Central Asia’s heritage to Anatolia: Wooden Mosques

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The very first masjid of Islam, Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina, was made by laying mere palm branches and leaves on double rows of palm tree logs and then covering them with soil.

The mosques today also known as “The Wooden Mosques” are called as such because the main materials used in the construction of the ceilings and poles that will carry the ceilings are all made of wood. This rather traditional method of making “Wooden Mosques” is first seen in the Central Asia after the Turks accepted Islam. This was continued by the Seljuks after the conquest of Anatolia, and this ancient tradition kept alive extensively during the Beyliks and the Ottoman period.

The most suitable material used in architectural buildings throughout the ages has been wood as it is easy to supply, carry and use. Geographical conditions, building culture and personal preferences were other factors that played an important role in the construction of wooden mosques. In addition to the experience of the Turks gained by the use of wood material in various fields, the rich tree presence in Anatolia was also effective in the use of wood in mosques. Wooden mosques are amongst the richest examples of Turkish-Islamic architecture. They were built by Muslim Turks for the first time in the world during the period of Karakhanids. In fact, the tradition of wooden structures is known among the ancient Turks and it is seen that wooden material has been frequently used especially in mosque construction. Some of the existing wooden parts from the 10th century Karakhanid and Ghaznavid mosques, which could not reach the present day as a whole, are exhibited in Semerkand, Tashkent and Pencikent museums. It is known that the ceiling and supports of the Arusu’l-Felek Mosque, that was built by Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni, are wooden. There exist very rich wooden decorations inside. Oburdan and Kurut Mosques dating back to 10th-11th centuries in Tajikistan are amongst the first wooden mosques in the history of Turkish architecture.

The Göğceli Mosque in Çarşamba (a town in Northern Anatolia in the vicinity of the city of Samsun), is known to be built in 1206 by the erenler, the spiritually illuminated and matured saints, who were sent to the region. The Sahip Ata Mosque was built in 1258 in Konya by the Seljuk vizier Sahib Fahreddin Ali. These two mosques are among the first examples of wooden mosques in Anatolia.

The Sahip Ata Mosque, in particular, has been accepted as the “father of the wooden mosques”, and it has fascinated people who see traces of the aesthetic understanding of Turkish-Islamic architecture and its construction techniques.

Beam ceilings in wooden mosques and small masjids, which are aesthetically dazzling and processed with rich techniques, are supported with wooden columns, and they are covered with stalactite and richly decorated headgear, which are the most spectacular elements of wooden architectural details. The interior and ceilings of wooden mosques are decorated with calligraphy and colourful flowers and geometric motifs resembling a flower field; pulpit, kundekari woodwork, carvings, curved sections, inlays, cages, ceilings continue to exist as the most important architectural works that reflect the aesthetic and artistic understanding of the time.

Some of the wooden mosques built in Anatolia are as follows:

Çarşamba Göğceli Mosque (1206), Isparta Eğirdir Hızırbey Mosque (1237), Konya Sahip Ata (Larende) Mosque (1258), Afyonkarahisar Grand Mosque (1273), Sivrihisar Grand Mosque (1274), Ankara Arslanhane Mosque (1290), Ankara Ahi Elvan Mosque (1382), Ayaş Grand Mosque (1297), Beyşehir Eşrefoğlu Süleyman Bey Mosque (1297), Niğde Sungurbey Mosque (1335), Kastamonu Kasaba Village Mahmud Bey Mosque (1336), Merzifon Marınca Village Abide Hatun Mosque (1680), Denizli Acıpayam Yazır Village Mosque (1802).