In recent years, many successful restorations of historical mosques have been carried out in Edirne. However, there are still numerous buildings awaiting the renovation, and Evliya Kasim Pasha Mosque is one of the most neglected of them. Its fate is even more depressing if you realise that it is a very old structure, dating back to the end of the 15th century. Let us take a closer look at the mosque's history and the reasons of its abandonment.
The mosque was erected on the orders of Evliya Kasim Pasha in the years 1478-1479 in Kirişhane district of the city, to the south of the centre, and right on the eastern bank of Tunca River. This picturesque location was to bring the end to its prosperity. In 1954, an artificial embankment was created there, to protect the city from frequent floods. The mosque got separated from the city and has been periodically flooded since then. The faithful stopped worshipping there, and now the mosque is in ruins. In the last few years, there has been some discussion concerning the protection of the building and two projects have been proposed. The first one suggests the relocation of the levee so that it passes between the mosque and the river. The second idea is to relocate the mosque to a safe place. However, none of these projects has gained the approval of the local authorities so far.
Originally, the mosque could be accessed from the river by a masonry staircase of 14 steps, but now only two steps have remained. The building itself was erected of ashlar stones, on a square plan. It has one minaret with a single balcony, now missing its upper part, and is covered with a dome. The building faces to the north with its main gate and outer mihrab, flanked by two windows. The lower windows are rectangular, and the upper windows are finished with arches. There is a sundial clock in the centre of the western wall of the building.
The grave of its founder - Evliya Kasim Pasha - is located in the cemetery of the mosque. Kasim Pasha also founded the construction of a soup kitchen that belonged to the mosque complex. It operated until the Russian occupation of the city in 1829 when it was destroyed.
Kasim Pasha who erected the mosque is known as the Beylerbey of the Rumelia Eyalet. This title originally meant "the Commander of Commanders", but in the Ottoman times, it described senior governors of the largest and most important provinces. In their territories, the beylerbeys were regarded as viceroys of the Sultan, with full authority over matters of war, justice, and administration. Because the position originated in the army, the primary responsibility of the beylerbeys was the maintenance the sipahi - the cavalry formed by the holders of the military fiefs.
It's worth mentioning that Rumelia Eyalet was a first-level province (tr. beylerbeylik) of the Ottoman Empire, encompassing the area of most of the Balkans. Because of its size and strategic location, it was also the biggest and most significant province of the Empire. The first Beylerbey of Rumelia was appointed by Sultan Murad I directly after the capture of Adrianople in the 1360s, as the reward to Lala Shahin Pasha who commanded the Ottoman forces. Thus, Lala Pasha became the Sultan's deputy in the west, when Murad I returned to Asia Minor. Adrianople, renamed as Edirne, remained the capital city of Rumelia even after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453. It was replaced by Sofia, first temporarily and then, in 1520, permanently.
Evliya Kasim Pasha held the positon of Rumelia Beylerbey and the commander of the Ottoman forces during the reign of two sultans: Mehmed the Conqueror and Bayezid II. When he was promoted to become the Beylerbey, he replaced Hadım Şehabeddin, another famous Ottoman dignitary who erected Şahabeddin Pasha Bridge, also in Edirne. He was defeated by John Hunyadi in 1442 and lost his positions of Beylerbey and vizier to Kasim Pasha who became the 7th lord of Rumelia.
Kasim Pasha's most notable appearance on the pages of history was the participation in Ottoman fight against the Crusade of Varna, in the years 1443-44. The Crusade of Varna was a military campaign mounted by several European monarchs to check the expansion of the Ottoman Empire into the Balkans. It finished with a decisive Ottoman victory over the alliance at the Battle of Varna on 10 November 1444 when King Władysław III of Poland and Papal legate Julian Cesarini were killed.
However, the beginnings of this military campaign had not been favourable for the Ottomans. At the beginning of the war, John Hunyadi attacked the forces led by Kasim Pasha before the Ottoman commander could mobilise his complete army. As a result, the Ottoman cavalry forces were defeated during the Battle of Niš in 1443. While retreating to Sofia, the Turks burned all settlements on their way. Another Ottoman commander, Turahan Bey, who had accompanied Kasim Pasha, convinced Sultan Murad II to abandon Sofia as well, and continue with the scorched earth policy.
At the end of 1443, Kasım Pasha defeated the Christian army in the Battle of Zlatica but lost a major battle on Melštica near Sofia, symbolically on the 24th of December 1444. Contemporary Ottoman sources often blame the mutual animosity between Kasim and Turahan for this defeat and even go as far as accusing Turahan of accepting the bribe for the Serbs not to participate in the battle. The Sultan must have believed these accusations as he banished Turahan to a prison in Tokat. On hearing this news, Kasim Pasha allegedly complained that Turahan's officers should be expelled too. His opinion was ignored, and the offended Kasim resigned from the office of the Beylerbey of Rumelia.
He must have lived much longer as he later became a sponsor of many religious buildings in Edirne, including the mosque bearing his name, and a soup kitchen. He was even granted the nickname Evliya - commonly used by Muslims to indicate an Islamic saint - to emphasise his piety. It's a great shame that the mosque erected on his orders is in such a despicable condition.
The entrance to the mosque is blocked for safety reasons so you can only admire it from the outside.
It is possible to get to the mosque by following a narrow path along the Tunca River that starts at the Tunca Bridge. The distance is around 700 meters.