By the beginning of the 15th century, Bursa had not been the capital city of the Ottoman Empire for 37 years. Sultan Murad I conquered Adrianople in 1363, renamed it in Edirne and moved the Ottoman capital. The 14th century marks the birth and the initial expansion of the Ottoman state, while the 15th century marks its rise to one of the biggest empires that the world has ever seen, that lasted for over 600 years.
THE RISE OF THE EMPIRE
Despite the fact that Bursa was no longer the capital city, it retained its status as the spiritual centre and the trade hub. Indeed, the most beautiful historical structures that you can see in Bursa today are from the 15th century. That period started with the construction of the Grand Mosque, but after that the Ottoman sultans built new imperial mosques and complexes, in addition to bazaars, hammams and hans.
In my previous post, I described the nascent Ottoman state through Bursa’s 14th century historical monuments.
In this post, we will see the rise of the empire through the 15th century Ottoman heritage that makes Bursa a very special place and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Together with Istanbul, but also with some other cities in Turkey, Bursa is one of the best places to explore the Ottoman history.
GREEN MOSQUE (1421)
After the Grand Mosque, the next big imperial mosque to be built in Bursa was the Green Mosque or Yeşil Cami in Turkish.
Sultan Mehmed I Çelebi constructed it as his mosque in 1412, one year before he came to power in 1413.
His father, Sultan Bayezid I, was captured by the Turco-Mongol warlord Timur during the Battle of Ankara in 1402. That event started the Ottoman civil war that lasted between 1402 and 1413, when Mehmed defeated and killed his 3 brothers. They were all fighting to rule the Ottoman Empire.
If you go to Bursa, you wouldn’t want to miss this mosque. It is the prime example of the early Ottoman architecture, with elements of the Seljuk style. Also, despite being much smaller than the Grand Mosque, it is equally beautiful.
The first thing that you notice when you enter the mosque is that there is the fountain inside, the same as in the Grand Mosque. You are not going to see fountains in mosques constructed centuries later in Istanbul and other places.
Another unusual thing is that the mosque is not on the same level. Rather, there are steps that lead to the main area.
Otherwise, the mosque is predominantly decorated with green tiles and they give the name to the mosque.
But, what I’ve also noticed is that the design of the tiles is different from tiles used in decoration of mosques constructed much later in Istanbul.
In fact, although the mosques that you can see in Istanbul are undoubtedly beautiful, after you’ve seen several of them, you become lost. Certainly, they are all very different from each other, but to you they all may look the same. That’s because the tiles and other decorative forms are very similar.
But, as you can see in these photos, this mosque is very different.
The mosque is not in the city centre. At the same time, it’s not too far away and it took approximately 20 minutes for me to walk there.
GREEN TOMB (1421)
The Green Tomb, or Yeşil Türbe, is part of the Sultan Mehmed I Çelebi complex and it’s immediately next to the Green Mosque.
Undoubtedly, this mausoleum is one of Bursa’s most memorable landmarks. In fact, it is unique and like no other mausoleum that you can see in Bursa or in other cities with Ottoman imperial tombs.
But, beautiful tiles that adorn its outer walls are not all original. After many centuries and numerous earthquakes, they had to restore the building and to replace damaged tiles. Nevertheless, the tomb is essentially the same as it was when they first made it.
The interior is stunning. In a photo below, you can see the sultan’s coffin.
Additionally, it is very different from Osman’s and Orhan’s mausoleums. In fact, these early mausoleums seem to be rather unique in the way they are decorated, unlike the later dated mausoleums in Istanbul which all look very similar.
If the Green Tomb and the Green Mosque were the only historical sites in Bursa, it would still be worth visiting the city. But, they are only a small part of the vast heritage that you can find there. Many exquisite constructions arrived to Bursa later.
MURADIYE MOSQUE (1426)
There is one more imperial mosque in Bursa, the Muradiye Mosque or the Sultan Murad II Mosque.
It was the last big imperial mosque constructed in Bursa. The 15th century historical events dramatically changed the Ottoman Empire. Only 27 years after the construction of this mosque, Murad’s son – Fatih Sultan Mehmed – conquered Constantinople. After that pivotal event, the Islamic spiritual centre of the Ottoman Empire moved from Bursa to the new capital. Consequently, from that time the Ottoman sultans commissioned and constructed big imperial complexes in Istanbul.
However, over the course of 150 years Bursa experienced the construction boom, to become the second in wealth of historical sites after Istanbul. The Muradiye Mosque contributes to its patrimony.
This mosque is also the prime example of the early Ottoman architecture, with elements of the Seljuk era style. It is similar to the Green Mosque and Sultan Murad II started its construction immediately after the works on the Green Mosque and the Green Tomb had finished.
The same as the Green Mosque, it is also slightly far from the centre, but you can walk there. It took approximately half an hour for me to get there, although I stopped several times to see some other sites on the way.
That’s also why I mentioned in one of my previous posts that if you visit Bursa, you should stay for at least two days. That would give you enough time to see the main historical area, but also sites like this mosque which are in a different location.
SULTAN MURAD II MAUSOLEUM
By then, it became customary for sultans to be buried in mausoleums next to their mosques. I mention this because Osman Gazi and Orhan Gazi, the first and the second sultan of the empire are buried in Tophane Park, where there is no mosque.
The extraordinary thing about the Muradiye Mosque is that its complex houses the biggest number of imperial tombs. I will only mention two of them in this post, otherwise the post would be too long. But, all mausoleums are worth a visit because of their splendid interior decoration.
Murad’s mausoleum, although constructed right after the Green Tomb of Sultan Mehmed I Çelebi, is completely different.
Murad’s achievement was that he regained Ottoman territories that had become autonomous after the defeat and the capture of his grandfather Bayezid I. Additionally, Murad successfully conquered vast territories in the Balkans.
Interestingly, his tomb is also different from tombs of his predecessors.
CEM SULTAN MAUSOLEUM
This is the second 15th century imperial tomb that I want to mention in this post. It puzzled me a lot when I saw the inscription – Cem Sultan Mausoleum. From what I knew about the Ottoman history, there was no Cem Sultan that ruled the empire at any time. After Murad, his son Mehmed took the power and became one of the most successful sultans in the Ottoman history. Fatih Sultan Mehmed conquered Constantinople.
Without going into too much detail, Cem ruled for a very brief period of time in 1481. He was Fatih Sultan Mehmed’s third son.
After Mehmed’s death, him and his half-brother Bayezid engaged in power struggle for the throne of the empire. Thus, shortly after Mehmed’s death, Bayezid ruled as a sultan in Istanbul and Cem ruled in Bursa for one month, as the Sultan of Anatolia.
Bayezid managed to defeat him and became Sultan Bayezid II. Cem escaped with his family to Cairo. He died in exile.
As you can see in the photos, it’s a magnificently decorated mausoleum.
MURADIYE MADRASA (1426)
Together with the mosque, the Muradiye Madrasa forms the Muradiye Complex. At the time of its construction, this madrasa was the most famous educational institution within the Ottoman empire. Many famous scientists taught there and it produced many famous scientists of that era.
It is the classical example of the early Ottoman architecture, with Seljuk elements.
Because of fires and earthquakes over past centuries, they had to restore the building numerous times. In the 1950s, they used it as the TB hospital.
From January 2019, the Muradiye Madrasa is the Museum of Qu’ran and Manuscripts.
IVAZ PASHA MOSQUE
Haci Ivaz Pasha was the chief architect during the Sultan Murad II’s reign. He constructed the Green Mosque and the Green Tomb, plus numerous other buildings that you can see in Bursa today.
One of those buildings is the Ivaz Pasha Mosque.
It’s a small mosque located in the most central historical area of Bursa, only a short walk from the Grand Mosque and it is surrounded by many historical structures.
As you can see in a photo below, the Pirinç Han is in the same square, directly opposite the mosque.
IVAZ PASHA MARKET
At the same time when Ivaz Pasha constructed his mosque, he also constructed the market, as part of a bigger complex. I couldn’t find any reference regarding the year in which he built his complex. But, as Ivaz Pasha died in 1429, he must have built both the mosque and the Ivaz Pasha Market in years prior to his death.
They sell furniture and other household items in this market. The market is connected with surrounding structures and on the other side you arrive to the Geyve Han.
I wrote about the Emir Han in my previous post, the oldest one in Bursa. But, it was in the 15th century that they built numerous other hans in the city. The Geyve Han is the oldest of four hans that I will mention in this article. Together with imperial mosque complexes, these hans create the nucleus of historical Bursa.
Haci Ivaz Pasha built the Geyve Han at the beginning of the 15th century. He presented it as a gift to Sultan Mehmed I Çelebi, to generate revenues for the maintenance of the Green Mosque.
It is smaller than hans that I will mention later, it has 56 rooms in total, 26 downstairs and 30 upstairs.
FIDAN HAN (1464)
When I talk about the magic of Bursa, I primarily consider the old historical area. What I mean is that when you start to explore this area and you come across the Fidan and other hans, you end up feeling amazed. In other words, such concentration of beautiful historical structures cannot leave you indifferent. It’s really hard to believe that there is so much to see.
The Grand Vizier of Fatih Sultan Mehmed, Mahmud Pasha, built the Fidan Han. I did some research about the Fidan Han for this post and, to my surprise, I came across an interesting piece of information previously unknown to me. The same as Sokollu Mehmed Pasha, Mahmud Pasha Angelović was Serbian, abducted as a child by the Ottomans, under the devşirme system. He also advanced to the second most powerful position within the Ottoman Empire. I’ve never heard this before and I don’t think that there are many people in Serbia that know this.
Mahmud Pasha constructed this han to generate income for his mosque in Istanbul. The Fidan Han is a beautiful place, with shops and restaurants. It is where you would certainly want to go, for coffee or for something to eat and to have a rest.
KOZA HAN (1491)
Without any doubt, the most beautiful of all hans in Bursa is the Koza Han.
Sultan Bayezid II built it, to provide income for his mosque complex in Istanbul.
This han is also in Bursa’s historical centre, immediately next to the Emir Han, the Orhan Gazi Mosque and the Grand Mosque.
Unfortunately, the same as with most mosques, you can’t take one photo that would show everything. Additionally, trees in the courtyard of the han further obscure the view. But, I believe that you can get a good idea of how it is inside. The second day of my stay in Bursa, I set in the Koza Han for several hours and enjoyed its magical atmosphere.
PIRINÇ HAN (1508)
The last historical site that I will mention in this post is the Pirinç Han .
Sultan Bayezid II built it, to provide income for his mosque complex in Istanbul, the same as the Koza Han. It’s interesting that he chose Bursa to build these two splendid constructions, although he could have done it in Istanbul. It confirms that Bursa was important as a strategic trade hub, otherwise there would have been no need to build so many inns that served both as hotels and commercial places. Apart from Istanbul, I have not seen so many big hans in any other cities that I visited in Turkey.
Pirinç means rice in English, so this han was where they sold grains and rice. Today, it’s a place where you can go for a drink or a meal, as you will predominantly find restaurants and bars there. The first evening of my stay in Bursa, I had dinner in one of the restaurants in the Pirinç Han.
Or if you don’t want to eat, you can stop for a quick refreshment at the Pirinç Han Büfe.
There is a lot of history in this post, but that’s because there is a lot of history in Bursa. What I particularly liked about Bursa was that you can follow both, the birth and the rise of the Ottoman Empire, through its numerous historical structures.
In the 15th century, Bursa experienced the construction boom that marked the rise, the increasing power and the wealth of the Empire.
Thankfully, most of it is preserved and definitely worth a visit. I would like to go back and perhaps I will at some point in the future. Unfortunately, I missed several important sites, which I mentioned in my previous post.
I have also seen many other things in Bursa, but because there were so many of them, I could not pay attention to all of them, plus there was also an element of saturation. We can only absorb so much, while there is a lot to see and remember in Bursa.