Cities of the Three Books - Google Cultural Institute
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.
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
In the views of settlements in Jaffa, Hebron, and Gaza we see that buildings still preserved their traditional textures at this time.
of flat-roofed houses whose walls were fashioned from ashlar masonry, the view
is enlivened by minarets standing here and there.
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.
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”.
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.
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
The wing with the pediment in the Empire style dates to the mid-19th century.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
The most important of
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
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
important military structure in Jerusalem is
the Ottoman Nizamiye
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Another group of civil buildings consists
of structures that were put up by the Ottoman authorities after the reforms of
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
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
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 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
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.
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
in Gaza that seems to be lacking in any stylistic concerns.
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.
The pluralist nature of late imperial Ottoman architecture
is very much in evidence in Jerusalem
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.
Contributor: Curator—Ekrem Işın
Contributor: Consultant & Text—M. Baha Tanman
Contributor: Digital Adaptation—Bihter A. Serttürk, Fatma Çolakoğlu