of the Ottoman "Kulliyes" on the Formation and Development of the
City in the Historical Context
Dr. Z. Hale Tokay, Mimar Sinan University,
Architecture Faculty, Department of Restoration
Turks who began to settle in Anatolia with an increasing density of
population after the second half of the 11th century, conquering
lands in order to enlarge their territories on the one hand and
constructing new buildings in order to assert their existence on the
other, created an architectural context which conformed to the
nature of the region and to the nature of their own society in a
short period of time. Thus as a result of the society's basic needs
they constructed buildings having different functions from one
another like mainly mosques and religious schools (medrese), Islamic
convents (zaviye-tekke), soup- kitchens for the poor (imaret), khans
(han), baths (hamam), tombs (turbe), etc... in Anatolia, some of
these buildings were taken into consideration as single monuments
and sometimes as a whole which would gather buildings having
different or close functions in the form of complexes called "kulliye".
Complexes (kulliye) which are formed by the gathering of buildings
such as mosques (cami), soup-kitchens for the poor (imaret),
religious schools (medrese), primary schools (subyan mektebi),
hospitals (darussifa), khans (han), baths (hamam), markets-bazaars (carsi),
tombs (turbe), fountains (cesme), etc... in an architectural unity
which satisfy numerous needs of the society as social or cultural
needs were adequate to the expansion policy of the Ottomans .
Today it is still possible to find the traditional Turkish city's
structure with all its characteristics in the small suburbs of
Anatolia, whereas in towns getting industrialized and where the
population increases rapidly, they almost tend to disappear. The
Turkish Anatolian city along with layers of numberless
civilizations, the society's nature and its physical appearance is
the expression of an entirely Turkish development. The big molecules
of the city are districts. The city consists of the limitless
spreading of districts forming an anonymous and unpretentious tissue
around the religious building .
The construction of a mescid or mosque generally plays the main role
in the formation of the district in an Ottoman-Turkish city. People
who wanted the city to grow thanks to new neighborhoods rendered
this possible by the construction of complexes formed other than the
mosque by religious schools, schools, khans, baths, etc...
In Anatolia, in Turkish cities before the Ottoman period, the
widespread concept of a kulliye was not developed. The first public
buildings that the Seljoukides constructed in Anatolia or made their
own were mosques. From the beginning of the 13th century on they
were able to construct two buildings at a time and could develop
their first kulliye formed by a mosque-religious school,
The concept of the kulliye was developed in its full meaning during
the Ottomans. In the early years of the Ottoman Empire, the kulliye
was formed of buildings taking place in the town, which instead of
getting together in the area reserved for the kulliye were placed
next to each other and in the form of separate entities. The concept
of the kulliye had not reached the level it caught later during the
classical Ottoman period. A planified composition appeared partly
with the kulliye of Yildirim in Bursa but in its monumental scale
with Fatih. Later, it went on with the kulliye of Beyazit the 2nd in
Amasya and his buildings in Edirne and reached its full maturity in
the classical Ottoman period.
The Ottoman kulliyes have the character of being social centers in
the modern meaning of the word encouraging social life. These
buildings have played the role of social catalysts not only because
they were praying places, education centers or soup-kitchens for the
poor but also because other gathering places could develop around
The foundation system (vakif) appears mostly in the kulliyes. The
institution of the Vakif relying on leaving or giving to the
direction of the society the individual property of a person on his
own will has been the necessary means in the development of the
kulliye's architecture and on the continuation of this foundation .
The vakif system played an important role on the development of the
Turkish culture and progressively on the growth of city life. This
system, has been a real assurance for the future within the general
structure of the Ottoman state concerning urbanization.
In the construction of the kulliyes, the ideas of building a welfare
institution along with the idea of constructing is dominant.
Kulliyes have played a big role in the birth and formation of the
Turkish cities .
In the Ottoman State, there existed an individualistic system of
construction which relied on the handling of the personal revenues
of wealthy people to the society by the vakif with the aim of doing
welfare. Thus cities were formed, small settlements transformed into
cities with time, existing cities continued their development thanks
to new buildings and to several institutions. Most of the time there
were several buildings constructed at the same time and kulliyes
were formed. They did not only foresee their construction but their
liveliness was also taken into consideration.
Within the few centuries where individualistic enterprises have kept
their liveliness concerning construction, the main traits of the
physical tissue of the Turkish city and suburb, has been drawn by
building groups useful to public formed by the product of
construction, the development of the cities have always been in this
In some cities the core of the districts was formed with a kulliye,
whereas in earlier times, in a small settlement area a kulliye
quickened the formation of a city.
In the big cities of the Empire such as Bursa, Edirne, Istanbul
while districts were growing around small mosques, mescids
constructed by the wealthy people of the city, religions leaders and
the ulema, or, with time districts were formed around kulliyes and
some of them reached our days . Fatih, Davud Pasha, Murad Pasha,
Mahmud Pasha, Beyazit, Suleymaniye, Haseki, Sehzadebasi..., etc...,
Eski Imaret at Edirne, the neighborhood of Beyazit II kulliye,
Muradiye at Bursa, Eski Imaret, Yesil, Yildirim, etc... were
districts formed around kulliyes.
In big cities several kulliyes took place, kulliyes in the form of
vakif foundations answered to the religious, cultural, social needs
of the citizens and commercial buildings related to these
foundations determined the most lively part of the cities and the
building type in relation to the need.
Ottoman kulliyes have played an important role in the development of
the commercial life with its khans and other commercial buildings.
The market-bazaar-bedesten which are the other factors in the
development of the cities, have been part of the kulliyes or
kulliyes were done in commercial centers. In Bursa, the market and
hostel of the Orhan Gazi kulliye has formed the core of the city's
commercial center, with time several hostels were added to the same
area. In Yildirim Beyazid's time, with the bedesten built next to
Sultan Orhan mosque and kulliye, this commercial center was even
more developed. During Beyazit the 2nd, to the place situated
between Orhan mosque and bath a Khan called Koza was built. After
the conquest of Istanbul, the construction of kulliyes decreased in
Bursa . At the end of 14th c. Bursa, became the most important
commercial center in Anatolia.
Kulliyes played an important role concerning the commercial
development of Istanbul. The multiple khans in the city belonged
either to the kulliyes or were built for them as vakifs. The region
developed quite a lot with Mahmud Pasha (1462) and Atik Ali Pasha
(1492) built around the city's important commercial center called
Bedesten and khans belonging to them. With the construction of the
kulliye of Beyazit the 2nd (1501-1506) at Beyazit this region became
at the start of the 16th c. one of the most lively and important
centers of the city. At the 17th c., the place between the Egyptian
Bazaar built as a part of the Eminonu Yeni Valide Kulliye
(1597-1663) and the Eminonu Beyazit became a commercial region .
In Istanbul where great numbers of kulliyes took place and where
from the 15th c. till the end of the 18th c. the most developed
examples took place, it is possible to analyze the role they played
in the development and direction of the city.
Kulliyes which played an important role in the building and
settlement policy, were built not only in big cities, but also in
suburbs, and even in small settlement units. Thus, places where
these buildings took place, specially the ones which took place on
caravan roads grew and became important centers.
Whereas the ones taking place in the Empire's big cities such as
Bursa, Edirne, Istanbul etc..., formed the center of the settlement,
generally around kulliyes established in special lodging places on
the roads for pilgrimage and caravans counties and cities were born.
As with the growth of the Ottoman Empire, Seljoukid caravans
situated on the East and West travel roads and Islamic convents
which enrolled services and insured safety to the travelers in the
early years of the Ottoman Empire, began to be insufficient, the
need for bigger buildings started to be felt. So for the safety and
hostage of the travellers, big kulliyes were built. These kulliyes
were built in important settlements taking place on halting places,
or far from settlement areas or on dangerous pass ways (derbent)
which were important for pilgrimage and caravan roads and with time
ensured the development of these regions .
The oldest example for such a kulliye was found in Anatolia, in the
village of Corum Haci Hamza, called Sinan Pasha (1506). After the
construction of the kulliye which was situated on a dangerous pass
way, a county was installed to that region .
The kulliyes of Sultan Selim (1569) at Konya- Karapinar and Sokullu
Mehmed Pasha (1574) at Hatay-Payas which constitute the most
important examples for such types, were plannified according to the
At Karapinar, with the gain in importance of these roads during
Selim the 2nd, a big kulliye formed by a mosque, soup-kitchen for
the poor, khan, bath, 39 markets and 2 mills were built, its
surrounds settled and the new city equipped to answer every kind of
need was called "Sultaniye" .
Following the overpopulation of the important harbor Payas, the big
center where the army, pilgrimage and commercial caravans passed
taking place on the South road's most important pass way, Sokullu
Mehmed Pasha built at the 16th c. a big kulliye and after the
completion of the kulliye taking place next to the Fortress formed
by the caravanserai, mosque, religious school, primary school,
soup-kitchen for the poor, hostel, bath and arasta the region's
importance grew and Payas became a small city .
Another example is the kulliye constructed in 1726 bearing the name
of Damad Ibrahim Pasha who, installing people to the village of
Muskara where he was born changed the village into the city of "Nevsehir"
The Kulliye of Murad II (1443) which is another example for this
group at Rumeli, was erected by Murat II, near the river Ergene.
Around the kulliye formed by a bridge, soup-kitchen for the poor,
hostel, mosque, religious school, bath, markets were settled
Turkomans and the county of "Uzunkopru" was formed.
Another example was Sokullu Mehmed Pasha (1569) at Luleburgaz built
by Mimar Sinan. Despite the fact that Birgos (Luleburgaz) situated
on the caravan road Edirne-Istanbul was already populated, it grew
in importance with the construction of the kulliye and was
transformed into a big county.
Apart from the examples mentioned above, around these kulliyes,
according to the settlement policy of the Ottoman State, these
places were populated by people brought here from different places
and they were exempt of tax and thus the development of these areas
was rendered possible.
We saw the Kulliyes first at Artuks, Menguceks and Anatolian
Seljoukides, then they reached their maturity with the central
organization of the Ottoman state. Regarding the function and the
purpose of construction, these kulliyes were realized with a very
advanced and social conception. Nowadays kulliyes have a big role in
our cultural heritage because of their historical, artistic and
aesthetic value and they are the most important architectural
complexes given by the Ottomans to the world's cultural heritage.
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I would like to thank Ela Gungoren for the translation of the text
from Turkish to English.