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1870 - 1900

Cities of the Three Books

Jerusalem and the Holy Land in 19th century photographs
Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation Photography Collection

Centred on the photograph album that once belonged to Grand Vizier Kıbrıslı Kamil Pasha and recently added to the  Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation's collection, the exhibition portrays the three monotheistic faiths in the Holy Land -which enjoyed the longest period of peace under Ottoman rule - and how this diversity is manifested in the architecture of the region, in the cities of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jaffa, and Gaza.

Furthermore, the exhibition also provides a unique opportunity for historians of architecture and photography to read and interpret the past through a different perspective.

The Settlements

In the panorama shot from the eastern side of Jerusalem (Mount of Olives), we see the old city surrounded by walls above the Kidron Valley. In the foreground at the left are the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the imposing Dome of the Rock within the Haram al-Sharif. Another panorama was shot from the eastern side of the sanctuary. Looking eastward, the slope here is covered with a Muslim cemetery and descends into the Kidron Valley. Below is the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was arrested. Nearby is the Russian Orthodox Church of Maria Magdalene.

General View of Holy Jerusalem from the East

In the views of settlements in Jaffa, Hebron, and Gaza  we see that buildings still preserved their traditional textures at this time.

Consisting primarily of flat-roofed houses whose walls were fashioned from ashlar masonry, the view is enlivened by minarets standing here and there.

The view of Jaffa from the sea
The town of Hebron
The town of Gaza

The newly-established “Prussian quarter” near Jaffa contrasts sharply with European-looking buildings that seem quite alien to the area.

Rahya village near the Jordan River consists of the Jordan Hotel (apparently converted from an old mansion) with a few other dwellings and livestock pens located around it.

The Prussian quarter, near Jaffa
Village of Rahya

Christian and Jewish Religious Structures

One of the oldest and most important of the Christian structures in Jerusalem is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Thought to date originally to the reign of Constantine I (324-337) and believed to be located on Golgotha (Hill of Calvary), where Jesus was crucified, the architecture of this building reflects the many renovations and modifications that have been carried out over the centuries. The complex, consisting of numerous additions made to one another, was substantially altered from its early Byzantine form particularly in 1099-1187 during the Crusader period.

The same can be said for the Church of the Nativity located in Bethlehem over the traditional birthplace of Jesus and referred to in the album as a “Basilica Church”.

Picture of the dome of the Holy Sepulchre
Gate of the famous Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem
Interior of the large church known as Basilica (Church of the Nativity) in Betlehem
Gate of the grotto where Jesus was born in the Basilica

Another building of religious significance to Christians is the structure known as “Mary’s Tomb” located on the foothills of Mount of Olives. A Gothic-style entrance that dates to the Crusader period leads to a staircase that descends to the church beneath the surface.

Gate of the Tomb of the Virgin Mary near Jerusalem

Among such religious structure in Jerusalem consisting of sections that were added at different times is the Armenian Patriarchate. The patriarchate’s buildings cluster around the Cathedral of St James (Surp Hagop), a 12th-century structure decorated with 18th century Kütahya tiles. The wing with the pediment in the Empire style dates to the mid-19th century.

The Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem

Of the many Christian religious structures built in Jerusalem in the second half of the 19th century, the British Church, the Protestant Church, and the Abyssinian Church are respectively in the Neo-Romanesque, Neo-Gothic and Neo-Renaissance styles.

The Protestant Church in Jerusalem
The British Church in Jerusalem
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
The Russian Church in Jerusalem

In the same category of buildings, the Latin Patriarchate is in the Neo-Gothic and Neo-Renaissance styles while the Russian Church and Monastery are an admixture of Late Byzantine and Neo-Romanesque.

The Church of Maria Magdalena, recently built when these photographs were taken, reveals a type of eclecticism that was unique to Russian architecture. On the facades of the Russian Monastery in Rahya double and triple windows can be observed.

The Hurva Synagogue, formerly located in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem and demolished during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, had an impressive masonry dome supported on pendentives.

The Russian Church rebuilt near Jerusalem
The Jewish Synagogue in Jerusalem

Islamic Religious Structures

Foremost among the structures in Gaza and Jerusalem sanjaks considered sacred by Muslims was the Qubbat As-Sakhrah (Dome of the Rock). Located at the center of the Haram al-Sharif, the sanctuary marks the spot from which the Prophet Muhammad is believed to be embarked upon the Mi’raj journey to Heaven. Built in 691 at the orders of the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, this is the most prestigious work of the early Islamic architecture. The central space (nucleus) with a circular plan surrounding the holy rock is crowned with a wooden dome. Two visitors’ galleries are enclosed between this central space and the octagonal outer walls. The interior is decorated with mosaics that have survived from the Umayyad period, while the façades were clad with tiles by the Ottoman sultan Suleiman I the Magnificent (1520-1566). The tile decoration was renewed several times during the period of Ottoman rule (1517-1917) and after.

View of the Holy Dome of the Rock at the Noble Sanctuary
Interior of the Holy Dome of the Rock and the view of the grotto entrance

East of the Dome of the Rock is a domed, polygonal structure with a mihrab which is known as “Mahkeme-i Da’ud” (David’s Courthouse) or “Qubbat al-Silsilah” (the Dome of the Chain) and which is attributed to the Prophet David. South of the Dome of the Rock are the Mamluk-period Mihrab and Minbar of Qadi Burhaneddin. Also known as the “Summer Minbar”, this structure underwent renovation in 1843. The gate on the eastern side of the Haram al-Sharif that was subsequently walled up for security reasons dates to early Byzantine times.

Picture of the mihrab and minbar near the Dome of the Rock

After the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem in 637, work on the construction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque  began with the Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab. The present layout of parallel naves pointing towards the Kiblah dates from the Ayyubid period (1187-1250). The mosque underwent repeated renovations and repairs during the Mamluk (1250-1517) and Ottoman (1517-1917) periods.

View of Al-Aqsa Mosque from the north

Located on Mount Zion on the southwestern side of Jerusalem is an architectural complex (Nabî Daoud) that make this hill sacred to all three religious communities. It contains King David’s Tomb and the Cenacle or Room of the Last Supper. The oldest structure that has been identified here is the Church of Holy Zion, which was originally erected in the 4th century on what was believed to have been the place where the Last Supper took place. This is an organic complex of buildings following an overall plan of linked porticoed courtyards that were constructed, modified, expanded, and repaired many times over the centuries.

Mausoleum and Mosque of Prophet David near Jerusalem
View of the Mausoleum and Mosque of Abraham

Another place of pilgrimage that is important to all three religions is the “Cave of the Patriarchs” in the city of Hebron. This is referred to in Muslim sources as the “Sanctuary of Abraham” due to the belief that the Prophet Abraham’s tomb is one of those located here. The changes that the structure has undergone over the years are made evident by the Gothic-style cluster piers that date to the Crusader period, by the mihrab whose intricate pattern of interlocking colored stone is typical of Zengid-Ayyubid architecture, and by drapery motifs over the mihrab that are frequently encountered in late Ottoman decoration.

The Great Mosque of Gaza, which is also known as the Mosque of Omar, was originally a church dedicated to John the Baptist that was built during the Crusader period around the middle of the 12th century.

The Great Mosque of Jaffa, known also as the Mahmudiye Mosque, is an Ottoman structure built at the orders of Sultan Mahmud II (1808-1839) during the early 19th century.

Interior of the Great Mosque of Gaza
The Great Mosque of Jaffa

Located in Gaza and dated to 1850, the Mosque and Mausoleum of Hashim follow the typical Ottoman plan although Mamluk architectural influences are evident in the details (plates 99, 100). The courtyard is surrounded by porticoes of pointed arches supported on columns whose capitals are from the Byzantine period. Doors along the arcades lead into chambers inside. The tomb of Hashim ibn Abd Manaf, the great-grandfather of Muhammad, is located at the northwestern corner of the mosque.

Interior of the Mosque and Mausoleum of Hashim in Gaza

Military Structures

The most important of the military structures whose photographs are in this album is the Tower of David, a keep located adjacent to the Jerusalem city walls. Excavations here have shown that the structure’s origins date back at least as far as the First Temple Period (1000-586 BCE). During the Second Temple Period (515 BCE - 70 CE) King Herod the Great (37-4 BCE) built a fortified palace just south of this tower, which served as one of the defenses of that complex. After the destruction of Jerusalem by the future Emperor Titus in 70, the Praetorium (Roman army headquarters) was transferred from the northwest corner of the holy precinct  to the Herodian palace. In the second century the barracks of the 10th Legion were located in the area behind the tower.

During the Crusader period, the Lusignan kings of Jerusalem had a palace south of the citadel, which had been substantially refurbished during the Muslim period. During both the Mamluk and the Ottoman periods, this was also where the city’s military garrisons were centered. The outer gate and the prayer platform (namazgâh) whose mihrab is visible at the left are both from the Ottoman period. The sprawling structure with a courtyard south of the Tower of David  is the barracks erected in 1845.

Imperial Barracks in Jerusalem

Another important military structure in Jerusalem is the Ottoman Nizamiye Barracks located at the northwestern corner of the Haram al-Sharif. This area, the “Temple Mount” which became known as the “Haram al-Sharif” during the Muslim period, was the site of the famous Temple of Solomon and its associated royal palace. Located around a natural outcropping, it was the seat of the city’s government from the Second Temple Period onward.

During the Hasmonean Kingdom period (140-37 BCE) a stronghold known as “Baris” was erected here. Rebuilt by Herod the Great as a fortified palace in the Hellenistic style, it was renamed “Antonia” after Herod’s patron, Marcus Antonius. After the Romans deposed Herod’s son and ethnarch successor Herod Archelaus, this structure became the “Praetorium”, the center from which the Romans ruled Jerusalem.

During the Mamluk period, the Jâwiliyya Madrasa was built here in 1315-1320 on the foundations of the same structure. In the first quarter of the 15th century, this building was reconstructed and served as the headquarters of the Mamluk governorate (Dâr al-Niyâba). It continued to serve essentially the same function under the Ottomans until the 1870s when it was turned into the Nizamiye barracks. Evidence of this building’s predecessors can be seen in the construction of the lower sections of its walls. Its plan of central courtyard and iwans (bays) still follows the original Mamluk madrasa layout.

View of the Nizamiye Imperial Barracks from the Haram al-Sharif

The Bâb al-Amoud (Gate of the Column) facing north on the city walls of Jerusalem is also known as “Damascus Gate”. These walls rebuilt in its present form in 1542 by Suleiman I the Magnificent are not mentioned in the tezkires (building lists) of Sinan, the chief imperial architect of that period. Presumably designed by local architects, the imprint of pre-Ottoman (Crusader, Ayyubid, and Mamluk) architectural traditions are evident in the whole structure, especially in the gates.

Gate on the walls of Jerusalem known as Bab al-Amud
Frontal view of Redif (reserve army) Warehouse in Jaffa

With its recessed windows decorated with colored stone, the Redif (reserve army) Depot in Gaza is indicative of Mamluk architecture. This building appears to have been originally designed for some other purpose and was later given different functions. A more elaborate building of this kind in Jaffa is a complex of two-story structures. In this case, the Empire-style entrance with gateway’s pilasters and the use of round arches in the facade indicate that this is a work of the Ottoman Tanzimat period.

Non-Muslim Hospitals and Schools

In the buildings that were constructed by non-Muslim (Catholic, Protestant, Jewish) communities during the second half of the 19th century there is much evidence of the period’s fondness for eclecticism in which the various architectural elements of the Empire, Neo-Renaissance, and Neo-Gothic styles were mixed and matched with one another.

Typical examples of this trend are the Rothschild Jewish Hospital, the Protestant School for Girls, the French School for Boys, and the French Hospital in Jerusalem and the French Hospital and the British School in Jaffa.

The Prussian School for Girls in Jerusalem
The Rothschild Jewish Hospital in Jerusalem
The French Hospital in Jaffa
The French Hospital in Jerusalem

In contrast, the British Hospital in Jaffa is indicative of the English Colonial style with its courtyard surrounded by a double-story portico while the Eye Hospital in Jerusalem, bequeathed by the Ottoman Government to  Order of St John  in Jerusalem conjures up the architecture of medieval castles with its lively body and towers.

The British Hospital in Jaffa
The Eye Hospital in Jerusalem
The Jewish Industrial School in Jerusalem

In the same city is the Jewish Industrial School, whose wooden oriels and balconies jutting from the double-story masonry building are recalling the local dwelling architecture. The Jewish Agricultural School known as Neter near Jaffa consists of pitched roof masonry structures that seem quite advanced for their time.

Ottoman-period Civil Structures

Some of the buildings used during the period of Ottoman rule had been constructed earlier and were later modified and used for purposes other than their original functions. Among these are the Jerusalem Shari’a Court is the Tankiziyye Madrasa and Sufi Hospice (1328), whose colored stonework decoration and monumental portal are typical of Mamluk architecture.

Gate of the Shari'a Court in Jerusalem

The Jerusalem Courthouse, whose courtyard surrounded by a pointed arch portico reflects an admixture of Mamluk and Ottoman styles is another building in this group. With its single-story courtyard plan, gateway in the classical Ottoman style, and low-arched windows, the Middle School in Gaza also looks like being an earlier structure that subsequently underwent modification.

Gate of the Jerusalem Courthouse

On the other hand, the Jaffa Courthouse and Town Hall, the Ramleh Courthouse, the Gaza Town Hall and Courthouse, must all have originally been dwellings that underwent conversion at a later date. Of these, the Jaffa Town Hall in particular with its triple arched bay and balcony on the upper story is typical of a style of dwelling that is common all along the eastern Mediterranean littoral from Palestine to Mersin.

Gaza Courthouse
Gaza Town Hall
Jaffa Town Hall

Another group of civil buildings consists of structures that were put up by the Ottoman authorities after the reforms of Tanzimat (1839).

Examples are the Jaffa Customs House, the High School of Political Science and Municipal Hospital in Jerusalem, and the Hebron Middle School. These buildings are particularly noticeable for their Empire style architectural elements such as round arches with molded keystones, pillars, and frontons.

By contrast, the Bethlehem Courthouse has pointed-arch windows in the Neo-Gothic style while the Gaza Telegraph Office has low and pointed arches and rounded clerestory windows that are indicative of local architectural styles.

The Quarantine Quarters near Hebron is also typical of the regional dwelling architecture with its square plan and domed units within a courtyard surrounded by a high wall.

The Betlehem Courthouse
The Quarantine Quarters near Hebron

Water Structures

The oldest of the water structures appearing in the album is the sabil (fountain) built at the orders of the Mamluk sultan Al-Ashraf Qa’it Bay in 1482 and is located between the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock within the Haram al-Sharif. This square-planned sabil capped with an onion dome is reminiscent of a Mamluk tomb.

Sabil (fountain) of Qa'tibay near Al-Aqsa Mosque

Pools on the road between Jerusalem and Bethlehem are part of a water system that underwent renovations during the reign of the Suleiman the Magnificent. The water collected in these pools was used to supply fountains (named after the same sultan) that were located in different parts of the city.

Pools of Sultan Suleiman on the Hebron Road

Sabil al-Shifa and Sabil Seksek in Jaffa date to the first half of the 19th century and reflect the Empire style that dominated Ottoman architecture during this period. The same is true of the Fountain of Abou Naboud Muhammad Pasha near the same city and of another fountain in Ramleh. The last two of these structures however also reveal elements such as elliptical domes, corner turrets, and double arches that are indicative of local architectural traditions. Relatively sparer than any of these is the Camâkiya Sabil in Gaza that seems to be lacking in any stylistic concerns.

Sabil (fountain) of Abou Neboud Muhammad Pasha
Camakiya Sabil (fountain) in Gaza
Sabil (fountain) al-Shifa in Jaffa

An aqueduct originally designed to supply water to properties in Rahya owned by members of the Ottoman imperial family reflects the Empire style with its round arches and molded keystones.

Aqueduct built for the irrigation of the imperial lands in Rahya

The pluralist nature of late imperial Ottoman architecture is very much in evidence in Jerusalem and Gaza sanjaks. Structures which were originally put up in earlier periods and which continued to be used during later times reveal Byzantine, Umayyad, Crusader-Gothic, Ayyubid, and Mamluk features that survived through repairs and modifications made during the Ottoman period. The most striking examples of this cumulative and organic growth, resulting from layers of renovations, additions, and repairs made over the centuries in Jerusalem, are the Nabî Daoud Complex, the Tower of David, and the Nizamiye Barracks. The same can be said of such important religious structures as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Church of the Nativity located respectively in Jerusalem and Bethlehem and of the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem.

Ottoman structures built before Tanzimat have a style that reflects distinctively local pre-Ottoman features and as such it is quite different from the imperial style that prevailed in the capital. Beginning with the reign of Abdülmecid and during those of his successors, however, a style based on European models and favoring Empire and Neo-Classical facades dominated Ottoman architecture here just as it did in İstanbul and all the other provinces of the empire. This preference determined the look not just of new buildings but also that of older structures when they underwent renovations as well.

In the case of the churches, monasteries, schools, hospitals, residences, and other civil structures built by influential powers such as France, Great Britain, Prussia, and Russia as well as by wealthy Jews in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Jaffa during the second half of the 19th century, one observes along with the Empire style a strong predilection for an eclecticism in which nearly all of the architectural revivals (Neo-Romanesque, Neo-Gothic, Neo-Renaissance) that were popular during this period were used. A common feature observed in all periods and building types is the almost exclusive usage of the limestone abundantly found in the region.

Credits: Exhibit

Curator — Ekrem Işın
Consultant & Text — M. Baha Tanman
Digital Adaptation — Bihter A. Serttürk, Fatma Çolakoğlu

Credits: All media
The exhibit featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.