, Sinan chose an organic approach rarely to be seen in his subsequent works, resulting in rich perspective effects.

The single domed mosque was to be later enlarged with an extra module (1612). Together with the neighbouring Bayram Pasha Kulliye (1635), the complex formed an important social centre. General planning of the complex looks somehow disorderly. It is because of the different stages of construction and the neighborhood’s dense population and irregular housing layout.

The third largest religious complex in the city, this area was constructed in a district in Istanbul known as Avrat Pazarı, which came to be called Haseki, the name it bears today. In the early 1550s, a hospital for women and a soup kitchen were added to the complex; the mosque residing there was enlarged in the early 17th century. The Haseki Complex is Sinan’s very first accomplishment.

He built the structures that make up this complex when he was declared master builder of the Royal Ottoman Architectural Guild; they attest to his creativity even at the beginning of his career.  These buildings can be viewed only from the outside as the mosque is the only building in the complex that is still in use and can be visited.  At a later date, the mosque was doubled in size by adding one more domed structure to it.  We can observe traces from early Ottoman architecture in the details of the section that was originally built by Sinan.

The general character and particular features such as the lotus flower column capitals, show that the primary school is also a work of these years. Although an inscription inside the hospital's entrance hall gives its construction date as 945 (1538/39), it cannot be accepted as s, reliable document for dating the building since this inscription plate was placed on the wall in 1911 (329 A.H.) when the hospital was restored.

On the other hand, the construction date of the hospice is known; for its outer gate is inscribed. It was built in 1550 (957 A.H.) by the order of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. In the analysis of this building complex, one observes that while the individual buildings are well designed there is no strong architectural order among them. Except for the hospital and the hospice which have a geometric relationship, the site planning does not exhibit a definite pattern.

This deficiency in site planning cannot be attributed to its architect's lack of talent and experience. Although the great Sinan was still in his architectural prime when he built the Haseki Complex, he had many well designed complexes at his disposal to study. What may have happened is this : the Haseki Complex was not planned as a whole, but was built in several stages.

The first building of the complex is obviously the mosque which was built in 1538/39. It was ordered by Haseki Hürrem (Roxelana) and designed and erected for her by Sinan. Then came the medrese and the primary school which were built the following year across the street from the mosque. In the third stage, the hospital and the hospice were planned. The latter was ordered in 1550 not by Haseki Hürrem but by her husband and curiously, this building is not recorded in any of the lists on Sinan's works.

One must therefore conclude that it was not designed and constructed by Sinan, who was occupied with the planning of the Siileymaniye at that time. The hospital, on the other hand, was ordered by Haseki Hurrem and is definitely one of Sinan's work. It is possible that the hospital was built before the hospice between 1540 and 1550. If this is the case, then the hospice was architectually related to it at a later date.

But the opposite seems more the case. That is to say, the hospital which has a number of awkward architectural elements, was designed in this manner because the architect had to fit his building in a lot that was restricted by streets, the medrese and the hospice on all four sides. It is therefore more likely that the hospital was built between 1550 and 1557, the year of Haseki Hürrem's death. The third largest religious complex in the city, this area was constructed in a district in Istanbul known as Avrat Pazarı, which came to be called Haseki, the name it bears today.

In the early 1550s, a hospital for women and a soup kitchen were added to the complex; the mosque residing there was enlarged in the early 17th century. It is Sinan’s first commission as royal architect, a product of his early years before he became world-famous for numerous structures throughout the city. A rarity during Ottoman times, the entire complex was commissioned by a wife of a Sultan and funded by her own money. The hospital there still serves women to this day.

The first mosque on the site was completed in 1539 and had a single dome over a square space. In front was a latecomers’ area with five domes. Ahmet I added a domed section to the east of the structure in 1612 that some believe ruined it. The carved mithrab was filled with stalactites and decorated in a baroque style. The minbar pulpit has been decorated with wooden geometric dovetailing. The mosque and its dependencies were built by Sinan and completed in 1539, making these the earliest known works by him in the city.

The mosque is disappointing: originally it consisted of a small square room covered by a dome on stalactited pendentives, preceded by a rather pretentious porch of five bays which overlapped the building at both ends. It may perhaps have had a certain elegance of proportion and detail. But in 1612 a second and identical room was added on the north, the north wall being removed and its place taken by a great arch supported on two columns. The mihrab was then moved to the middle of the new extended east wall so that it stands squeezed behind one of the columns. The result is distinctly unpleasing.

Madrasah is located on the southeast of the complex facing the mosque on the other side of the road. Foundational record in the door dates the building 1551. Madrasah’s plan consists of a central open courtyard and around it a portico and small study cells each enclosed by a dome. There are 16 cells in the building around the courtyard. Each cell has its own fire stove (a kind of fireplace for heating and cooking) and a small window.

The entrance is from the inner court of the complex from a small garden which is also a playground for the primary school (sibyan mektebi) in the west side. You can see the domes of the madrasah and the imaret in the photos below. Building has a main large classroom on the central axis of the plan. This big classroom has also a dome which is higher and greater in size.

The unique adornments, upon the column’s capitals of the square planned madrasah, was completed between the years 1538 and 1540, cannot be seen anywhere else. The school has a monumental porch, which is entered from the gate on the left of the madrasahs’ courtyard, consists of two parts which colud be used in winter and summer.

Primary School (Sıbyan Mektebi)
The small school’s plan consists of two rectangular spaces one of which is a closed classroom and the other is a semi closed courtyard. Courtyard has one wall with top windows on the road side which is a part of the outer wall that encloses the complex and also separates it from the road. This space is used as a classroom in warm season and a play area for younger children. There is also a small pool in the garden in front of the school which has changed in time but still features some old details and provides a calming atmosphere.

The madrasah and the school form an educational unit within the complex and have a separate door from the road which opens between these two buildings. The canopy covering the entrance is an extended part of the schools roof which forms an impressive umbrella like form (sitting at the top of the stone wall) as a finishing detail. School’s walls are consist of both stone and brick. Red bricks are used in the archs in the north façade.

The most amazing part of this building is the wooden ceiling which consists of magnificent wooden shapes that form a quasi-crystalline structure. Such decagonal and quasi-crystalline tilings can be found in Islamic buildings on ceramic tiles, stone work and wooden ornamentations. But these ceiling was swollen and damaged because the roof was in bad condition. Our task was to draw the architectural project of the Külliye and its buildings in their damaged and present form. While working on the school we realized that the roof was leaking and the wooden tiles were damaged by rain water since some of the metal claddings of the roof were missing.

Worst of all we realized on a Monday thieves stole the rest of the metal claddings and left the roof structure open, just after we delivered our report about this school with its missing roof claddings and presented on Friday to the Department of Foundations which was the authorized body in this project. The thieves were never found. (and I curse them ever since) Unfortunately it took quite a long time before they fixed the ceiling due to inefficient bureaucracy and the ceiling got damaged some more.

Cure House (Darüşşifa)
This health house is the most extraordinary building within the complex with its original plan and form. From a beautiful portal in the north one can enter a courtyard with an octagonal plan. The spaces surrounding the courtyard have domes which planned as spatial and flexible areas. These areas serve as treatment stations. Some of the small rooms are thought to be designed for medicine preparations and larger ones as patient dorms.

At this medical facility all kinds of illnesses were to be treated. Two physicians, two surgeons, two ophthalmologists, two pharmacists, two pharmacy assistants, one secretary, one steward, one cook, one cellar master, four patient attendants, two servants, two laundrymen and other personnel for a total of 28 employees. Two days a week medicine was dispensed free of charge to those who wanted it from outside the hospital. The physicians didn’t just have to be good doctors; they had also to be always smiling, perceptive and knowledgeable, among other attributes specified in the foundation deed.

The hospital is behind the medrese, entered from the street behind the külliye to the north. It is a building of most unusual form: the court is octagonal but without a columned portico. The two large corner rooms at the back, whose great domes have stalactited pendentives coming far down the walls, originally opened to the courtyard through huge arches, now glassed-in; with these open rooms or eyvans all the other wards and chambers of the hospital communicated.

The structure, behind the madrasah, measures 27 x 34.8 meters and serves as hospital. The domes of the cut stone hospital, which was built in 1550, are bricks. The hospital, with two iwans and having 22 rooms, was converted into a centre in 1848 especially where women in need of nursing were cured. A part of the hospital was arranged as a jail for women in 1869.

The assignment of a doctor to the hospital in 1871 prevented inconvenience into the medical services. The hospital, whose patient numbers continually increased, was expanded a bit more by inclusion of the Moralı Ali Bey Mansion in 1882. When the buildings, which were restored in 1911, were damaged in the fire of 1918, the hospital was closed for some time. The hospital, restored between in years 1946 and 1948, then resumed its service.

Kitchen (İmaret)
This building is not listed in the Sinan’s works but considered to be under his supervision. Kitchen spaces are planned with a central courtyard like other buildings with portico and domed roofs. The impressive part of the building is the roof with its funnels on top of the domes that provide an original form for the entire complex. From the north façade these domes and the funnels composition form a stunning silhouette.

Külliye has also a wooden house on the south façade which is supposed to be built for the imam of the mosque. House is also in poor condition and waiting to be renovated with the whole complex. The imaret, built of cut and rubble stone, is dated to 1540, and is encircled a porched courtyard. According to its inscription, the plain fountain of the imaret to the left of the gate on the street was built in 1766.

The imaret, which was still in use up until the early 1970s, is beyond the mektep, entered through a monumental portal which leads to an alleyway. At the end of this, one enters the long rectangular courtyard of the imaret, shaded with trees. Vast kitchens with large domes and enormous chimneys (better seen from inside at the back) line three sides of the courtyard.


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