Health Museum (tr. Sağlık Müzesi) is a unique venue, situated in the area of Sultan Bayezid II Mosque Complex in Edirne. It houses recreated rooms of a hospital from the Ottoman period. The museum is the second most visited historical site in Edirne, after the Selimiye Mosque.
The hospital was called Darüşşifa in old Turkish, from the Arabic word Dar al-Shifa. It was opened in Sultan Bayezid II külliye in 1488. It treated the patients for over 400 years, until 1909. Just next to the hospital, there was a medical school that trained doctors for the Ottoman Empire, until the end of the 19th century. The hospital and the school formed one of the most important medical centres of the Middle East.
The Ottoman medicine was founded on the tradition of Turkish-Islamic medicine. Two most famous philosophers of this tradition, known all over the world, were Avicenna and Al-Farabi. Avicenna (Ibn Sīnā) was a Persian polymath, born around 980, whose one of most famous works is The Canon of Medicine, a medical encyclopaedia. The book became standard medical text at many medieval universities. Al-Farabi wrote a treatise on the Meanings of the Intellect, dealing with music therapy and discussing the therapeutic effects of music on the soul.
The ideas expressed by Avicenna and Al-Farabi were implemented in the Ottoman hospital in Edirne. Its patients were treated both with the use of the conventional medicine of those times, as well as with innovative methods. Among the methods employed, we should mention the therapy with the sound of water, music therapy, aromatherapy, and handcraft therapy. Patients suffering from neurological and psychiatric disorders were treated with these therapies in Edirne, when in Western Europe there were cases of burning the people with mental problems at stake, as the practitioners of black magic.
The hospital consisted of numerous rooms: six rooms, on the right of the first courtyard, were used as outpatient rooms and four rooms on the left were allocated to the hospital staff, a kitchen, a laundry, and a pharmacy. The second courtyard housed administrative rooms of the doctors.
After passing two courtyards, visitors reached şifahane - the section were resident patients were treated. This hexagonal structure consisted of a big central hall covered with a dome, a music stage, a central fountain, 6 winter and 4 summer rooms for patients. It had a capacity of 32 beds. Winter rooms were situated in the inner part of the structure. The doors to patient rooms were arranged in such a manner that the patient could not see each other.
Notably, the hall is an architectural masterpiece with excellent acoustics. Music therapy was applied here as a group of ten singers and musicians gave concerts for patients three days a week. Moreover, the sound of water spurting from the fountain formed an essential element of treatment.
In the initial years of the hospital, all kinds of patients were treated, and the medical staff consisted of a chief doctor, two regular doctors, two surgeons, two ophthalmologists and a pharmacist. In later years, because of particularly effective methods used in the treatment of the mentally ill, the hospital became a centre specialising in mental and psychiatric disorders.
Interestingly, the treatment offered at the hospital was free of charge. What's more, free medicines were handed to the patients in Edirne two times a week.
The medical school was an elite university that taught innovative approaches to surgery and the treatment of mentally ill people. Its students could apply their knowledge while practising at the local hospital. The school consisted of 18 student rooms and a classroom surrounding three sides of a courtyard with a fountain. Evliya Çelebi, a famous Ottoman travel writer, mentions that the students of the medical school in Edirne were experienced physicians, who studied and discussed works of Greek philosophers, scientists, and physicians such as Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Galen, and Pythagoras. The physicians, each being a specialist in a different field, tried to find the best treatment methods for their patients by studying scientific literature on medicine. The hand-written books of the medical school are now in the archives of Selimiye Mosque.
The hospital stopped functioning because of the Russian occupation of Edirne during the Ottoman-Russian War of 1877-1878, and the patients were sent to Istanbul. It was reopened later but served only for the isolation of the mentally ill.
The hospital was completely abandoned in 1916 and was falling into disrepair until the 1950s. It was even used as a pen for sheep. The General Directorate of Foundations carried out restoration works and saved these structures in the 1960s.
Thanks to the project carried out by the Trakya University (tr. Trakya Üniversitesi), located in Edirne, it was possible to reconstruct the interiors of the hospital and the medical school in their original location. This fascinating venue was opened to visitors as the Health Museum in 1993. This museum, the only one of its kind in Turkey, has received many national and international awards, including the European Museum of the Year, awarded in 2004 by the Council of Europe.
The museum occupies the area of the former medical school (i.e. medrese) and the hospital. The interiors that used to serve medical students, including a library, a classroom, a study room, a teachers' room and students' room have been recreated in the area of the medrese. These rooms display not only the original equipment, but also the natural size mannequins dressed in historical costumes. They demonstrate the course of medical education.
The interior of the former hospital also features the reconstructed rooms of its heydey. They are located in a hexagonal building with an indoor courtyard, with a fountain in the centre. Visitors to the museum can take a look at a pharmacy, a doctor's room, and a lab. Mannequins have also been used in this section to show how patients with various mental disorders were treated.
The rooms with exhibitions explaining different aspects of medicine, from the earliest times to the 20th century are situated along a rectangular outdoor courtyard. The individual rooms are devoted to the following subjects: medicine development over the centuries, music therapy, Ottoman surgery in the 15th century, pharmaceutics, and herbalism. You can also look into the hospital kitchen.
In addition, visitors have the opportunity to see the exhibition depicting Edirne on old postcards and get information about Sultan Bayezid II Mosque Complex. There is also a small souvenir shop.
Health Museum is a part of Sultan Bayezid II Mosque Complex in Edirne so follow the directions given in the text about this complex.
The museum is open daily from 9:00 am to 15:30 pm. Health Museum in Edirne is one of the few places in Turkey where there are separate prices for locals and foreigners. The ticket to the museum costs 5 TL for Turkish citizens, and 10 TL for foreigners. Group tickets cost 3 TL per person, students pay 1 TL, and small children have free admission. Museum Cards (Müze Kart) are not accepted as this museum is not run by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
Numerous information boards are located inside the museum. They are bilingual: Turkish and English. There is also a multimedia presentation room available to visitors.