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The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture What is This? Provides in-depth historical and cultural information on over a thousand years of Islamic art and architecture


Town in Turkey in the eastern bay of Lake Iznik (anc. Ascania), with important Byzantine and early Ottoman remains. Byzantine rule lasted until 1081 when the city was captured by a group of Seljuk Turks who made it capital of the first Turkish state in Asia Minor. In 1097 the town was reconquered for the Byzantine Empire by the forces of the First Crusade, and from 1204 to 1261 it served as the residence of the Byzantine government in exile and the seat of the patriarch. It remained part of the reconstituted Byzantine Empire until 1331 when it was taken by the Ottoman sultan Orhan (r. c.1324–60).

Orhan converted the Byzantine basilica of Hagia Sophia into a mosque and built an adjacent madrasa (1331–4; destr.), the first in the Ottoman Empire. The mosque had a five-bay porch in front of two rectangular units and an axial iwan opening on to a domed central hall (see Architecture, §VI, B, 2). It is the earliest example of a T-plan mosque, suitable both for prayer and as a convent for itinerant dervishes. The Mosque of Haci Ozbek (1333) contains the oldest Ottoman building inscription. A three-bay porch (destr.) on the west side originally led to the square prayer-hall covered by a dome (inter. diam. 7.9 m) supported on Turkish triangles. In 1334 Orhan founded a small mosque–bath–kitchen complex outside the city walls, 400 m beyond the southern Yenisehir Gate.

The same types of building were constructed in the second half of the 14th century. The Green Mosque (Turk. Yeşil Cami; 1378–92) was built by the architect Hacı bin Musa on the orders of the grand vizier Hayreddin Pasha, a member of the Candarli family of statesmen. A three-bay porch leads through a three-bay vestibule to a square prayer-hall covered by a dome (diam. 11 m). The exterior walls are of cut stone; the interior has a marble dado and a richly carved marble mihrab, the earliest of its kind. The brick minaret (rest.) decorated with green- and other-colored tiles has given the mosque its name. Near by stands the imaret (kitchen) of Nilüfer Hatun (1388), built by Murad I (r. 1360–89) in honor of his mother. It repeats the type of plan used in the Mosque of Orhan for a secular use. The walls are constructed of alternating courses of stone and brick, and tiled domes of different sizes cover the individual units. It has been converted into the Archaeological Museum.

Madrasas, tombs and baths also survive from the early Ottoman period. The madrasa of Süleyman Pasha, son of Orkhan, is the oldest surviving Ottoman madrasa; it already displays the classical form of a closed, domed classroom and domed rooms for students grouped in a U-shape around an arcaded courtyard. Notable tombs include the Kirgizlar Türbe with a conical roof; the Türbe of Sari Saltuk, an open baldacchino on four columns; and the Candarli Türbe (1387) with two domed square halls of unequal size. The Hamams of Murad I and of Haci Hamza are double baths; that of Ismail Bey is smaller but has fine stucco decoration.

Iznik had long produced simple pottery wares, such as the blue-and-black-painted earthenware known as Miletus ware, but some time in the late 15th century potters there began to produce blue-and-white ceramics of a technical standard unmatched in the Islamic world since the fritwares produced at Kashan in the early 13th century (see Ceramics, §III, C, 3). Numerous kiln sites have been discovered in the city and its environs. Iznik vessels and tiles (see Ceramics, §§IV, C and V, A and Architecture, §X, B, 2) have a dense fritted body, white slip and transparent glaze. The decorative palette soon evolved to include turquoise, black, gray–green, pale purple and a characteristic tomato red (see Ottoman, color pl. 3:III, fig. 1). Motifs were first inspired by Chinese prototypes but soon displayed a distinct repertory of flowers, serrated leaves and stems typical of the Ottoman court style (see Saz). The finest pieces were produced in the mid-16th century. Quality declined until the 18th century, when Kütahya replaced Iznik as the main center of ceramic production.


  • Enc. Islam/2
  • K. Otto-Dorn: Das islamische Iznik (Berlin, 1941)
  • A. Lane: Later Islamic Pottery (London, 1957), pp. 40–60
  • A. Lane: “The Ottoman Pottery of Isnik,” A. Orient., ii (1957), pp. 254–81
  • A. Kuran: The Mosque in Early Ottoman Architecture (Chicago, 1968), pp. 17, 21, 34–5, 61–3 and 78–9
  • O. Aslanapa: “Pottery and Kilns from the Iznik Excavations,” Forschungen zur Kunst Asiens in Memoriam Kurt Erdmann (Istanbul, 1969), pp. 140–46
  • G. Goodwin: A History of Ottoman Architecture (London and Baltimore, 1971), pp. 38–9, 44, 71–2
  • O. Aslanapa: “İznik çini fırınları 1985 çalışmaları” [The 1985 season at the Iznik tile kilns], VIII. kazı sonuçları toplantısı [Eighth conference on excavation results], ii (Ankara, 1986), pp. 315–34
  • N. Atasoy and J. Raby: İznik: The Pottery of Ottoman Turkey (Istanbul and London, 1989)
  • J. Henderson and J. Raby: “The Technology of Fifteenth Century Turkish Tiles: An Interim Statement on the Origins of the Iznik Industry,” World Archaeol., xxi (1989), pp. 115–32
  • Y. Ünal: “Iznik (Nizäa)—A Process of Conservation Planning for a Historical City,” Angewandte Stadtforschung in der Türkei: Istanbul, Bursa, Trapezunt, Nizäa, ed. R. Arslan, F. Schaffer and U. Klingshirn (Augsburg, 1993), pp. 87–109
  • O. Aslanapa: “Turkish Pottery from the İznik Excavations,” Rev. Etud. Islam., lix (1997), pp. 187–202
  • J. Carswell: Iznik Pottery (London, 1998/R 2007)
  • S. Kapur and others: “Mineralogy and Micromorphology of Iznik Ceramics,” Anatol. Stud., xlviii (1998), pp. 181–9
  • J. M. Rogers: “Archaeology vs. Archives: Some Recent Approaches to the Ottoman Pottery of İznik,” The Balance of Truth: Essays in Honour of Professor Geoffrey Lewis, ed. Ç. Balım-Harding and C. Imber (Istanbul, 2000), pp. 275–92
  • J. M. Rogers: “Ottoman Centralisation, Architectural Tilework and the Iznik Potteries,” 7 Centuries of Ottoman Architecture, a Supra-national Heritage, ed. N. Akin, A. Batur and S. Batur (Istanbul, 2000), pp. 412–19
  • W. B. Denny: Iznik: The Artistry of Ottoman Ceramics (London, 2004); Ger. trans. as Osmanische Keramik aus Iznik (Munich, 2005)
  • S. Paynter and others: “The Production Technology of Iznik Pottery—A Reassessment,” Archaeometry, xlvi/3 (2004), pp. 421–37
  • D. Blanc: “Gros plan sur la céramique d’Iznik,” Conn. A., dclvii (2005), pp. 6–15
  • F. Hitzel and M. Jacotin: Iznik: L’Aventure d’une collection: Les céramiques ottomanes du Musée national de la Renaissance, Château d’Ecouen (Paris, 2005)
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