The mosque of Kasim Pasha in Bozüyük has been mentioned in many travel books, and is famous because of its coloured - glaze fayance decorations. It has been constructed in 1528 as a part of a large building complex consisting of quest houses, kitchens and a kervansaray. A tile of the minber bearing an inscription that the bath was built in 1525 by Kasım Paşa indicates that there have been many changes in the mosque after a fire and it was re - built in the eighteenth - century, probably using the tiles of a bath, location of which is unknown. The most important part of the mosque is a kürsî on the left - hand corner of the mosque resting on four columns brought by Kasim Pasha from Hama, who was the governer (mutasarrıf) of that city during 1516-20. The most remarkable part of the columns is the carved decoration of the capitals containing vegetal, animal and human motifs. Its inscriptions bear the name and the titles of the Ayyubid ruler Sultan al - Malik al - Muzaffer Taqi al - Din Mahmud, which indicates a date in the thirteenth century.
The inscriptions and the relief decorations of the mosque and the Kürsî have been very well studied and published by F. v. Taeschner and R. Μ. Riefstahl in an article “Aus der Mosche Qâsim Pasha’s in Boz Üjük,” in Der Islam, XX/2 (1932), pp. 182-195. The inscriptions on the impost and on the upper part of the column are the same except for one word. That of the impost says: “ Sultan al - Malik al - Muzaffer TaqI al - Din Mahmüd ordered the construction of this blessed place (mekân).” On the other hand, the second inscription uses the word “Dâr” (house) instead of “Mekân - place.” We do not know what this difference meant. It may indicate a certain meaning or it might be a result of the lack of place or a wish to break the monot- hony. The question is the identity of the person mentioned in the inscription. There were two sultans bearing the same name and the titles: Muzaffer II (1229-44) and III (1248-98) both being the sons of Malik al - Mansur I and II of the Ayyubids.
Although Riefstahl has dealt with the columns and the capitals very well an compared them with the Carrand ivories, the wooden beams of the Qala'ûn’s Maristan, the Mosul metal work and the Anatolian stone decoration, and dates to the thirteenth century, there are some remarks which I would like to make in this article. Both Taeschner and Riefstahl tend to accept the fact that they might be brought from the mosque of Nur al - Din in Hama because of the similarity to the decoration of the animal frieze of the mihrab Muzaffer II in that mosque. If one accepts this view the Hama capitals might be dated to the mid - thirteenth century. However, Riefstahl also tends to date them towards the end of the century which seems more reasonable. He also maintains that Ayyubids were against the figural representation, and since the zengids were interested in that type of decoration, this part of the Ayyubid domain was under the influence of the Zengids and served as a bridge between Mesopotamia, Iran and Anatolia.
Actually we know little about the city of Hama and its Ayyubid period (1178-1298). It was composed of two parts: upper and lower Hama. The lower city which has been richly adorned with buildings during the period of Nur al - Din contained a hospital, three medresehs and the palace of Malik al - Muzaffer, in addition to the Mosque of Nur al - Din. In the upper city, on the other hand, there was the old mosque of the Umayyads with courtyards and revaqs containing a pool, mihrabs and a building of treasury resting on eight ancient colums. There was the tomb of Muzaffer III joined with the mosque through a corridor. This part of the city contained a lot of ancient elements since the mosque was located on an ancient spot and converted from an ancient church. The Hama capitals might originate from one of these buildings, very probably from a profane one, since contains human figures, but at the moment we do not know where they came from.
During the recent years many objects made for the Ayyubid rulers were brought to light, and we understand that they were not against the figural representation. Next to the representations on the Ayyubid coinage, late Dr. D. S. Rice gave a list of ten objects ordered by the Ayyubids during the years 1238-1321 (D. S. Rice, “Inlaid Brasses from the Workshop of Ahmad al - DhakI al - Mawsilli,” Ars Orientalis, II (1957), pp. 284-346, esp. 326). Apart from them, there is an astrolob in the Germanisches Museum in Nürnberg made by a Nishapuri artist for al - Malik al - Muzaffer Taqi al - Din (M.v. Berchem, “Notes d’Archeologie arabe,”
Jurnal Asiatique, VIIIe serie, XIX (Mai-Juin 1892), pp. 377-407, esp. pp· 391-92).
The four capitals of the Kasim Pasha Mosque contain the same decoration on the outer sides, while the inner sections were left undecorated, indicating that they were used to be seen from the decorated fasades. Of the bell - shaped capitals the broad sections contain a vegetal decoration resembling the vaq - vaq ornament and the corner sections are carved in a triangular way resembling a spherical triangle and contain two human figures climbing a tree indicated by a spiral tendril. The zig - zag voluted columns do not contain any remarable decoration and a base (Figs. 1-11). Only on the lower section there is a frieze of animals walking on foliage, which has been a typical motif from the early Islam on and also used in the decoration of the mihrab of the Nur al - Din mosque donated by Muzaffer II.
The motif of human beings and animals intermingled with the foliage, resembling the vaq - vaq ornament has been widely used during the 11th - 13th centuries creating a certain classicizm from the the eastern Islamic lands to the western. Therefore, one most locate the place and the position of the Hama capitals within this tradition. In the East the silver plaques found in Kotskhar in the Hermitage Museum (attributed to the 11th century) and the marble doors of the Palace of Ghazne are the examples of this type of a decoration. It has been also a popular motifin western Islam as indicated by the Fatimid wood carving, ivory panels and the carrand ivories. The motif of climbing figures, although appear in the above - mentioned examples, best examples are found among the metal work of the period. The closest parallel of this is seen on the medallions of the candlestick made by Abu Bakr b. Haji Jaldak in 1225 for the last Artukid Sultan of Amida and Hasan Keyf, al - Malik al - Mavdüd (1222-1232), who had escaped from the Ayyubids of Damascus and took refuge in the Court of the Hama Ayyubids in 1237. An incised inscription on the candlestick indicates that it belonged to a lady (dâr) under the protec tion of one of the slaves of al - Malik al - Muzaffer (D.S. Rice, Op. Cit., pp. 318 -19, Fig. 40 e, g. ; I would like to point out, however, that the use of the word “dâr” might need a further explanation. Μ. v. Berchem, Matériaux pour un Corpus Inseriptionum Arabicarum, Paris, 1894, I. Egypt, pp.187 – 188, interprets the word “dâr” either as a palace or a lady. It seems that especially during the Mamluk period it was used in the sense of a lady. Since Dr. Rice did not give the full inscription, I think it is not clear whether the word “dâr” means ‘palace’ or ‘lady’.) The representations in these medallions show a human figure climbing a tree. The posture of this figure resembles the one with a basket in hand in the Hama relief. Since, apparently the candlestick was in the Court of the Hama Ayyubids at that time, it might have influenced the stone carvings. Another similar motif appears in the well - known canteen in the Freer Gallery in Washington, D. C., in the scene depicting the Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (See: G. Fehérvâri, “Art and Architecture,” in the Cambridge History of Islam. II. The Further Lands. Islamic Seciety. Cambridge, 1970, pp. 702-741, Fig. 22a; L. T. Schneider, “The Freer Canteen,” Ars Orientalis, IX (1973), pp. 137- 156, p.139, Pl. 2/6. The auther points to the similarities to the Ayyubid works and maintains a Mesopotamian or Syrian provenance for the canteen.) On this piece the figures on the trees welcoming Jesus indicate the same repertoire. In all these works a similar motif is used in the scenes of different content calling to mind that a certain pattern has been adapted to different media and content in each case. They constitute the patterns of the repertoire of the Sejuq - period. The figure with the basket wears a hat resembling the 14th century mongol headgears. The figures in the Hararî bowl and on a candlestick in the Keir Collection (another example of this is found in the Museum of Islamic Art in Bursa indicating that they were once a pair), and the frontispiece miniature of the Maqämät of Hariri in the National Library in Vienna wear such hats. These characteristics indicate that the Hama relief of the capital indicates a period in which the western and eastern Islamic traditions were assimilated, and it was a work of a transition period from the thirteenth - century Seljuq classicizm to the fourteenth century.
When we deal with the vaq - vaq like ornament of the broader surface of the capital, this point becomes clearer. As pointed out by Riefstahl it is one of the most popular motif in Islamic Art. The closest examples of it are the decoration of the brass tray made for the Rasulid Sultan al - Malik al-Mu’ayyad Da'ud made in Cairo in 1297-1321 now in the Metropolitan Museum - New York (D. S. Rice, OP. Cit., Fig. 99), the Stone relief from Ghazne and the Nisan Tast in the Mavlana Museum in Konya (for both these examples see: E. Baer, Sphinxes and Harpies in Medieval Islamic Art, Jerusalem, 1965, pp. 82-83, PL XLVII; “The Nisan Tası. A Study in Persian - Mongol Metal Ware,” Kunst des Orients, IX, 1/2 (1873-74), PP. 1-46)· Although the Ghazne relief belongs to the Palace assumed to be executed by the order of Mas'ûd III (1099-1115) or Bahramshah (1117-1153), the relief seems to belong to a later period from the point of its similarity to the decoration of the Nisan Tası. Since the Ghaznavids came to an end at the end of the 12th century, it is difficult to explain their existence in the Ghazne Palace.
The most characteristic motif of the Hama relief is the transformation of the tendrils into the animated half palmettcs in the form of ducks, birds and pheasants which indicates a late thirteenth century date. Such a transformation is seen on an incense burner in the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore (E. Baer, Op. Cit., Fig. 45) from the late thirteenth century, and on an Ilkhanid candlestick dated 1308 (A Survey of Persian Art, XII, Pl.1355). A design in the Diez Albums in Berlin Fol. 73, p. 51 shows a remarkable resemblance to the Hama relief. It is a design of a color consisting of spirals trasforming into ducks, birds and pheasants (Fig. 23). Here, one cannot talk about an arabesque decoration, but the rendition of the ducks and pheasants, the confronted birds on either side of a peony flower, downwards flying pheasants or pigeons indicate that the Hama relief, the incense burner and the Berlin design, they all had a similar pattern behind them. The similarity between the Hama fragment and the album design indicate that the design cannot be later than the 14th century.
Apart from these examples, an illumination in an Armenian Evangel (Deissmann No. 122) in the Topkapi Museum executed in Tarsus in 1273, on p. 13, shows a similar motif being consisted of an all - over pattern of tripartite palmettes. The side leaves of the palmettes have taken the form of ducks, while those in the center contain a human head. It is a good example to show the close relationship between the local Muslims and the Christians during the thirteenth century and strengthens the possibility that the Hama relief belongs to the end thirteenth century.
We do not know the original use of these capitals. They might be placed on either sides of some niches or they might have been also used as the supports of a Kursî. Such décoratif columns were also employed in the Mcdival European Art as seen in an example in the Cloister of Benedittini in Monrealc (E. Kühnel, Die islamischen Elfenbeinscul türen, VIII- VIII. Jahrhundert, Berlin, 1972, p. 83, Fig. 65). It seems that both the Crusades and the trade between the East and the West had influenced the forms, and the local Christians served as an intermediary between these two worlds.
We do not know either, whether these colums were placed into the mosque of Kasim Pasha during its first construction, or they were used somewhere else, perhaps in a kioshk, and were later brought to the mosque after its reperation during the eighteenth century, during the time when there was a more liberal attitude towards the figural arts.
As it is seen, although the Hama reliefs are only a small part of the complex of the Kasim Pasha in Bozüyük, they constitute one of the most interesting problems of Islamic decorative arts, both from the point of view of the Ayyubid and Ottoman arts. We expect that further studies would bring some solutions to this interesting relief of the Ayyubid period and to the monumental Ottoman complex of Kasim Pasha in Bozüyük.