You may wish to see an introductory page to this section or page one with overall images of the Ulu Cami (Great Mosque) of Divrigi first.
The porch of the mesjid at Divriki
is one of the most beautiful specimens of the florid
Saracenic, perhaps, to be seen in Western Asia.
William F. Ainsworth - Travels and Researches in Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Chaldea, and Armenia - 1842
The highly sophisticated technique of vault construction and a creative, exuberant type of decorative sculpture - particularly on the three doorways, in contrast to the unadorned walls of the interior - are the unique features of this masterpiece of Islamic architecture.
UNESCO: from the criteria supporting the inscription of the complex in the World Heritage List in 1985.
Hurrem, the architect of the Great Mosque of Divrigi came from the region of Lake Van; this was located at a crossroad of different cultures: to the north it bordered on Armenia where elaborate and deeply carved gravestones were developed between the IXth and the XIth century; Persia lay to its east; this meant influence of a culture which had exchanges with India; to the south there were some remnants of the Christian states founded after the First Crusade: here elements of Gothic architecture were introduced; finally Lake Van was close to the eastern border of the Seljuk sultanate. Hurrem built three gigantic portals; two for the mosque and one for the hospital; although the portals were designed by the same person and were built at the same time they show great differences. The northern portal is characterized by its great depth and by the unusual design of its muqarna, the system of projecting niches above the actual entrance.
Ulu Cami: northern portal: details of its carvings
The variety of the carved decoration indicates that is was carried out by different groups of craftsmen. The main characteristic of the designs featured in the portals is their uniqueness: each is distinct from other decorations. There are no other examples of the three-dimensional and intricate geometric styles and flowing figures of plants. UNESCO
Floral motifs are common in Muslim art; they are usually associated with geometric motifs and calligraphy: the overall effect is very elaborate. In Divrigi floral motifs are an explosion of life; they are very detached from the background and actual plants seem to climb on the walls. Art historians have identified points in common with Indian monuments and even with the contemporary temples of Angkor.
Ulu Cami: (left) western portal; (right) its muqarna
The western portal is less deep and at the same time it projects more from the wall than the northern one. Its muqarna is based on complex curved lines and is characterized by several spherical objects.
Ulu Cami: western portal: (left) details of the columns at the sides of the entrance; (right) dove and double-headed eagle on the outer part of the portal
Art historians attribute to Armenian influence the capitals and the design of the columns at the sides of the entrance. The representation of birds is linked to the male (eagle) and female (dove) concepts, but the double-headed eagle was also a symbol of the Sultanate of Rum; when the complex of Divrigi was built the Menguceks were vassals of that nation. The technique is very unusual because the birds are clearly detached from the background, but at the same the relief showing their details is very low.
|Other great mosques in this web site:|
The Great Mosque of Bukhara
The Great Mosque of Cordoba
The Great Mosque of Damascus
The Great Mosque of Diyarbakir
Selimiye Camii at Edirne
Shah Abbas Mosque at Isfahan
Suleymaniye Kulliyesi at Istanbul
The Great Mosque of Kairouan
The Blue Mosque of Tabriz
The Great Mosque of Tripoli in Lebanon
The Great Mosque of Xian
(left) Portal of Darussifah; (right) relief with astronomical motifs
The adjoining hospital, the Darush-shifa, was founded by Ahmet Shah's wife Turan Melek. It is entered via a monumental, elaborately carved stone portal on the west. UNESCO
The high portal of the hospital is characterized by two pointed arches, one set within the other. This gives to the portal an almost Gothic aspect. It is known that astronomy was held in great esteem by Islam: this is confirmed by the representation of many stars above the entrance.
Portal of Darussifah; six pointed stars
The encircled six pointed star is usually associated with Jewish identity. For Islam this star was associated with the number of days in which God created the Earth and it was regarded as an excellent shape. The Shield of David is not mentioned in antiquity nor is it found on ancient Jewish gravestones. It appears to be associated with Jewish culture from the middle of the XIVth century in Central Europe, so when the stars of the portals were designed they did not have any hidden reference to Jewish identity.
The floral motifs decorating the portal of the hospital are not as many as those of the northern portal, but they show the same vigour.
Ulu Cami: (left) eastern portal; (right) detail of its decoration
The mosque can be accessed through a third entrance: it was reserved to its founder and thus it is called the Shah Gate. It was built in 1241 and it strictly adheres to the canons of Seljuk architecture; this maybe because the other entrances were regarded as being somewhat heretical owing to their representation of actual flowers and animals.
Towards the Persian Gulf
The valley is wide and open, bounded to the
north by the rounded but lofty summits of the Dumbugh
Tagh, to the south by the Erumbat, to the west it rises
gradually towards the snow-clad summits (in July) of
the Yamur Tagh, while to the east it is shut up by
lofty and rocky precipices. The valley is watered by a
small stream, in the bed of which occur vast boulders
of magnetic iron ore. This stream, joins immediately
below the town, the Keumer Su, which, issuing from a
narrow pass in the Dumbugh Tagh, enters the vale of
Divriki, makes a curve to the south-west towards the
town, and then loses itself in a dark inaccessible glen,
bounded by giant precipices. Ainsworth
While Sivas, the capital of the province, is located in the basin of the Kizilirmak (Red River) which empties into the Black Sea, Divrigi is in a different basin. The river which flows near the old town finds its ways through a ridge until it reaches the western branch of the Euphrates River. This flows through steep canyons and gorges and then through the deserts of Syria and Iraq until it merges with the Tigris; the resulting river (Shatt-Al-Arab) empties into the Persian Gulf.