Bursa and Cumalikizik
Bursa and Cumalikizik: The Birth of the Ottoman Empire comprises the empire's first capital and its emerging functions.
The reign of the Ottomans started here in 1326, with the surrender of Bursa to Osman Bey by the Byzantines. His son Orhan Ghazi is seen as the founder of the Ottoman dynasty. The tombs of both father and son are located in Bursa. Later (in 1413) the capital moved to Edirne and in 1453 to Istanbul. Bursa remained the most important Anatolian administrative and commercial center until the mid-15th century.
This is a serial nomination of 8 components: 7 in Bursa, plus Cumalikizik. Cumalikizik is a town 8km east of Bursa, representing an Ottoman village with rural land schemes. The monuments in Bursa include 4 kulliye complexes, which combine religious and social functions such as mosques, madrasah, public kitchens and public baths.
Ian Cade - July 2016
Bursa became a very enjoyable but late addition to our long weekend in Istanbul, fortunately for us it had already been well covered by other reviewers, so we knew what to focus on in the city centre, especially thanks to Solivagant’s explanation of “Kullieye”, so I won’t expand much on their thorough rundowns.
We enjoyed walking around the central market area, and the central mosque was very welcoming and the trickling of the fountain under the glass dome inside gave a very tranquil feeling. Opposite it the Silk Khan showed some of the commercial heritage of the city.
The real highlight was the Yesil (Green) complex, the interior of the Green Mosque was very impressive. The deep blue tiles and muqarnas (honeycomb vaulting) gave the impression of a Persian interior, rather different to the Byzantine inspired mosques we had visited in Istanbul. Walking the short distance from the centre out to the Yesil complex we passed over a stream flowing down from the surrounding lush mountains and I understood why Bursa has such a strong pleasant reputation, even the air felt soft and comforting.
Now I have to admit there was another reason why I came to Bursa, not only was it to explore the ottoman heritage, and get another tick off the list, it was also a pilgrimage to the birthplace of one of my favourite meals, the İskender kebap. It has long been a favourite dish thanks to my residency in the heart of Turkish London, so I jumped at the chance to try it from the original restaurant, a short stroll from the Town Hall. A long winding queue on a Sunday lunchtime suggested we found the right place, and it was rather fun joining the swift moving line, looking a little confused when the locals asked u some questions and then being presented with the shortest menu I have ever seen [-]Half portion, Full portion, Double portion[-].
If like us you are travelling form Istanbul it is possible to do it as a day trip: The ferries run regularly and take about 1hr 35mins – 2hrs. From the ferry port you can get a bus or dolmus to the final metro stop at Emek, and then ride the metro all the way to Şehreküstü which is just a short signposted walk from the central mosque. The trip in from the ferry port is actually rather lengthy so the whole trip from Istanbul to the city centre will probably be about 3 hours. There are two ferry companies that run on the route, we had no problem turning up and buying tickets for the next sailing with IDO, however there were none available when we tried the same with BUDO, so it may be worth buying your ferry tickets in advance. And a note of caution they go from different ports at the Bursa end which are about a 15 minute taxi ride away from each other so make sure you go to the correct one.
All in all it was a nice trip to Bursa and we felt like we had a better appreciation of Turkey’s diverse charms even if it was only as a day trip from Istanbul. The two things not to miss are the Green Mosque and the Iskender kebaps!
Site 6: Experience 7
Solivagant - June 2015
In 2014 ICOMOS requested that Turkey should “Revise the focus of the nomination” for Bursa, didn’t accept any of the 5 proposed criteria and recommended “deferral”. Facing a stroppy WHC, it was overruled and Bursa became the 8th site converted by the WHC that year from a “Deferral” recommendation to an “Inscription” – and on all the original nominated criteria! We were particularly interested to see what we would make of it all and had an afternoon/evening in which to do so!
Bursa city has a very positive reputation among Turks as a place to live. Known as “Green Bursa” it is set in a fertile valley and also has easy access to ski slopes and the sea. It is the fourth biggest city in Turkey with a population of around 1.8 million and is booming. It was perhaps unfortunate that it was the first WHS of our trip and we were still getting used to the car, the traffic and the culture/history of Turkey. Apart from a 3hr drive (!) across Istanbul the previous evening it was also the first major city we reached. I hadn’t yet got my “Sygic” map app working and also hadn’t yet come to terms with such matters as parking arrangements in Turkey :- You get somewhere close to the town centre, find a small scrap of land signed “Otopark”, pay the guardian around 5TL, give him the car key and let him shuffle all the cars entering and leaving this area to enable the maximum number of cars to be parked there – hoping yours won’t be scratched when you get back! One problem was finding the centre - signage in Turkish towns wasn’t of the best even if one understood it and we hadn’t yet realised that “şehir merkezi” wasn’t the name of a district, but meant “Town Centre”! Yet we managed to see most of the elements in the time we gave it.
The nomination makes much of the fact that the site relates solely to those aspects of Bursa arising from its the early development by the Ottomans (“The Birth of the Ottoman Empire”) after its capture from the Byzantines in 1324 by Orhan Ghazi, son of the founder Osman I (after whom the dynasty was named). He became Sultan in 1326 and the 4 subsequent Sultans take us through to 1421 when Murad II abdicated in favour of his son Mehmed II – i.e a period of almost 100 years after the accession of Orhan. During this period Ottoman Architecture developed from its Seljuk roots and incorporated e.g Byzantine ideas. Thus the “Bursa Period” is a recognised term in the study of Ottoman architecture. The buildings on show in Bursa were largely constructed at the end of this period and therefore reflect the developments made.
To appreciate the site it is necessary to understand 2 Turkish words relating to the social arrangements under which it was created
a. Vakif (or Wakf) – a religious endowment, particularly of a building or plot of land, by an individual which is then held in trust
b. Kullieye - a complex of buildings, centred around a mosque and managed within a single institution, often based on a vakif, and composed of a medrese (religious school), a darussifa (clinic), kitchens, bakery, hammam, other buildings for various charitable services for the community and further annexes” (Wiki). In effect a religious/civic “community centre”
UNESCO has registered 8 separate locations but in practice there are really only 6 as shown on the Nomination File maps marked A – F. The locations divide into 3 categories
a. The so called “Khans Area” with 2 adjacent core locations. One of these is the Orhan Ghazi Kulliye. The other (larger) contains a range of buildings including the Grand Mosque, several Khans and a covered market. This is situated in the very centre of Bursa
b. 4 other “Külliyes”, each is named after a Sultan who built it and (usually?? We didn’t see them all) the Mausoleum of him and his family – So Murad I, Murad II, Bayezid I and Mehmed I. (That of Murad I is divided into 2 core locations because the Bath house is separate). The Kulliyes of Mehmed I in the area of Yesil (= “green”) is walkable from the Khans area and is perhaps the most significant one. Bayazid I is around 3kms further east. 2 more Kulliyes are situated to the West – those of Murad I and II – the former is the furthest out, situated in the suburb of Cekirge, around 7 kms from the centre.
c. The Village of Cumalikizik situated about 12kms east by road
We visited 4 of the 6 separate geographical areas – the Khan area, Cumulakzik village and 2 of the Kulliyes - that of Mehmed I on the basis that it was walkable from the Khan area and seemed the most important architecturally, and that of Murad I which happened to be near our Bursa hotel.!
A brief report on each
a. The Khans area contains 2 mosques and 7 or 8 Khans, It is the bustling heart of the city fronted by a park with fountains and looking out on Ataturk Cadesi. All of the buildings seem to have been rebuilt over the years but the Ulu Camii or Great Mosque is a fine structure dating originally from 1399 - apparently it is particularly famed for the many examples of calligraphy on walls, columns and large plates erected for the purpose. The bazaar areas bustled as everywhere and seemed as big as those of Istanbul and (once upon a time) Aleppo.
b. The Mehmed I Kulliye in Yesil is famed for the Green Mosque and the Green Tomb (the Mausoleum of Mehmed I). These also were rebuilt after the 1855 earthquake – whether that is the reason that the majority of the tiles are blue rather than green I know not! Inside the “Turbe” are the tombs we would get to know so well across Turkey – one large tomb surrounded by a number of smaller ones. Each tomb is covered with a cloth, either plain or with heavy calligraphy, and has a turban in cloth and or stone at the head – an idea we had seen last in saints’ tombs in Pakistan and I wonder if it is a tradition transplanted from Central Asia. As a reminder that these were Ottoman Sultans a large Turkish flag was nearby. One of the complaints ICOMOS had about the Kulliyes, is that many of the original buildings such as kitchens are no longer in place and I also felt that none of the 3 we saw were fully presented as social “complexes” in all their elements including the workaday - but perhaps all this is self evident to Turks visiting the sites - which now had UNESCO signage in Turkish and English, by the way. This one has a mosque, a tomb, a madrasah (now a museum and closed when we were there) and apparently a kitchen - but we never saw that.
c. The Murad I Kulliye. This dates from 1426 and I can’t really say that we gained any further value from seeing this. Again there were a number of buildings in a complex but after seeing the Mosque and the tombs that was about it – the Madrasah and Kitchens are still in use as a community centre apparently.
d. Cumalikizik. The inclusion of this village seemed particularly to upset ICOMOS and, in their recommendations, they asked for its inclusion to be “reconsidered”! The Turkish argument for its inclusion is that this and other villages were set up immediately after the conquest of Bursa and that Turkmen, who had assisted the conquest, were settled in them. They were “Waqf villages” meaning “that (they) belonged forever to a public institution (Complex) and served as a source of income for building the Complexes and the new town. (Their) creation was part of the founding of Bursa as a capital” (Nomin file). A bit tenuous? Whatever - the village is an attractive destination and was busy with Turkish and Arabic speaking tourists when we were there. The village is quite well signed to the north of the main East/West thoroughfare and the road climbs towards the mountains. Cars have to be left at an Otopark as the village itself is pedestrianised, other than to locals. Restoration of buildings was still ongoing as of May 2015 and the village was gradually being turned into a typical “tourist village” of souvenir shops and restaurants with some Pensions and no doubt some summer houses for the wealthy of Bursa. For the moment farming locals still drive their tractors through the streets. The following day we were to drive to Safranbolu, inscribed for its “Ottoman houses” but, whilst the architecture of both is “Ottoman” with its overhanging wooden superstructures etc, they are otherwise very different. Cumalikizik is basically a rural/ agricultural village whilst Safranbolu is very much a town with quite grand houses, Mosques, a Khan and other public buildings etc in its own right.
So, having seen our 4 areas, do we think that ICOMOS was right to propose a deferral? Well – if you read the arguments I suppose that “intellectually” they hold water. Bursa perhaps could indeed have been better presented as an Ottoman “continuity city” through to the 19th C. And perhaps some of those Kulliye don’t really add a great deal, and that village does sit somewhat uncomfortably with the city elements. But, when one sees the ease with which yet another European Vineyard site gains inscription after ticking all the right boxes in its Nomination, one has to question whether the scheme as interpreted by ICOMOS is missing the wood for the trees. Bursa is a fine city, the early years of the Ottoman Empire with their architecture and social institutions are historically important and should be represented. Does it really matter what the detail of the Nomination File says? I am with the WHC on this one!!
Tony H. - August 2014
2 months after it's inscription to World Heritage List Bursa hasn't experienced yet big tourists masses. Actually I didn't meet any other western tourists than myself but many Arab tourists have found this city and it's bazaars. Also locals were really interested to start a conversation with me which also shows that Bursa hasn't been found by tourists.
Also Bursa doesn't seem to be yet proud of it's World Heritage status as I didn't see any signs saying that I'm in a World Heritage city. In some brochures there were mentions that sites in Bursa were on tentative list so I guess they're waiting for update. But all the sites I visited were in perfect clean condition which shows that inscription didn't come as a surprise for the city.
Funniest thing is that Bursa is supposed to show the birth of Ottoman empire but actually only few of the sites are in original condition. Many of them have been destroyed once or twice in earthquakes and renovated in later styles.
We started our visit at Bursa Citadel. You can find from there tombs of sultans Osman and Orhan. Osman was the first sultan of Ottoman empire and Orhan was his son. Tombs are really decorated and beautiful inside and represent late Ottoman baroque style as the original ones got destroyed in 1855. Next to the tombs is fine clock tower, the last one left in the city.
Next we explored the Grand Mosque or Ulu Cami. Ulu Cami is definitely one the most beautiful mosques I have ever visited. The fountain in the center and the glass roof give it a special character and the Arabic calligraphy on the walls is superb. The mosque represents the older Seljuk style and that's why stands out from rest of the mosques. After the mosques we explored the bazaars and khans around the mosque. My favorite was Koza Han with beautiful courtyard hosting a small mosque.
From the center we moved to Yesil Camii, Green Mosque in English. This mosque represents the pure Ottoman style with upside-down-T plan. As Blue Mosque, the Green Mosque got it's name from it's green interior. Next to the mosque is Green Tomb where sultan Mehmed I is resting with his family members. The tomb looks green from a far but close by you notice it's actually blue. The interior is nicely pink.
Next on our program was Emir Sultan Camii, little bit further away from Yesil Camii. Emir Sultan is made from wood and surrounded by green cemetary so it's atmosphere is very peaceful. I got to have a chat with imam who was surprised to see a tourist in the mosque who was not a muslim. Unfortunately this mosque is not included in the World Heritage inscription maybe because it was heavily restored in 1990s. It represents Ottoman rococo style.
From Emir Sultan we walked to Yildirim Beyazit Camii, our last mosque for the day. As we had already seen many Ottoman mosques that day there was nothing new for us anymore. We enjoyed watching the sunset from it's yard.
Next day we visited in Muradiye complex. The Muradiye Camii was again the basic Ottoman style. Around the mosque is 12 tombs but they were at the moment being renovated and it was not possible to walk in the park.
The parts we didn't visit of the World Heritage site were Murat I Hüdavendigar Camii and Cumalikizik which are more out of town.
Bursa's mosques were in size much smaller than the grand mosques in Istanbul and Edirne and represent totally different style so I think this was worthy addition to the World Heritage List. You can see the central sites in the city in one day but I would suggest to give 2 or 3 days for Bursa to fully explore it and it's surroundings, for example the mighty Uludag mountain and taste the amazing Iskender kebap and sugared chestnuts.
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Full name: Bursa and Cumalikizik: The Birth of the Ottoman Empire
2014 - InscribedReasons for inscription
2014 - Advisory Body overruledICOMOS advised Deferral
The site has 8 locations.
The site has 14 connections. Show all
- Destroyed or damaged by Earthquake The most significant event in the more recent history of Bursa is probably the severe earthquake which occurred in 1855 and which destroyed the majority of architectural structures in the city. (AB ev)
- Silk Manufacture Bursa became a centre of silk manufacture because of its location at the western end of the Silk road. The Koza Khan ( = Cocoon Khan) was where cocoons were traded, See
- Built in the 14th century birthplace of the Ottoman Empire in the early 14th century, various buildings dating back to 14th century included