Old Mosque (tr. Eski Camii) is one of the most fascinating historical buildings in Edirne. It is the oldest of the three Sultan Mosques situated in the centre of the city. While it does not make such a grand impression as Selimiye Mosque, it is beautifully decorated with original huge calligraphies on its outer and inner walls. Moreover, unlike most of the Imperial Ottoman mosques that are usually covered with one huge dome, this mosque was built with nine smaller ones.
The construction of the mosque began in 1403, on the order of Emir Suleyman Çelebi, one of the sons of Beyazit I. There was a prolonged break in the construction, caused by the succession war between three sons on Beyazit. The mosque was finally completed in 1414, when another son of Beyazit won the war and became the sole ruler of the Ottoman Empire as Sultan Mehmed I. The inscription above the western entrance gives the name of the architect responsible for the construction of the mosque - Haci Alaeddin of Konya, while Ömer bin Ibrahim was the site manager.
Naturally, the Old Mosque did not always bear the name. It was constructed as the main mosque of Edirne, or the Friday Mosque, in the market neighbourhood of the city. It acquired the nickname 'Old' after Üç Şerefeli Mosque was erected in 1447.
Originally, the mosque had only one minaret, decorated with just one balcony, and situated on the northeast corner of the prayer hall. The second, taller minaret with two balconies was built on the order of Sultan Murat II in 1444, during the construction of the Üç Serefeli Mosque. This minaret has two separate sets of stairs - one for each of its balconies. There is also a fountain at the base of this minaret.
Numerous additions were made to the mosque over the centuries. The women's lodge was added in 1612 by Filibeli Ramazan Aga, and the sultan's lodge was constructed in 1763, during the reign of Sultan Mustafa III. The fountain at the base of the higher minaret was built in 1781, to serve as a place of water distribution as a form of charity.
Over the centuries, numerous disasters damaged the mosque, including fires and earthquakes. Its first restoration was executed on the order of Sultan Mahmud I in 1752. The inscription over the dervish lodge's door informs about another restoration, carried out in 1865 by Sultan Abdulaziz. More recently, the mosque was restored between 1924 and 1934. Damaged again by the 1953 earthquake, it got its present look in 1965. The last restoration occurred in 2008-2009, founded by Edirne District Directorate of Religious Foundations. Unfortunately, a small medrese, which belonged to the mosque, has not been preserved to our times.
The mosque represents the group of the early Ottoman 'Great Mosques', modelled on the Ulu Cami (Grand Mosque) in Bursa. There is a five-bay portico in front of the mosque, but it is probably a later addition. Its central bay is covered by a dome, and the side bays are finished with cross-vaults. The marble entryway that leads into the prayer hall is decorated with muqarnas (stalactite) motive.
The heart of the mosque is the square prayer hall, with sides of about 50 meters in length, divided into nine bays, in three by three arrangement. This division is created by four piers supporting pointed arches that carry nine domes. Such a multi-domed structure of Old Mosque resembles the architectural solution applied in Great Mosque (tr. Ulu Camii) from Bursa.
Huge calligraphies, visible both on the outside and the inside are a characteristic feature of the mosque. They were made at different times by various artists from all corners of the Ottoman Empire. Most of the interior decorations are from the second half of the 19th century, with the exception of the marble mihrab and mimbar, dating back to the times of the construction of the mosque and bearing the traces of fire. The mihrab has a unique appearance as it consists of two niches, with the smaller one, decorated with muqarnas pattern, is placed inside the larger one.
There are several peculiarities that distinguish Old Mosque from other mosques in Edirne. Local lore says that one stone on the wall is actually a little piece of the Kaaba brought from Mecca. This small black stone is known as Rukn-u Yemani and can be found on the wall of the window near the mimbar. Its location - called the Valley of Heaven - is believed to make the wishes come true and the prayers to be heard.
Near the sultan's lodge, there is the preacher's bench known as maqam of Hacı Bayram-ı Veli. He was a poet, a Sufi, and the founder of the Bayrami Sufi order. His visit to Edirne was at the invitation of Sultan Murad II. Hacı Bayram-ı Veli preached in Old Mosque from his bench. In his respect, other imams used other benches to preach.
Old Mosque is located in the historical centre of Edirne, next to two other famous mosques: Selimiye and Üç Şerefeli, on Talatpaşa Street, just off the Bedesten Bazaar.