Mahmut Bey Mosque

Date of Submission: 15/04/2014
Criteria: (ii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Turkey to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Kasaba Village, Province of Kastamonu
Coordinates: N41 31 10 E33 41 23
Ref.: 5904

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Mahmut Bey Mosque is located in Kasaba Village, 20 km. away from Kastamonu city centre. Mahmut Bey Mosque was built by Mahmut Bey in 1366, during the reign of Candaroğulları Sultanate. This Sultanate was founded in Kastamonu and Sinop region after Anatolian Seljuk Empire collapsed. Candaroğulları Sultanate ruled until 1461 when conquered by Ottoman Empire.

The most important feature of Mahmut Bey Mosque, this building is one of the first wood columned and wood roofed mosques in Anatolia. Mahmut Bey Mosque represents perfectly this rare architectural technique.

Exterior of mosque was constructed by hewn stone. This small mosque’s plan scheme is rectangle close to square. Ceiling of the building stands on four pillars. In spite of simple exterior, inside of mosque on all wood surfaces decorated with vivid and colourful ornaments called “kalem isi”. Beautiful woodwork and ornaments of Mahmut Bey Mosque are so famous all over the world that, from different foreign countries many tourists come to this small village to visit this small but picturesque building because of its magnificent interior ornaments.

This traditional ornament technique called as “Kalemişi”. This technique applies on wood surface by special brushes named “Kalem”. Before painting the figures, contours of figures designed over the small punched papers. The artists were used coal powder to draw geometrical and floral decoration. Ornaments on wooden surfaces in Mahmut Bey Mosque are one of best prototypes of its period. One of the most important features of Mahmut Bey Mosque, these ornaments is in good condition despite of centuries. Ornaments in the building have various colours range from orange to ruby red, the wide application of black and white, indigo, blue and yellow.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Mahmut Bey Mosque is one of the most important examples of wooden columned and roofed mosques in Anatolia. Although its exterior appearance is plain, its interior surfaces full extent of beautiful and vivid wooden ornaments. This building accepted as a masterpiece with ornamented wooden ceiling, floor, columns, pulpit and gate wings.

Famous Arabic traveller Ibn Batuta mentioned about this mosque in his manuscript. He visited Mahmut Bey Mosque in 14th century. He mentioned about this mosque in his notes as small and interesting building a little far from Kastamonu city centre. He says that Süleyman Beg, who was the Beg of Candaroğulları Sultanate, was coming to this mosque for praying on every Friday from his palace in Kastamonu.

Using wood column and wood roof can be seen rarely in Turkish-Islamic architecture in Anatolia. In Mahmut Bey Mosque, all wood pieces were unified without any nail. Instead of nail, architect used a special technique to unify wood pieces. All wood pieces came together similar to lego toys.

Wood gate wings are another important and outstanding part of Mahmut Bey Mosque. Wood carving ornaments are very delicate. This door is one of the masterpieces of wood work of Turkish-Islamic art. Craftsman of this door is Nakkas Abdullah, was the famous artist in his period. He was from Ankara and his another important works are: wood sarcophagus of Ahi Serefeddin in Ankara and one wood gate wings in Kastamonu beside Mahmut Bey Mosque. This door has a combination of inscription and floral ornaments carved beautifully. This door stolen in 1977 then as result of dense searching of Turkish State, it found in Manisa. After finding it was brought to Kastamonu. But because of security, original door is display in Kastamonu Ethnographical Museum now. Exist door in mosque is a perfect replica of original door.

Criterion (ii): Wooden columned and roofed mosques are rare type of Anatolian Turkish Architecture. Mahmut Bey Mosque is one of the most elegant examples of this kind of structures. In Central Asia Turkish architects used brick and terra cota. After settled down in Anatolia they turned to prefer “stone”. Wood is a traditional constructional material in Central Asia where the seeds of Turkish architecture were sown. Mahmut Bey Mosque bears a Central Asian mosque character and symbolizes the transmitting of a life style of Anatolia.

Criterion (iv): Although there are some examples in different places, wooden columned and roofed mosques are not very frequent in Turkey. Having variety of refinement woodwork and well-preserved painted interior, Mahmut Bey Mosque is a magnificent example of this type of building. Besides, the using of colours and the artistic perception of paintings and the different structural parts like the beams present a unique study of ornamentation of 14th century of Anatolian Architecture.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Mahmut Bey Mosque was registered as cultural property to be preserved by the statement of Superior Council of Immovable Antiquities and Monuments (dated 29/11/1988, numbered 563).

Coloured wooden ornament applied on the wooden surface by special brush named "Kalem". Thus this traditional hand-drawn ornament technique named “Kalem İşi". All parts of wooden ornament interior are original and in good condition.

In terms of wood carving technique and the decorating style of interior, Mahmut Bey Mosque is accepted as a masterpiece for Turkish Art and Architecture. In general wooden work and coloured ornament style in mosque are harmonic. While geometrical decoration has "eternity" principle, floral designs are stylized. Four wooden columns hold the roof interior and these wooden columns have Corinth column heading.

Mihrap (niche in a mosque wall indicating the direction of Mecca) was made plaster. Technique and decoration style of Mihrap has characteristic of the period of mosque was built. According to technique and decoration style, Pulpit is harmonic the rest of the building too.

Although plan scheme is small and plain, in terms of rich wooden decoration of interior Mahmut Bey Mosque is one the most beautiful examples of wooden columned and roofed mosques in Anatolia.

Since the mosque has been restored with certain intervals and actively utilized, there are no major structural conservation problems. Especially, the authenticity and integrity of the wooden materials and ornaments called “Kalem İşi” are mostly conserved. But both variable climatic conditions and biological factors have caused some deterioration on the wooden ornaments. Particularly the coloured wooden ornaments applied on the textile surface of the arches of “Mahfil” (special raised platform in a mosque) are mostly poured. There are some partial pours on the other parts.

The authenticity and integrity of the plaster ornaments is substantially conserved. In addition, there is no specific deterioration on the stone materials forming the wall texture of the mosque.

In 2007, within the context of restoration, a new wooden minaret was built in place of concrete minaret which is not original. Roof was renewed and some parts of walls were completed. Excellent woodcarving door of the mosque was stolen in 1977, but then it was found in Manisa and brought back to Kastamonu, placed in the Ethnographical Museum. Today, the door of the mosque is not the original one and there has been a successful exact replica of it.

The measured drawings, restitution and restoration projects of the mosque were approved by the related Conservation Board on 10.03.2006 and also within the scope of the restoration of the Mosque, roof, drainage and “Kalem İşi” projects as well as the detail drawings of the minaret were prepared and approved by the Conservation Board on 03.07.2006.

In addition, mihrab of mosque is made by plaster. Using plaster mihrab is a rare architectural element in Turkish-Islamic architecture too. This mihrab has a decoration plan consist of geometrical and floral ornaments. Mihrab influenced because of the humidity from floor. As an urgency precaution, in 2007 protection project started by Istanbul Technical University. Thanks to this protection project harmful effect on building stopped.

When you enter this building, you can see all interior is dimly. Because, as a precaution to protect ornaments on wood surfaces interior, today there is no electric enlightenment inside of mosque.

Comparison with other similar properties

Wooden columned and roofed mosques are rare type of Anatolian Turkish Architecture. In comparison with Eşrefoğlu Mosque, Afyon Great Mosque and Sivrihisar Mosque, Mahmut Bey Mosque is smaller than the others. But wooden ornaments in Mahmut Bey Mosque are more vivid and in better condition. These ornaments covered all parts of interior ceiling and walls. Ornament technique and sophisticated figures on gate wings of mosque shows the craftsman of this gate wings is the same person who made the door of İbn-i Neccar Mosque in Kastamonu city centre.

There are several wooden columned and roofed mosques in Turkey like Beyşehir Eşrefoğlu Mosque, Afyon Great Mosque and Arslanhane Mosque but compared to others wooden ornaments in Mahmut Bey Mosque are in better condition. Moreover, with rich ornaments the gate wings of mosque is one of the special elements of Mahmut Bey Mosque.

When we compare Mahmut Bey Mosque to these mosques, mentioned above, Mahmut Bey Mosque stands out with its vivid are in good condition ornaments on wood surfaces, beautifully carved wood gate wings and magnificent mihrab made by white plaster.