I have been wanting to visit Divrigi for a long time as it is a city which hosts our country's first site that has been listed on UNESCO World Heritage List with Ulu Mosque and 'Darussifa'. However because of its distance from the main routes of travel, I was never able to visit. Finally last summer, at a time when we were in Sivas where we were so close, we decided to spare one day to visit Divrigi which can be considered as the pinnacle of rock workmanship of the Seljuk era.
There is a daily train which goes to Divrigi from Sivas but because it is so early in the morning we decided to use our own vehicle for the trip. We decided to use the road which runs through Zara and then turn onto the other road. The journey to Divrigi which is around 174 km from Sivas took us longer than expected due to the not so good roads. We could only make the full journey in about 2.5 hours. The road which turns right from Zara is parallel to a jade colored deeply running river within a canyon and the environment has green fields which is consistent with Sivas so when comparing the environment it is even more green.
Divrigi is a city which has been erected at the bottom of a hill and continues towards the plains. At the top of the hill is a castle and nearby is Ulu Mosque which was the master piece of the Mengucekogullari Beylik with Darussifa right next to it. It was Friday and because it was close to prayer time there were many vehicles around the mosque belonging to all the visitors that came from surrounding areas. We decided to come to Divrigi particularly on Friday upon the recommendation of one of our friends who had been there before; hence as the mosque in Divrigi is quite large and sufficient, woman also attend the Friday parayprayer.
In your praise the tongue is barren, the pen broken
Divrigi Ulu Mosque, constructed with cut rocks using the technical capabilities of its time with many pillars in its plans, however what makes it so unique and special is the workmanship on its rock doors with fancy and showy designs. Without doubt the head architect, Hurrem Shah the son of Mugis from Ahlat, was a master far ahead of the time of that period. The instigator of this project Mengucekoglu bey Ahmet Shah and partner Turan Melek, were able to write their names on the pages of history with this unique mosque and nearby Darussifa. What remains is a mind boggling , almost unreal masterpiece. Obviously it was crafted more with love than with the mind. The master traveler Evliya Celebi was so much in the right when he said ' In your praise the tongue is barren, the pen broken' about this place.
Even though the mosque and darussifa are two separate entities, because the walls are side by side it gives a monolithic effect and seems to be an object which is rectangular from a north to south aspect.
In line with the Seljuk era architecture, there is a plain cut rock door on the fronts with two on the west, one on the north and one in the east which makes a total of four crown doors. Crown doors are usually magnificent but these one are so unique; I had read somewhere that they were referred to as ' the doors of heaven' and this referral is deserving. The beads which we are so used to seem to give a 3 dimensional image which is almost statue like; unbelievably rich and attractive detailed ornaments. The door beads which seem symmetrical at first glance, leaves you in awe when you realize that they are all different and not one repeat. There is no mistakes in Rosary; almost the creation of the Lord of creation showing ' Alone has wisdom, wisdom has alone ' principle shown by the hands of a human.
The many columns of the mosque with its dim interior invites people to think and be alone
Pieces like the altar and pulpit are also masterpieces, with the head of the columns and the vaults also have workmanship which is like a spell on the people. However in the interior as compared to the exterior there is a more plainer outlook. The many columns of the mosque with its dim interior invites people to think and be alone. It is a place with a very high soul and spirituality. Who knows in the last 800 years who has come and gone to this place , and the breaths of many saints have touched these walls. In this place I have had the privilege of performing one of the most unforgettable Friday prayers
of my life. As the crowd of worshipers leave the mosque, we are alone to walk around freely to take in every little minute detail of this unique place.
The most splendid door without doubt is the North door or as it is named 'castle door'. Beads which are geometric with motifs of nature and rumi which makes it impossible to take your eyes of it. Behind this door are samples of the culture of that era with a rock basket for deposit and also a charity stone,
which are of interest. The local from Divrigi who offered apples from a basket as people entered the mosque, must definitely be carrying on the grand tradition and hospitality of this area.
On the North western corner of the mosque is the only minaret which rises from a cylindrical base, was constructed at the time of Sultan Suleyman The Lawmaker during renovations. As the structure is positioned on a slope, when you look from inside, the Eastern door which look like a highly positioned window, we learn that this is the Grand Entrance for Ahmet Shah. The wooden structure belonging to the Shah has some columns and beams remaining to this day.
The western door which is also known as Textile door, has beads which are more elegant and subtle. It is said that in the summer months around the time of Ilkindi (late afternoon), there appears a silhouette of a person standing up and reading the holy Quran. This masterpiece which was constructed around 1228-1243 has a kunder pulpit which was made from the ebony tree, known for its long life, which has remained untainted to this day. You can not withstand from praying for the souls of people who have handcrafted the many details of this masterpiece including Ahmet Usta the son of Ibrahim from Tiflis who has carved his name on the star facing the pulpit as he made the pulpit. May there be mercy upon mercy and light upon light for all the hands that have made the effort for every minute detail of this unique masterpiece...
It is said that the plants which are used as the motifs for the beads are also used as a cure for the sick
Darussifa which is side by side on the wall of the mosque facing kibble ( in Mecca- Saudi Arabia ) is two storeys high on the face that looks to the West, with the other sides being one storey high is a three sided structure. In one of the rooms that are adjoined to the mosque is the shrine with the tombs of Ahmet Shah and family. The window between the mosque and the shrine allows for the recital of the holy Quran in the mosque to be heard clearly from within the shrine as well. The other rooms were apparently used for sick people. The pool in the middle and the lock system on the main door is also very eye catching. The door is also amazing just as in the doors of the mosque and you can not take your eyes of it. It is said that the plants which were used as motifs for the beads were also used in the cure of the sick; as for the mentally ill they were treated with the aid of the acoustics of the building with the sound of the water from the pool, music and recital of the holy Quran. During the period of the Ottoman Empire this place was used as a medrese ( School of learning ).
This masterpiece which is so elegant that it is like a gem that should be placed inside a lantern and protected, also had its own fair share of vandalism, with unhumanlike people carving their names on the beads. We can unfortunately also witness sadly that there is no substantial security on the building and the building is left on its own.
Masters of iron, copper and saddles in the bazaar of Divrigi
We have left with the thought of seeing inside the city without having had enough of the beauty of Ulu Mosque and Sifahane. We are having a break in a restaurant after touring Divrigi bazaar with its narrow lanes full of craftsman of iron, copper and saddles that you no longer see in bigger cities, with taps and decorations that is typical of a town bazaar. Following that we are touring along the suburbs that spread into the plains to see the Divrigi households and also tour the restored Ayan Aga Konak (mansion). The young girls who are working there are surprised and shocked that we liked Divrigi, reminding me of ' Those who do not know the world within the world' and the likes... In fact even though Divrigi seems slightly forgotten, unkempt and worn out, it holds the rare reminiscence of a thousand year great civilization, which is a very interesting place especially for lovers of history and culture. Really there are beautiful mansions but however most of them are in need of repairs. If Divrigi falls in the hands of a visionary local authorities and some effort, it holds within its boundaries values that are ready to shine.
To make it an alternative path, we are returning back to Sivas via Kangal. As the roads were not so good the return trip also took longer than we expected. As a mode of transport it may be smarter to use the train called Raybus which comes from Sivas daily. When you use the roads as a mode of transport, even though the roads are not so good the views and sights of the natural beauty make up for it. In all cases it is definitely a deserving place to visit. Whatever you do , if it is possible make your journey on one Friday to this great region.
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