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051027 - 'Please do not Restore me!' By Elif Tunca
CULTURE & SOCIETY 10.27.2005 Thursday - ISTANBUL
[] Many historical works of art and architecture in Turkey are abandoned to their fate because they are not being restored; however, the 777 year-old Divrigi Grand Mosque, a unique example of Turkish-Islamic art, needs not to be restored in order to survive.

Professor Dogan Kuban, a valuable Turkish historian of architecture and an expert of the Divrigi Complex, emphasizes the importance of the Divrigi Mosque as a cultural transmitter and says that it is very risky to unconsciously restore this special example of architecture, which is included in UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage List. Author of the book “Divrigi Mucizesi” (The Divrigi Miracle) and adviser to the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism on Divrigi Complex, Professor Kuban calls for Divrigi’s conservation should no longer be based on the classic tender system and this masterpiece of architecture should immediately be turned into a museum.

Divrigi Grand Mosque and the hospital within the Divrigi Complex were constructed at the demand of Ahmet Shah, leader of the Mengucekogullari tribe, and his wife Turan Melik between 1228 and 1229. It is in the Divrigi township of Sivas city in Turkey. Ornamental designs on the Divrigi Grand Mosque’s main entrance are unique in the history of art and architecture in the world. The masterpiece decorated solely by Hurremsah of Ahlat carries almost the every motif of Turkish-Islamic art. “This man had grown up with a greatly influenced by cosmopolitan existence. For instance, you cannot see any figures,specifically three-dimensional figures, in Islamic art; however, there are human figures in his designs. The motives carry traces of Turkish mythology, even figures from the times of Sassanians. This mosque is a summary of Turkish culture and this man is a genius. A special act is necessary for this special form of architecture,” Kuban emphasizes.

The 777 year-old Mosque and hospital, which had been repaired several times since the period of Kanuni Sultan Suleyman (Suleiman the Magnificent) existing for its last years if no precautionary measures are taken. Meanwhile, some Turkish architects and historians of art do not welcome the idea of restoring the mosque. “These doors are ornamented like a lacework, if touched they would disintegrate,” Kuban says. Professor Zeynep Ahunbay of Istanbul Technical University (ITU) Faculty of Architecture also notes: “This is a masterpiece and a unique world heritage just like Suleymaniye and Selimiye Mosques. If you leave it to the hands of unskilled building contractors, you have to deal with the consequences.


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