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The Ahi Kizi Masjid (Mescit) in Antalya: A Seljuk Structure Re-used in the Ottoman Period

The structure at Mektep Sokak 9 in Selçuk Mahallesi in Kaleiçi does not today cany any inscription describing its construction, restoration or repair. This masjid is square in plan covered with a single dome and roofed with allaturca (Spanish) tiles. The dome is quite flat, forming less than a semicircle and is, therefore, not easily recognizable as a dome from outside.

The new "Son Cemaat Yeri" or latecomers area for prayer, which is annexed to the northern front of the building is new, made of reinforced concrete. The northern front has a doorway with a pointed arch in the middle, flanked with a window with a pointed arch on either side. The eastern front has a narrow and tall window with a pointed arch and a narrow and tall loophole window to its north. However, the western front presents a totally different arrangement with three rectangular windows located on top of each other. The southern front has been concealed due to the construction of an adjoining building.

The dome is encircled with a semicircular moulding at the skirt. The original masonry and the original transition zone to the dome, if it exists, cannot be understood.

On the same axis as the entrance is a plain semicircular mihrap topped with a semicircular arch.

This structure is known as the "Ahi Kızı Masjid" and is also recorded as such in the publications. It has been dated to the 14th century, to the period of the Hamid Emirate. However, there is no inscription or written source to support this dating. It seems most probable, that this masjid was dedicated to the same person as the Ahi Kızı Türbe (tomb) located in its near vicinity, which is dated to the second quarter of the 15th century.

No relationship can be established between the window with the pointed arch in the east wall and the rectangular windows in the west wall; moreover, these three rectangular windows are all different. It is likely that the two windows in the north wall, the window with a pointed arch in the east wall and the middle window in the west wall, which has a pointed arch on the inside wall, all date from the same period. However, the other two windows in the west wall were obviously built much later.

The loophole windows in the west, north and east walls are narrow and tall openings on the outside and widen towards the inside. The existence of these loophole windows in such a small masjid structure is unusual. It is therefore possible that these loophole windows are from the original construction and the other wider windows were added later in order to better illuminate the interior. Thus, we may infer that the present structure was not originally built as a masjid. The dome disguised by a roof of allaturca tiles is further blocked from view by the south wall, which rises higher than the keystone. Moreover, the fact that the load of the dome is carried directly by this south wall, suggests the possibility that an existing structure was later altered. This anomaly between the dome and the structure below it, clearly leads one to the conclusion that the dome was an awkward later addition. Thus, we are led to the question, what function did the construction of the original structure serve?

The Kaleici district of Antalya still raises many questions, especially in its western section, during the Seljuk period. This western section of Kaleici has numerous monumental constructions and gives the impression that it was a private area, not one open to public. The structure to the southwest corner elates back to the Hellenistic period and had the function of an acropolis, and this section was used as an inner castle during the Seljuk period. The fact that the present Tekelioğlu Konak and. its annexes are mentioned as a "palace", the "lower mansion" and the "inner mansion" in the documents shows that this area was the administrative center in the Ottoman period. The topography, traces of walls depicted in old pictures, and the map by Lanckoronski showing the ancient fortifications of Attalia (Antalya), all point to the fact that the line of the inner fortification walls passed through here, and that this important section of the city was enclosed on the land side with walls during the earlier Seljuk period as well.

The present structure consisting of a square plan, also supports this hypothesis. A total of five loophole windows on the three sides provided light to a single space on the interior. It is therefore possible that this chamber, lit with loophole windows, was originally a tower built along the line of the fortification walls. The surviving Seljuk towers on the inner city walls have similar structures.

The southwest corner of this structure is connected to a wall extending in a north-south direction that may have been part of the inner fortifications. Originally built in the Seljuk period, but later standing isolated and having lost its original function as a defensive tower on the inner walls of the city, this tower could easily have been converted into a neighborhood masjid.

*Dr. Leyla Yılmaz, Ankara Üniversitesi, Dil ve Tarih-Coğrafya Fakültesi, Sanat Tarihi Bölümü, 06100 Sıhhıye - Ankara.

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