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Tomb of Mevlana

After the death of Mevlana on 17 December, 1273, his companions decided to build a monument over his grave, which was next to that of his father, Bahaeddin Veled, in the grounds of the Seljuk Sultanate estates. This particular estate was where Bahaeddin Veled and his family were met on their arrival in Konya by the Seljuk Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad I, and was later granted as an endowment to the Sultan'ul-Ulema and his descendents. On his death, Mevlana's father was buried here, and later Mevlana himself was laid to rest beside him.

Mevlana felt that monumental tombs were unnecessary, saying "The true mausoleum should be built in the heart". But despite his own thoughts on the subject, his companions and followers were determined to mark the site of the grave with a turbe- mausoleum. Some months after his death, Suleyman Pervane, one of the Seljuk Emirs of the time, his wife Gurcu Hatun and Emir Alameddin Kayseri, keen followers and close companions of Mevlana, visited Sultan Veled, Mevlana's son, to express their wish to build a mausoleum dedicated to Mevlana. Sultan Veled was unable to refuse a request such as this, and the tomb was built. The architect was Bedreddin of Tabriz, a Turkish master craftsman, while among those who worked on the tomb was a master craftsman by the name of Selimoglu Abdulvahid, who was responsible for the ornamentation of the interior and the wooden ornamented catafalque over the tomb itself. The turbe was completed in 1274, at a cost of one hundred and thirty thousand Seljuk gold pieces, the finished work being an architectural masterpiece unequalled in its period.

The mausoleum was supported on four stone piers, linked by brick-bonded arches. The piers were surmounted by a cylindrical drum supporting a sixteen lobed dome. Over the dome was a conical roof, also decorated with sixteen lobes. The roof was decorated with faience, and the interior of the dome with brushwork tracery.

This type of mausoleum was not, in fact, unique in Seljuk art. A prototype existed in the tomb of Seyid Mahmud Hayrani at Aksehir, which preceeded the Mevlana tomb by four years, but the latter was by far the superior in scale, magnificence and quality of craftsmanship in the ornamentation.

After the completion of this mausoleum, Sultan Veled and Mevlana's other followers tended to congregate around it, and in time to house the expanding congregation of followers, annexes were built onto the turbe, and it gradually became the centre of the complex which was to become the convent of the Mevlevi in Konya. During the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent, Sinan, the leading architect of the day built a semahane and a mescid in the complex on imperial orders. The domed dervish cells surrounding the mausoleum were built during the reign of Murad III, on his orders, and the monumental fountain- Sadirvan- in the courtyard was built during the period of Selim the Grim. The Mevlevi complex at Konya may be regarded as the forerunner of other such complexes of the Ottoman period. The many masterpieces of Seljuk and Ottoman art gathered at the dergah rendered it more a museum than a convent.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic, placed great importance on the preservation of historical works and the foundation and maintenance of museums. During the first years of the struggle for independence he stressed this point in an address to the First National Congress in Ankara, on 9 May, 1920, after the formation of the first National Government (in what was once a province of the Ottoman Empire). At this first congress, a Directorate of Ancient Works was founded, attached to the Ministry of Education, aimed at "the immediate cataloguing and conservation of ancient work and the collection of historical artefacts into museums with a view to their preservation". The Directorate of Ancient Works was appointed with the duty of modernizing and extending the museum already in existance throughout Anatolia, and the registration and cataloguing of all ancient works and artefacts. Shortly afterwards, it changed its name to the Cultural Directorate, and extended its scope (and personnel) to the administration of libraries and all matters concerning the fine arts.

Immediately after the final victory of the Republican army, Ataturk ordered the issue of a governmental circular bearing the signature of Ismail Safa, Director of Education, on 5 November 1922, with instructions for provincial museums to be reorganised, and new museums to be founded in the urban centres of the time. Following the issue of this circular, the Konya branch of the Imperial Museum was moved from its former home in the Konya Lycee (museum founded in 1901) to a new building. Architectural fragments of the classic period, together with busts and sarcophagi were collected in the grounds of the museum. Ataturk himself, in Konya on 20 March, 1923. Visited both the museum and the convent and tomb of Mevlana, where he stayed for over three hours, and witnessed a performance of the whirling dervishes. Full of praise for the great mystic, Ataturk commented that the large number of artefacts and works from the Seljuk, Beylik and Ottoman periods in the convent and tomb rendered them a valuable museum collection.

The tomb of Mevlana itself was undoubtedlyan important historical monument, ornamented with some of the finest examples of Seljuk faience and cenotaphs belonging to Mevlana and the members of his line. The tombs also contained Seljuk and Ottoman rugs and bi-pile velvet covers of great value, while over hundreds of years an increasing number of valuable artefacts, including manuscripts, inscriptions, calligraphical panels and gold and silver candelabra had been carefully preserved at the convent. On 30 November, 1925, all convents, tekkes, zaviyes and mausoleums of the mystic orders were closed by law, and a decree was issued ordering all tarikat artefacts, paraphernalia of the orders, indeed everything of historical and ethnographical value to be collected by local museums. Ataturk made one exception to this rule in the case of the Mevlevi dergah in Konya, which he ordered to be reorganised as a museum, owing to its great architectural and ethnographical value, confirming his decision with a government circular dated 6 April, 1926. Immediately after the publication of this decree in the Offical Gazette, a commission was formed to reorganise the Mevlana dergah collection, which was reopened as a museum on 2 March, 1927.

The museum and convent of Mevlana is surrounded on three sides by high walls. The dervish lodge, on the fourth, western wall, is divided by a portal in the western facade. The main entrance to the museum-convent complex is through this portal, leading to the lodge and to the convent couryard- dervisan kapisi. A second gate opened into the convent graveyard to the south, known as the 'garden of souls' - Hadikat'ul-ervah.

A gate on the northern facade leads to the apartments of the Celebi, and was known as the Celebi kapisi- gate of the Celebi.

Passing through the main portal, one enters a marble-paved courtyard in the centre of which stands a fountain - sadirvan. Facing this gate is a door leading into the mausoleum, to the right of the narthex of the mescid. Over the door is an inscription bearing a Persian couplet:

"This station is the Mecca of all dervishes. What is lacking in them is here completed Whoever came here unfulfilled Was here made whole"

and the name of Molla Abdurrahman Cami (died: 1492). A large panel over this bears the inscription "Ya Hazret-i Mevlana" (Hail, blessed Mevlana). The carved wooden panels of the doors bear geometrical and Rumi motifs typically Seljuk in style. Over the panels is inscribed a passage in Persian attributed to Sultan Veled:

"Hear my words well he who aspires And bow before the gate of seers"

This door leads into a small domed chamber -the tilavet odasi- -which is set aside for the recitation of the Koran by the warden of the dergah -bevvap - and the dervishes. It is now devoted to the display of calligraphical artefacts. Here one may see works inscribed by some of the finest calligraphists of the Ottoman period, including the later masters Yesarizade Mustafa Izzet Mustafa Rakim, Mahmut Celaleddin, Izzet Hulusi, M.Sefik and Hamid, and calligraphical panels bearing inscriptions in the thuluth, naskhi and talik scripts. From here one enters the mausoleum proper through a walnut door encased in silver plaques and ornamented with decorative silver rings. According to the inscriptions in the two medallions on the panels of the door, it was presented to the Mevlana mausoleum as an endowment by Hasan Pasha, son of Sokullu Mehmed Pasha, the renowned grand vizier, in 1559. This leads into the sarcophagus chamber- Huzur-i Pir- which is covered with three domes. This was also known as the portal of the initiates -dahil-i ussak. The sarcophagi are arranged on a raised dais opposite and to the right. The site of the sarcophagi, including the two-domed area to the right of the entrance, the dais opposite, the western dais and the area around Mevlana's tomb surmounted by the green dome was collectively known as the "domes (spheres) of the pivots" - Kibab'ul-aktab. On the left, between the arches separating the semahane and the mescid are six toms in two rows, thought to belong to the Horasanians - Horasan erler- the dervishes accompanying Mevlana's father on his arrival in Konya, said to have originated from Balkh. The stalactite dome before the tomb of Mevlana is known as the dome (sphere) of the pelt- post kubbesi.

The walls of the anti-chamber leading to the mausoleum proper are decorated with inscriptions and calligraphical panels. Here is an early manuscript of Mevlana's work, the Mesnevi and illuminated manuscript copies of the Divan-i Kebir and the Divan of Sultan Veled.

The oldest surviving manuscript version of the Mesnevi in existance, inscribed by Abdullah bin Mehmed in 1278 is one of the most valuable manuscripts on display in this museum (Inv. 51). It is a masterpiece of ornamental manuscript art of the Seljuk period. Among the later versions of the Mesnevi also in the museum are copies dating to 1288, 1323 and 1367. The Divan-i Kebir is a two volume manuscript dated 1366, and the Divan of Sultan Veled dates to 1323. Calligraphical panels inscribed by leading Mevlevi calligraphists are hung over the low wall behind the tombs of the Horasanians separating the domes from the mescid.

One such panel bears an inscription in the words of Mevlana:

"Appear as you are or be as you appear", and before it stands the famous April bowl. This is a bronze bowl inlayed with gold and silver and highly ornamented with figures and decorative motifs, bearing an inscription stating that it was made for the Ilhanid Sultan Ebu Said Bahadir Han (1305-1335) in Mosul, and was presented to the Mevlana convent in 1333 by the Emir Sungur Aga.

The spring rains, believed in Islamic tradition to be blessed and benificial, were collected at the convent and poured into this bowl, hence the name. After certain incantations were made over the bowl, the tip of Mevlana's turban was dipped into the water, which was then proffered to pilgrims. It was believed to contain restorative properties.

A silver grill encloses the tomb of Mevlana to the right of the sarcophagus chamber. This was made by the master craftsman Ilyas in 1597 , and donated by Mahmud Pasha, governor of Maras. A Turkish poem of 32 couplets by the poet Mani (died: 1599) is inscribed on a silver plaque attached to the grill. Below the grill and the lattice-carved marble slabs supporting it is the silver threshold, a two-stepped dais leading up to the tomb, which was formerly the focus of veneration by members of the order and the adepts of Mevlana. Here dervishes prostrated themselves before the tomb of their pir -mirac-i simpaye. The silver-plated plaque to the right of this threshold is a later addition. Over the threshold one sees the door leading down to the sepulcher of the mausoleum.

It is said that both the site of the mausoleum and the convent were originally on the Seljuk imperial estates endowed by Alaeddin Keykubad I to Mevlana's father Bahaeddin Veled. Forty-two years after his father's interment here, Mevlana's burial took place on the same spot. The mausoleum was built by the Seljuk architect Tebrizli Bedreddin at the request of the Seljuk Emir Suleyman Pervane, his wife Gurcu Hatun and the Emir Alameddin Kayseri with the permission of Sultan Veled, and was completed in 1274. It was thought that the original tomb rested on four major piers, was enclosed on three sides, to the south, east and west, and opened into an liwan on the northern facade and that it had the pyramidal roof typical of Seljuk turbes. The lobed conical roof we now see is thought to have been erected in about 1396 and faced with turquoise tiles. During the reign of Bayezid II, the eastern and western wall were removed, certain annexes were built onto the mausoleum, and it was decorated with the brushwork tracery still to be seen today.

The mausoleum is 25m. of height, and is surrounded by sixteen-lobed cylindrical walls terminating in stone cornices, from which rise a conical roof, also sixteen-lobed. Both the walls and the roof are covered with turquoise faience tiles, which have been renewed at various times, and which give the mausoleum its popular title, the green dome- kubbe-i hadra. An inscription band surrounding the drum just below the cornice bears the Besmele formula and the verses of the throne - ayet'ul-kursi, written in Naskhi in white on a dark blue ground. The conical roof is surmounted by a gilded crest-alem. On the interior of the tomb the roof resolves into a pyramidal vaulting, the ribs forming an eight-pointed star. Below this, lie the white marble sarcophagi of Mevlana and his son Sultan Veled. The original cataphalque, a wooden carved structure placed over Mevlana's tomb after his death, was removed to his father's tomg in the 16th century.

This cataphalque is a fine example of Seljuk wood-carving, and was the work of Abdulvahid bin Selim and Husameddin. The sections are joined together in the kundekari technique, a form of tongue-and-groove jointing typical of the best Seljuk works, and the motifs also bear the characteristics of classical Seljuk art. Inscriptions on all four faces of the cataphalque include the ayet-ul kursi, quotations from Mevlana, lyrics from the Divan-i Kebir relating to the everlasting nature of death and couplets from the Mesnevi.

On the western side of the mausoleum, at the foot of Mevlana's tomb are the tombs of his wife Kerra Hatun (died: 1292), his daughter Melike Hatun (died: 1306), his son, Muzafferuddin Emir Alim Celebi (died: 1277), his grand daughter Celale Hatun (died: 1283), Melike Hatun, the daughter of the Kadi Taceddin (died: 1330), the celebis, dervishes from the line of Mevlana, many of whom were sheyhs of the convent and of the same line. To the east of Mevlana's tomb lie the toms of his father, Bahaeddin Veled (Sultan'ul-Ulema) (died: 1321), Seyh Selahaddin Zerkubi (died: 1258), Begtimuroglu Seyh Kerimuddin (died: 1292), Mevlana's son Alaeddin Celebi (died: 1262), his step-son Semseddin Yahya ( died: 1293), Sipehsalar Mecduddin Feridun ( died: 1312), Ulu Arif Celebi (died: 1320), Buyuk Zahid Celebi (died: 1333), Semseddin Abid Celebi (died: 1338), Sultan Veledoglu Vacid Celebi ( died: 1342), the other celebis of the order and daughters of the line. The mausoleum contains a total of 65 sarcophagi, some surmounted by turbans, some plain. The former are the male descendents of Mevlana and members of his order, the latter women of the line.

North of the 'green dome' or mausoleum is the Semahane. It was built, together with the adjoining mescid, in the period of Suleyman the Magnificent. This large, domed chamber is the assembly hall of the convent where the ritual whirling of the Mevlevi was carried out. The central area is flanked on the north by galleries, enclosed behind a grill, which were occupied by female adherents and followers of the Mevlevi. Below them were similar but open sections for male audiences, the musicians dais, and places set apart for the sheyh's throne, the lectern of the naathan, and the pews of the elders- sertarik, mesnevihan- leader of Mesnevi recitation, sertabbah- chief elder, turbedar- guardian of the tomb and other leading members of the order .

Rugs from Kula and Gordes are hung around the walls of the semahane, along with applique prayer mats, and the men's galleries and musicians' dais are spread with valuable carpets. One of the most interesting of these is the 15th century Usak rug in the lower northern gallery.

On entering the semahane one sees a number of cabinets displaying artefacts of various kinds. On the right are brass candlesticks of the 14th century Mameluke period; 15 and 17th century Ottoman candelabra and vases; brass and copper cure bowls decorated with inscriptions and various motifs; tinned copper kitchen artefacts and utensils and other examples of Turkish metalwork, many of which had been donated as offerings to the convent. The Mameluke candlestick is finely decorated with figures and bears a number of inscriptions.

To the left, between semahane and the mescid, one sees many examples of Turkish wood carving. Two carved walnut lecterns dating from the Seljuk period are particularly notable. They are decorated with typical Seljuk motifs and bear fine inscriptions. The first of these was made in 1279, and according to the endowment inscription on the artefact it was donated to the tomb of Mevlana by Cemaleddin Mubarek, one of the Seljuk vizier Sahip-Ata's freedman.

The second lectern, which also dates from the Seljuk period, is inscribed with verses from the Hadith. Other lecterns and carved, inlayed caskets in the same cabinet are Ottoman, and date to the 16-18th centuries.

Mevlevi convents occupy a unique place in the history of Turkish music, as over the centuries in these convents, music was taught and practised with the greatest skill. The Mevlevi orchestra began their ritual with the ney -reed flute, rebab- violin-like stringed instrument, and tef- hand-frame drum. Some of the convent collection of different varieties of ney are shown here. They are given the following names: sah, mansur, bolahenk, mabeyn, girift, nisfiye mulstahzen, kiz neyi. Other instruments on display include the rebab, kudum - double-drum, halile (or calpara) - tambourine without cymbals, daire (tef) -hand-frame drum, kemence and keman, both are the differcut types of violin, and the tambur-flute. Manuscripts of compositions and scores are also among the artefacts shown.

Mevlana's garments are shown in a cabinet in the centre of the semahane, together with those thought to have belonged to Semseddin Tabrizi and Sultan Veled. These are of fine silk and satin, muslin and heavy brocades. After centuries of careful preservation they were put on display for the first time when the convent became a museum in 1927. Mevlana's tall, conical camelhair felt hat and his arakiyye- worn as a night cap, are also shown here, alongside an inscribed chest belonging to Semseddin of Tabriz, a brass finial, an inscribed deste-gul jacket attributed to Sultan Veled and a mantle of red and green brocade.

A domed section of the hall, the area around the sheyh's throne the post kubbesi-is separated from the hall proper by an arch embellished with marble interlace bands, latticework grills and lanterns. A large chandelier dating to the 19th century consisting of glass lanterns suspended from the dome of the semahane provides illumination.

The chapel mosque or mescid of the convent leads off from the semahane, but can be reached, like the semahane through the Ceraggate at the entrance to the green dome. The mescid, which is west of the semahane, also has its own portal direct onto the courtyard of the convent. The mihrab, dais and lectern of the mosque, which was built by Suleyman the Magnificent are marble, and the minaret has a single gallery.

Manuscripts and bindings, some finely ornamented, of various periods are displayed in the mescid. The order of display is as follows:

a) Leather -tooled and laquered bindings dating from the 12 to 19th centuries. These bindings bear impressed and raised medallions and corner pieces on the exterior, and are ornamented with golden clasps. Laquered bindings are worked in the Iranian style.

b) Manuscript Korans of various dimensions, from the very small (2-1 cm) to the very large (67x42 cm).

c) Illuminated works of the Seljuk and Ottoman periods, among them some of the finest decorated manuscripts of those periods. Illustrated manuscripts are shown in another part of the hall.

d) Examples of calligraphy shown here include the verses of a 9th century Kufic Koran inscribed on parchment (gazelle-skin), a Koran in thuluth in Persian dating to the 9th century and various works in different kinds of script, including reyhani, naskhi (notably the work of the calligraphist Yakut'el-musta'semi), thuluth-naskhi, talik, nath-talik, divani and rik'a.

e) The last group of works are manuscripts dating from the 12-19th centuries, arranged in chronological order. Among them are some entirely unique works.

The Tomb of Mevlana and The Mevlana Museum

"Look not for my grave in earth but in the hearth of my devoted seers"



Above text and pictures are from the book titled "Mevlana and the Mevlana Museum".

You can purchase "Mevlana and the Mevlana Museum" book and other Turkey related books from Explore Turkey Bookstore.


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