Explore North Central Anatolia
Divriği retains a ramshackle bazaar area, crisscrossed by cobbled lanes and grapevines. Architecturally the town sports distinctive wooden minarets and old houses with inverted-keyhole windows, neither of which are seen elsewhere in Anatolia. The conspicuous mosque and sanitorium, joined in one complex at the top of a slope 250m east of town, command a fine view.
The Ulu Cami, dedicated in 1228 by a certain Ahmet Şah, is remarkable for its outrageous external portals, most un-Islamic with their wealth of floral and faunal detail. Rather far-fetched comparisons have been made to Indian Moghul art, but a simpler, more likely explanation is that Armenian or Selçuk craftsmen had a hand in the decoration. The north door, festooned with vegetal designs, is the most celebrated, although the northwestern one is more intricately worked – note the pair of double-headed eagles, not necessarily copied from the Byzantines since it’s a very old Anatolian motif. Inside, sixteen columns and the ceiling they support are more suggestive of a Gothic cloister or a Byzantine cistern. There’s rope-vaulting in one dome, while the northeastern one sports a peanut-brittle surface, in terms of both the relief work and variegated colouring; the central dome has been rather tastelessly restored. The mihrab is plain, flanked by an extravagant, carved wooden mimber.
The adjoining Darüşşifa was also begun in 1228 by Adaletli Melike Turan Melek, Ahmet Şah’s wife. Its portal is restrained in comparison to the mosque’s, but still bears medallions lifted almost free from their background. The sanitorium complex is theoretically open daily 8.30am to 5pm, but in these lean tourist times the gate is usually locked, so you must find the caretaker to gain admission – easiest just after prayers next door. A small donation is requested after signing the guest register at the conclusion of the tour.
The caretaker proudly points out some of the more arcane features of the interior, which is asymmetrical in both ground plan and ornamentation, and even more eclectic than the mosque. Overhead, the dome has collapsed and been crudely replaced in the same manner as the mosque’s, but four-pointed vaulting graces the entry hall, with even more elaborate ribbing over a raised platform in the eyvan, or domed side-chamber, at the rear of the nave. The fan-reliefs on the wall behind this once formed an elaborate sundial, catching rays through the second-floor window of the facade.