This text is a fragment of a guidebook to Ephesus: "The Secrets of Ephesus".
İsa Bey Mosque is not the only mosque in Selçuk that dates back to the 14th century. As a matter of fact, there are several more religious structures from the Aydınid period, and they also deserve some attention. As they are of much smaller dimensions, the word that describes these mosques in Turkish is not "cami" but "mescit", meaning precisely a small mosque or a place of religious worship. It is worth remembering that the present appearance of all of these buildings is the result of a thorough renovation.
The tour of these historical mosques starts and ends near İsa Bey Mosque as they are all located very close to each other, on the southern side of Ayasuluk Hill. The sightseeing tour is arranged clockwise and takes only 45 minutes to complete as the route is around 3-kilometers-long.
The first mosque, situated opposite the entrance to the Basilica of St. John and the fortress, on St. Jean Street, is called Alpaslan Mosque. The name of this humble building commemorates Alp Arslan, the second Sultan of the Seljuk Empire and great-grandson of Seljuk, the eponymous founder of the dynasty. His name means a "Valiant Lion" in Turkish.
Alpaslan Mosque was erected on a roughly square plan, and it is covered with a small dome supported on the octagonal base. The walls were constructed with bricks and irregular blocks of stone. The mosque has no minaret. The entrance to the mosque is via an arched gateway, opening to the north. The interior of the mosque is very plain, and it has lost all the historical charm after the renovation carried out in 1965. The walls are now covered with pastel-coloured paint with the addition of golden elements. The corners are decorated with a white muqarnas pattern. This is an active place of worship, so it is arranged functionally, with an air-conditioning unit, electric fans, and plastic tables.
The second mosque of the tour is located below Ayasuluk Hill, across the wide Atatürk Street. It is called Akıncılar Mosque. Its name is linked with irregular light cavalry forces called "akıncı", meaning "raiders". These troops were the main force of the gazi era and were later incorporated into the Ottoman Empire's military. They were one of the first divisions to face the opposing army and were known for their prowess in battle.
This mosque is also on a square plan, with the sides only 4.5 meters long. The dome covering it is supported on the octagonal base, as is the case of Alpaslan Mosque. Akıncılar Mosque used to have a decorative gateway with four basalt columns, but now the entry inside is via very plain doors. The building was erected of layers of stones and red bricks. In contrast to Aplaslan Mosque, this building has a single minaret, that used to house a stork nest. The minaret, adjacent to the building, stands on the octagonal base of bricks and stones. Above, it is on a circular plan with a zigzag pattern made of bricks. It has been recently renovated.
İshak Bey Mosque
Another historical mosque in Selçuk is İshak Bey Mosque. It was also built in the 14th century, during the reign of a local Aydınid dynasty. In this case, the information about the erection date is more precise, as the date on the building is given as 1375. The mosque got its name from İshak Pasha, who was the Governor of Aydın. He had the structure rebuilt in 1648 in the location of the earlier mosque. The minaret, standing apart, is the surviving part of that earlier building.
İshak Bey Mosque is situated next to the Ahmet Ferahlı Park, and the entrance to the complex is from Uğur Mumcu Sevgi Street. The mosque was erected of cut stones and bricks, and has a square plan, slightly bigger than Akıncılar and Alpaslan mosques. It also has two rows of windows, letting the light into its interior. The building is covered with a tiled dome resting on an octagonal base.
The building had been in a deplorable state, but it was restored in the years 2005-2006 by the Izmir Directorate of Foundations. The result of this restoration remains controversial, especially because of the later addition of the red awning above the entrance. This solution, while undoubtedly convenient for the worshippers, destroys the historical ambience of the building.
The freestanding minaret was erected of bricks and is seemingly rather massive. It is worthwhile to pay attention to the base of this minaret where a small pointed-arched fountain is located. Its decorative front and water basin had been taken from some ancient structure, quite possible the Basilica of St. John, as evidenced not only by their design but also the Greek inscription on the front of the basin. This inscription reads: "ΕΠΙ ΠΡΥΤΑΝΕΩΣ ΚΛΑΥ(ΔΙΟΥ)" and it is translated as: "MADE DURING THE PRESIDENCY [U? maybe "urbis"= "of the city"?] CLAUD[IUS? or -IANUS?]".
There's also a small garden next to the mosque, with some historical Turkish tombstones and architectural fragments that seem to be of ancient origins, such as a bench supported on the drums of columns.
Kuba Mosque is located in a small park near Şahabettin Dede Street, to the south of the minibus terminal. This mosque was also erected in the 14th century, but it features some unusual architectural solutions that distinguish it from other historical mosques in Selçuk. The present state of the building is the result of a restoration finished in 1997.
This tiny mosque was erected on the octagonal plan, with the interchanging layers of red bricks and white blocks of stone. Sunlight gets to the interior through two rows of small windows. There are two most characteristic features of the mosque. Firstly, despite its very modest size, it has a magnificent portal with high muqarnas decoration, topped with an arch. The upper part of the portal shows the geometric pattern made of bricks. Secondly, the mosque is not covered with a dome but with a pointed roof. The mosque does not have a minaret, but there is an ablution fountain nearby.
The characteristic appearance of this mosque results, most possibly, from the fact that it had been originally constructed as a mausoleum. There are even faint traces and low walls of the burial ground still visible nearby. Moreover, there are other historical burial monuments nearby, confirming that it had been a cemetery area in the Aydınid period.
Aydınoğlu Mosque got its name from the Aydınid dynasty that once controlled this region. This modest structure is situated in the centre of Selçuk, on the east side of Atatürk Street and just 100 meters to the east of Kuba Mosque.
Aydınoğlu Mosque sits about one meter below the level of the modern road. It demonstrates how the town has accumulated many layers of urban development since the Aydınid period when the mosque was erected. It is a small mosque without a minaret. Similar to the Seljuk period mosques, it has a square plan, and its walls were constructed with rows of stones separated by the layers of red bricks. The roof is covered with red tiles.
Above the entrance, there is a decoration made of bricks that has the shape of an arch. Unfortunately, as the result of the recent restoration, a glass and plastic porch has been added to the front, hiding a part of this decoration and damaging the historical outlook of this plain and unpretentious building.
Karakol Yanı Mosque
Karakol Yanı Mosque stands on Dr Sabri Yayla Boulevard that connects the centre of Selçuk with the ruins of Ephesus. Along this road, there is also the archaeological site of the Temple of Artemis, some 300 meters further to the west, with the Aydınoğulları Mausoleum next to it. Thus, the travellers who decide to walk from Selçuk to Ephesus have an opportunity to see some interesting historical sights on their way.
The mosque's name means "next to the watchhouse", and actually, there are Jandarma's quarters nearby. The inscription informing about the construction date of the mosque has not been preserved, but based on the architectural style, it is assumed that it was built in the 14th century. The presence of the three-bay porch with the arches supported on four columns indicates the later reconstruction of the building. The mosque's present state is the result of a renovation in 2006 that brought it back from almost complete ruin.
The mosque was erected on the typical plan of the Aydınid period, with a square prayer hall topped with the tiled dome supported on the octagonal base. The single massive minaret with a single balcony was erected of bricks in the corner of the building, to the right of the entrance. The portal leading into the interior is decorated with the decorative pattern. Unfortunately, the external front wall was plastered during the renovation; thus the original outlook and construction materials -- cut stones -- are now invisible in the frontal part.
The interior is lit by the light coming through stained-glass windows. The prayer hall makes a rather dull impression with its white walls, modest decorations, and modern additions such as an air-conditioning unit. There is also an old cemetery by the left side of the mosque set in the rose garden among olive trees, and it gives the mosque quite a mystical feel. Some of the stones in this cemetery, such as a pair of columns, seem to be taken from the ancient monuments of Ephesus. The square-planned ablution fountain is also a historical building.
The final mosque of the tour is Kılıçarslan Mosque on Antony Kallinger Street that leads back to İsa Bey Mosque. The mosque bears the name of the Seljuk Sultan of Rum, Kilij Arslan I, who ruled from 1092 until his death in 1107. His most significant achievement was the re-established Sultanate of Rum after the death of Malik Shah I. Kilij Arslan also defeated the Crusaders of the First Crusade in three battles. After one of his victories, he moved his capital to Konya, and this city remained the capital of the Seljuk Empire until 1243.
The mosque's plan is very similar to Karakol Yanı Mosque, with a three-bay porch, square plan and a tiled dome supported on an octagonal base. The difference is the lack of a minaret. This building is also dated to the 14th century. The walls were constructed with alternately using one row of stones and two rows of bricks.