When the modern nation of Turkey left behind its centuries-old capital at Istanbul and relocated the government to Ankara, they also left behind countless spectacular mosques. Ankara then had virtually no major mosques to speak of. In order to rectify the situation, and establish Ankara as an important Muslim city within the new republic, Turkey built the Masjid Kocatepe in the new capital. This mosque, which blended traditional Ottoman elements with modern styles and techniques effectively ushered Turkish religious architecture into the 20th century. The Masjid Kocatepe, unofficially regarded as the national mosque of Turkey, is the largest mosque in Ankara and by far the city’s most recognizeable landmark.
The Ottoman Empire was arguably the greatest if not the largest empire in Islamic history; the Ottoman dynasty, which lasted nearly unbroken for more than six centuries, one of the most enduring. Throughout most of this period, the Ottoman capital had been Istanbul, which had also been the capital of the preceeding Byzantine Empire since the 4th century. In 1922, the Ottoman dynasty, their empire, the position of caliph and the glorious history of Istanbul as one of the world’s greatest capital cities came to an end.
The Ottoman Empire, which had already been in a long decline by the beginning of the 20th century, took a last gamble to regain its former glory by siding with the Germans and Austrians during World War I. The risk failed, the German side lost, and the Ottoman Empire was subsequently dissolved by the victorious English and French. All of the Ottoman territories outside of modern-day Turkey were stripped away. In 1918 the position of sultan was abolished, followed by the position of caliph four years later.
At first it looked as though Turkey would be broken up altogether, with pieces distributed to Italy, Greece, Armenia, England, France and other groups, while the Turks would be left only with a rump state in the heart of the peninsula. In fear of this, the Turkish government, such as it was, began to reorgnize itself in Ankara. However, in 1923, it was decided that the Turkey would remain more or less intact; but by this point the government was more or less settled in at Ankara, which was subsequently declared the country’s new capital.
The establishment of a new capital gave the Turks the opportunity to develop Ankara as a new, modern city. Although there was an old section, which had buildings dating back as far as Roman times, most of what is now Ankara dates from no earlier than the mid-20th century. Of course, as the capital of an important Muslim-majority country, it was recognized early on that Ankara required a major new mosque to reflect the new national identity. After a long design process that spanned decades, the Masjid Kocatepe, the first major neo-Ottoman mosque of the modern era, was completed.
The Masjid Kocatepe is a wholly 20th century creation. However, the design process took over twenty years, largely due to disagreements over how modern the mosque should be. Construction began in the early 1960s, but the design was deemed too modern; eventually a compromise resulted in an immense structure that had the overall look of a traditional Ottoman-style mosque but with modern structural components and design elements.
From a distance the Masjid Kocatepe, which can be easily seen from all over Ankara, is reminiscent of the great mosques in Istanbul, with a pile of domes forming a pyramid-like structure and pencil-thin minarets at the corners. The great central dome is crowned with a golden spire. Up close, the more modern masonry-work, which tends to be less decorative, is more evident. However, the mosque interior is as magnificent as anything else in Turkey, with particularly intricate tilework decorating much of the ceiling and interior of the domes.
The Masjid Kocatepe is located in the Kizilay district in the center of Ankara, approximately 200 miles southeast of Istanbul. As of this writing, no other visitor information was available. Web: https://goturkey.com (official tourism website of Turkey)
While Ankara lacks the phenomenal roster of attractions enjoyed by its predeccesor, there are dfinitely a few other places of Muslim interest in the city. Ankara’s oldest mosque is the Masjid Alaeddin, not to be confused with the mosque of the same name in Konya. The architect Sinan built the Masjid Yeni and restored the Masjid Haci Bayram in the 16th century. The city’s most popular site is the Mausoleum of Ataturk, the first president of an Islamic Republic.
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