Renovation ongoing at damaged Ağa Mosque

Renovation ongoing at damaged Ağa Mosque

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Renovation ongoing at damaged Ağa Mosque

This photos shows the Ağa Mosque (front) and the controversial Demirören Shopping Mall on İstiklal Street. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

Beyoğlu Mayor Ahmet Misbah Demircan has paid a visit to see the ongoing renovation of the Hüseyin Ağa Mosque, which was badly damaged during the construction of Demirören Shopping Mall on Istiklal Street. Renovations began two weeks ago.

In a written press statement released May 11, the mayor said the renovation would help restore the mosque to its original historical identity, eliminating all the improper edifices applied in the following years.

Shortly referred as Ağa Mosque by locals, Hüseyin Ağa Mosque stands on the junction of Sakızağacı Street, which divides it from the mall. During the construction of the controversial mall, the mosque’s side walls and dome were visibly damaged, bearing cracks that raised eyebrows in the media and among academics. Daily Radikal published a detailed report in November 2011 about the damage to the mosque, prompting Demirören Group to announce that “it was proud to be undertaking the renovation of Ağa Mosque.” It used photographs taken before the mall construction began, saying they showed the mosque’s “old state.”

The construction of Demirören Shopping Mall started in 2006. The 2nd Conservation Committee authorized the construction, on the condition that the new structure should not exceed the height of the historical Cercle d’Orient building, which stands right next to it. However, in 2007 new legislation was prepared and with the Law No. 5366 the newly formed Renovation Committee took over the authority to decide on the case, which doubled the permissible construction area to 38,000 square-meters.

The Demirören Group is chiefly active in the energy sector, owning LPG firm Milangaz and recently acquiring M Oil Petrol. The group also owns the Ata College schools. Demirören Group is a family holding chaired by Erdoğan Demirören. The holding’s substitute chair is his son Yıldırım Demirören, best known for his years at the chair of the board of Beşiktaş Football Club, until he was assigned as the head of Turkish Football Federation in February 2012.

Demirören Holding partners the DK Newspaper and Publishing A.Ş, together with Karacan Group, which owns daily Milliyet and daily Vatan.

Mosque’s fountain by Mimar Sinan

Built in 1596 by Şeyhülharem Hüseyin Ağa, the Hüseyin Ağa Mosque was first renovated by Sultan Mahmud II due to damage occurring over time. Surviving a great fire afterwards, it was renovated by a philanthropist named Suzan Hanım.

In 1938 it was renovated by the Administration of Foundations, which was replaced by the General Directorate of Foundations in the years following. The tiles inside the mosque were replaced with new tiles made from scratch in the central Anatolian province of Kütahya, which is renowned for its tile businesses. The writings in the interior of the mosque were written by İsmail Hakkı Altınbezer, and the floors were covered by specially woven carpets made in the southern province of İsparta, which is known for its high-quality carpet makers.

The fountain in the mosque’s garden was made by the celebrated Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan, brought to the Ağa Mosque from the Sinanpaşa Mosque in Kasımpaşa. There are two other mosques named “Hüseyin Ağa” in Istanbul, one in the Üsküdar district on the Asian side, the other in the historical Sultanahmet neighborhood.