Ahunbay, Zeynep, “Restoration of the Hadum Mosque in Gjakovo”

Shepherd Suleyman from a village near Djakovo in Kosovo was taken away from his homeland to Istanbul to serve at the Topkapı Palace.  After years of service to the Ottoman sultan, he decided to go back and build a mosque and a primary school in his hometown. Towards the end of the sixteenth century, he came back and founded a small mosque and a primary school, at a location which is the heart of Gjakovo today. The settlement grew around the mosque. A library was added to the compound in the eighteenth century, enlarging the services it offered to the citizens.

The mosque with the three bay portico was of modest proportions; yet it had a beautiful minbar and a timber gallery for women.   It continued to serve as the main mosque of the town through the centuries. A garden surrounded the three sides of the mosque. Many people from the town were buried there, making it associated with the memories of the past members of the community. In the 19th century, the portico was enlarged and the decoration of the porch and the interior was renovated in the style of the time, with rich decoration using calligraphy and floral patterns.

The most attractive part of the new decoration was the landscape band at the base of the dome. Cypress trees, kula houses and mosques were included in the panorama.  The contribution of several artists, artisans from different centuries made the monument a bright and multilayered assemblage. The floral and calligraphic contribution from the 19th century made the mosque an exceptional monument of graphic art.

The attacks to Ottoman monuments at the end of the 20th century damaged the Hadum Complex; the library and the primary school were totally destroyed. The minaret and the outer porch of the mosque were damaged.  The timber outer porch of the mosque was set to fire; the top of the minaret collapsed. It was difficult to repair all at the same time. The financial support and knowledge in traditional crafts were lacking to accomplish a good restoration. The ruins of the library were removed; it disappeared from the scene altogether. With international aid, the primary school was reconstructed using modern materials.

The artistic qualities of the mosque attracted the attention of concerned people from the international family. Packard Foundation from USA supported the   development of a restoration project. CHwB helped with the organization of the site and the implementation of the project. UNESCO contributed to the restoration of the painted decoration and the fine finishes.  The unique decoration of the mosque was handled with care and conserved with good quality workmanship. Some of the underlying layers from the 16th century decoration in the portico were revealed and exposed. So the complex issue of presenting a multi-layered decoration was done in a successful way.

The return of the monument to everyday use was celebrated with great joy by the locals, the contributors to the project and people from other cities of Kosovo. The loss of a monument is like the loss of a dear friend or a close relative. The attachment of people to this monument and the meaning it had for the people from all over the Balkans as part of the cultural heritage of the area, explains the significance of this recovery.  The Hadum Mosque is a work of art waiting for you, all lovers of cultural heritage, to show the creative genius of mankind finding its reflection even in a small monument.

Zeynep Ahunbay
Prof. Dr. Technical University in Istanbul