The Sanctuary: 2024

Tucked away from Türkiye’s main travel routes are remote, unexplored villages. In the last 20 years, these villages have changed, first with the older, crumbling mosques being replaced with new and often much larger religious spaces. Then, as the economy began to falter, villagers started migrating to larger cities, in pursuit of employment.

Many of those abandoned mosques have been destroyed by the weather over time. Nonetheless, mosques are still present throughout the country; many of them are over 100 years old, entirely constructed of wood, or beautifully painted. In this series, I went in search of these buildings.

You’ll see that each sanctuary invites you to appreciate its understated beauty while providing a window into the nation’s past. They are a poignant illustration of the richness and diversity of the Turkish culture.

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Portal

Where else to begin, but the entrance portal marking the transition into the mosques from the outside world.

Caged

Occasionally these older mosques will be re-purposed by the locals - here (for example) we have cages for hens to produce eggs and to keep warm.

Deep in Dust

The staircase you see here is called a minbar is a pulpit in a mosque where the imam (leader of prayers) stands to deliver sermons. It is also used in other similar contexts, where the speaker sits and lectures the congregation.

Hand Painted

I came across these beautiful ceilings in one area of Türkiye, in particular - this one was one of the highlights of the series - as it had a beautiful colour pallet and it was hand painted.

Storage

The same ceiling from the previous works can be seen above here. The mosque differs from a church in many respects. Ceremonies and services connected with marriages and births are not usually performed in mosques.

In-Dented

The most important element in any mosque is the mihrab, the niche that indicates the direction of Mecca, the Muslim holy pilgrimage site in Arabia, which Muslims face when praying. It is the architectural and symbolic focal point of these religious buildings.

Decorated in Light

Because it is the directional focus of prayer, the (qibla) wall, with its mihrab and minbar, are often the most ornately decorated area of a mosque. This ornate one - is a great example of that.

Stacked

There are other decorative elements common to most mosques. For instance, a large calligraphic frieze or a cartouche with a prominent inscription often appears above the mihrab.

Flare

A mosque's architecture is primarily influenced by the regional traditions of the time and location in which it was built. As a result the style, layout, and decoration can differ greatly.

Piping Hot

Here I had to move many pipes to allow a composition to work - I arrived just on time, for the last light of the day. The dust made things interesting here as I opted for a two - point perspective.

Motives

Türkiye is rich in terms of the mosque designs and styles, however I found these villages mosques usually to be full of colour with hand painted motives on the walls.

Still Life

These older mosque walls - were usually adorned with landscapes that included imaginary buildings, views of cities (mostly Istanbul) or still life scenes. I saw some of these on my journey.

Landslide

In some regions the remaining mosques really do get hit by the elements - such as shown here, where the position of the building lends itself to being hit by landslides.

Vault of heaven

Some mosques also feature one or more domes. While not a ritual requirement like the mihrab, a dome does possess significance within the mosque—as a symbolic representation of the vault of heaven.

Floral Scene

Simple on the outside, some wooden village mosques are covered in naive floral decorations - painted in vivid, myriad colors that date from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Sanctum

The full prayer hall. Seen is an elaborate mihrab with a three-lobed arch, and the cupola of the now uncarpeted village mosque. Unusually, the painted flower motifs of the walls continue into the cupola.

Sacred

The total number of mosques in Türkiye is now estimated to be over 90,000 - but since there is no community in some mosques, imams operate alone.

Solice

Studies also claim that although 99% of the population is purportedly Muslim, only 20% of them undertake regular prayers. If this is true - the situation will of course, only get worse.

Split with Light

During this series, I passed through approximately 18 towns and cities and visited over 40 villages, covering all but two of Türkiye's seven vast regions. And, of course, in each of the villages I visited I appeared completely out of place as a tourist/visitor, so I always tried to blend in.

Succumb

Normally, I had no idea about the structure's condition. And often I'd travel by plane or drive for hours only to find a wrecked structure, or worse nothing - a common theme over the last two years, but it's now part of the job description!

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