Altun Alem Mosque Novi Pazar

Altun Alem Mosque Novi Pazar

Altun-alem Mosque /mosque with golden alem – the precious stone/ is set in the middle part of the Prvomajska street in Novi Pazar, between the former impressive hamam of Gazi Isa beg /Gazi Isa Ishakovicg bey/ and the fortress of Novi Pazar. This street was called the Stambol road /Tzarigrad road/ while the whole quarter in the Middle ages was known as the Jeleč mahala, after the Medieval fortification of Jeleč /the medieval stronghold and town on Rogozna Mountain/ where the present day Prvomajska street leads. The name of  Jeleč mahala was lost in the 17th century and the dzemat of Altun-alem and  Ahmed vojvoda /high duke/ were introduced. About the historical, urban and artistic significance of the Altun-alem Mosque, which is the masterpiece of the Islamic architecture, under the governmental protection since 1979, supported by the fact that it is one of the best preserved mosques with the double-aisles porch in the former Yugoslavia. Altun alem Mosque is the single tract mosque with the dome which distinguishes itself by the interior decorative elements, among which is the mihrab. The Altun alem Mosque has been built of finely cut stone in the Bursa type of architecture, with lovely developed elements of the early-Tzarigrad style, with four windows in two rows on the outer walls, while on the portal wall there are only one window and the outer mihrab. The only two arches of the Altun alem Mosque make its porch entirely different from the „standard type of  construction“ of mosques in our region, that usually feature three or more arches. The Turkish traveler Evly Cheleby, who passed through those areas in the 17th century wrote: »The mosque called the Altun (alem) mosque is an old shrine, located in the Jeleč mahala on the Tzarigrad road«. The present day Novi Pazar – settlement on the junction of the Jošanica River and the Raška River, was founded by Isa beg Ishaković, the Turkish commander and conqueror, from 1459 and 1461. The town got name of Yeni Bazar, which in Turkish means Novi Pazar, after the location of the Medieval trade center of Pazarište, connected with the most important roads to Dubrovnik, Bosnia and the South coast of Thessaloniki and Tsarigrad.

We reliably know that the Altun-alem Mosque was established and erected in the middle of the 16th century by Muslihedin Abdul Gani, known also as the Mujezin hodža Al Medini. He is famous as constructor of a number of structures in other towns, as he had built the Kurshumli Han and the mosque in Skopje, had reconstructed the hama and possessed several houses with numerous shops. Muslihedin Abdul Gani also constructed masjid and caravan-saray in the village of Mažići near town of Zvecan /nowadays in Kosovo and Metohija/. In the vakufnama from 1550 are noted the following structures in Novi Pazar built by Muslihedip-efendy : the Mosque (Altun-alem), mekteb in the yard of the mosque, three houses for the imam to reside, the famous Han, six shops next to the hamam, six tanner shops at the Tabacka charshi on the banks of  Raška River and seven watermills besides the bridge. Surely the constructor of the Altun-alem Mosque was rich, as could have afforded to build so many structures. However, he was also highly educated and thus known as mavlan – Muslihedin efendy, which as the honorable rank used only for the highly distinguished Islamic scientists and philosophers.

The exact year of construction of the Altun alem Mosque in Novi Pazar is not known to us. In the Turkish archives from 1528 the mahala /quarter/ of Mujezin Hodza with 35 households and families is mentioned. In the 17th century the name of Mujezin hodža mahala was changed into the name of the Altun-alem mahala. The manuscripts of Skopje have it that the Altun alem Mosque is the extraordinary building masterpiece, that can be compared only with mosques built in Istanbul, Edirne and Bursa, and that the Tash Han /the Stone Han/ in Skopje features some similarities with it. In the 19th century the charshi of Novi Pazar was developed, when a number of craft shops and merchant shops were built, which featured the unique facades, that contributed to the oriental appearance of the core/that has not been properly maintained and preserved until present/. The deep oriels with eaves provided in the 19th century the impression of the trade quarter, with prevailing bakeries, built in unique and similar architectural type. Created along the former Stambol road, the space of the charshi starts at the bridge over the Raska river and ends with the „Granata Han“, constructed in the middle of the 19th century, during the period of the most intense construction of this part of Novi Pazar. Han is closely connected with other structures of the Novi Pazar charshi, which features whitewashed facades and wooden elements – windows in rows, porches and eaves that make the unique historical urban whole of the ambient value.


Besides the Altun alem Mosque in Novi Pazar, the Muslihedin Abdul Gani ordered construction of the  »house where Qur’an is to be learned by young children«, as was written in the vakufnama, where the wage of the teacher and his deputy was determined, under the condition that » mualim is reliable, and the best among the good, persistent and capable of teaching and preaching«. This endowment, highly lower than the mosque, was constructed with seal of monumental, with the aim to support the architectural style of the mosque next to it. Mekteb besides the Altun-alem Mosque is important also as one of the oldest mektabs of the Bosnian Pashaluk, preserved up to now.

There is the custom to tell myths and legends about beautiful, especially sacral structures, so the one is connected with the Altun-alem Mosque : Altuna, Hadžira and Halima, three daughters of the pasha, beautiful as the dzenet huries, were born and educated in Novi Pazar. For their beauty, richness and reputation, no one dared to propose marriage to them, as »they were born only for Stambol«, and the royal sarays, and not for Novi Pazar. Days passed and time made it that all three pasha’s daughters remained single. Years before their end – they agreed to leave all their wealth for charity. Altuna donated for construction of the mosque, which is named after her the Altun-alem Mosque. Hadžira donated land for the city graveyard in the south-west part of the town, which is still today known as Hadžet /after the Hadžira sister donor/. The youngest sister funded construction of the fountain in the town, which is still today called Halimača, after the donation of Halima.