Sinan’s Edirne

The post of 4 October discusses the historical architecture in Edirne that influenced Sinan.  Once those buildings have been seen, it is time to visit the master’s works starting with the earliest, Rustem Pasa’s Kervansaray of 1554.

What does Sinan say about Rustem: an excerpt from his “Diaryz.”

“I was collected by the devsirme, but that was not the only means of adding boys to the ranks of the Yeni Ceri.  The occasional nobleman saw a road to power and volunteered for the elite corps, the Slaves of the Gate.  Usually discouraged, some managed to gain admittance.  However, many Yeni Ceri were the spoils of war, enslaved and brought back to The City to be sold or incorporated into the wealthy households.  After a battle, a fifth of the booty, or pencik, was reserved for the Sultan, including those enslaved.  The intelligent slaves of high caliber were schooled in the palace, eventually becoming Slaves of the Gate.  Two such talented brothers, Rustem and Sinan, were among the captives of one of the many Balkan campaigns of the 1520s.  They were trained in the palace school, an unusual circumstance given that swineherds were considered as unclean as the animals in their charge; therefore these men were generally undesirable.  However, both showed promise immediately, and their unseemly background was overlooked, with the consequence that the two eventually advanced to comfortable positions in the court.  Rustem’s intelligence gained him the prized position of Grand Vizier.

Most of those in contact with Rustem found him to be a very difficult man, mean-spirited and tight-fisted.  It was no surprise to learn that he lived alone, surrounded only by his valuable collections.  In court there was much talk about this disagreeable man and his need of a friend, any friend.  I was surprised, then, when I heard that Hurrem Sultan [Suleyman’s wife] found him to be a good choice for her daughter, Mihrimah, commanding that he come often to the salon for discussions about their union.  Others speculated that these two each found an ally in the other, and that with this betrothal Hurrem would be in a more intimate position to manipulate the ambitious man.  I, for my part, found it advantageous to stay away from those who persisted in the gossipping and tongue wagging.  It was in the same year, 1539, in which Mihrimah was married off to that unpleasant man that I became Royal Chief Architect, praise be to Him.

That fortuitous union advanced Rustem rapidly through the ranks after he entered the Divan in 1541.  He was promoted to Fourth Vizier, Second Vizier and untimately to Grand Vizier in 1544.  Many considered him to be one of the top three of Kanuni Sultan Suleyman’s many grand viziers……………………………

As Grand Vizier, Rustem knew any and all of the many financial opportunities from which to profit handsomely, and did not hesitate to take advantage of those that would fatten his purse.  He collected illuminated manuscripts, Iznik tiles, land -anything of value, for that matter.  During his life, it is said, he accumulated enough wealth to be the richest self-made man in the Empire, if not the world, and I find this easy to believe.  Even though he was considered to be a tightwad, he did let go of much of it by sponsoring many pious foundations.”

Later in his diary we find this entry about the kervansaray:

” When on the many arduous campaigns in the Yeni Ceri corps, we had long marches and then wearily set set up camp.  But for the merchant or traveler who walks about twenty miles a day, a massive structure in the distance, the kervansaray, is a welcome sight.  Each spaced a day’s journey apart, they provide free lodging as well as a safe haven for up to three days, praise be to Him most generous.  Indispensable to the trade routes, these austere, fortified buildings, designed to accomodate the traveler as well as his goods and animals, were introduced to Anatolia by the Selcuks.  With massive exterior walls, doubled-storied with only one entrance that was secured at night, the kervansaray affored merchants peaceful sleep in rooms above the commotion of the pack animals below.  In their arcaded courtyards are small mosques, fountains, and, lining the walls, cells for securing goods as well as kitchen facilities for feeding the guests.  If there are any windows, they are situated safely up high in the second story. 

In the city these same accomodations might be called a han and usually are included in conjunction with a pious foundation.  Since fortification is a lesser requirement there, the exterior often is fronted with rental spaces, their revenue contributing to the upkeep of the han and on occasion providing a tidy profit for the patron.  This bonus was not lost on the greedy Rustem Pasa.  The skinflint was always in the market for such advantageous properties, and had the uncanny ability of finding them in the city centers, a difficult job.  Edirne was no exception; in 1554 he was able to purchase a parcel close to the Ulu Cami, on which he commisioned me to build a kervansaray.”

It is possible to have the ‘kervansaray experience’ but with more comfort since the building has been renovated and is now Hotel Kervansaray.


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