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Мечети Крыма

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Here, not far from the ancient Kerkinitida which is supposed to be at first a part of Chersonesus and later of the Mangup Principality, the Ottoman Turks, having conquered Crimea in 1475 A.D., founded their strong point – a fortified town named by them Geslev.

The town was growing rapidly especially after Khan Devlet-Geray I, having arrived from Istanbul after his coronation, ordered to erect the biggest, most imposing and most beautiful mosque at the peninsula to commemorate his accession to the throne. The Khan dreamed of making Geslev the second Istanbul, the future capital of the growing Crimean Khanate since the town of Bakhchisaray was getting too cramped and small.

Мечети Крыма The Khan has ordered the design of the Geslev mosque from a Turkish architect Hodja Mimar Sinan. The famous Sinan was of Greek descent, born in a small village of Agirna, not far from the town of Kayseri. He was a person of encyclopedic education – a mathematician, engineer, astronomer, a talented and prolific architect who enriched the world with more than 300 remarkable structures, among them 131 mosques, 35 medrese, 19 mausoleums, 5 aqueducts, 14 minarets, 17 caravanserays, 31 palaces, 35 bath-houses. Some of the mosques he had designed ehzade Mehmet and Suleymaniye in Istanbul, Selimiye in Edirne – are known in the whole world.

The creative work of Sinan is a very important connecting link between the proper Anatolia (Asia Minor) and other Turkish domains, in particular, at the Balkans and also in the regions formally not belonging to the Ottoman Empire, however being a part of perhaps not ethnic but cultural and religious whole – Black Sea and Mediterranean Moslem world.

Djuma-Djami Mosque in Yevpatoria undoubtedly has stylistic and constructional resemblance with other masterpieces of Sinan. Yet it would probably be a mistake to think that he has mechanically transferred into Crimea the architectonic experience of Turkey repeating here what he had constructed on the other side of the Black Sea. Maybe it has been the other way round. At any case, his best masterpiece – the mosque Selim II (Selimiye) in Edirne (Andrianopolis) looks very much like Djuma-Djami in Yevpatoria; Selimiye was erected several years after Djuma-Djami – between 1569 and 1575. Thus, if one may speak about some sort of a repetition of a specific model, then the model elaborated in Crimea was later repeated in the Turkish architecture and not the other way round.

The construction of the Friday mosque DjumaDjami (Prophet Mohammed as it is well known was born on Friday) began in Geslev one year following the coronation of Devlet-Geray, in 1552. The construction went on for more than 10 years and was presumably in 1564. It was here, under the vaults of the new temple where the royal mandate (firman) for the Crimean Khanate used to be proclaimed, signed by the Khan in a special deed which was kept permanently in the mosque. Djuma-Djami is located in the eastern part of today’s Yevpatoria embankment.

It towers over the surrounding buildings and is well visible from the sea and the coast and through the greenery of the Karayev Garden; together with St. Nicholas church, it determines the appearance of the embankment and forms the silhouette of the old part of Yevpatoria when viewed from the sea. The composition of the Khan’s mosque is built according to the principle of volume accumulation; its silhouette is reminiscent of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia. Its external appearance, with its monumental elements, has some Byzantine logic.

The square base of the structure grows into quadrangle perced by lancet arches, transforming it into an octagon with a powerful dome (11 m in diameter). The lower part of the dome is encompassed by a drum convergent upwards with vaulted windows. The square base is encircled with small domes – three of them on the lateral naves and five over the gallery of the main entrance facing the north. From the southern side, the supporting arch of the base transforms itself into the semi-dome where the altar with mihrab are placed. The lateral facades are smooth, with two tiers of windows – rectangular in the lower tier and lancet ones in the upper tier; two slim minarets located at the eastern and western sides of the mosque rise to a height of 30 meters, with the baskets of sherfe and crescents set upon conical tips. The minarets are accentuating the vertical posture of the mosque that dominates the city.

The architect has found a remarkable solution for the mosque main entrance: it is a well-proportioned gallery whose lancet arches sit on the round columns with stalactite capitals. The facade wall under the arcade is decorated with two mihrab niches on both sides of the heavy oaken door. Well matched with the temple’s exterior is its interior some elements of which can be read from the outside: main dome pierced in the base by windows, supporting piers, the solemn concha.

Their combination with pendentives inside is completed with two-storeyed arcade galleries along the eastern and western walls, with connecting balconygallery over the entrance, wherefrom the spiral stairs leads upward where ladies usually pray. The reserve exit for them is arranged in the western wall, hidden from the outside in a closed stairway.

The distinctive feature of the Crimean DjumaDjami has been a sort of a chamber and cozy atmosphere evoking ancient aesthetic norms, the adequacy to a “human measure of things”. Even its external characteristics are much more modest than those of the other works of Sinan at the Asian and European territories of the Ottoman mother country. Let us compare, for instance, Selimiye with Djuma-Djami (Yevpatoria): there the dome’s diameter is 31,2 m (here 11,5 m): there, in Edirne the height of 4 minarets reaches 70,9 m – in Evpatoria they are half of this height; there the whole interior is decorated with color tiles, here – only mihrab area. It is evident that the distinctions of this sort had some political and social underlying reasons: the Crimean Khanate should not have had higher mosques that its overlord – the Turkish Sultanate. Yet this provincial or vassal position of the Crimean Khanate has formed some aesthetic purposes that became inherent for many ages to the whole Crimean Tartar artistic culture. This aesthetic system incorporated mature sense of proportions, harmony of colors, lines and forms, non-inclination to external “gigantomania”. Sinan had a superb feeling for it and contributed to the emergence of such Crimean style.

The design of this dome structure is very original. From the outside, the quadratic in the base volume of the building is separated from the dome by the octagon making for a smooth light-weight transition between the stereometrical forms, thus avoiding sharp contrasts. Inside, the dome is supported by spherical arches set on four powerful piers. From the piers, through the lateral galleries, small semi-circular arches are thrown resembling small waves dispersing from the powerful central waves.

The walls of the mosque are made from the blocks of the Sarmatian limestone with mortar (in contrast to white mosques of the ancient Ak-Mechet at the foothills of Chatyr-Dag, the local stone has a warm goldish tint).

The arcade set on the thin columns is notable for its fragility and finesse forming the northern gallery leading to the main portal. At the both sides of the central entrance, the walls are pierced with two niches repeating the pattern of the mihrab, with stalactite ends and carved fingerplates decorated with ornamental motifs.

Djuma-Djami mosque in Yevpatoria has been recently completely restored: the minarets and the gallery of the main entrance were completely rebuilt, some architectonical elements of the exterior and interior were replaced by the new ones. Unfortunately, the minarets of Djuma-Djami do not exist in authentic condition. Some three hundred years since the erection, they collapsed and were removed in 1980ies so that only their faceted foundations remained in place. The new minarets were placed upon these foundations with carved balconiessherfe and spires rising to the height of 35 meters. The renovation works were executed in 1984-1985, with use of modern equipment – the spires were set to the minarets from helicopters.

Since that time, the restoration works were dragging on for two decades and only the enthusiasm and energy of the new generation of architects and restorers helped return this monument to contemporaries as a magnificent architectonical masterpiece. The renovated temple serves to the people again as the place for communicating with God. Now, every Friday several times a day, the voice of the old muezzin intensified by powerful dynamics sounds over the locality and the bay, calling for the prayer.

The theological department of Crimean Moslems attaches great importance to solemn rituals exactly in this mosque which is a national sanctuary of Crimean Tartars. It is still being referred to as the “Khan’s mosque”; this name is reminiscent of times when there was a rite within these walls, accompanying the accession to the throne of each new Khan having previously received this nomination and blessing (the firman) from a Turkish Sultan.

Not far from the Friday mosque is located the St. Nicholas orthodox Christian cathedral; this vicinity unintentionally evokes various thoughts: on the ancient dispute of the two religions and their peaceful dialog, on interchange of times and cultures, on succession and adoption of traditions and their common roots.

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