Ulu Cami (Grand Mosque)
The construction of Ulu Cami began in 1513 under the instruction of Ramazanoglu Halil Bey. The construction was eventually completed by his son, Piri Mehmet Pasa and the mosque opened in 1541. Ulu Cami was badly damaged by an earthquake that struck in 1998 and was forced to close. After six years of restoration was carried out by the General Dictorate of Foundations, Ulu Cami opened its doors again in 2004.
The building of the mosque centers on three different types of architecture, the Mamluk, the Seljuk and the Ottoman. Ulu Cami incorporates and area of 34.5m x 32.5m, and it is entered via two large gates to the west and the east. Apart from the main area that is used for prayer, part of the courtyard is partially covered by a wooden roof and serves as an additional congregation area. The Ulu Cami features twenty domes and a minaret of enormous proportions adorn the exterior while the interior continues with immense portals and numerous square pillars. The impeccable detail is of particular notice from the calligraphy on the walls as well as the precise work that can be seen on the pulpit and preachers chair.
The madrasah is located to the east of the mosque and is referred to in the ancient records as “old madrasah.” There is clear inscription on the madrasah that dates the structure to May 1540, yet the architect is unknown.
Finally the area houses the Tomb of Ramadanids and is of grand structure with a tall dome and is the resting sarcophagi of Halil Bey and his sons Piri Pasa, Mehmet Bey and Mustafa Bey. The sarcophagi are decorated with 16th century tiles that bear inscriptions to the front. As the inscriptions are identical to those in the mosque the sarcophagi can be dated to after March 1552. Apart from the Ulu Cami Turbesi and the Yesil Turbe (Turbe meaning tomb) in Bursa, there are no other tombs with this style of tiling anywhere. The tiling is synonymous of the way that tombs were built in central Asia.
There is also a tomb that stands as an independent structure to the south of the mosque. It is of hexagonal shape and covered with high domes. There are no inscriptions on the sarcophagi inside the tomb and the build date or people buried there are unknown. However as it is located just two metres from the tomb of Ulu Cami it is believed that the sarcophagi belong to members of the Ramadanid family. The tomb is of baroque style which would indicate that it was built in the 18th century.
A visit to Ulu Cami is a must for any visitor to the area as the sheer beauty of this mosque has to be seen to be believed. Although simple in regards to the architecture the beauty is within, with over 100 calligraphy from over 40 master craftsman we no piece being the same. The feeling that washes over you when inside is indescribable whilst the architecture, workmanship, arts and crafts are simply awesome.