The island of Midilli which was conquered by Sultan Mehmet Fatih (The Conquerer) is usually likened to an open art museum due to various historical works of art left from Ottoman times. With mosques, hammams and fountains, one may easily feel they are walking through an Ottoman town. Despite the fact that political developments separated Turks and Greeks, the two communities lived in peace for centuries, united by common values and shared traditions that still prevail. The island of Midilli is a place where you may feel that the Ottoman sprit is still alive in the streets of this Aegean island.
The island of Midilli was ruled by Ottoman Empire from 1462 to 1912 when the Balkan wars erupted. Its Ottoman heritage can be found in almost every corner of the island, representing the island’s 450-year Ottoman past.
One of the most popular works of art from Ottoman times is the Yeni Mosque (New Mosque) which was built at the end of 19th century by Kulaksızzade Mustafa Agha, during the era of Mahmut II. The Mosque is defined as one of the prominent works of its time and is still the largest building on the island. The madrassa in the yard of the mosque was built by one of the richest Muslim families of Midilli, Hacı Muhammed Agha.
Mosques seen as touristic hotspots, not places of worship
One of the most important pieces of Ottoman heritage in Midilli is the Molva mosque in the village of Molivos. While the mosque is open for tourists willing to visit the historical architecture, Muslims on the island are not allowed to pray in it. This situation is not unique to the Molva mosque as lots of mosques with similar restrictions are also found in other villages.
There are also hammams that have brought the Ottoman past of Midilli island to this very day. Çarşı Hammam is located in an area very close to the Yeni mosque. The hammam, which was sponsored by Kulaksızzade Mustafa Agha, is used today as an exhibition hall.
The Konak of Halim Pasha, a residential palace of Ottoman notables which was named after its owner Kulaksızzade Halim Bey, serves today as a municipal art gallery.
Homeland of Hayruddin Barbarossa
Another Ottoman monumental building in Köşk is the Courthouse, which was built in 1896 and used as a education center. Just across the Courthouse, the Ottoman governmental office has been standing since 1893.
In 1912, when the island gained indepedence from Ottoman rule, the government office served as an orphanage for a while. Today it is the office of General Secretariat for Aegean and Islands Policies, a subunit of the Greek Ministry ofthe Aegean Sea and Naval Affairs.
Midilli Island has a special place in Ottoman history. The island is the hometown of many well-known Ottoman figures including the legendary admirals of 16th century Hayruddin Barbarossa and Namık Kemal, who was an Ottoman poet and social reformer who lived in the 19th century. Namık Kemal’s house survives to this day but instead of forming a museum in the name of the poet, the Greek government let it be used as a private property. When Namık Kemal was exiled, the officials chose to send him back to his hometown Midilli.
Kuzey News AgencyLast Mod: 25 Ekim 2013, 09:52