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During the Dorylaion war in 1097, I. Izzeddin Kilicarslan encamped in Odunpazari which later resulted in establishment of a new settlement in Eskisehir. “Odunpazari Historical Urban Site” is located at the northern slope of a series of hills, forming the southern boundary of Eskisehir Plain. The average slope of terrain is up to %25. This feature differentiates Odunpazari from the rest of the city’s flat terrain.
The nominated site is located within the boundaries of Odunpazari District, covering an area of 268.728 m² with 226.845 m² buffer zone.
Odunpazari has historical indications from the periods of Seljuk, Ottoman and Turkish Republic; such as Alaaddin Mosque (1271), Kursunlu Mosque Complex (1525), Haci Hasan Mosque (13th century) etc. Being one of the few religious centers of Anatolia, the Kursunlu Mosque Complex located at the centre of the site and built by Palace Architect Acem Ali has a basic characteristic of Ottoman architecture. The complex today includes Eskisehir Handicraft Center where almost extinct traditional handicrafts -such as hand writing, gilding, marbling, miniature and reed flute- are performed through master-apprentice system. The complex also includes the world’s only Meerschaum Museum where the most beautiful examples of Turkish and foreign meerschaum artists are exhibited.
The konaks, historical residences that constitute very special examples of traditional civil architecture, express the family life and traditions of the time. Fountains are also other important urban elements that regulate and shape the traditional patterns of Turkish neighborhoods and social relationships.
“Odunpazari Historical Urban Site” is a significant example to cities established totally by the Turks within Anatolia. It’s an urban workshop with the best preserved examples of traditional Turkish architecture and an open-air museum where the structure of the traditional Turkish neighborhood with its entire pattern is maintained.
Architectural style of Odunpazari houses, which is developed peculiar to the local geographical circumstances, also carries the characteristics of traditional Turkish housing architecture. Not only individual structures but also harmony of the houses with each other and with their surroundings is a remarkable aspect within the site. Alongside with the architectural characteristics of a certain period observed in Odunpazari, social and cultural values of the period are represented in the side. In addition, materials, techniques and workmanship used in Odunpazari houses are the components of a technology which is not used today.
Besides territorial, geographical and climatic variables, the area is an important example of how the texture of a city is formed with religious life and traditions. The urban texture of the “Odunpazari Historical Urban Site” developed around the “Kursunlu Mosque Complex” is an architectural landscape that has been home for Mevlevism for four centuries. With the mosque at the center, the hanikâh (inn of dervishes) at southeast, semahane (whirling –a kind of Mevlevi ritual- area) at south, the hospice and imaret at southwest, the soup kitchen at west, the caravanserai at northwest and Ottoman elementary-primary school at east, Kursunlu Mosque Complex has been one of the leading training complexes of its period.
What brings the Complex from an individual ensemble to spatial importance beyond being a mere educational complex is its success in shaping Odunpazari Area in line with the traditions and patterns of Mevlevism. Many tombs -not only those whose locations are known but also those survived through oral history and whose location are not known- are scattered around by taking the Complex in the center.
Meerschaum which is a rock form known and used for five thousands years according to the archaeological excavations is used mainly in knickknack and pipe manufacturing today. Almost all the beds of commercially workable meerschaum are located in Eskisehir region, while the masses also can be seen in France, Spain, Morocco, the USA, Moravya region of Check Republic and in certain islands of Greece. A lot of dedes (progenitor of Mevlevi’s), omniscients, mentors, Mesnevihans, scholars, calligraphers and musicians were trained in Mevlevihane of Eskisehir. In addition, these Mevlevi crafters had given a lot of precious products of traditional crafts such as clock making, meerschaum, etc.
In the light of these issues, “Odunpazari Historical Urban Site” is a developing area which can be characterized and registered as a World Heritage due to its social, cultural, traditional and physical values.
Criterion (iii:) The area preserves intact products of the Seljuk and Ottoman religious architecture as well as invaluable examples of traditional Turkish house with interior and exterior spatial setups, material specialties, structural elements, internal design items and street textures compatible to nature.
Criterion (vi): Mevlevism, which is known to be the largest and the most famous Sufi religious orders and formed by needs and opportunities of the time, has lived for four centuries in the site. Traditional life patterns of Mevlevism have a significant effect on demographical and urban development on the city and region. Therefore, the site was formed with unique behavioral Mevlevism patterns. The hints of these patterns can be still seen and traditional way of life can be experienced at the Kursunlu Mosque Complex.
To deal with a branch of art differing among the regions is a part of Mevlevi tradition. In Odunpazari, Mevlevis practiced clock making and meerschaum craft and they donated their revenues to dergah. This traditional art is still performed in the workshops opened in the museum within the Kursunlu Mosque Complex by the master artisans living in Odunpazari. The only meerschaum museum of the world contributes to development of this traditional art skills and knowledge.
The attributes carrying the Outstanding Universal Value are mostly present within the site. It still exhibits the structure of traditional Turkish neighborhood with the people living in and with civil architectures in a good state of conservation. However, following the industrial developments in 1950s, the site was very much affected by migration to other parts of the city and also by inappropriate improvements within historical urban fabric; also little modifications have occurred to interior usages and segmentations of the houses.
Monuments, on the other hand, still keep their original functions and specialties. Kursunlu Mosque Complex, particularly, has still being used as a Mevlevihâne, religion and education lodge used by Mevlevi dervishes, since its foundation in 1525.
The area was registered as a “Historical and Urban Conservation Site” to be conserved by the decision of Superior Council of Immovable Antiquities and Monuments dated 1981 and then as “Urban Conservation Site” by the decision taken in 1986. The areas in which the traditional fabric is deteriorated or not reflecting the historical characteristics as much as the others were left outside the conservation boundary but defined within the buffer zone due to their harmony with the urban site.
The first implementation plan of Historical Odunpazari Area was produced in 1956. Because of not being an “urban conservation site” at that time, the plan had the characteristics of a tentative plan and decisions regarding the height of storey were taken in line with the road widths which caused a passive conservation in the site. The first conservation plan after the registration was prepared in 1988 and approved by Konya Council for Conservation of Cultural and Natural Heritage, while the later one was approved by Eskisehir Council for Conservation of Cultural and Natural Heritage in 1997. Revisions on “Odunpazari Historical Urban Site Conservation Plan” to meet various urban needs in accordance with today’s protection principals were approved by the decision of Eskisehir Council for Conservation of Cultural and Natural Heritage dated 27.04.2011.
With outstanding examples of Seljuk and Ottoman monumental and civil architecture, “Odunpazari Historical Urban Site” has equivalent features with Safranbolu, which is still in UNESCO’s World Heritage List of Turkey. Moreover, districts of Cumalikizik and Beypazari also share similar characteristics with Odunpazari which they still carry today. However, Odunpazari is very much associated with and shaped by Mevlevism and one cannot find elements of religious life in others as much as in Odunpazari. On the other side, Konya, which can be regarded as the capital for Mevlevism and the city hosting the tomb of Rumi, does not bear a testimony to Ottoman monumental and civil architecture to the extent observed in Odunpazari.