During a guided tour or shore excursion of Ephesus you have an opportunity to visit one of the oldest mosques of Turkey – ISA BEY MOSQUE, built 1375. Istanbul was not yet conquered and the Ottomans had not yet advanced beyond Söğüt and Bursa either. This 640 year old mosque is located in Selçuk, between the remains of Artemis Temple and the Saint Jean Basilica. As its position reveals, Aydınoğlu Isa Bey wanted to hint that the pagan and Christianity eras ended in these soils with the construction of this mosque.
The Isa Bey Mosque is considered one of the oldest and the most sophisticated works of the Turkish architectural era. Although columns and marble blocks carried from the antique structures in the vicinity were used, the architecture and ornaments carry the traces of the Seljuks. Indeed, its façade, window edges and rims of both domes are covered with Seljuk tiles. The most striking part is the doors. The mosque has two entrance doors: One looks at the west and the other looks to the east. There is also an epigraph on the west door. As the epigraph is only engraved on the door opening to the west, one asks itself whether Isa Bey thought to “make a show of strength to the other side of the sea.” The answer to this question lies maybe in what is written in the epigraph:“Isa, Aydınoğlu, son of Mehmet, the great Sultan, the owner of the citizens of the nation, Sultan of Islam and Muslim people, the glory of the state, religion and world, ordered the construction of this holy mosque…”
The mosque stood as a symbol of power. However, a new era began not only for the beylik but also for the mosque after Isa Bey joined the Ottomans. Isa Bey Mosque lost its importance in this new era and was completely neglected for some time. Furthermore, it also served as a caravanserai in the 19th century, a new feature far from its quality as a mosque.
From the Beylik era to our times the person who revived the Isa Bey Mosque is surprisingly a “Western”, Niemann who headed the excavation works of the Archaeology Institute of Austria. In 1895, he noticed the mosque during the excavations in Ephesus and implemented some minor restorations works. The full restoration was realized in the Republican era, in 1934, led by the Ministry of National Education.
From Anatolian beyliks to the Ottomans to the Republic, this mosque with a modest outlook is like a silent witness of Anatolian history.