Centres and peripheries in Ottoman architecture: rediscovering a Balkan heritage


The proceedings of a conference on Ottoman architecture in the Balkans held this past summer are now free to download. Several of the speakers draw attention to material that’s understudied, much of it threatened by abandonment and new development, while others document conservation efforts.

Centres and peripheries in Ottoman architecture: rediscovering a Balkan heritage
ed. Maximilian Hartmuth
Sarajevo/Stockholm: Cultural Heritage without Borders, 2011

  • MAXIMILIAN HARTMUTH (Istanbul): The history of centre-periphery relations as a history of style in Ottoman provincial architecture
  • JOHAN MÅRTELIUS (Stockholm): Ottoman European architecture
  • GRIGOR BOYKOV (Ankara): Reshaping urban space in the Ottoman Balkans: a study on the architectural development of Edirne, Plovdiv, and Skopje (14th-15th centuries)
  • IBOLYA GERELYES (Budapest): Ottoman architecture in Hungary: new discoveries and perspectives for research
  • MACHIEL KIEL (Bonn): The campanile-minarets of the southern Herzegovina: a blend of Islamic and Christian elements in the architecture of an outlying border area of the Balkans, its spread in the past and survival until our time
  • MARIANNE BOQVIST (Stockholm): “Centre” and “periphery” in the Syrian countryside: the architecture of mosques in governmental foundations on the Ottoman imperial roads
  • FEDERICA BROILO (Venice): The forgotten Ottoman heritage of Florina on the River Sakoulevas, and a little known Ottoman building on the shore of Lake Volvis in Greek Macedonia
  • VJEKOSLAVA SANKOVIC SIMCIC (Sarajevo): The restoration of the mosque of Hadzi Alija in Pocitelj
  • ZEYNEP AHUNBAY (Istanbul): Ottoman architecture in Kosova and the restoration of Hadum Mosque in Gjakovo (Djakovica)
  • NENAD MAKULJEVIC (Belgrade): State, society, and visual culture: late Ottoman architecture in Serbia, Macedonia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina
  • LEJLA BUSATLIC (Sarajevo): The transformation of the oriental-type urban house in post-Ottoman Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • MIRZA HASAN CEMAN (Sarajevo): Urban interventions by the Ottoman state in Bosnia-Herzegovina after 1860
  • CAZIM HADZIMEJLIC (Sarajevo): Mihrabs in Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • MEHMET Z. IBRAHIMGIL (Ankara): A survey of objects within the Murad Reis compound in Rhodes

Foundations of Faith: Islamic MSS in the Cambridge Digital Library


Fragments of a Hijazi Qurʼān probably written in the second century A.H. / eighth century C.E., containing verses from the Sura al-Anfāl (سورة الأنفال).

Several important early Qur’ans and Qur’anic fragments are now available on the Cambridge Digital Library website as part of their Foundations of Faith digitization project. Here’s an excerpt from the site’s About page describing the project and its counterpart, the Foundations of Science.

The Foundations of Faith Collection will include important works from many religious traditions, particularly Judaism, Islam, Christianity and Buddhism. The Library’s faith collections are breathtaking. They include some of the earliest Qur’anic fragments on parchment, the first known Qur’anic commentary written in Persian, an important selection of devotional works and mystical treatises and an outstanding collection of theological works including the unique extant copy of the Kitāb al-Tawhīd by al-Māturīdī.

The Library has a collection of over 1000 manuscripts in Hebrew covering a wide range of texts; Bibles, commentaries, liturgy, philosophy, kabbalah, literature and legal documents. Most of these are in codex form though there are also scrolls and fragments; some date back to the earliest collections in the Library. The oldest manuscript in the collection is a copy of the Ten Commandments written on papyrus, and thought to date from the 2nd century B.C. The Library also holds the world’s largest and most important collection of Jewish Genizah materials, including the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Collection – 193,000 fragments of manuscripts considered by many to be as significant as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Our Christian holdings include the Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis, one of the most important New Testament manuscripts, the Moore Bede and the Book of Cerne. Among the Library’s substantial Sanskrit collection are some of the earliest surviving Buddhist manuscripts.

In short, the project should be relevant to medievalists working on the three big Western monotheistic traditions, and I’m hoping that the Foundations of Science project includes equally important medieval material. Perhaps most exciting is the fact that images from the project can be downloaded and used under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial license. The site is also remarkably transparent about data collection and privacy.

Also, be sure to check out the PDF Faith and Fable: Islamic Manuscripts from Cambridge University Library.

In Our Time: The Abbasid Caliphs


Hugh Kennedy, Robert Irwin, and Amira Bennison get together for a discussion of the Abbasid caliphate on Melvyn Bragg’s “In Our Time.”

Check out the BBC Radio 4 summary, curiously illustrated with something that looks more Ottoman than Abbasid, or just stream the audio.

Satellite photo of Samarra, taken on 27 February 2003 by the Ikonos satellite. Three by six kilometres, one meter resolution.

Here’s their suggested further reading:

  • Robert Irwin, For Lust of Knowing: The Orientalists and Their Enemies (Penguin, 2006)
  • Robert Irwin, The Arabian Nights: A companion (Penguin, 1994)
  • Hugh Kennedy, The Court of the Caliphs: When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World (Phoenix, 2004)
  • Hugh Kennedy, The Armies of the Caliphs (London, 2001)
  • Saleh Said Agha, The Revolution which Toppled the Umayyads (Leiden, 2003)
  • Roger Allen, The Arabic Literary Heritage (Cambridge, 1998)
  • Jonathan Bloom, Paper before Print: the history and impact of paper in the Islamic World (London, 2001)
  • T. El-Hibri, Reinterpreting Islamic Historiography: Harun al Rashid and the Narrative of the Abbasid Caliphate (Cambridge, 1999)
  • Dmitri Gutas, Greek Thought, Arabic Culture (London, 1998)