A Story of the Aladza

By Meša

After long 27 years, one of the most interesting and unique mosques of Bosnia and Herzegovina will finally be revived. Turbulent historical story, architecture and Islamic art describe this sacral object of unutterable significance for every good person who values art, creativity and differences. This is a story of a mosque, people and search for answers. 

˝Whatever good things we build end up building us.”

Jim Rohn

Alaca is a Turkish word whose meaning everyone in the city of Foča, Bosnia and Herzegovina knows. Colorful, cotton fabric with stripes and floral ornaments, commonly pronounced in Bosnian as aladza, adopted a new purpose in 1549, when a breathtaking mosque was built. It had numerous ornaments which became a trademark of mosque´s decoration, as well as a symbol of Foča. Therefore, this monument was named Alaca or Šarena džamija, meaning “colorful mosque”. It was constructed by Hasan Nezir, who worked with one of the most famous Ottoman architects, Mimar Sinan.

Hasan was from small village in Bosnia. He always knew he was born for great things, and his only destination in the Ottoman Empire was Constantinople, or Tsargrad as the Slavs called the capital. Quickly, Hasan became successful and earned rank of nazir, an inspector of an endowment. After years of service, Hasan returned to Foča. An old story says that Hasan´s mother died of happiness when she saw her son again. Hasan decided to build a memorial for his mother and his homeland. There are numerous examples of art works dedicated to mothers in Bosnian history, like a poem by Skender Kulenovic Na pravi put sam ti majko izaš´o. However, Aladza was a unique instance of the combination of two different kinds of love: the love for one’s mother and the love for God.

The Ottoman Empire ruled in Bosnia and Herzegovina and was largely responsible for introducing Islam to the Balkans. As one might easily conclude, Islamic art became one of the most used art expressions. Islamic art was mostly shown through architecture, such as the building of mosques. A very important part of this style was ornaments. However, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, only Aladza mosque was built in the classical-Ottoman style, which resulted in painted walls with original ornamentations, an open exterior portico, and a minaret. The architectural and artistic value of the mosque is enormous.

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Unfortunately, Hasan only had three years to watch his masterpiece give the people of Foča a chance to dedicate their selves to God, as he died in 1553. On his gravestone, these words are engraved in Turkish: “With help of angels, a bitter goblet was poured out, from which everyone in this world has to taste and move from misery to the house of bliss and satisfaction: gifted by God, blessed Nazir Hasan, Sinan’s son, at the end of the month of Zilhidza in 960.”

A Century of Peace After The Century of Wars

In 1992, the Aladza mosque was destroyed. Remains of this Bosnian pearl were found on two locations. Further analysis showed that the mosque was only decomposed on fragments from which it was built, proving it was made with finest stone in the most modern and technically advanced way. But the real power lies in the story of the adhan. After the mosque was destroyed, the adhan could be heard from the direction of minaret, although there was nothing there. People described it as the cleanest, most beautiful and most powerful sound.

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The Aladza mosque will once again shine in Foča in May this year, as a symbol of love towards one’s mother, as well as a symbol for love and respect towards God. It is a haven for people with uncorrupted hearts. And after a long 27 years, one of the most interesting and most unique mosques of Bosnia and Herzegovina will finally be revived, representing peace, faith and brighter future.

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