Memories from the Ottoman-Turkish Era

After the Turkish occupation, under their subjection, the fate of the Hungarian Kingdom took a completely different direction, while the earlier Hungary was one of the most significant countries in Europe. The ultimate goal of all the Hungarian kings was to rule in a powerful and independent state, but after the occupation of Buda, only hope remained. During more than a hundred years, two great-power centres decided upon the future of Hungary: first in Istanbul and then in Vienna.

Ottoman-Turkish architecture

Although some settlements perished or became deserted due to the almost permanent wars, one must not regard this era merely as a period of devastation.
Ali pasa dzsámija - 	Csorba Győző Könyvtár, © Ingyenes hozzáférésSeveral types of buildings were introduced related to ordinary, cultural and religious life.
Concerning the Islamic architecture, it was Hungary that represented its western borderline. But as quickly our towns put on orientality with rapidly built minarets, this effect proved to be just as short-lived after the liberation. Actually, the whole Islamic culture in Hungary almost vanished into thin air. After liberation from the Turkish occupation, the Balkan territories (for example the Bosnian, Serbian and Bulgarian areas) had a completely different situation. While the Islamic religion and its spiritual impacts merged into the local cultures of these areas, the Islam could not take root in Hungary, except for its cultural effects.

Large mosques - jamis

The most significant mosques that were built back then were the jamis, places of worship for followers of Islam. The most beautiful example for one of the two types – octagonal outside and circular inside covered with a dome – is the Jami of Pasha Gazi Qasim in Pécs (presently the Downtown Candlemas Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary). The other type of them has a rectangular base and a tent-shaped roof, for example the Jami of Suleiman in Szigetvár. The one that remained in the best state is the Jami of Pasha Jakovali Hassan in Pécs, hiding humbly beside the Baranya County Hospital with its slender minaret.

In Hungary, the worship houses were built with minarets. Three of them can be seen nowadays in their original forms: one in Pécs, one in Eger and one in Érd. The minaret in Szigetvár is not complete. After the siege of Szigetvár, a mosque was built in the fortress, whose minaret was 30-33 metre high according to traveller Evliya Celebi. As far as we know, 110 spiral stairs led up to a circular balcony back then. Now, it has 35 oak stairs. A large part of the minaret tumbled down in the 18th century, because of a thunder stroke probably.

Another type of religious building is the turbe. It is a shrine that was built for high-rank leaders typically. Two turbes remained in Hungary: the turbe of Idris Baba in Pécs and the turbe of Gül Baba in Budapest.

On 9 December in 2015, the sensational news that Sultan Suleiman I’s tomb was found by Hungarian and Turkish researchers spread across the media. They found the former turbe and a settlement related to it from the Ottoman age on the vineyard of Szigetvár-Turbék. Focusing on the geographical approach and doing landscape-reconstruction brought about a turn in the research that had started many years before. They also found that the scenery was much wetter back than (one of the strengths of the Szigetvár fortress was also the marshy soil of that area). According to archival researches, it is likely that the turbe is situated on the top of a hill, to the north-east of the fortress. Researchers say that this building-complex includes Suleiman’s turbe by all appearances, and this is the place where the Sultan’s insides could be buried. (His body was buried in Istanbul, in the graveyard in front of the Suleiman Mosque.)

Curiously, the only existing layout of the turbe was made by Palatine Count Pál Esterházy (1635-1713) in 1664 and it is guarded in the National Archives of Hungary. The originality of the draft is disputed, mainly because of its elaboration. It is believed to be a posterior work of Esterházy or that of a professional illustrator hired by him. The shrine was intact until 1693, and then it was pulled down and its stones were carried away. There is a memorial tablet on the wall of the church of Turbék (placed there in 1913), which says that Suleiman’s turbe was standing in the place of the church. Even the theory spread that the town name Turbék came from the word ‘turbe’ .

 The memories of Turkish occupation can be seen in the map below :


The bath culture of Hungary has already been in a topic in our virtual exhibitions. During the Ottoman subjection, bathing culture lived its golden age in Hungary. New baths were built besides the old ones. Some of them were thermal baths that exploited natural thermal springs, others were steam baths. Baths did not have only ritual and hygienic importance, but they were significant scenes of the social life as well. Pasha Sokullu Mustafa was the most famous bath builder: 16 Turkish bath constructions are connected to his name, for example Rudas Bath, Emperor’s Bath and King’s Bath in Budapest. There were baths in other places as well: a thermal ilije (warm bath) was built in Esztergom-Víziváros and a hammam in Székesfehérvár. Only their walls remained by now. There was a bath in Eger too, which still stands. It is also worth mentioning the one in Pécs (related to Pasha Memi), whose base has been excavated. Although the Islamic culture disappeared after the expulsion of Turks, it reappeared in romanticist architecture spiced with some Romantic nostalgia. A minaret was built in the Zoo as well, but finally the tower was pulled down to the request of our WWI ally the Ottoman Empire in 1915, because they did not approve of decorating a zoo with a Muslim symbol. In the meantime, an entertainment district was built in Városliget on the occasion of the Millennial Exhibition, called Ancient Buda Castle, which tried to revive the atmosphere of the Ottoman era. Visitors could see the harem of Buda’s Pasha, a Turkish bazaar and a minaret with muezzin among other.

Translated by Zita Aknai



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