Citadel of Erbil (Arbil), brick houses along wall perimeter. 18-19th century. Erbil, Iraq. Photographer: Zainab Bahrani, 2013. Image and data provided by the Media Center for Art History, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University.

Citadel of Erbil (Arbil), brick houses along wall perimeter. 18-19th century. Erbil, Iraq. Photographer: Zainab Bahrani, 2013. Image and data provided by the Media Center for Art History, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University.

Columbia University’s Media Center for Art History at the Department of Art History and Archaeology has contributed additional material on world architecture to the Artstor Digital Library, including approximately 335 interactive and dynamic virtual reality panoramas and more than 5200 photographs.* The contribution presents ancient buildings and monuments in Iraq and the architecture of Turkey—mostly mosques in Istanbul—from the 15th through 19th centuries.

The Iraqi material, nearly 75 panoramas and 1,500 images, documents the complexity and richness of the region’s ancient history, a succession of cultures exemplified by the citadel at Erbil (above), that rises above the modern city in northern Iraq. While the visible fortifications date to the 19th century, the citadel has been occupied for more than 6,000 years and it has risen to a level of 100 feet, comprised of accrued layers of settlement from Mesopotamian times to the present. The tell (Arabic for mound) of Erbil is both a UNESCO World Heritage site and a living community. It is illustrated by nearly 400 images in Artstor.

The most sacred pilgrimage site of the Yazidi people, the sanctuary of Sheik Adi (1073-1162) at the village of Lalish in Iraqi Kurdistan, is also presented in the selection where a distinctive conical dome marks the mausoleum of Sheikh Shemsi. Another mortuary monument is the Qyzqapan Tomb (Ashkawt-i Qizqapan) c. 6th-5th century B.C.E. in the Sulaymaniyah Governorate, Iraqi Kurdistan, hewn from the cliff face, and associated with the Median Empire that originated in Persia.

The architectural history of Istanbul and parts of Turkey is chronicled in more than 3,500 images and 250 panoramas, from the late Christian Era of Constantinople through the centuries of Ottoman rule beginning in 1453 and ending in the early 20th century. The selection centers on the golden age of architecture and the arts when the imperial court commissioned the monumental mosques that characterize the historic city and exemplify the concept of a centralized space articulated by domes and punctuated by minarets.

The most recognized mosque of the city, Hagia Sophia 532-537, now a museum, began as a Byzantine church designed by Isidore of Miletus and Anthemios of Tralles, a feat of scale and engineering that was remade as a mosque at the order of Sultan Mehmed II, known as the Conqueror. The Süleymaniye Mosque 1550-1557, established the preeminence of imperial architect Mimar Sinan. The plan was drawn full scale on the site, and the central dome crowns at more than 50 meters atop a hill looking over the Golden Horn.

The significance of the dome as the symbol of heaven is well illustrated by a view of the ceiling of the early Atik Ali Pasha Mosque, 1496-1497 (shown below), where tiles and painted decorations illuminate the limestone. Glistening ceramic, calligraphy, geometric, and vegetal motifs are all deployed to lure and enthrall the eye and the spirit.

The Blue Mosque commissioned by Sultan Ahmed I was designed by Mehmed Ağa and completed in 1617. (Here we may experience the “living” space in a clip from a virtual reality panorama, which when fully activated allows for greater interaction). With its five main and eight secondary domes it is regarded as the last great mosque of the classical period, the culmination of Sinan’s innovations. When we advance a couple of centuries to the small and bright Ortakoy Mosque, 1854, the expected design has given way to a European-inflected, Baroque Revival sanctuary, a near antithesis to tradition. Designed by the western-trained architects Garabed Amira Balyan and his son Nigoğayos Balyan as the imperial mosque of Sultan Abdülmecid, the building is a testament to the opening of Turkey to western tastes.

Hadım Atik Ali Pasha, commissioner. Atik Ali Pasha Mosque. Dome and eastern half-dome. 1496-1497. Istanbul, Turkey. Photographer: Gabriel Rodriguez, 2013. Image and data provided by the Media Center for Art History, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University

Hadım Atik Ali Pasha, commissioner. Atik Ali Pasha Mosque. Dome and eastern half-dome. 1496-1497. Istanbul, Turkey. Photographer: Gabriel Rodriguez, 2013. Image and data provided by the Media Center for Art History, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University

The Media Center for Art History, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University, explores material culture, vision, media, and pedagogy in the broadest sense to connect faculty research and student learning through the creative application of technology.

Nancy Minty, Collections Editor

View World Architecture (Columbia University) in the Artstor Digital Library or learn more at the collection page.

View World Architecture: Virtual Reality Panoramas (Columbia University) in the Artstor Digital Library or learn more at the collection page.

View Avery/GSAPP Architectural Plans and Sections (Columbia University) for a related collection.

Selected readings in JSTOR:

Açikyildiz, Birgül. “The Sanctuary of Shaykh ʿAdī at Lalish: Centre of Pilgrimage of the Yezidis.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 72, no. 2 (2009): 301-33. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40379006.

Bigelow, Anna. “Hagia Sophia’s Tears and Smiles: “The ambivalent life of a global monument.” In Istanbul: Living with Difference in a Global City, edited by Fisher-Onar Nora, Pearce Susan C., and Keyman E. Fuat, 112-28. New Brunswick, Camden, Newark, London: Rutgers University Press, 2018. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt20vxq27.12.

Ergin, Nina. “The Soundscape of Sixteenth-Century Istanbul Mosques: Architecture and Qur’an Recital.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, vol. 67, no. 2, 2008, pp. 204–221. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/jsah.2008.67.2.204.

Isom-Verhaaren, Christine, and Kent F. Schull, editors. Living in the Ottoman Realm: Empire and Identity, 13th to 20th Centuries. Indiana University Press, 2016. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1b67wfz.

Lawler, Andrew. “Erbil Revealed.” Archaeology, vol. 67, no. 5, 2014, pp. 38–43. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/24364531.

Neci̇poğlu Gülru. “Creation of a National Genius: Si̇nan and the Historiography of ‘Classical’ Ottoman Architecture.” Muqarnas, vol. 24, 2007, pp. 141–183. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/25482458.

*Image totals may vary from country to country, reflecting Artstor’s obligation to address variations in international copyright.