Constructed in 1366-67 (768 A.H.), the Great Mosque of Manisa stands on the northern skirts of the Sipil Mountain, overlooking the city of Manisa. The complex was commissioned by Ishak Çelebi (1357-1388) of the Turkish Saruhan Emirate (Saruhanogullari), who ruled in Western Anatolia from 1313 to 1410 prior to Ottoman annexation. The architect is not known but Emet Bin Osman is thought to be the one who designed the complex. The mosque is open to prayer.
The complex consists of a mosque, madrasa, mausoleum (türbe) and fountains. The baths are located eighty meters to the northeast of the mosque. Another building associated with the complex is the Mevlevi takiyya (mevlevihane), which is situated further to the east of the mosque.
Occupying the eastern part of the main cluster, the mosque is composed of approximately two equal sized spaces; the prayer hall and the arcaded fountain courtyard preceding it to the north. Measuring approximately thirty-three by thirty-six and a half meters, both spaces are composed of twenty-eight tall bays, seven bays wide and four bays deep. In both, nine bays have been left free of vertical supports. In the courtyard the nine-bay area is left open, while that of the prayer hall is surmounted by a dome, about eleven meters in diameter, which sits on squinches carrying an octagonal base. All other bays are defined by single or double columns and are surmounted by domical vaults carried on pointed arches. The main dome is supported by six heavy piers.
The fountain courtyard is entered from the two portals on the north and the east façades. The northern portal is on axis with the octagonal fountain, the prayer hall entrance and the mihrab. Its arched stone frame projects slightly outward from the portal niche, which has an elaborate muqarnas ceiling. The low arched door is reached with six steps. There is a clock tower with four columns, constructed in the early seventeenth century, on the west corner of this portal. The portal facing east, which is also constructed within a rectangular niche on the façade, sits on a sloped side alley. An opening opposite the courtyard from this portal leads into the madrasa courtyard. The mosque courtyard has five rectangular windows to the north and three lower windows facing east.
The prayer hall is entered from the fountain courtyard through three rectangular doors, one on the axis with the courtyard portal and mihrab and other two symmetrically positioned on either side of it separated by a window. Inside, the mihrab, a semi-circular niche with two embedded columns on the sides, sits below the main dome. The dimly lit prayer hall has two rectangular windows to the east, one to the west, and four to the north, in addition to a few upper windows with pointed arches. The qibla wall, facing the mountain, has no windows.
The smaller madrasa is attached to the western wall of the mosque. The portal leading from the mosque to the madrasa courtyard is flanked by a fountain on each side. Also entered form the street to the north, the madrasa is composed of eleven vaulted cells of various sizes enveloping a paved courtyard. The mausoleum (türbe) occupies a large domed cell to the east of the madrasa courtyard, accessed primarily from the passageway connecting the mosque and the madrasa. The classroom with mihrab niche is on the south side, across the street entrance. Two sets of stairs lead to the upper story rooms. The minaret with its single balcony stands on a square base attached to the northwest corner of the madrasa. The onion dome of the minaret was destroyed in a storm in the late twentieth century.
The walls of complex structures were built of rough stone with cut stone used to emphasize corners and portals. Brick is used in the arches, vaults and domes and on the minaret shaft. Some column capitals and some stones used in the wall construction were borrowed from Byzantine or Roman ruins. Period stone decoration can be seen on the column capitals and on the ribbed arch between two dome piers in the prayer hall. Glazed brick in tiles with floral patterns in blue, yellow, green and violet embellish the base and sawtooth cornice of the minaret. The wooden minbar is intricately carved with arabesques, interlaced geometric patterns and inscriptions highlighted in gold. Although the interior is mostly plastered in white, simple painted arabesques of different periods adorn the interior of domes and some vaults.
The Great Mosque of Manisa is seen as the first step towards the development of the complex spatial composition of the classical Ottoman mosques, distinct with its fountain courtyard.
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