Prizren, an old Ottoman city located in the southern region of Kosovo, has its roots in Albanian heritage while embracing Islam under the Turkish identity. This makes Prizren, Kosovo, the next stop in our series of Islamic cities. Enjoy the read.
Name and Foundation of Prizren
Prizren has been known by various names throughout its existence. According to some linguists, the name Prizren translates to “great fortress, rich city, strong city,” while Ottoman sources mention names such as “Pürzerrin, Perzerrin, Pürzen, Zerrin.” The term “Pri” signifies urbanization, and “Zerrin” means gold, suggesting that Prizren’s name might imply “rich city, strong city.”
When we examine Prizren, we find a rich history and evidence of hosting multiple civilizations. The Romans, who settled in the Balkan region of Europe, were the first to discover and establish the city. Their main interest in Prizren was due to it being the only route connecting the Balkans to the Adriatic Sea through Priene. Indeed, Prizren’s association with Adriatic Sea’s wealth is what makes it special. Prizren changed hands between powerful rulers such as Romans, Huns, Serbians, and Ottomans until gaining independence.
An Ottoman City in the Balkans: Prizren
Before the Ottomans arrived in Prizren, the city remained under Serbian control for many years. However, the Ottomans redirected their course to the Balkans, changing Prizren’s fate. After their defeat in the First Battle of Kosovo in 1389, the Serbians handed over the city to the Ottomans. Although the city was initially entered during the reign of Murad I, it became fully under the Ottomans during the time of Mehmed the Conqueror. Ottoman rule lasted for four centuries, during which thousands of families from Anatolia were settled in the Balkans, making Prizren and other Balkan cities a new homeland for Turks. Muslims and Christians lived together harmoniously. During their presence, the Ottomans constructed 37 mosques in Prizren, along with bridges, baths, and fountains.
The First Ottoman Monument in Kosovo: Namazgâh Mosque
Namazgâh, also known as the Broken Mosque, holds the distinction of being the first Ottoman structure in Prizren. When the Ottomans conquered the city, Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror ordered the swift construction of this mosque to ensure prayers continued without disruption. He personally attended the first Friday prayer at this mosque with his army. However, when the Ottomans withdrew from the region, the Serbians took over the city and made changes to the Namazgâh. It remained unattended for a long time and now stands as a historical heritage.
The Symbol of Conquest: Fethiye Mosque
As soon as Fatih Sultan Mehmed arrived in Prizren, he made numerous changes, including introducing architectural structures. It is said that while staying in Prizren for three months until the conquest of the city, Mehmed the Conqueror ordered the transformation of Sv. Bogorodica, Prizren’s largest Orthodox church, into a mosque after Friday prayers. This structure, representing the conquest, became known as Fethiye Mosque. For many years, it served as a mosque until the Ottomans left the city, and it was converted back into a church.
The Minaret that Survived Without a Mosque
Another Ottoman architectural relic is the Arasta Mosque. Many structures were damaged or destroyed during wars in Prizren and its aftermath, and during the Yugoslav government era, the mosque was demolished along with other buildings. However, one minaret managed to stand the test of time.
A Serene Stone Bridge
According to legends, the bridge was commissioned by Sinan Pasha, the Conqueror of Yemen and father of Ali Bey, as part of a foundation in the Balkans. Situated on the slopes of the mountains and along the river, the bridge blends beautifully with the city’s aesthetics and remains one of Prizren’s significant Ottoman symbols. The bridge, which has not lost its vibrancy, continues to attract tourists.
The Meeting Point of Prizren People: Historical Fountain
It is said that there are a total of 150 Ottoman fountains in Kosovo. One of them is the historical Şadırvan Fountain, located in the heart of Prizren. The fountain holds a special significance, as it was built in the city square, making it a place where people rested and drank water, both in the past and now, serving as a meeting point for people. There is also a widespread belief that anyone who drinks from the fountain will return to Prizren.
Cultural Center: Gazi Mehmet Pasha Hamam
Gazi Mehmet Pasha Hamam is a historical Ottoman bath built in Prizren during the glorious days of the Ottoman Empire. It actively served until 1926 and was completely closed in 1944. The structure, bearing the same name as Gazi Mehmet Pasha Mosque, was designed with separate sections for women and men. This significant Ottoman reflection in the Balkans now serves solely as a venue for cultural events.