How old are the mosques in Europe? Have you ever wondered about the cultural footprints left in these sacred places? In this list, we’ll embark on a journey to explore Europe’s oldest mosques, bearing the artistic heritage of the Umayyad Caliphate, the grandeur of the Ottoman era, and traces from the Islamic world. These places of worship were once hubs of knowledge and refuge for Muslims. While some have seen changes over time, remnants of Islamic architecture can still be found, even in buildings converted into churches.
Let’s take a historical journey and, in order, explore the Kurtuba, Almonaster la Real (Al Munastir), Bab al-Mardum, Las Tornerías (Al-Mustimim), Cuma (Hüdavendigâr), Çelebi Sultan Mehmet, Ebu Bekir, Alaca İmaret, Mustafa Paşa, and Hüseyin Paşa mosques.
Mosque of Córdoba (8th Century)
This remarkable mosque, which has survived since the glorious days of Al-Andalus, is located in Córdoba, Spain. During the time when Al-Andalus was the capital of the Umayyad Caliphate, it was undoubtedly one of the most cherished mosques among the hundreds in the city. Despite falling into the hands of Christians in 1236, and being converted into a church, the structure remained largely intact for three centuries. While some columns were removed and various additions were made, its fundamental architecture remained unchanged.
The Mosque of Córdoba carries the legacy of two faiths with its historical structure. It is still referred to as Mezquita (Mosque) by the local population and continues to mesmerize those who visit.
Almonaster la Real Mosque (9th Century)
Located in the town of Almonaster la Real in Spain, the history of this mosque dates back to the 9th and 10th centuries. Built upon the remnants of what is believed to be a Visigothic basilica, this mosque is one of the few surviving architectural treasures from the Umayyad period. It stands as the only mosque in rural Spain.
Bab al-Mardum Mosque (10th Century)
One of Europe’s oldest mosques stands in Spain once again. Situated in Toledo, a city formerly known as Medine, it was an area inhabited by wealthy Muslims. The mosque’s architecture, featuring impressive geometric shapes and Kufic calligraphy, lends it an atmospheric setting where you can appreciate Maghreb architecture. However, towards the end of the 11th century, after the city fell to Christian rule, the mosque was converted into a church.
Las Tornerías Mosque (11th Century)
Another timeless mosque that defies the test of time can be found in Toledo, Spain – Las Tornerías. It was built in the mid-11th century on the remains of structures dating back to the Roman era. Its design bears similarities to the Bab Al Mardum Mosque. Following the Christian invasion of Muslim territories, the structure was repurposed for various uses. Today, it is under the care of a private organization and hosts temporary exhibitions.
Cuma (Hüdavendigâr) Mosque (14th Century)
A legacy of the Ottoman Empire, which spread art and knowledge across vast territories, Hüdavengidar Mosque stands in Filibe, the second-largest city in Bulgaria. Built by Sultan Murad I in the 14th century, the mosque carries traces of Balkan and Byzantine architecture. It is also one of the significant examples of early Ottoman architecture in the Balkans.
Çelebi Sultan Mehmet Mosque (15th Century)
Located in the Western Thrace region of Greece, this mosque is also known as Bayezid Mosque. It is considered one of Europe’s most important Islamic monuments, partly due to its striking wooden roof. However, the death of Sultan Mehmet during the mosque’s construction led to the belief that the building was rushed, resulting in some aspects differing from the original design. Despite facing various damages from the First Balkan War to a fire in 2017, the mosque is not yet under proper protection.
Ebu Bekir Mosque (14th-15th Centuries)
Another Ottoman heritage in Bulgaria is the Ebu Bekir Mosque. Located in Yambol, it is a structure praised by Evliya Çelebi in his writings. Although it is still active today, the mosque had a challenging past. Due to the regime in power until 1989, the building was used for various purposes and suffered significant damage. In the 1990s, when Muslims wanted to reopen it for worship and to restore it, they ended up causing harm to centuries-old decorations in the process.
Alaca İmaret Mosque (15th Century)
Representing 15th-century Ottoman architecture in Thessaloniki, Alaca Mosque is one of the precious structures from that era. The minaret was destroyed after the Balkan Wars, and since then, the building has gradually lost its status as a place of worship. Today, it hosts various events.
Mustafa Paşa Mosque (15th Century)
One of the oldest mosques gracing Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia, is the Mustafa Paşa Mosque. It was built by Mustafa Paşa, the vizier of Yavuz Sultan Selim. Apart from restoration efforts, no additions have been made to the structure, preserving its original architecture through the centuries. In terms of location and preservation, this mosque is a significant representative of Islamic architecture in the Balkans.
Hüseyin Paşa Mosque (16th Century)
Our journey to Europe’s oldest mosques concludes in Montenegro. Located in the town of Taşlıca, the Hüseyin Paşa Mosque was built between 1573 and 1594 by Bodur Hüseyin Paşa. It is one of the few mosques with the tallest minaret among Balkan mosques. Today, it is an active place of worship for Muslims and also welcomes Christian visitors with its sacred relics. Additionally, the mosque houses a kilim from 1573 and a 233-page handwritten Quran manuscript from 1571.
These ancient mosques, scattered across different regions of Europe, serve as architectural and historical treasures, reminding us of the rich cultural and religious diversity that has shaped the continent. Their enduring presence and significance offer a glimpse into the enduring legacy of Islamic civilization on the European landscape.