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Büyükçekmece Menzil Külliyesi

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BÜYÜKÇEKMECE MENZİL KÜLLİYESİ (BÜYÜKÇEKMECE HALTING COMPLEX)

Ottoman Empire is a great and advanced civilization which provided the welfare, safety and tranquility of people. This world state that ruled over three continents established many organizations and provided service to its people in all matters. The Ottoman Sultans who provided for every need of their people with mosques, madrasas, bridges, fountains, bathhouses, caravanserais and khans spared no expense in building the "Ottoman City". This great civilization established halting organizations for transportation and communication while establishing outpost organizations for security. As the subject of this study is Büyükçekmece Menzil Külliyesi, first of all I would like to give information about halting complexes which are the most significant links of the transportation and communication network of the Ottomans.

The Ottoman Empire, especially expanded its territory to rule over three continents in the 16th century and thus transportation and communication constituted great significance. The most important elements required for transportation, communication, commerce and establishing an urban fabric were caravanserais, khans, bridges, fountains and other architectural structures. The assembly of these architectural structure where messengers constituting the postal organization of the Empire, citizens going on pilgrimage, caravans and armies going on expedition stop by and lodge is called "menzil külliyesi – halting complex". As Fatih Mühürdaroğlu states "One comes across halting complexes under another group amongst the Ottoman Complexes in 16th and 17 centuries. These complexes particularly reflecting the socio-economic and military characteristics of the 16th century in the most typical sense gain more importance by communing with Sinan". 24 This is because the 17th century halting complexes were revived by Sinan.

The foundation and development of halting complexes have been with halting houses. Halting houses have been established with the purpose providing communication. 25 The building where the messengers that constituted the postal organization of the Ottoman Empire stayed, changed their horses and rested was called the halting house. Transportation and communication constituted great significance in the Ottoman Empire which expanded as far as Asia, Europe and Africa. Therefore, roads, bridges, caravanserais and khans had to be built in order to establish a regular and systemized network of communication. These assembly of building which in time became halting complexes have started to serve other purposes and increased functionality.

Another functionality of the halting complexes is that they provide lodging and military material supply for the armies on expedition. "The "logistics" which didn't have a single name nor a definition during the classical period (1500-1800) of the Ottoman Empire was generalized with the "halting organization" name which included all the supporting services such as engineering, food, clothing, arms, ammunition, health, transportation and etc.".

Kulliye1.jpg 

Büyükçekmece Menzil Külliyesi in 1980s

The Ottoman Empire wished to conquer new lands in the Balkans and therefore established new halting places between the Thracian and the Balkans for this matter. As part of the city planning activities, as a result of these works and applications, prominent halting complexes have been built along the strategic line stretching from İstanbul to Belgrade and the person taking part in these architectural activities was Mimar Sinan (Sinan the Architect).

The halting complexes not only served passengers, the messengers to rest and change their horses, the armies to lodge, the caravans to stop by, but they also established an urban fabric where they were built at and contributed in the growth of commerce. "The state used every means of its economy and the military for these logistic preparations and applications to which it attached great importance and held the people liable to manufacture to the benefit of the army and responsible for many services. In other words, the logistic organizations that included civil support and services as much as they included martial support and services which directly concerned and effected the financial and social life." Halting complexes that were enlivened by the habitation policies can be regarded as a sub-group of Ottoman city planning and the concept of city planning also draws attention.29 These prominent complexes were built by sultans, princes and grand viziers and were named after their founders.

Long distance routes which passed by cities and towns in the Ottoman Empire were called "trails". These were distinguished from each other by names such as right trail, left trail and central-trail. These main trails were divided into two main categories:

Anatolian Trail

  1. Right Trail: Üsküdar (İstanbul) – Konya – Antakya – Aleppo – Damascus – Hejaz
  2. Central Trail: Üsküdar – Bolu – Sivas – Diyarbekir – Mosul – Baghdad – Basra
  3. Left Trail: Üsküdar – Bolu – Merzifon – A Spilt in Erzurumu, one through Kars to Caucasus and the other through Tabriz to Iran.

Rumelia Trail

  1.  Right Trail: İstanbul – Kırklareli – Babadağı – Akkirman (Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi- Odessa Ukraine) – Özi (Ochakiv) – Crimea
  2. Central Trail: İstanbul – Edirne – Sofia – Belgrade – Austria/Hungary
  3. Left Trail: İstanbul – Tekirdağ – Didymoteicho – Komotini – Albania

The most travelled one of the Rumelia Trail is the central trail route and the halting complexes on this route are the most visited ones. Other titles of this route from İstanbul to Belgrade are "İstanbul Caddesi – İstanbul Street", "Ulu Yolu – Holy Trail" and "Sultan/Devlet Yolu – Sultan's/State's Trail". It was called the "Sultan's Trail" as it was the trail that lead to İstanbul; to the Sultan and it was used by many civilizations in the Balkans throughout the history. This road which was established and used by the Romans was improved and attachments were made to it by the Ottomans. Particularly during the Suleiman the Magnificent period, it gained a more significant status and was accommodated with monumental artifacts. 32 The importance of this trail and the need for public improvements can be better be understood by taking into consideration the expeditions made to and victories won in the Balkans by Suleiman the Magnificent since the Ottoman army had to reach its destination safe and sound and then become glorious in the conquests. And thus the subject of our book Büyükçekmece Menzil Külliyesi was built on this most travelled and most important route. "Athyra" of the Ancient Times, "Çekmece-i Kebir" of the Ottomans and "Büyükçekmece" of Turkey hosts one of the most prominent halting complexes of the Sultan's Trail. Sinan the Architect has bestowed many significant and beautiful artefacts to the halting complex. The Büyükçekmece Bridge is a masterpiece that is a must-see and it is the "tall and crescent browed" beauty of Sinan the Architect. The other structures of the complex are Caravanserai of Suleiman the Magnificent, Sokullu Mehmet Paşa Mosque and its Minbar-minaret and the Sultan Suleiman Fountain.

Kulliye2.jpg The complex is turning into Kültür Park in 1998.

Halil İnalcık explains the purpose of the halting complexes in his book titled "Osmanlı İmparatorluğu Klasik Çağ" (The Ottoman Empire Classical Period) as: "Sultans established foundations and zawiyahs to ensure the safe and comfortable trips on the main routes and have donated properties and farms to the palace and state officers thus providing incentives for this matter." Sultan Suleiman and Sokullu Mahmet Pasha are good examples for this. Büyükçekmece Menzil Külliyesi was built by Suleiman the Magnificent and his grand vizier Sokullu Mehmet Pasha as Büyükçekmece started to gain importance during the expeditions to the Balkans in the 16th century. According to the information provided by Fatih Müderrisoğlu, while Sultan Suleiman had the bridge, the caravanserai and the fountain built, Sokullu had the mosque that is named after him, sixteen workplaces and nine rooms built. The workplaces and the rooms didn't survive until today. There is no epigraph in none of the architectural structure of the complex. Although the bridge and the fountain has epigraphs, the caravanserai and the mosque don't have epigraphs. Therefore Gönül Cantay attributes the construction dates of the mosque and the caravanserai to the epigraph of the three arched fountain. The aforesaid fountain is the other significant structure of the complex which is called the Sultan Suleiman Fountain. And the date on the fountain is 1566. According to the epigraph of the bridge, the bridge was completed in 1567. In this case, the complex was built between the years of 1566-1567.

Büyükçekmece Menzil Külliyesi was inaugurated as "Kültür Park" in 1998 after the required renovations and the landscape planning was carried out with the permissions acquired from the General Directorate of Foundations and the Council of Monuments thanks to the devoted efforts of the Mayor of Büyükçekmece Dr. Hasan Akgün. Dr. Hasan Akgün has saved the unique structures of Sinan the Architect which turned into ruins midst the slums and provided them to the public eye. And also "Yöre Evleri" (The Regional Houses) inside the Kültür Park offers to the visitors the different tastes from all around Anatolia. Sinan's beautiful work of art is still serving the people. The venue once where passangers lodged and rested is now a spacious place where people of Büyükçekmece gather for social events, festivals and concerts. And it is another joy walking amongst the beautiful works of Sinan.

Kulliye3.jpg Kültür Park enriched with the masterpieces of Sinan the Architect


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