Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sinan Pasha Mosque - Prizren, Kosovo

The Ottoman's captured Prizren in 1455 and some time after that they looted and destroyed the Serbian Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Archangels. The monastery was located about 1 1/2 miles up Prizrenska Bistrica Canyon and was built in the mid-14th century. At the beginning of the 17th century, the stone (including marble) from the monastery was used to build the Sinan Pasha Mosque which was started around 1600 or 1608 and completed in 1615. The mosque was built by Sofi Sinan Pasha, bey (governor) of Budim (apparently synonymous with Buda, as in Budapest).  It has one large dome and another smaller half-dome that covers the mihrab. The walls and dome inside were painted in the 19th century. This is the most beautiful mosque I have been to so far. The inside painting is more extensive than I've seen in other mosques and there is some representational painting (of a mosque and flowers) that are not normally present in Islamic art.
Sinan Pasha Mosque as viewed from Prizren Fortress. The Prizrenska Bistrica  flows to the right of it.
Street level view of Sinan Pasha Mosque.
Sinan Pasha Mosque from across the river.
A partial view of the main dome and niches.
Another view of the main dome and niches. 
Inside of the main dome. Beautiful.
A scalloped section of the wall.
A representational painting of another mosque.

Windows above the mihrab. 
The mihrab.

The beautiful patterned carpet.

Window shutter.
Front door.
Marble fence on front porch.
Inside dome above the front porch.
Water for ablution (?) out front.
We visited the mosque with a Muslim resident of Prizren, Inan, a friend and co-worker of my brother Chris, who worked in Kosovo for about three months several years ago. Inan arranged for a taxi driver, Bekim, to pick us up in Skopje, Macedonia (we could not take our rental car into Kosovo) and take us to Prizren and back to Skopje. Bekim was also Muslim. So we got to know these two Muslim men quite well, learn about their country, the Kosovo wars from their perspective (that were mostly with the Orthodox Serb Christians) and some of the practical day-to-day ways that they live and practice their religion. Inan mentioned that my brother Chris was one of the best Muslims he's ever met (in the same context that we would call someone a good Christian). It made the visit to the mosque all that more comfortable and enlightening. In our American culture much of what we hear about Muslims is from the extremists. It was so nice to spend time with wonderful men, to turn the phrase, who were  great Christians, in the same sense of living good, ethical and charitable lives.   

After our visit to the mosque, we hiked up the hill to Prizren Fortress, also known as Kaljaja. Before the Kosovo War in 1998 to 1999, Prizren was about 78% Kosovo Albanian (Muslim), 5% Serb (Orthodox Christian) and 17% from other national communities. During the war, most of the Albanian population were forced to leave town. After the war, most of the Albanian population returned and 97% of the Serbs quickly left within four months. In March 2004, during unrest in Kosovo, all of the Serb cultural monuments in Prizren, including old Orthodox Serb Churches were damaged, burned or destroyed.  The Serb quarter of Prizren, on the hill near Prizren Fortress, was destroyed and the remaining Serb population was evicted from Prizren. As we walked up the hill to the Fortress, we passed destroyed houses and the old Orthodox Church of the Savior that was virtually destroyed during that unrest. From the Fortress we got a good view of the Prizrenska Bistrica River (bistrica means "clearwater" in Serbian and Prizrenska means "of Prizren" to distinguish it from other rivers of the same name) which flows by Sinan Pasha Mosque.
Prizren Fortress on the hill from the area near Sinan Pasha Mosque.
A destroyed home in the Serb section below Prizren Fortress.
More destroyed homes in the Serb section of Prizren.
Church of the Savior built around 1330. It was heavily damaged in the 2004 unrest. Viewed from Prizren Fortress.
Sinan Pasha Mosque from the Fortress, the river to the right, and a guarded Serbian Orthodx Church to the upper left.
Sinan Pasha was grand vizier of the Ottoman Empire five times: (1) from 1580 to 1582 (under Murad III); (2) from 1589 to 1591 (also under Murad III); (3) from 1593 to February 16, 1595 (under Murad III and briefly Mehmed III); (4) from July 7 to November 19, 1595 (under Mehmed III); and (5) from December 1, 1595 to April 3, 1596 (under Mehmed III, until Sinan Posha died). The grand vizier was the greatest minister of the sultan of the Ottoman Empire with power of attorney and dismissable only by the sultan himself. Originally known as Sinan Pasha Topojani, he was born in Albania in 1520 (one source says 1506, but I think that makes him too old at the end). He was a governor of Ottoman Egypt in 1569 and a governor of Damascus in 1589. He was involved in the conquest of Yemen in 1571 and commanded the expedition which conquered Tunis in 1574. He commanded the army against the Safavid Persians from 1580 to 1581, but was disgraced and exiled when his lieutenant was defeated at Gori (current Georgia). He also initiated the Long War against the Habsburg Monarchy in 1593 when he commanded the Ottoman army in the capture of Gyor (current Hungary) and Komarno (current Slovakia). He was also commander in defeats at the Battles of Calugareni and Giurgiu (current Romania) in 1595 against Michael the Brave of Wallachia and lost Esztergom (current Hungary) after a siege by the Habsburgs. He died on April 3, 1596 while he was preparing a campaign against Austria. Legend has it that the course of the Prizrenska Bistrica River changed to wash away the tomb of Sinan Pasha because the remnants of the Holy Archangels Monastery were used to build his mosque. However, Sinan Pasha's tomb is located in Istanbul and so I suspect the story is purely legend. It seemed ironic that Sinan Pasha was the Ottoman Turk commander who ordered the coffin of St. Sava burned in Belgrade, now the site of the Temple of St. Sava, that we visited earlier in our trip. Now we were visiting a mosque honoring Sinan Pasha. Emblematic of the religious and cultural tensions of the area. 


  1. This was certainly the most beautiful mosque we saw on this trip, made even more wonderful by the intelligent, sensitive man who was our guide.

  2. That mosque was as beautiful, if not more, than anything we saw in Europe. Incredible!