Historic Town of Birgi
Permanent Delegation of Turkey to UNESCO
Province of İzmir, District of Ödemiş
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Birgi is located within the Aegean Region, 121 km away from the Province of Izmir, 10 km away from the District of Ödemiş. Birgi and its vicinity, which were located within the Lydia Region during the Ancient Period, fell respectively under the hegemonies of the Phrygian Civilization (750-680 BC), the Lydian Civilization (680-546 BC.), the Persian Regency, the Pergamon Regency, the Roman Empire and the Byzantium. During the Period of the Anatolian Beyliks (Sultanates), it was under control of the Aydınoğlu Sultanate of which it was the capital city in the XIIIth and XIVth centuries. In 1426, Birgi was under control of the Ottoman Empire. Its efficiency as the management and cultural centre continued till the XVII century.
There are still remains of the many civilisations that Birgi hosted; such as many tombs, madrasa, dar-ül hadis, mosques, fountains, baths, libraries, masjid and residences which reflect the architectural and cultural features of the Period of the Anatolian Beyliks (Sultanates) and the Ottoman Empire, as well as houses dated to the 18th century and the following centuries.
The spolia materials used in the civil architecture buildings particularly in the fountains carry the traces of the previous periods. In addition, the traditional buildings constructed on the walls erected during the late Byzantium Period provide a possibility to follow together two purposes oriented the structure.
The traditional urban texture of Birgi is composed of sites which have different characteristics. The sites having the street layout shaped by the topography are the first of these sites. In general within these areas, the buildings are located in the street façade of the parcel. The street facades of the parcels are surrounded by the high walls. The parcels are shaped organically and the roads are very narrow. The transportation system is completed with a few blind streets. The residential parcels in the second group are located in the area having a comparatively flatter topography and its parcel settlement has more geometric form in comparison with the first group. Mainly the residential buildings have the type of plan with the exterior sofa and the type of their structure is formed on the masonry ground with the timber frame and tile cover.
Mostly two stored and courtyard houses were located in general on the edge of the street or the corners of the parcels and thus it was provided to have gardens as big as possible. This way, the green areas formed by the gardens behind the houses, in the centre or one side of the building lots revitalize the environment.
The Great Mosque of Birgi, which dominates the traditional urban layout, was completed in 1312 on the order of Mehmed Bey, the founder of Aydınoğlu Sultanate. It has a basilical plan with five aisles extending perpendicular to the mihrab wall, and the bay before the mihrab is covered with a dome. The building materials include rubble, ashlar, marble blocks, and spolia. The minaret is built adjoining the West end of the qıbla wall. The Great Mosque of Birgi has rich decorative woodwork and tiling. The minaret is decorated in turquoise-glazed brick, unglazed brick, and tile mosaic. The mihrab has tile mosaics in aubergine-purple and turquoise. The minbar is made of walnut wood. The surface of the mihrab is abundantly decorated with geometric compositions of three, eight and ten-pointed stars and four, six, and eight-sided polygons. Moreover, there are a number of inscriptions in Arabic with religious content. The mihrab and minber of the Great Mosque of Birgi, is one of the best preserved examples of their time.
Built by a leather merchant in the eighteenth century, Cakıraga Mansion is one of the prominent buildings reflecting the architectural and ornamental style particular to the Aegean region in that period. The mansion consists of two storeys additional to the ground floor. The ground floor walls of the mansion are made with stone building, while the mid and upper floor walls are made with the wooden framework technique. The upper floor has a long, rectangular plan with an open sofa. The ceilings and walls of the upper floor are highly decorated with plants and fruit motifs. The most interesting paintings in the mansion are the panoramic city views. One room offers a panoramic depiction of Istanbul while another room displays a panorama of Izmir. The sofa on the upper floor shows a wall painting describing a coastal town with a fortress. Moreover, the mansion is distinguished with its woodwork. On the upper floor, the timber ceilings are decorated with geometric panels formed with long, narrow strips of wood and painted with motifs such as crescents, stars, flowers and fruits.
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
Birgi, host of several civilizations, presents a multi-cultural structure with its monuments and historic buildings from different periods. The city presents some monumental buildings from different periods together with a traditional housing texture dated to the 18th century. It is one of the precious examples, of which the integrity and authenticity have been preserved till today. Besides, The Great Mosque which was constructed in 1312 during the period of Aydınoğulları Sultanate with the Seljukian ornament tradition is the best preserved sample among its kind with its mihrap, minbar and window leafs adorned by the techniques and ornaments peculiar to its period.
Criterion (ii): The historic and urban texture planned regularly which have survived till today by preserving their original form throughout centuries, is one of the rare features of the city which come into the prominence with its continuous settlement from the Phrygian Civilization to the present.
In Birgi there are over 100 historical buildings officially registered by the Culture and Tourism Ministry. With these architectural landscape, Birgi still has a traditional Turkish city identity. Today many historical buildings still stand such as mosques, madrasahs, tombs, baths, caravansarays and lodges. Some of these buildings were recently restored and restoration progress goes on.
Criterion (iv): The city is a sample presenting the architectural and cultural values particular to each centenary of the period of approx. 8 centenaries beginning from the period of the Aydınoğulları Sultanate, of which integrity and authenticity have survived till today by preserving their original forms. Especially the mihrab, minbar and window leafs of Birgi Ulu Mosque, are some of the best examples of the Aydınoğulları Sultanate wood ornament tradition. This kind of wooden decoration shows a rare, nice and artistic genre of that period.
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
The monumental buildings and the other historical structures were registered as cultural property to be preserved with the decision of the Superior Council of Immovable Antiquities and Monuments (dated 12/01/1974, numbered 7658). Afterwards, many decisions were taken by the Superior Council and the Conservation Council related with the determination of the conservation sites and the other historical buildings. The latest decision concerning the delimitation of the conservation areas, was taken by the İzmir Conservation Council dated 07.10.1995 and the borders of the natural, archaeological and urban sites were determined. These areas are protected by the Turkish Legislation for Preservation of Cultural and Natural Properties, Law No. 2863. The conservation plan of the sites was prepared by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and it was approved with the decision of the related Conservation Council dated 11/04/1996 and dated 5963. The conservation and rehabilitation projects carried by the Birgi Municipality and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism raised the awareness of the local people about cultural heritage and enabled them to participate to the conservation actions.
Birgi, located 10 km away from the centre of the District has not been affected relatively by the urbanization pressure due to its location. Having mostly a housing texture and not being located on the linking roads are the main reasons for this situation. The stable structure of the population has become an opportunity for the traditional texture of the settlement and it has not created a pressure on the texture. All these factors have provided a possibility for the transmission of the traditional texture to the present in a quite good condition without any deterioration.
In general the changes in the buildings in Birgi occurred mostly due to the simple maintenance and repair works such as chancing the slicing, painting and renewing the roofs and the infrastructure etc. There are not great changes in the plan of the buildings generally. However, because of the necessities some parts of the buildings such as the toilets and the kitchens have been renewed. Throughout the site, interventions have been carried out with the original materials due to both economic and technical reasons. Thus generally, the original material and technique of the buildings in Birgi have been conserved. The original functions of the structures such as houses, madrasa and baths have been preserved till today.
Comparison with other similar properties
The housing architecture during the Ottoman Period had developed differently within the different regions. As a result of this, the regions appeared that were created by the houses having the common characteristics such as plan, type, material and construction technique. However, the traditional houses in the provinces of Kütahya, Kula, Birgi,Bursa, Sivrihisar, Safranbolu, Kastamonu, Amasya were not only limited with their regions but also affected by their housing architecture in general. Birgi comes into prominence with its continuous settlement from the Phrygian Civilization to the present.
The Great Mosque of Birgi follows the Seljuk tradition in its plan. What makes special the Great Mosque is that the minaret was built adjoining the west end of the qibla wall. Traditionally, the minarate is built at the north end of the east and west wall. Since the tomb for Mehmed Bey was designed at the same time as the mosque, the minaret was built at the west end of the qıbla wall. In addition, the Great Mosque of Birgi is distinguished with its abundantly decorated and extremely well preserved mihrab and minber.