A dilapidated 17th-century Muslim place of worship built on Lesvos to honor an Ottoman sultan’s unknown “Queen Mother” will be restored, using a 1.2-million-euro grant from the EU regional development fund for the Aegean islands.
“Valide Djami”, as it is known locally, was built in the old Turkish quarter of Mytilini, known as Epano Skala, at least as early as 1615, according to a dedicatory inscription on its lintel.
Once completed, the building will serve as an epigraphical museum for inscriptions of the Ottoman period, head of the antiquities department for the island, Pavlos Triantafyllidis, told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA).
The stone building is the oldest Muslim temple on the island. It has a saddle roof, but most of that has collapsed. A marble three-step staircase led to the paved courtyard, at the center of which was built a polygonal water fountain of white marble, decorated with engraved arabesques.
Inside, the roof was decorated with color, which after the Treaty of Lausanne and with the departure of the Turks in 1923 was covered with a dark-colored paint. The mihrab, which was nearly six meters high, was decorated with plaster of Paris details.
The temple’s minaret, which was low and followed Arab architectural features, is made of a red stone brought over from Ayvalik, and is almost intact. A small portion of its top has fallen off but the greater part of its stonework is in place.
The reconstruction of the main temple will also include the repair and structural support of the minaret, and the improvement of the surrounding space.
Work has already begun to clean the site, to reveal the stone-flagged courtyard surrounding the temple, and to collect all the architectural elements which may still survive.