Somewhere in the arid hinterlands of Anatolia, immortalized in ochre stone, lies one of Turkey’s most incredible architectonic wonders: the Great Mosque of Divriği. Constructed at the height of the Sultanate of Rûm, the building is not only a spectacular testament to the prowess of her erectors but one of the most extraordinary displays of Seljuk masonry art in the world.
After traversing the vast and varied expanses of Anatolia for more than a month, I have witnessed the faceted face of the mosque manyfold.
In Istanbul, I revelled in the perennial grandeur of the Hagia Sophia, joined the faithful in prayer amongst the lofty halls of Süleymaniye, and lost myself in the immaculate intricacies of Rüstem Paşa. In Bursa, my curious gaze was met by the splendid vision of sultans past and the staggering beauty of early Ottoman artistry, while in Amasya, I rested in the soothing presence of Seljuk masonry and marvelled at the smooth walls of Bayezit touched by the golden rays of a waning sun.
Therefore, after feasting my eyes on such an abundance of Islamic splendour, one might rightfully pose the question what provoked me to hop on a minibus and travel three hours across the extensive Anatolian highlands to an insignificant provincial town only to visit yet another mosque?
The answer is quite simple, because, as I insinuated above, the Great Mosque of Divriği is unlike any other Islamic sanctuary, and quite frankly one of the most remarkable buildings I have ever had the chance to visit.
The Great Mosque of Divriği (and the adjacent hospital) is unique in every aspect. Constructed in 1228/29 by the Turkish Mengujekid dynasty, a local vassal to the Sultanate of Rûm, today not a single comparable complex exists, neither in Turkey nor the entire Islamic world. Similarly, the darüşşifa or “house of medicine” stands proudly as the very first of its kind in Anatolia.
In fact, it is this exceptionalism that prompted UNESCO to include the building in her initial list of World Heritage Sites back in 1985.
To shield this extraordinary architectural wonder from the elements and to preserve its glory for future generation, the entire structure has been covered by scaffolding for a decade now. Nevertheless, preservation efforts have only been conducted for three years (as of 2022) and are expected to finish in 2025. Due to these ongoing renovations, the inside of both the mosque and hospital are currently closed off for visitors, so keep that in mind if you are planning to venture there in the not-so-distant future.
This minor inconvenience shouldn’t deter you from travelling to Divriği in the slightest, however!
Usually, a mosque’s beauty is found within. In Divriği, it is the exterior that shines.
Although, the minbar and mihrab are mesmerising works of art, they pale in comparison to the structure’s gorgeous gates. Perfectly cut columns, embellished with Arabic script and Islamic symbols, rise from the dusty ground before arching across starry skies. Intricate spheres and triangles, diamonds and pentagrams, carefully chiselled into the ochre stone, flow together in mesmerising harmony, while nature blossoms and prospers, intertwining and rooting, and sprouting in abundance. And found in between, a nightingale and blooming rose symbolising Allah’s love.
A spectacular glimpse into the paradise promised to the faithful.
And yet, this obvious display of artistry is surpassed by a more clandestine spectacle. Beyond the 15th of July when the sun reaches a certain position, the structure reveals an astonishing secret: a praying man and two praying women formed from the shadows cast by the mosque’s two side entrances. Truly next level!
I can’t stress enough how outstanding the architecture is. Seriously, the 3D element is insane!
Should you ever find yourself in Central Anatolia stop by the Great Mosque of Divriği. You won’t be disappointed. And who knows, maybe you are equally lucky and get exclusive access to the inner confines of the building, as well!
HOW TO GET THERE FROM SIVAS
By bus | There are four buses a day running between Sivas and Divriği with the following schedule:
To Divriği | 9:00 | 12:00 | 15:00 | 17:00
From Divriği | 5:00 | 8:30 | 12:00 | 16:30
Since the ride lasts roughly three hours, I would suggest taking the early bus at 9:00, then the 16:30 bus back to Sivas to make the most of your day there. Alternatively, you could opt for the 12:00 bus, giving you just enough time to visit the mosque and maybe the castle if you are quick and don’t mind spending only a few minutes at each site.
The price is 100 Lira (5,5€) one way.
Be aware that the buses do not depart from the main bus station but from a smaller terminal right next to it. Leave Sivas bus station at the front (where the buses arrive) and turn left. You will reach the other terminal after roughly 200 metres. The ticket offices are a bit hidden, so if you can’t find them simply ask at one of the eateries and let them point you in the right direction.
By train | Although, there is a train line connecting Divriği with Sivas, I couldn’t find the schedule online. Your best bet would be to simply head to the train station and ask for the train times there.
The Dogu Express (Ankara-Kars line) does stop in Divriği and additionally there is another train going there early in the morning (around 7:00), however, I do not know if any trains return to Sivas in the afternoon. Still, even if there aren’t any, you can always take the train in the morning and switch to the bus in the afternoon.
If possible, I highly recommend taking the train though, since it is not only the budget-friendly option but the more scenic route, as well (though the bus ride is not bad either)!
Opening hours | every day from 10:00-18:00
Entrance fee | free