On a steep hill overlooking the Old Bazaar stands the beautifully restored Mustafa Pasha Mosque.
In 1492, while Christopher Columbus was searching for India and stumbling into the Americas, the Ottomans were building this mosque for local Vizier Mustafa Pasha. The intervening years took their toll, but a complete renovation in 2011 restored its 15th Century splendor.
Its prominent position and size makes it an easily visible landmark, but at a distance, its simple exterior belies the intricate details painted in the entrance and main hall domes. The rich blue floral patterns on the stark white background is particularly attractive, and the effect can best be described as simple elegance.
According to HAEMUS, the center for scientific research and promotion of the culture in the Balkans, the mosque once played a much larger role in the community. “The mosque complex once consisted of a caravanserai, a medresse, an imaret (communal soup kitchen), a mekteb (an elementary school for teaching children in Islamic subjects) and a tűrbe (tomb).”
On our visit, three friendly gents relaxing in the garden made us feel more like guests than tourists with a round of “As-salamu-alaykum.” And we were happy to remember our Arabic training from Sudan so we could answer “Wa-Alaikum-Salaam.”
The Mustafa Pasha Mosque is another jewel in the crown of Skopje. It’s also an important icon for the Islamic community and a visible reminder of the harmonious diversity of the city. And after the hike up the hill, a shaded bench in the garden makes a tranquil spot to study the building’s details and watch Muslim visitors prepare for prayers.
James & Terri
1. Делфина via Wikimedia Commons
Such amazing architectural details. I’m intrigued by the window with all of the round holes. Any idea what the purpose is?
Not sure Sue, but possibly just ventilation. Islamic architecture uses lots of interesting lattice panels for privacy as well. Some are hand-carved works of art. You probably saw some of this in Turkey. ~James
I probably did James and again probably didn’t notice at the time. One of the thing the blog has helped me do is to be more observant and look for such details.
I agree Fi. The simplicity of this mosque was what was most attractive to me. Not bad for a 400 year-old building. ~James
“Simple elegance” indeed. Beautiful piece of architecture. Glad they took the time and money to restore it.
Laura, one of the things I enjoyed about this mosque was being able to see the progress of the restoration. If you noticed, in a couple of the photos of the floral details on the ceiling, you can see what it looked like before the restoration, and a a couple of intervals of restoration in between. Lots of painstaking work there. ~James
This mosque is amazing and looks so inviting. Some wonderful pictures. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks Darlene. Did the Moors leave any mosques in your neck of the woods? ~James
Catholic churches were usually built on the mosque sites after the Moors left. Occasionally there will be a wall or parts of a ruin that was once a mosque but I have yet to see an actual mosque around here.
I love the whiteness and the expanses of non-ornamented surfaces; they really make the decorative parts pop. (I sound like a decorator – ha!)
I agree Lexie. After the ornate interiors of the Orthodox churches elsewhere in the Balkans, the simple decorations on this mosque were proof that there are other ways to achieve beauty. ~James
Such beauty is so inspiring.
I loved the simplicity of this mosque Leslie, but as it happens, the colors used are also some of my favorites as well. The stark white background makes an excellent canvas. ~James
The shapes are very appealing. – the arches etc.
I can imagine that this beautiful mosque was at the very center of its community providing nourishment for the soul, brain and body of the locals? I am glad that this restoration project is bringing it back to life.
Gilda, Skopje is a cultural crossroads today, but in the 16th century, it was a trading crossroads as well. It was a vibrant city, and I’m sure there was lots of activity and needs to be met – spiritual and physical. ~James
Do the men wash their feet to prepare for evening prayers? not a bad idea for such a beautiful old building.
Joyce, the Muslim preparation for prayer is a complex ritual, and interesting to watch. Muslims believe that when they pray, they are speaking directly to God, so they want to be in a clean, pure state. As I said, it’s complex, but basically they wash their face, hands, feet, and they clean their mouth with water, as well as run their wet hands through their hair. Also, there’s a specific order of washing which is always observed. That’s probably more than you wanted to know, but it’s certainly interesting to see. Love, JH
The center of community and a reminder of simpler times. Lovely!!
Well said Martha. I’ve probably read too many adventure novels, but it sounds like a welcoming and comfortable place. ~James
This brought back memories of visiting mosques in Morocco many years ago. Although very different in style, the feel is much the same, and the greeting.
Marie, like many holy places, this mosque was very peaceful. It sits on a quiet hilltop, there are few people (or tourists) around, and the garden has lots of benches in the shade. It was a pleasant place to relax after the hike up the hill. ~James