Turning monumental structures into museum is a hard process that requires caution. It’s important for museology to exhibit the works in it without overshadow the monument. We see a recent successful example of this in Iznik Nilufer Hatun Imaret.
Nilufer Hatun Imaret and Archeology Museum located in Iznik district of Bursa was closed to visits for eight years. The restoration and merchandising project of this unique artwork was finished in 03.07.2020 and opened again. Iznik Nilufer Hatun Imaret was serving as an Archeology Museum from 1960s to 2012 where works of Hellene, Byzantium, Rome, Seljuk and Ottoman are exhibited. With a new arrangement it’s turned into a museum where works of Seljuk and Ottoman era are being exhibited under the name Turkish Islamic Works Museum. It’s planned for works dated to Hellenistic, Byzantium and Rome era to be exhibited in the new museum to be made called the Iznik Archeology Museum.
History of Nilufer Hatun Imaret Now Turned Into A Museum
Builded in the last quarter of the 14th century, the structure is in the group of buildings which is seen in early Ottoman architecture and called mosque with zawiya/tabhane. According to its’ epitaph it was made by Murad I for his mother Nilufer Hatun in the year 790 (1388). At the eastern front where the entry is, there’s the stoa opening forward with five pointed archs and to sides with two archs carried by pillars and columns. Spreading over an area shaped like an upside down “T”, the interior of the structure is divided into four sections. Squre planned entry location is covered with the dome crowned with the lighting lantern. At the western side of this area of closed atrium, there’s a rectangular section with an elevated flor which has been used both as a mesjid and for conversations and educations. Having a very plain mihrab on the South wall, this area is covered with two domes. There are rectangular planned sections opening to the closed atrium that’s entered through a door at each side. These sections are closed with domes that are supported by Bursa archs. The walls of the structure are put up with alternating technique with one row face stone and three rows bricks. There can be seen optical ornaments created with bricks and tiles particularly in southern front. There are no any other adornments seen in the interiors except the palmet rows made with malakari technique and going along horizontally on the walls of the two sections in the axis of the entry.
The Exhibition Theme of The Places Turned Into Museum
Different concepts of exhibition themes are created in each of four sections of the place. There’s a model of Iznik exhibited in the left of the square planned entry area. As for the right is arranged as an open exhibit. There are four male figures made of wax in this section. While one of the male figures is exhibited as sitting on the divan the other three are exhibited as sitting around the table according to Ottoman traditions, where right knees are upright and left knees are down. There’s a big round tray called ‘sini’ which is made of wrought copper, placed on the small table. There are capped pans, spoons and napkins on the sini. As is known the only tool used in a table in Ottoman food culture is spoon. Spoons were generally being made of materials such as boxwood, ebony, nacre and tortoise shell and no silver or gold has been used. The spoon handles were specifically being shaped. The shapes and sizes of the spoons might have varied according to the food type. Because foods were being eaten with hands there were napkins in the table to wipe the hands.
There’s a simple looking mihrab on the South wall of the section elevated with a terrace in the opposite side of the entry area. What’s special about this section with a mihrab is that it was used not only for Friday and Eid prayers but also as a mesjid to perform five daily prayers. It was also a special area assigned for lessons and scholarly conversations apart from prayer times. Works in here are selected according to use of architecture.
The most interesting aspect of the museum is some displays being focused on a single work. For instance, together with the tile epitaph belonging to Esrefoglu Rumi Mosque, this sentence just near it is arousing interest. “Sanursın Eşrefoğluyam ne Rûmiyem ne İznikî Benem ol dâimü bakî göründüm sureta insan” (You know me as Esrefoglu, I’m neither from Iznik nor Anatolia, I’m always and forever human)” It’s worth seeing both the word and the tile. The South part of the structure is turned into a section where animations and works about the historic tiles and ceramic manufacturing of Iznik are exhibited.
There’s also general information included in this section about the excavation works made in Iznik in two periods. Bear in mind that the first period of the researches on tiles and ceramics between 1963-1969 which gives Iznik its’ true fame, has started with Prof. Dr. Oktay Aslanapa. These works have also started the Medieval Excavation traditions in Turkey. The Second Period excavation works have been carried out by Prof. Dr. Oktay Aslanapa since 1981 and by Prof. Dr. Ara Altun from 1993 to 2007. Today the excavation works are being carried out under Assoc. Prof. Dr. Belgin Demirsar Arlı’s head since 2007.
The Ottoman ceramics and wall tiles revealed during the excavation works are named as Work of Miletus, Work of Golden Horn (Haliç işi), Work of Damascus, Work of Rhodes as per their adornment styles or place they’re bought from. Ceramics found in Iznik are seperated into two main groups as red clay and white clay. Ceramics of red clay are in three seperate technique and styles known as Works of Slip, Sgrafitos and Miletus. You can see ceramics and tiles of these features in this section. With such techniques daily used ceramics have been started to be used since 14th century.
In the museum you can see the most outstanding examples of white engobe, blue-white decorated ceramics called the Works of Miletus since 15th century, the examples of blue-white ceramics called the Works of Golden Horn (Haliç işi) which are ornamented with thin spiral curves, the examples of ceramics which are called the Works of Damascus that are known by adding manganese purple and a hazyshade of green to the blur-white adornment in the second quarter of 16th century and also the examples where emerald gren and coralinered are added to this blur-white adornment again since the mids of the same century.In addition to the ceramics manufactured in Iznik workshops, there were also tiles manufactured for religious and civil architecture in accordance with the patterns prepared in the Palace Workshop in 16th century and these examples of tiles revealed by excavations are also worthseeing.
In the 17th century tiles manufacturing for the palace and the mosques has decreased because of the economic distress and Chinese porcelain importation has increased. Caused by these factors the quality in Iznik tiles workshops has decreased. It’s seen particularly in this period that the red color that has a significant influence in Iznik ceramics art has become more and more brown, the contours have become thicker and glazings have become more deoriented. It’s possible to see these examples of transition in the museum. The most important feature of this section is it has a one-o-one sized 3D modelling of the Iznik ceramic kilns which are revealed as a result of the excavations made in the region. As is known only the fire room sections of the ceramic kilns are revealed as of now by the scientific excavations and researches in Iznik and near arounds. There about 40 of these kilns and there haven’t been found out any firing chambers yet which forms the upper part of the fire rooms of these kilns. There vealed kiln fire rooms can be grouped in two different plan types. One is a domed with a single heat hole that rises on top of a nearly-square substructure; the other is vaulted with many heatholes that’s connected to each other with arches on top of a rectangular substructure.
The statue of master working in Iznik ceramik kilns. The one-o-onesizedmodelling of Iznik ceramic kilns.
The modeled ceramic kiln in the exhibition is made inside a rectangular outer structure nearly like a square and features an iner structure with a flat dome in accordance with the fire room’s form. The loading opening of the kiln that is closed during firing and the observing holes can be seen in the cross section. There are ceramics and kiln materials specific to the technique of the work to be fired, placed inside the firing chamber. It’s seen that there are mainly tripods used in the firing of red clay ceramics and portable shelfs seated on trays or foots of various sizes in the firing of white clay ceramics. More over the making of ceramics and firing steps are presented successfully.
In the northern section of the museum there are seals, coins, pipes and tools for coffee, writing, lighting and odour which were used in daily life in Ottoman era, are being exhibited. Especially coffee tools takes the most part in this section. When we look at the works exhibited about coffee, besides the tools used to roast, cool, grind and cook the coffee bean and make the coffe ready for drink there are also Works used in coffee presentation like coffee jug, coffee pitcher, cup and cup holder and coffe styles are being exhibited. As is known coffee has become one of the basic drinks that was consumed daily in and around the palace since the second half of the 17th century and spreaded in time. Having an important place in our traditions, exhibiting various Works aboutc offee, shows the richness of the museum’s collection.
Having an important place in Ottoman social life, Works about thurible (buhurdan) and rosewater flask (gülabdan) are also in this section. Thurible is the name given to special urns which are made of metal, porcelain or ceramic and used to burn incense in it. It’s a custom thing to burn incense in Ottoman era. Rosewater was being served generally in special flasks called “rosewater flask” (gülabdan) and used to pour rosewater through the thin opening on top of it. An incense would be burnt and rosewater would be served in a ceremonial waye specially after meals that was eaten twice a day. Thurible and rosewater flask was being made generally together as a set. Therefore they have the same material, craftmanship and ornaments. In the exhibition hall you can see some outstanding examples of thurible and rosewater flask dated back to 19th century.
One of the most significant groups of works in this section are Islamic era coins. Especially the coins monetized by Orhan Ghazi, the conqueror of Iznik, in 1331, are arousing attention. The value given to book and calligraphy art in the Ottoman, has made the tools used in preperation and writing of these works, to be prepared also in an artistic quality. Inkwells, pencils, endgrains, scissors and pencil sharpeners used in book and caligraphy art, have an important place in the museum. In addition to all these there are also examples of pipes made to smoke to bacco by the beginning of cigarette consume in 19th century, examples of pouch made to put Money ortobacco in it and designed to be carried in the belt or at hand, odour or snuff boxes, napkins and hand towels made of cotton or linen wovens and lighting tools being exhibited in the museum.
With a rich cultural and historical background, our country, besides the new museum buildings constructed in time, has a lot of immovable cultural heritages which are being renovated, turned into museums and opened tovisits. Successfully renovated and turned into a museum again Iznik Nilufer Hatun Imaret; Turkish Islamic Works Museum is the last example of this. As you tour around the museum you’ll see that the Works are exhibited in a balance between the designed, perceived and experienced places.
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