Medrese (Arabic: madras, madrasa pl. madaris). Medreses could not be found in the early period of Islam. Their formation is supposed to be derived from the Muslim custom to gather in mosques to discuss religious subjects. Later regular lectures for people who where seeking for religious knowledge where held. Consequently these educational gatherings disturbed the religious activity therefore a separate institution/building type has been developed. The first mayor Medreses appeared in Anatolia and Iraq under the Seljuk Turks (Medrese Nizamiyyah, 1066, Baghdad). The basic layout was a one to two storey high row of small rooms and arcades build around a courtyard. In the usually squared building one could find one to four large vaulted, later domed Ivans (semi open space with walls on three sides). With the Medrese an Islamic institution was formed that could, by uniting prayer-, study rooms, library and residential school functions, be of a religious or secular nature. Lectures where not only limited to religious subjects. Furthermore grammar, astronomy, geography, philosophy, math and medical education were offered. A “Vakif” - a private sponsorship, usually founded such an institute.
The “Yavuz Sultan Selim Medrese” was built by Mimar Sinan in memory of Selim the first from 1548 till 1550. The medrese is also known as “Yenibahce Selim Medrese”.
When Selim became Sultan his tent was deployed at the place where one now finds the medrese.
At that time he uttered the wish to build an educational institution there.
Later in 1563 by request of the population Mimar Sinan transformed the lecture hall into a mescid (small mosque) and a small minaret was added.
1914 a fire in the neighborhood slightly damaged the building.
From 1918 on the former medrese was used as a public kitchen but unfortunately in the same year another fire affected the building.
Not until 1958 a foundation started restoring the building to use it as a Museum.
Regrettably the minaret lost in 1942 wasn’t repaired. In 1962 the Türk Hat Sanatlari Museum opened its gates.
During the 1980ies the building was empty till the Sadieye Hatun Company started using it as a hospital.
In the Yavuz Sultan Selim Medreses surrounding area one finds public fountain and the tombs of Shah Huban Hatun, Selim the 2nd, Sensi Ahmet Pasa, Kilic Ali Pasa and Zal Mahmud Pasa. Furthermore an ancient monastery, which consists of two churches, constructed at different times. The first was built by Constantine Lips, a functionary of Leo VI and Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus in 971 and dedicated to the Theotokos. After 1261 the Empress Theodora added another church with a chapel dedicated to St. John the Baptist. It was converted to the Fenari Isa Mosque in 1496 and was abandoned in the early 20th century after a fire, which completely destroyed the monastery.
The madras has a typical “u-plan”
with a row of arcades and rooms on
three sides surrounding a courtyard.
On the fourth side one finds the lecture
hall, which is covered by a large
dome. When the lecture hall was
transformed into a mescid a minaret
A wall with two entrances surrounds
the madras whereas a domed entrance
hall indicates the main entrance.
After passing the entrance
hall one arrives in a sort of forecourt.
The passages to the main court are
located on the sides of the lecture
hall.The porch of the lecture hall
looms into the courtyard and in the
center a small fountain completes the
A small ewan is located in the south
west of the “u-structure”. Although
the adjacent rooms aren’t bigger than
the standard rooms the access via the
ewan makes them of a higher importance
and indicates a different usage.
Interesting to mention is a small
passage in the east. It leads to the
enclosed garden surrounding the
madrasa. A small jutty serves a visual
cover which indicates that the restrooms
where located there. The rooms
shown in the plan are new but also
serve as restrooms now.
If one approaches the madras from the crossroads in the north, one hardly recognizes the old building. The madrasa is formally drowning in its environment of flashy signs and a misshapen cityscape. Even the madras building itself is wallpapered with tasteless signs that don’t allow a free glance at the monument. In addition it is very disappointing to see that most of the signs are completely unnecessary or could have been executed in a more decent way. Due to a rise of land of about two meters the building seems very low from a far point of view. The dual four-lane Vatan Caddesi without a real pedestrian crossing also complicates the access. The nowadays Halicilar Koskü Caddesi which would connect the the Fenari Isa Mosque, the madrasa and the tombs completely lost its importance because it is dominated by new crosscuts like the Vatan and Oguzhan Caddesi. Surrounding walls and entrances of the madrasa seem to have no orientation because the ancient layout of roads is not understandable any more. It is sad that the connection between the urban layout and the monument could not be preserved at the time the city of Istanbul tried to handle the rapidly increasing traffic.
This Text is a result of a semester work at Istanbul Teknik Üniversitesi
1// "Mimar Sinan" by Reha Günay, ISBN: 9758599216, Yapi.
2// Lectures of Prof. Zeynep Ahunbay
3// Semester work at Istanbul Teknik Üniversitesi; Timur Dogan; see also:Wikipedia