The Image of an Ottoman City: Imperial Architecture and Urban Experience in Aleppo in the 16th and 17th Centuries

The Image of an Ottoman City: Imperial Architecture and Urban Experience in Aleppo in the 16th and 17th Centuries

The Image of an Ottoman City: Imperial Architecture and Urban Experience in Aleppo in the 16th and 17th Centuries

The Image of an Ottoman City: Imperial Architecture and Urban Experience in Aleppo in the 16th and 17th Centuries

Synopsis

This urban and architectural study of Aleppo, a center of early modern global trade, draws upon archival and narrative texts, architectural evidence, and contemporary theoretical discussions of the relation between imperial ideology, urban patterns and rituals, and architectural form. The first two centuries of Ottoman rule fostered tremendous urban development and reorientation through judiciously sited acts of patronage. Monumental structures endowed by Ottoman officials both introduced a new imperial architecture from Istanbul and incorporated formal elements from the local urban visual language. By viewing the urban and social contexts of these acts, tracing their evolution over two centuries, and examining their discussion in Ottoman and Arabic sources, this book proposes a new model for understanding the local reception and adaptation of imperial forms, institutions and norms.

Excerpt

Situating Aleppo

The door leading into the prayer hall of the ʿĀdiliyya mosque in Aleppo bears the city's only Ottoman-period inscription in the voice, as it were, of the craftsmen who built it (Pl. 1). Engraved on the strap hinges nailed to the two panels of the door, each half of the inscription names a craftsman and asks God's forgiveness for him. One of them, Muḥammad b. Muḥammad, an inlayer, is qualified as "alShāmī" ("from the Bilād al-Shām"), the other, al-Ḥājj Khalīl b. alḤājj Yūsuf, is "al-Ḥalabī" ("the Aleppine"). However, the inscription easily escapes notice. The composition of the mosque's entrance more prominently displays the official foundation inscription above the lintel, which names the patron, Dûḳakînzâde Meḥmed Pasha, the Ottoman governor of the vilâyet, or province, of Aleppo. A chronogram locates the Pasha's act in time, in 963/1555–1556. The Pasha's titles convey a sense of the social order, and of his position within it. By contrast, the craftsmen's signature is undated. As if an afterthought, it discreetly occupies a lower position on the entrance bay, reflecting its lesser standing in Ottoman society. Yet even when hierarchically arranged, the composition of the ʿĀdiliyya's entrance bay forms a unit; the traces of the patron and the craftsmen, the Istanbulbased official and the local journeymen, are locked together in one architectural ensemble.

This pair of inscriptions, and the two voices it makes visible, illustrate the series of encounters between the Ottoman imperial elite based in Istanbul and the societies of territories they conquered. The active, dynamic engagement between the center and the periphery as expressed through architecture and urbanism is at the heart of this study of Aleppo in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The modes of

Heinz Gaube, Arabische Inschriften aus Syrien (Beirut: Orient-Institut der Deutschen
Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 1978), 27, in Arabic.

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