Bursa Grand Mosque (or Great Mosque) is a prominent landmark in Bursa’s downtown. With its two towering minarets and 20 domes, the building is one of the most impressive and important in Bursa. Ulu Cami is considered the fifth most important mosque in Islam, after those in Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem, and Damascus.
Commissioned by Sultan Yildirim Bayezid I, Bursa Grand Mosque was opened in 1399 and built in the Seljuk style of architecture, consisting of both Seljuk and early Ottoman elements. The mosque’s 20 domes are arranged in four rows of five and are supported by 12 columns. This arrangement divides the large, 2200-square meter rectangular room into sections, allowing for a sense of privacy in the midst of the building’s enormity.
Features of the mosque’s interior include a large marble ablution fountain situated beneath a glass dome. The walls and pillars are decorated by a total of 192 calligraphy samples written by 41 different calligraphers, making it one of the most important collections of Islamic calligraphy in the world. The doors and pulpit are made from skillfully carved walnut wood, and the pulpit contains an engraved scaled model of the solar system. East of the highly ornate mihrab, a centuries-old door curtain from the Mecca Kaaba is displayed in a glass case.
The exterior of the building is made from stone. Ornate fountains are located in the courtyard in front of the minarets. The two minarets appear to be identical, but they were built at different times. The west minaret was built as part of the original construction, while the east minaret was built later by Sultan Mehmet I in the 15th Century.
As with many buildings of such importance and history, legends have sprung up and taken root over the centuries. One such legend revolves around Karagoz & Hacivat, the construction workers on whom Bursa’s famous shadow puppet characters are based. As the legend goes, Karagoz and Hacivat had a habit of distracting their co-workers with their jokes and antics. Eventually their playful work ethic delayed construction of the mosque, irritating the sultan and resulting in their execution.
Another legend suggests that a house once stood on the land where the mosque is built. The owner of the house, an elderly woman, did not want to give up her home and resisted eviction. The day after having an intense dream, the woman finally sold her land to the sultan. In the woman’s honor, the architects built the interior fountain on the exact place where her house stood.
Visitors and tourists are welcome to visit Bursa Grand Mosque, and it is an important highlight on Bursa tour. The mosque is open all year round and is only considered off-limits to tourists during scheduled daily prayer times.