The Ottoman Caliphate was the longest lasting Islamic dynasty in history and one of the largest. An offshoot of the earlier Seljuk Empire, the Ottomans at their height ruled either directly or indirectly virtually the entire Muslim world west of Persia for the better part of six centuries. For about a fifth of this period, they ruled their empire from the city of Bursa, which practically faced the great Byzantine metropolis of Constantinople from across the Sea of Marmara. Not surprisingly, Bursa became one of the world’s most important Muslim cities at this time, and it boasts some of the most important mosques and shrines constructed in the 14th and early 15th century. The tombs of almost all of the early Ottoman sultans are located in Bursa, and these have become the city’s favorite Muslim pilgrimage sites.
The Ottoman dynasty was born out of the collapse of the Seljuk Empire in 1299 AD. It began as one of ten small emirates which emerged in Asia Minor from lands previously held by the Byzantine Empire and occupied by Turkish armies. The founder of the Ottoman dynasty, Osman I, was the most talented and ruthless of these ten emirs, and by the time of his death in 1326, he had absorbed considerable territory into his realm. Most importantly, he led several major expeditions against the dwindling Byzantine Empire, seizing, among other places, the ancient city of Ephesus. Just before his death, his armies seized the city of Bursa, Osman’s last, and probably his most important, victory.
Bursa was selected by Osman and his son Orhan as the new capital city for the burgeoning Ottoman realm, in part because its location allowed the sultans to check any unexpected counterattack by Byzantine armies from Constantinople. During the reign of Orhan I, Bursa was used as a military base from which virtually all of the remaining Byzantine cities and territory in Asia were conquered. Orhan I also turned his military ventures in other directions, conquering most of his neighboring emirates, considerable territory from the rump Seljuk state in Asia Minor, and even a few small Byzantine territories in Europe. By the time of his death in 1359, the city of Bursa was capital of one of the most vigorous and most strategic Muslim realms.
The next century was a great period for the Ottomans and the city of Bursa. Under Murad I, the son of Orhan, the Ottoman Empire began to expand in earnest. Among his early triumphs was the conquest of Adrianople, now Edirne, in 1365 AD, which was soon followed by the fall of much of the Balkan region. After its incorporation into the Ottoman Empire, Edirne was named co-capital with Bursa, with the Ottoman European territories under its rule. Despite this, Bursa always remained the senior, and larger, of the two capitals.
By 1452, the Ottoman Empire was arguably the most powerful Islamic kingdom, and the largest Muslim realm in Europe since the Reconquista of Spain in the 13th and 14th centuries. In fact, many Muslims who fled the Reconquista in the 15th century relocated to the new European territories of the Ottomans. However, in 1453, an event occurred of seismic historical proportions: the Ottomans conquered Constantinople, the last vestage of the Roman Empire. While this was great for the Ottomans, it was not so great for Bursa, which subsequently lost its status as imperial co-capital when the sultans relocated to Istanbul. Despite this, Bursa continued to live on its glorious past, as an important trade city on the overland route to Istanbul and as home to the tombs of almost all of the early Ottoman sultans.
Bursa’s major shrine is the Masjid Yesil, or Green Mosque, a large religious complex on the east side of the city. The Masjid Yesil was built by Mehmet I in the 15th century. The Masjid Yesil was left incomplete when the sultan died. Its name comes from the beautiful green tilework that dominates many of the buildings of the complex. Next door to the mosque is the Yesil Turbe, or Green Tomb. This mausoleum, the most elaborate in Bursa, contains the tomb of Mehmet I, the fifth Ottoman sultan and the builder of the Masjid Yesil.
The next best known shrine in Bursa is the Masjid Muradie, another large religious complex located on the west side of the city. The Masjid Muradie was built by Murat II, the son and successor of Mehmet I, in the 15th century. Although somewhat less impressive than his father’s architectural contribution to the city, it is nevertheless a sprawling affair with the main mosque, a madrassa and other facilities. The mausoleum of Murat II, the sixth Ottoman sultan, is also located on the premesis.
The great complexes of the Masjid Yesil and Masjid Muradie effectively flank the city center of Bursa, approximately 60 miles south of Istanbul. Both mosques are open to Muslims daily from 8:30am-5:00pm (access to non-Muslims may be restricted at times). There is no cost for admission. Web: https://goturkey.com (official tourism website of Turkey)
Bursa’s oldest and largest mosque is the Grand Mosque in the city center. Just to the west of the Grand Mosque are the Mausoleum of Osman I and the Mausoleum of Orhan I, the first and second Ottoman sultans, respectively. Other major mosques in Bursa include the Masjid Emir Sultan and the Masjid Bayezid. The latter was constructed by Bayezid I, the fourth sultan , and would likely have contained his tomb if he hadn’t died in Mongol captivity. Also in Bursa is the Tomb of Murad I, the third sultan, though only part of him is interred here.