Ottoman Mosques of the Balkans

The Spanish Reconquista compromised the preservation of Muslim heritage in Western Europe, but the withdrawal of the Ottoman Empire from Eastern Europe in the 18th century did not lead to the systematic destruction of the surviving mosques in the Balkan Peninsula, where many Muslims still live.

Wikimedia Commons/MrPanyGoff

Banya Bashi Mosque, Sofia

The mosque was designed and built by the famous Ottoman architect Sinan. The main building is rectangular with the central dome and the minaret rising from the four corners. The interior of the mosque acquires its current appearance as a result of several renovations over the course of history. The current condition of the Banya Bashi mosque makes it possible to hold about 700 people on Fridays, and nearly 1,200 on Eid.

Banya Bashi Mosque
Flickr/Matthew Goulding

Mustafa Pasha Mosque, Skopje

The Mustafa Pasha Mosque was built in 1492, according to the last wishes of the Vizier Mustafa Pasha. It was built on the foundations of a medieval church as indicated on a marble plaque above the front door. The building of the mosque is typical of early Ottoman architecture. Originally, the complex comprised a türbe (tomb), a shadirvan (fountain), a minaret and a madrasa (school).

Mustafa Pasha Mosque

Et'hem Bey Mosque, Tirana

The construction of this mosque began in the late 18th century by Molla Bey and was completed by his son Haxhi Ethem Bey in 1821. The mosque has the peculiarity of containing frescoes representing nature, both outside and inside its structure. The mosque was classified as a historical monument after surviving World War II, unlike the beautiful Sulejman Pasha Mosque, which was once close to the Et'hem Bey Mosque.

Et'hem Bey Mosque
Wikimedia Commons/Damien Smith

Ali Pasha Mosque, Sarajevo

The Ali Pasha Mosque is a complex that was built between 1560 to 1561, according to the last wishes of Ali Pasha, a native of the region. The beautifully proportioned mosque was restored in 1894. A century later, it was unfortunately seriously affected by the Serb attacks in the Bosnian war. The building was finally rebuilt in 2004 and added to the list of national monuments in 2005.

Ali Pasha Mosque
Wikimedia Commons/lienyuan lee

Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque, Sarajevo

The Gazi Husrev-bey Mosque, a landmark of Sarajevo, was built in 1531 in the classical ottoman architecture. The Gazi Husrev-bey Mosque was the first mosque in the world to receive electricity and electric illumination in 1898. A few years after the restoration of the mosque which had been damaged during the war in the 1990's, the building was made a national monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2004.

Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque
Wikimedia Commons/Ggia

Alaca Imaret, Thessaloniki

Alaca Imaret is a 15th-century mosque that was founded in 1484 during the reign of Mehmed II. The place functioned as an imaret (soup kitchen), a madrasa (priestly school) and a place of prayer. It owes its name of Alaca to its coloured minaret (Alaca = coloured). In 1970, as the northern part of the portico had collapsed in the previous year, maintenance work was carried out for the first time, which was repeated in 1993-1996.

Alaca Imaret
Wikimedia Commons/Ivelin Vraykov

Dzhumaya Mosque, Plovdiv

After the Ottoman conquest of Plovdiv in the 14th century, this mosque was built on the site of the Sveta Petka Tarnovska Cathedral Church. During the reign of Sultan Murad I, the original building was demolished and the modern mosque was built in the 15th century. The mosque contains nine domes, a large prayer hall, a minaret, and interior wall paintings dating from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Dzhumaya Mosque
Wikimedia Commons/Pudelek (Marcin Szala)

Husein Pasha Mosque, Pljevlja

This mosque was completed in 1594 and to this day has the highest minaret of any mosque in the Balkans. It was named after Husein Pasha Boljanic, who was born not far from Pljevlja. The mosque contains a low pitched dome, an open porch with three domes, and several rich polychrome motifs in the interior. The minaret was rebuilt after a lightning strike destroyed the original in 1911.

Husein Pasha Mosque
Wikimedia Commons/Missty011

Bajrakli Mosque, Belgrade

Built in the 16th century during the Ottoman rule of Serbia, this is the only remaining mosque out of over 200 that once stood in Belgrade. During the Austrian occupation of Serbia in the 18th century, the mosque was briefly converted into a catholic church, but returned to being a mosque when the Ottomans recaptured Serbia. The mosque was written about in several historic texts that describe Belgrade and has survived due to its designation as a national heritage site.

Bajrakli Mosque
Wikimedia Commons/Edal Anton Lefterov

Eski Mosque, Yambol

This is the second largest mosque in Bulgaria, the minaret has unusual features of Syrian and Eastern Anotolian styles which consist of a square body and a round top. The mosque used to be entered through three entrances but today only the main entrance is used. The central dome is made of solid lead. The interior frescoes of the mosque date back to the 17th century.

Eski Mosque

Selimiye Mosque, Edirne

The Selimiye Mosque is a typical Ottoman mosque built between 1568 and 1574 by the architect Mimar Sinan (1489-1588). Even though some of the tiles were damaged by the Russian General Mikhail Skobelev during the Ottoman-Russian War of 1877-1878, the mosque still houses magnificent marble, tiles and calligraphy. The Selimiye Mosque complex has been a World Heritage Site since 2011.

Selimiye Mosque
Wikimedia Commons/ANUBIS76

Tombul Mosque, Shumen

The Mosque of Sheriff Khalil Pasha, better known as the Mosque of Tombul, whose construction began in 1740 and was completed in 1744. The mosque complex consists of a main building (prayer hall), a courtyard and a 12-room annex (madrasah boarding house). The main part of the prayer hall is a square and the central part is an octagon which passes through a circle and ends in a cube. The top of the cube is 25 meters above the ground. The minaret of the mosque is 40 meters high. The Tombul Mosque is one of the largest mosques in Bulgaria.

Tombul Mosque
Wikimedia Commons/MrPanyGoff

Ibrahim Pasha Mosque, Razgrad

Initiated by order of Ibrahim Pasha (hence the name of the mosque) - Grand Vizier of Sultan Suleiman I the Magnificent, construction was stopped in 1536 after the death of the Vizier and was completed only in 1616 by Mahmoud Pasha. The horizontal forces from the dome are absorbed by four buttress corner towers and the pilasters along the cylindrical vestibule. The minaret is made of cut stone with plaster ornaments under the window. The interior of the mosque bears the original frescoes.

Ibrahim Pasha Mosque