The Tombs of Osman and Orhan Gazi
The present tombs of the original founders of the Ottoman state, Osman and Orhan, are structures erected in recent times. They were brought to a state beyond repair by the earthquake that leveled Bursa in 1855; following which time they were constructed in their present form after the complete removal of the original buildings. The original tomb buildings are known to have been, essentially, a centuries-old utilization of one or several very ancient Byzantine structures dating to the period prior to the conquest of Bursa.
The gathering of the scattered knowledge we possess concerning these tombs, which belong to one of the most exceptional phases in the history of the Turkish civilization, will make the thorough acquaintance with the character and original form of these historical tombs possible. This brief study was intended to collect and analyze, so far as possible, the sources containing information on the tombs of Osman and Orhan Gazi. An article containing a more comprehensive treatment of all the sources utilized can be found in an earlier publication.
Bursa was not an easy conquest for Turks. As related by the chronicler Aşıkpaşazade, the long-desired outcome of the extended siege mounted by Orhan Bey was expressed by Osman Bey in his will where he stated, “Son, when I die, let me be laid to rest beneath the Silver Dome in Bursa.” The Silver (Gümüşlü) Dome was a Byzantine structure situated on an elevated site in Bursa, whose dome was visible from afar and the glimmer of whose lead-covered dome glittered in the sunlight. Mehmed Neşri in his work titled “Kitab-ı Cihannümâ,” (Book of the Whole World) completed in 1492 (898 H.), clearly confirms this event in these words: “Osman Gazi’s last wish made to his son, Orhan, was that when he died he should be laid to rest beneath the silver dome, for the monastery had been newly covered by the infidels and it gleamed like silver and, from a distance, one might believe it was silver”. Mehmed oğlu Hasan, however, reports in “Cam-ı Cem Ayin” (Ceremony of Worship) that his grave is in his soup kitchen in Bursa.
Between 1325 and 1349, the Arab traveler İbn Battuta, visited Bursa during his journey through Anatolia when Orhan Gazi was in power and he mentioned the tomb of Osman Gazi in his book of travels. After describing Orhan Gazi, İbn Battuta states that, “His father seized the city of Bursa from the hands of the Byzantines and his tomb is in the small mosque of Bursa. This structure was formerly a Christian church and later converted into a mosque.” When İbn Battuta arrived in Bursa, it had only very recently been captured, so that we may accept this record as a reliable source.
An entry to one of the Council of State’s (divan) registers, records the response addressed to the judge (kadı) concerning a petition regarding the need to expand the mosque of Orhan in 1576 (984 H.) and repair the tomb of Osman Gazi. To this effect, the enlargement of the mosque and careful repair of the tomb were approved. But, it is unclear which mosque of Orhan was intended. Though it specifies that the “Imperial Mosque of Sultan Orhan, which is located in Bursa in the center of town and which because of the Imperial mosque being too small only a fraction of its congregation can come together..,” it is uncertain whether it refers to the mosque next to the mosque near the tombs of Osman and Orhan in the quarter of Hisar or to the Orhan mosque lower down in the marketplace near the Ulu mosque. Stephan Gerlach, the personal priest of envoy David Ungnad in Istanbul in 1573-78, is known to have visited Bursa. The journal kept by the priest has not been accessible; thus, it has been possible only to learn that the church that previously occupied the site of the tomb of Orhan was named St. John.
Reinhold Lubenau, who visited Bursa in 1588, after declaring that Orhan Gazi was resting in a Byzantine structure-alongside of whom were placed the tomb of his wife and fourteen (?) concubines- reports that the tombs of Princes Korkud Çelebi and Musa Çelebi were also found there. Lubenau also noted a fragment of an inscription in Greek on a wall which he presents. But Lubenau indicates that there was another chapel adjacent to the former Byzantine church and that this was where Osman Gazi was lying and that the tombs of his wife, one son and twenty-six women and children and Orhan’s son, İbrahim, were in this tomb.
Despite the fact that Evliya Çelebi toured Bursa in the month of Muharrem 1050 H. (1640) and generally provides information of value regarding the structures he visits, he offers no sound comments on his “Visit to Osman Han Gazi” and is merely content to state that Orhan Gazi is buried in a “tomb filled with spiritual light in the mosque of the inner citadel.” At another point in his memoirs, Evliya Çelebi makes brief mention of the Mosque of Orhan as follows: “This mosque each side of which measures 110 feet has a multi-layered minaret and Orhan Gazi is buried here.” It is apparent that Evliya Çelebi is referring not to the mosque with cloister cell in town, but rather to the one within the citadel. For the tomb stands next to it.
The physician from Lyon, Jacop Spon, and the botanist Gorges Wheler, who visited Istanbul and traveled through parts of Anatolia in 1674-75, examined the Tomb of Orhan when they visited Bursa. According to the report of these travelers, it was a “building worthy of having served as the former cathedral and a beautiful structure. Its interior was attractive and faced with finely dressed marble. The dome over the square building in the form of a Greek cross was carried by four piers. The piers, having fallen in the course of the conquest of Bursa by Turks, had been repaired, but in such a way that the elegant capitals of the pillars were used as the bases. In other words, it represented an amusing metaphor of their oppression of Christianity, which they had turned upside down. Hence, this sacred place had become the tomb of the conqueror of Bursa and the second ruler of the Turkish dynasty, “Orchanes.” Adjacent to this was the tomb of the children of Bayezid.” These travelers provide detailed informations regarding the synthronos (graded levels)-where, formerly the priests had seated themselves-in the apse portion of the church, now converted to a tomb.
Nearly one century later the English traveler, Richard Pococke, records his impressions of his visit of Bursa in a more expansive manner: “Orhan and his children lie buried in an old church situated in the citadel. The interior of this church is faced with precious marble and paved in mosaic. This quite large and unattractive church had been converted into a mosque. In the madrasa, there were two thick columns of marble. At the altar in the back of the church, there were four columns that Turks certainly did not carve. Though this altar portion was lined in marble, it had never possessed any beauty. The color of the stone was a dirty white with a vein here and there. The apse which was set off by a four-step threshold was still extant. In the vestibule of the church was a large drum, which foreigners were told had belonged to Orhan and which was three times as large as an ordinary drum.... The sultan’s rosary (tespih) was in the same place.... The tomb attributed to Osman was missing. Though some say that the children of Beyazid are buried next to him, I was unable to observe their graves.”
The Italian priest, Dominico Sestini, who arrived in Bursa on May the 19th, 1779, furnishes more ample information on the tomb: “We visited the Mosque of Orhan: It was a former Greek church of three naves, whose pavement is a marvelous mosaic. The interior walls are faced with slabs of polished marble. The architectural style is a kind of very plain Greek Gothic. In the apse portion and behind the altar, five graduated levels arranged in a semi-circle are visible. According to common belief, Orhan was the one who converted this Greek Church into a mosque and who renovated it in accordance with Turkish taste. He and his wife and children are buried there. When you enter the vestibule by the main door, one can see opposite, hanging by the madrasa, Orhan’s drum and rosary. (Here, he supplies detailed information on them.) They showed us the sacred mementos of this ruler. These souvenirs consisted of a turban and a caftan. In my opinion, however these must be of quite recent manufacture. The caftan is at most sixty years old while the turban seems to be newer. There is also a library here containing 40 to 50 volumes. The main madrasa of this former church, which is said to have been a monastery, has been bricked up and a mihrap has been installed here in the Turkish style. This mosque is also called the Monastery mosque. Issuing from the mosque, we passed into a round chapel. This is, on the whole, part of the same building complex and covered by a beautiful dome. It contains the graves of Orhan’s father and his mother and their children. This chapel is very attractive and has been decorated in a magnificent fashion. One can pass from this chapel to another said to have been the former burial place of Arthus, the defender of Bursa....”
Jacques Dallaway, the minister of the English ambassador, who toured Istanbul and Bursa in 1795 records his visit to the tombs: “We went to see the tomb of Orhan, supposed to have been the former church of the city metropolitan, but which is more likely to have been formerly a great monastery church that was later converted into a mosque. Turks still call it “Manystere,” a name derived from the word “monastery.” The structure represents a fairly good specimen of the Byzantine architecture. The piers are of porphyry and green porphyry. Some of the marbles covering the walls have been marred. The mosaic paving is in the form of rectangles of porphyry and yellow colored stones.”
The tombs of Osman Gazi and Orhan Gazi and the Orhan mosque nearby, first, suffered damage in a terrible fire in November 1801 (Şaban 1, 1216 H.) that left two thirds of Bursa in ashes. It is impossible to accept as truth the report that the domes of the tombs were covered with silver gilt until this fire, which also burned the Hisar mosque. The mementos and all textiles in the tombs were destroyed in this great fire and it is likely that the structures themselves also underwent significant damage. During this visit to Bursa in 1904, the interpreter for the Austrian embassy, the well-known historian, Joseph von Hammer, found the mosque of Orhan closed. Hammer reports that Osman Gazi “lay buried, with his wife and children, in the Orthodox cathedral, which had been converted into a mosque after the conquest of Bursa. The tomb was filled with some forty coffins, whose exteriors had been white-washed. This very beautiful church, which had been transformed into a tomb, was faced with marble slabs, arranged in a symmetrical manner. The former altar was raised by four marble steps in the shape of a semi-circle. The six green porphyry columns, which set off the madrasa, were still in place. The bema and all the windows reinforced by columns had been filled in. The fire that had destroyed Bursa at the beginning of the century had not caused very great damage to this church. With the exception of that of Osman Gazi, all the tombs were in very good condition. But, due to the fallen stucco and fissures of Osman Gazi’s coffin, one could nearly count the bones of the founder of the Ottoman dynasty. (Omitted here are several statements about the rosary and the drum.) We were able to enter the tomb by a window after climbing up a staircase because the key had actually disappeared or so it was stated.” It appears that Hammer who is still in the early stages of his profession is describing the tomb of Orhan, which he incorrectly identifies as the tomb of Osman.
Similarly, he confirms that it is an error when he writes about the tomb of Orhan, thus: “The tomb of Orhan’s brother Alâüd-din and his son Süleyman and his wife and children are found in a hexagonal tomb. It was erected next to the tomb of Osman which is a former church. There are seventeen coffins in this eight-sided tomb. In the vestibule of this building, there are another seventeen coffins. There, we can find Orhan’s tesbih rosary which had been rescued from the fire but which is still corroded. Because none of those lying here are designated in writing and it is only by hearsay that the tombs of Osman, Orhan, Alâüd-din and Süleyman are identifıed, nothing definite can be said about the others.”
W.J. Hamilton, who visited Bursa in March the 24th,1835, remarks briefly on these tombs: After stating that the mosque of the monastery “Davout” was previously a church, he states that it is small and of no architectural interest and that its only importance was due to the fact that the tomb of Orhan was located there. Hamilton adds that the pavement was of Byzantine mosaic. Incidentally, the book of travels by the French historian B. Poujoulat is of no value in this matter.
At the outset of his travels, Charles Texier-who conducted a large scale research between the years 1834 and 1837 in Anatolia-even though he visited both of the tombs of Osman and Orhan on his visit to Bursa and saw them in their original state, like Hammer he confuses the names of the two buildings; and he persists in this error whenever he makes reference to this place in his three works. If, however, we leave aside the question of to whom the error is to be attributed, Texier described both of these tombs in much details in his great work and described them accurately. “The remains of Osman, the founder of the Ottoman dynasty, are buried in the old chapel of the citadel, which is not earlier than the late-and the final-Byzantine period. This monument which still survives is called the Davud monastery by Turks. The church with a central nave and two side naves over the center of which rises a dome is carried by four columns of gray marble. Nothing of interest to the artistic eye is contained on the interior. All the interior decoration is secured by the slab facing the grey marble which is bordered by fine interlaced bands. The altar area, which is set off by grey marble columns, is also illuminated by three windows; crosses are visible on the capital. The former narthex of the church contains the coffins of princes and royalty whose names are no longer known. The great fire that burnt the major part of the city in 1804 inflicted great damage on this monument. The dome collapsed and was later rebuilt. None of the inscriptions that might assist us in identifying the coffins here have been preserved. Adjoining the monastery, there is a chapel which also contains the graves of a number of people. Its width is 8.3 meters and is divided into semi-circular niches and eight sections, set off by double pilasters. A drum and a rosary of extraordinary dimensions that had been sent by the Konya Sultan Alâüddin to the Ottoman sultan in recognition of his legitimacy were preserved here. These sacred Turkish trusts were reduced to ashes in the fire of 1804.” Texier adds that when Orhan Gazi died he was buried in his father’s tomb. Though the French architect and traveler essentially repeated the same things in another of his works, printed in a smaller and handier format many years later, he inserted some curious sentences that confuse the two buildings in a strange manner. After stating that this was a church called St. Elljah and that it was circular like all the other buildings, he describes the tomb with four columns, which is not circular. The materials collected by Texier were repeated with the same errors in a third work in England, by way of compensation, he prints a section view and a very valuable plan of one of the tombs that do not appear in his other works, which will be referred to later. According to what Texier had written here, at that time there were two neighboring tombs, whose occupants were confused by foreigners. One of these was a building on circular plan and the other one was a domed church which had four columns in the center and whose apse projected on the exterior.
An engraving of one of these tombs-one that very likely depicts the interior of the tomb of Orhan-was published in the magnificent album by Leon de Laborde at almost the same date. Two of the four columns are visible in this engraving which is captioned “The Tomb of Sultans” four piers and sixteen coffins, the large one of which has been placed beneath the dome. The tomb and the coffins are extremely modest and accord with the descriptions of observer; only the main coffin is draped by a shawl. In the caption of this depiction, the writer states that “There are two small former Greek churches that have been converted into mosques in the citadel, which is at present in ruins.” This is followed by the note that “the tombs of Orhan (“Archan”) and his family are in the former narthex of the monastery called Davud. They did not exhibit Osman’s tomb, which has probably disappeared. A cross is visible that has been carved in the marble on one of the piers of the mosque.” (He then proceeds to relate a fanciful legend.)
Miss Pardoe, who works in Istanbul, has acquired high renown in consequence of its illustrations, included in a lesser known work her observations on Istanbul and Turkey in 1836, which contains extensive information regarding these tombs, thus:
“In the interval of time that the guide searched for the caretaker woman who keeps the keys to the tomb, I occupied myself by examining the exterior of the entrance, that is, the remnant of the building that had been turned into a tomb. The broad eaves, which ornamented the open arcade, were decorated by painted decoration and supported by elegantly veined, white marble Byzantine columns. This arcade gave access only to the courtyard of the tomb. But here it is worth pausing to discuss a phenomenon that is rarely encountered here and, which, at the same time, characterizes the development of the fine arts in this country.
The columns carried the eaves which are inverted; that is to say; the carved capitals were on the floor and what had formerly served as the foot of each column was painted in yellow and blue. (A discussion follows on the arrangement of the courtyard and its trees.) In the entryway of the tomb, one can encounter signs of the same barbarism. The four delicate lonic columns of gray marble which support the eaves were also subject to the same treatment of paint which is saddening. And their capitals were enhanced by a particolored cluster of leaves. The tomb is in truth a portion of the Greek monastery that was taken over by Sultan Orhan following his conquest of Bursa. It is thought to have previously been a private chapel constructed for the daily workshop by the emperor. It is oval shaped and was faced in rich marbles entirely until a few years ago when they were ruined by fire. Now, these decorative features-just like those in the exterior-have been replaced by stucco and painted decoration; since it is restricted to this, its general affect are not excessively disturbing. Sultan Orhan, his wife Klikia (?), two concubines and seventeen children have been laid to rest in the central area of the floor. The elegant mosaics on that portion of the pavement have been covered by a massive platform of the height of one foot, which bears the coffins. (A description of the coverings of the coffins follows.) They occupy the oval area preceding the three-tiered altar in a hemispherical form at the front of the chapel.
A throne situated in the center, which no doubt was reserved for the ruler who participated in the service, gives the impression that the royalty probably stood at the foot of these gradated levels. The synthronos, which have been noted by a number of travelers, were, as it is known, found in the church of the city’s archbishop and reserved for the archbishop and high-ranking clergy. Miss Pardoe is in error in assigning the use of these steps to the emperor and his retinue. The high dome is borne by six gigantic, four-sided constructed piers. On one of the lateral arches can be seen a depiction of a cross among the mosaics made by Greeks; by contrast, a much larger cross motif above the altar has been coarsely plastered over. (A description follows of a coffin in which it is claimed that hairs from the beard of Orhan Gazi were preserved). The tomb of “AI-i Osman” (!), the son of Orhan, occupies the other corner and exhibits no features of interest. We descended from the tomb of Ali-i Osman to the vaults of the monastery. Passing through a subterranean monastery whose ceiling was supported by piers, we climbed by a decrepit staircase to the place where at one, no doubt, existed the monastery chapel. Fragments of a fresco remain near the ruined altar and on one side of the mihrab wall, we can see an inscription that is half effaced and, on the other side, a bouquet of wildflowers. Most of the chapel arches are in situ, and though they convey an attractive appearance, the general prospect is sad. The only portions of the structure that are well preserved are those where the tombs of the Ottoman sultans are located.”
The founder of the first medical school in Turkey, Dr. Ch. A. Bernard, came to Bursa for the treatment of an eye ailment in May 1842, he became interested in the monuments of Bursa; and set aside the last part of his well-known treatise devoted to the famous thermal springs resort of Bursa for his travel notes. The relevant information he provides on the tombs and mosques is as follows: “The most ancient of all the mosques is the Mosque of Sultan Orhan, who was the conqueror of Bursa and the second ruler of the Ottoman state. It forms a nearly integral part of the citadel. Although it is in good condition, the doors are almost always closed because it has no congregation. Next to this mosque is a former Greek main church (cathedral), which has been transformed into a tomb that contains the grave of Sultan Orhan. The coffin of this ruler is in the precise center of this building. Around it, are arranged the coffins of some twenty members of the family, princes and nobility. The interior of this magnificent tomb is faced with marble slabs in various colors. Six columns of green porphyry and a graduated semicircular element of marble in four steps still marks the place of the former altar. From the main door a large cross of black marble visible on one of the columns that carry the vault are extant reminders of the original function of this building. At the beginning of this century, Orhan’s drum and rosary whose wooden beads were of great proportion were reduced to ashes. This drum, which was previously hung and preserved for a long time in this church, was the reason why this monastery was called the “Daoul,” or drum, monastery (Couvent du Tambour). A few steps beyond, a hexagonal tomb is reserved for Orhan’s father and the founder of the Ottoman state-Osman. The tombs of his son, Alâüddin, and his grandson, Süleyman are also there. In an adjoining small structure, there are seventeen coffins. But, because no sign is found for any of them, the names of the deceased are unknown. It is only known that Osman’s wife, who was the daughter of the great Sheikh Edebali, and Orhan's wife, Nilüfer lie here. Also in this small building, one of the beads of Sultan Osman’s rosary, which is of astonishing size, is on display.”
In 1855 (1271 H.), Bursa suffered a terrible earthquake and, had already undergone great damage in the fire of 1801. The tombs of Osman and Orhan, which had been somewhat restored, and the mosque of Orhan were torn down because they were beyond repair. In October the 12th, 1859-that is, a short time prior to the earthquake-A.D. Mordtmann (1781-1879) visited Bursa. In his memoirs, he mentions the terrible destructive force of the earthquake, whose tremors are recorded as lasting from February to May 1855. After noting that the mosque of Orhan was wholly destroyed, he makes brief notice of the tomb of Osman Gazi. Mordtman reports the following on this matter: “The tomb of Sultan Osman I will be rebuilt in as short a time as possible. Earlier, this was a very old and small Byzantine chapel. In its place, a very grand building will be constructed; nevertheless, the tomb itself will be rebuilt in its original form and dimensions.” As these statements indicate, the tombs of Osman and Orhan, which had been destroyed, were, as initially envisioned, to be replaced by a very large and impressive tomb or edifice. At the time, however, Bursa-which, with a tremendous effort, was clearing the ruins and re-building-was unable to undertake the execution of this original project. In a very valuable city plan of Bursa, the particulars of the Tophane quarter, where the inner citadel and the tombs are located, were drawn to a scale of 1.80: 2.35 and published in 1862-63 (1278 H.) under the direction of Suphi Bey. While the site of the Mosque of Orhan is unmarked, the Şahadet mosque is indicated. Within an area enclosed by a wall and in the place where the tombs are presently found, the Osman and Orhan Gazi tombs are shown in a form that supplies the main outlines of their structures. Since, at this date, the tombs had not yet been built, the simple sketch appearing in the Bursa city plan may possibly reflect the location and general exterior appearance of the old tombs. In his unpublished “Book of Travels” (Seyahatnâme) written in 1864 (1281 H.), Hayrullah Efendi, the chief imperial physician-who visited Bursa prior to the 1855 disaster shortly after the disaster and, for the third time, around 1863-recounts the work executed in Bursa with the support of Ahmet Vefik Efendi (later Pasha) whom he had appointed as inspector as follows: “It has been learned that the sacred tomb of the deceased Osman Gazi, who was the builder of the state edifice, was situated among a number of small and decrepit houses, which now have been purchased from their owners, and the sacred tomb will be enlarged and re-built of the various local kinds of marbles in the resultant square, whatever its size, to be called Osmaniyye square.” In reviewing the first decision regarding the rebuilding of the tomb of Osman Gazi, he adds the following remarks concerning the two tombs, thus: “...Removing the rubble that had been heaped up like mountains within the Citadel, both the founder of the state (i.e., Osman Gazi) and the second ruler Orhan Gazi, were brought to light from beneath five cubits of earth within the actual perimeter of the Davullu monastery, where they had been interred.”
Aleksander von Warsberg, after visiting Turkey in 1864, wrote what is perhaps the most notable book of travels of the last century. Presenting his observations on his visit to the Tomb of Osman Gazi in May the 27th, he states that “The first sultans, Osman and Orhan, are sleeping their sleep of eternity above. Passing through the door and walls constructed with the remnants of earlier structures, we came to the place where they have been laid to rest. Until 1855, a Byzantine church rose over them. The earthquake, however, damaged it so much that not one wall or column remained standing. The surface of the ground here is so littered with chips of porphyry, very antique and various colors of marble and even mosaic fragments that a person might think he had somehow stumbled onto a stone quarry.
When I examined closely some of the blocks of stone, I noticed the fine stonework and crosses in relief on nearly all columns. Even here, that is, in the place where the rulers, who were the earliest and who commanded the greatest empire, they left untouched the signs of a different faith! We would like to ask those in Europe, who continually make accusations about the intolerance of Turks, if they had been able to get mosques into their possession and had the opportunity of celebrating their own worship service and the preaching of sermons in them, would they be content not to erase the crescent moon and sultanic monograms? In the ruins, we encountered a number of open graves. At first, we assumed that these had been found beneath the pavement of the church. These tombs are also the burial places of Turks. In investigating the surroundings, so far as our knowledge extends regarding architecture, these are in the form of simple cells constructed of courses of brick below the surface of the ground, whose shape and dimensions resemble our coffins; these bricks are bound by impressive layers of mortar and their surfaces are plastered. On the ground level only the cover is visible. A coffin of wood is built over these modest constructions that are similar to our catafalques; their size varies according to the renown and worthiness of the deceased. Such coffins have been built above the tombs of Osman and Orhan. But, only the coffins of these two have been reinstalled from among the graves found among heaps of ruins. Poor and insipid tombs have been built in place of the church vault. These tombs, which are made of wood in an ancient manner, are disturbing because of the fact that their form is in contradiction with their material. The interior is richer; it is very well maintained and covered with valuable carpets.
Both of the current tombs were erected by Sultan Abdülaziz in 1868 (1280 H.) as indicated in the History by Nevres where the inscription on Osman Gazi’s tomb has been given. A.H. Tanpınar writes the following on this matter:
“The name “Silver” (Gümüşlü) presents a meaning only for those who know history and Osman Gazi and Orhan Gazi lie in those soul-less buildings built in that absurd establishment style of the Era of Reforms (Tanzimat) almost as if they were in exile.” Seventeen coffins are contained here and, though for some of them, signs do indicate who is buried in them, some are still unknown. Ahmed Tevhid reports, in his article on the tombs of the first Ottoman sultans, that one of the coffins belongs to Savcı Bey (d.1385), son of Murad I. According to the notices, the coffins of Alaüddin Pasha (d.1331), Şehzade İbrahim and Asporcha Hatun, the wife of Orhan Gazi are lying here, but the remainder is unidentified. No inscription for the repairs is present at the Tomb of Orhan Gazi. This tomb contains twenty-one coffins. Besides Orhan Gazi, the names of Kasım, his son, and Şehzade Korkud (d.1513), the son of Bayezid II are inscribed. A.Tevhid reports that he saw no other signs to identify the occupants of the tombs. He notes however that the nine tombs outside the Tomb of Osman Gazi, were formerly beneath a dome, but that after repairs they were left in the open. One of these, A.Tevhid indicates, is supposed to be Nilüfer Hatun. It is evident that the situation confirms what has been related by von Warsberg and other travelers and that the names of the owners of the coffins in the tombs were not carefully preserved. The existing inscription clearly indicates that the present tomb was built in 1868. This means that when Warsberg arrived in Bursa in 1864 construction had not yet been completed.”
These lines that we have translated above make it apparent that, after the earth-quake, the coffins of Osman Gazi and Orhan Gazi were safeguarded in a temporary tomb building.
Recent researchers, which assume that the existing tomb structure has no historical value, feel no compulsion to dwell on the tombs of Osman Gazi and Orhan Gazi. The lithographed album published by Mary Walkiz recording various sights of Bursa around 1880 allocates one engraving to the new tombs as viewed from the Clock tower. Here, on page sixteen, we come across the name of David Manstir. H.Wilde, who conducted the first great art historical study on Bursa, gives very brief and vague information on these in his work. Wilde is content to repeat the information given by Hammer on the tombs of Osman and Orhan and briefly describes the present structures. He furnished no plan of the later edifice and offered the opinion that their forms suggested they were examples of the early Ottoman tombs. No likelihood is granted to the possibility that the Tomb of Osman Gazi, which was a Byzantine building that was circular and whose likenesses are often encountered in the Late Antiquity, might have had an influence of Turks who possessed a very ancient tomb architecture. They note only that the Tomb of Orhan displays a resemblance to the Tomb of Murad.
Both S. Çetintaş in his volume on the early Ottoman monuments of Bursa and E. Hakkı Ayverdi in his numerous articles and books on works of the Orhan Gazi period works fail to mention these tombs. In publications of a general nature, only the modern city receives attention and the information regarding the historical monuments is quite inadequate. A. Gabriel in his great monograph on the works of the Ottoman period in Bursa, gives cursory notice of the tombs of Osman and Orhan and treats the Orhan mosque briefly. The writer reveals that the information supplied by the books of travels is unsatisfactory; he then claims that at the time of the conquest of Bursa, in 1326, a church and an octagonal building were in existence and reports that they were converted into a tomb and a mosque and offers several suppositions as to their original forms. The consensus reached by all these publications is that a Byzantine monastery stood where, today, the Tomb of Osman Gazi is situated and that these tombs came into being by assigning new functions to the chapel and church of this monastery. At one time, C. Texier asserted that one of these-the circular structure-may have been dedicated to the prophet Elijah. Much later V. Schultze proposed a new hypothesis. Assuming that all ancient references to the thermal springs of Pythia meant Bursa, he sought to locate here the cited palace of Pythia. In Schulze’s opinion, the church of Archangel Mikael built by the Emperor Justinianos was also there. Schultze, subsequently, granted that the round church that was converted into the tomb was the church of St. Mikael and asserted that the “eli” in the name “Mikhaelieon” was, in reality, based on “Elia” (that is, Ilyaz).
If this hypothesis was true, we would have concluded that the building of the Tomb of Sultan Orhan was actually built in the first half of the Justinian sixth century. However, the hot springs of Pythia are not in Bursa, but in Yalova; hence the construction that Prokopios states was conducted there, should have no relationship with Bursa. We know that, towards the middle of the tenth century a monastery called the “Great” monastery was constructed within the city walls of Bursa. The Catholic monk of Bursa, Bernardin Menthon, claims that this monastery was in the vicinity of the Üftade mosque and that, in fact, this mosque was none other than the church of the monastery itself. He also maintained that the building of the Orhan tomb belonged to the former cathedral and that the Şehadet mosque in this area was also the remains of a Byzantine church. These guesses which are based on no reliable sources or serious study whatsoever are incorrect.
The Üftade and Şehadet mosques are, without a doubt, both works of the Turk era. Though the site of the monastery in the city of the Byzantine period is not known for certain, it is not inconceivable that it was situated where the tombs of Osman Gazi and Orhan Gazi were found. On the other hand, the place where the tombs are located, in former times was known as the place where the Monastery quarter rests on sound grounds. But, the section and plan that had survived of one of the buildings used as a tomb make it obvious that its construction date was far earlier than this eleventh-century monastery.
What was the original architectural form of the building or buildings that housed the Tomb of Osman and Orhan? One of the tombs here, Orhan Gazi’s one, was a building in the form of a Greek cross, typical of the Middle Byzantine period, with projecting apse and a dome supported by four columns. The other building next to it, which was also used as a tomb, is the structure whose plan and section exist: It was on a circular plan with dome, preceding by a narthex and had niches on the interior. The plans, sections and pictures of various details that C. Texier collected at one time in Anatolia and Rumelia were brought together by Popplewel Pullan in England. In this first published work on the Byzantine architecture, he included the plan and section of this second building in Bursa, which was called the Church of Ilyaz.
The description, however, which was taken in a very hasty and careless manner from the book of travels by Texier, doesn’t belong to the published picture, but to the first building, that is, the one with four columns. This confusion prompts hesitation in assigning the tomb whose picture exists to either Osman or Orhan, but it is a valuable record from the perspective of identifying a work whose historical value is very high. While none of the foreign travelers are very accurate in their descriptions, it is evident that Osman rested in a domed circular plan building and that Orhan was laid to rest in a small church with four columns on the interior near a mosque bearing his name. Consequently, the plan and section, that Texier drew and was later published, belongs to the tomb of Osman Gazi which is, the Silver Tomb with the Pyramidal Roof (künbet). Further this matter is supported by the forms of the tombs that were built during the reign of Sultan Abdülaziz.
Without a doubt, with the aim of continuing an ancient tradition, the tomb of Osman Gazi is on an octagonal plan and Orhan Gazi’s tomb with a dome supported by four columns was on a rectangular plan. Though all the Ottoman sources and writings on the renowned “Gümüşlü Künbet” have been lost, a record that can reliably enlighten us on the appearance and the architecture of the structure is available. It is a pity we do not possess a perfect documentation for the other tomb.
Of these two tombs, which originally date back to the Byzantine period, the plan and section we possess of the Osman Gazi tomb indicate that it was a building on a circular plan that was typical in the relatively early periods of the Byzantine architecture. In our estimation, the vestibule-that is the narthex-was a later accretion when it was made into a chapel. This would suggest that the building was originally a baptistery or more likely, a martyrium. The original structure that became the Tomb of Osman Gazi was probably not built, as we earlier stated, later than the sixth century. Both the various descriptions and its current form make it certain that the Tomb of Orhan Gazi must have been a Byzantine church with four supporting elements.
The thick walls of the Byzantine structure, the Tomb of Osman Gazi, have niches on the interior and the exterior; double columns have been placed between niches on the interior. This building, constructed on a structural model commonly used from the Roman period onward, has a high drum. The interior was illuminated by eight windows pierced in the drum. It is impossible to determine the original form of the Tomb of Orhan Gazi based on information provided by travelers. The building, however, may have had an apse, four columns and a dome and on the interior a synthronos for the seating of the priests; information concerning its architectural style lacks full clarity. The descriptions could apply to a church on a Greek-cross plan or to a baptistery of the fourth or fifth century. For an ancient baptistery was discovered at Side near Antalya distinct from the Greek-cross plan churches in terms of covering system, which had four columns.
It is evident that this building could not have been a basilica with six columns as Gabrial assumed. A church that boasted four columns and a dome resting on piers and a church that contained two rows of three piers each prove incompatible if it measured one hundred-ten feet as was aimed by Evliya Çelebi. Only Miss Pardoe increases the number of piers to six; we believe that this latter count includes the two corner piers demarcating the side apses.
Remarkably, when the present tomb buildings were erected under the command of Abdülaziz Sultan in 1868, they were compared with the earlier buildings on the same site. The Tomb of Osman Gazi, like its predecessor, is octagonal. The interior diameter is approximately ten meters and the thickness of the walls is 1.56 meters. The present entrance is in the form of an overhang. The sides are now open in the area where tombs are located, which in Texier’s plan was the narthex. The current form of the Tomb of Osman Gazi generally reflects the main scheme of the earlier building. If we exclude a column capital on the ground beside the door, the interior and exterior of the present Tomb of Osman shares no point of commonality with the original building or which recalls the Byzantine architecture, other than that its central space is in octagonal form.
The Tomb of Orhan Gazi in its present form measures 16.80 meters on a side on the exterior. Three windows have been inserted in all the facades, one of which is replaced by a door. Towards the end of the last century, photographs show that an entrance overhang existed on the exterior in front of this door; this is no longer extant. The spatial area within the outer shell has a thickness that measures 14 meters on a side in a square form. Four thick columns, whose capitals and trunks are painted in the Tanzimat style, set off the central space. Hence, on the interior an aisle of 2.60 meters wide, covered by a barrel vault is joined by four arches to the central space which is covered by a dome.
This system occurs in almost an identical fashion in the Tomb of Murad I and is repeated in Murad II’s tomb as well. A part of the original building was also removed in the course of restoration, such as the projecting apse and narthex, but it suggests that the principle lines of the original, and even perhaps the foundations, were preserved in the new structure. But, very precious evidence exists regarding the Tomb of Orhan Gazi, built on the former site of a Byzantine structure, which confirms the observations of the early travelers: The floor possesses the remnants of a pavement of mosaics. This pavement has not survived as a complete whole; pieces are missing in a number of places and patching has been done with a random selection of ordinary stones. Because this mosaic composition is in situ, it may be regarded as a concrete proof. Despite its incompleteness, the main scheme of the composition can be made out. The pattern of the pavement, which was formerly covered by mats and carpets and could not be fully described, is an interlace of colored stone bands. Besides the round colored slabs enclosed by these band, mosaic of small units are interposed. In addition to the round interlace, the floor area was covered, as was customary in the Byzantine art and as can be observed from the remaining examples, by rectangular marble slabs. Other Byzantine examples of the same system and technique in pavement decoration occur in the churches of Koimesis and Ayasofya in İznik, Ayasofya in Trabzon, a building whose identification is unknown in Konya and the mosques of İmrahor Zeyrek, Hagia Sophia and Fenâri İsa, all converted churches, and in many other places. It is, therefore, a certainty that the Tomb of Orhan Gazi was constructed on the site of a former Byzantine church.
Osman Gazi and Orhan Gazi, the founders of the Ottoman dynasty, were laid for their final rest in two ancient Byzantine structures, which underwent drastic alteration or were even completely rebuilt after the earthquake of 1855. Two Ottoman sultans of the seventeenth century were also both laid to rest in a Byzantine building. Sultans Mustafa I and İbrahim now lie in coffins in a baptistery converted into a tomb next to Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.