Address: Krepostnaya str., 1
Date of construction – 16th century
This building, a small Khan’s mosque, is the oldest in the city.
The exact date of construction is unknown. It probably already existed in the second half of XVI century., which is directly or indirectly indicated by numerous written sources and the results of search work near the mosque, carried out in 2007 by the Izmail expedition of the Institute of Archeology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine under the leadership of I.Sapozhnikov.
This is the only of 8 mosques located in the city on the territory of the Izmail fortress, which has survived to this day. It is also the only representative of Ottoman architecture in Izmail.
After the next, third, capture of Izmail by Russian troops in 1809, the mosque was consecrated in the name of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross as Kresto-Vozdvizhenskaya Church in 1810 at the initiative of the commandant of the Izmail fortress, Lieutenant General S. Tuchkov.
In 1827, Kresto-Vozdvizhenskaya Church was transferred to the military department and became a fortress church (until 1856).
At the beginning of the 19th century and then in 1866 – 1878 the church was repeatedly rebuilt. According to the traditions of Orthodox temple architecture the next was added: the apse – from the east wall, the narthex – from the west wall. A wooden bell tower was built not far from the building – information about that we ca fid in the “Church Metric” (1887). There were three bells poured from Turkish cannons donated to the church by Emperor Nicholas I. One of the bells is on display at the Izmail Fortress diorama today.
In 1890 the Kresto-Vozdvizhenskaya Church was listed as an episcopal house.
In 1908-1909, another restoration took place – the church was painted inside and outside. Gospel inscriptions in Slavic letters were made on the ledges from all sides. The walls were painted with biblical subjects. There was a marble plaque on the eastern side with the names of secular and clergy, who played a role in the history of the city.
In 1948 the church building, as a monument of antiquity, was transferred to the regional Suvorov museum. Subsequently the religious details of Christianity, unusual for suck building, were eliminated and the traditions of Muslim architecture restored.
Since 1973 when the diorama “Storming the Izmail Fortress by Russian Forces and Ukrainian Cossacks on December 11 (22), 1790” was opened in the building a new era began in the life of the former mosque – the era of tourist pilgrimage. The diorama is a unique work of battle painting, that was created by the Russian artists from the Grekov Moscow studio of military artists. E.Danilevsky and V.Sibirsky made the work that is ranked among the most interesting and successful contemporary art works of the military historical genre. Only a few Ukrainian cities can boast with such a museum object. On 8x20m canvas the artists reproduced one of the decisive fragments of the assault on the Izmail fortress, which took place during the Russian-Turkish war of 1787 – 1791.
The architectural appearance of the mosque is quite strict and concise. It became a reflection of a new, original, so-called Sinan direction (named after the great architect Khoji Sinan), which appeared in the XVI century in Ottoman architecture. During this period it reached a peak, incorporating the best traditions of building techniques of the Seljuk Turks and the art of conquered states.
Certain features of the Sinan era are traced in the constructive technique of erecting a dome on spherical sails. Due to them a smooth transition from the lower part of the building to the circumference of the dome is achieved. The spatial composition of the mosque is characterized by a combination of a dome with smaller half-domes.
Domes of the mosque are crowned with so-called Crescent moons. The origin of this ancient astronomical symbol still has no unambiguous explanation. Most sources agree that it was borrowed by the Turks from the Byzantines after the capture of Constantinople in 1453. Subsequently, the mosques of the Ottoman state began to be decorated with crescents in order to establish a difference from Christian churches. However, this symbol, despite its religious coloring, did not become one in its origin, there is not even a mention of it in the scriptures.
The dimensions of the building are relatively small, it can accommodate no more than a hundred people. It’s square in construction. The main entrance to the mosque is framed by a platband of marble and decorated in the form of a gallery-portico, which is the center of the composition of the northern facade.
The walls of the mosque were erected from the local building material – hewn stone shell rock. Such wall masonry has been widespread in Turkey since ancient times.
The floor of the mosque was made of marble slabs. The use of valuable materials during decorating temple details and decorating these details with embossed ornaments are the characteristic features of Muslim buildings, the architectural decor of which is based on the contrast of light and shadow, on the comparison of the smooth plane of the wall and details saturated with ornament.
The gallery of the Izmail mosque has three slender lancet arches, supported by four round marble columns of Moorish architecture, delivered from the island of Rhodes, Greece. They are crowned with marble “stalactite” capitals, having the shape of inverted truncated pyramids, giving us a logical impression of solid stone, which can bear the load resting on it. The transition from columns to capitals is decorated with a bronze roller.
The base of the columns is also made of bronze. On one of them, on the far left, there is an inscription made in 1702 in Farsi, the language of some peoples living today in Iran and Afghanistan, and formerly part of the Ottoman Empire. The inscription consists of two lines and was translated by the Institute of Oriental Studies in Moscow as follows:
“The rebellion of the Tatars arose from a well-fed life …”.
The second line is translated with some liberty:
“… arose on a date from wealth.”
Apparently, this inscription most likely conveys a condemning attitude towards the rebellion of the Bujak Tatars, who attacked the Ottoman garrison of Izmail.
Two marble columns, destroyed in the 40s of the XX century, were also objects of the architectural complex of the mosque. They were located on the north-eastern side of the building and are captured in photos of 1901, 1909 and 1930s.
The foundations of columns made of marbled limestone were found during the archaeological expedition in 2007. According to archaeologists, most likely the columns were built at the same time as the mosque and were the remains of another gallery in front of the second entrance, which was also blocked by a dome resting on columns.
The minaret was adjacent to the northwest corner of the structure. It was rather slender in proportions, which made a certain contrast with the heavy and squat mosque building. Its basis was a square pedestal. There was a round trunk on it with an overhanging balcony in the upper part, ended with a round turret, the conical dome of which was crowned with a crescent spire. Some picture of it can be obtained from the watercolor “The assault of the fortress of Izmail on December 11, 1790” by M. Ivanov, the participant of the assault on the Izmail fortress by the artist M.
In 2007, the foundation of the minaret was discovered during archaeological excavations – a three-stage rectangular structure, characterized by fundamental nature and a fairly high level of construction technology.
It became clear that the minaret could be connected together with the adjacent section of the western wall of the mosque in its lower aerial part. However, archaeological materials that would clarify the date of its construction, as well as the destruction, could not be found. Therefore, we can only assume that the minaret was most likely dismantled in 1810 when the mosque was converted into an Orthodox church.
The main focus of the interior of the mosque was mihrab. This is a semicircular niche in the wall, indicating the direction to Mecca (west of Saudi Arabia) – a city considered to be a sacred place for Muslims, the birthplace of the founder of the Muslim religion, the prophet Muhammad. The eyes of all believers should be directed to this city during prayer.
Usually mihrab is the most decorated element of the temple. In the Izmail mosque it is made of marble, that decorates its magnificent “stalactite” completion. There are two more small modest mihrabs on the northern facade of the building.
The walls of the building were originally plastered, apparently, only from the inside and painted with Muslim ornamental patterns – arabesques.
It is known that the image of living beings is forbidden by the Quran, because it resembles the creation process, available only to God. In order to compensate for this shortcoming Muslims developed the art of ornament. Therefore, it is the main motive for the decoration of any mosque. It can be a geometric, epigraphic or floral ornament. Usually all three species coexist closely. In this mosque, fragments of only floral ornaments are preserved to our days, the main motives of which are the leaf and the flexible, curly stalk of peas.
A special story is associated with a bell, that located in the lobby of the building and previously adorned the entrance to the Suvorov museum. Old-timers recall when a soldier armed with an assault rifle defected from the Bolgrad division and arrived to Izmail in the early 60s. While exchanging fire with the police he shot into the bell several times – traces of the shots can be seen today.
The information was prepared with the assistance of Olga Pankova, the deputy director for research at the Suvorov museum.