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"Türbe of Damad Ali-Pasha, conqueror of the Morea", in Belgrade's Kalemegdan fortress. Note the hexagonal base.

Türbe is the Turkish word for "tomb", and for the characteristic mausoleums, often relatively small, of Ottoman royalty and notables. It is related to the Arabic turba, which can also mean a mausoleum, but more often a funerary complex, or a plot in a cemetery.[1]


A typical türbe mausoleum is located in the grounds of a mosque or complex, often endowed by the deceased. However some are more closely integrated into surrounding buildings. They are usually relatively small buildings, often hexagonal or octagonal in shape, containing a single chamber, which may well be decorated with coloured tiles. A dome normally surmounts the building. They are normally kept closed, but the inside can be sometimes be glimpsed through metal grilles over the windows or door. The exterior is typically masonry, perhaps with tiled decoration over the doorway, but the interior often contains large areas of painted tilework, which may be of the highest quality.

Inside, the body or bodies repose in plain stone sarcophagi, perhaps with a simple inscription, which are, or were originally, covered by rich cloth drapes. In general the sarcophagi are merely symbolic, and the actual body lies below the floor. At the head of the tomb in some examples a wooden pole was surmounted by a white cloth Ottoman turban (for men), or the turban could be in stone.

Earlier examples often had two or more storeys, following the example of the Ilkhanate and Persian tombs on which the style was based; the Malek Tomb is a good example of these. The Ottoman style is also supposed to reflect the shape of the tents used by the earlier nomadic ottomans, and their successors when on military campaigns. Sultans often built their tombs during their lifetimes, although those of other family members, and some sultans, were built after their deaths. Sultan Murad I, assassinated just after his victory at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, has his türbe there, with his vital organs, while the rest was carried back to his capital at Bursa, where he has another türbe.

Famous türbes[edit]

The türbe of Hürrem Sultan (Roxelana) (d. 1558) at the Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul, showing tiling, draped sarcophagi, one empty turban pole, and one with a turban (protected by plastic wrapping)

There are many famous türbes across Istanbul of the various sultans of the Ottoman Empire, as well as of other notables from Turkish history. The Süleymaniye Mosque complex has some of the most famous, including that of Suleiman himself (1550s), perhaps the most splendid Ottoman türbe, and that of his wife Hürrem Sultan (Roxelana), which has extremely fine tilework. Close by to the complex is the türbe of its famous architect Mimar Sinan, in what was his garden.

Konya holds two earlier türbe, with conical roofs, of the Seljuk Rum dynasty in the Alaeddin Mosque (12th century onwards), and the türbe of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, which is a major shrine and pilgrimage point, just like the türbe of Gül Baba in Budapest, Hungary. Bursa, a capital of the earlier Ottomans before the conquest of Constantinople, holds the turbes of many of the earlier Ottoman Sultans including Osman I and his son, the Muradiye Complex containing Murad II and many princes, and the Yeşil Türbe of Mehmed I (died 1421). This is a large three-story tower, and the (false) sarcophagus itself is covered in tiles. Unusually, much of the exterior is covered with undecorated coloured tiles.

In Bulgaria, the heptagonal türbes of dervish saints such as Kıdlemi Baba, Ak Yazılı Baba, Demir Baba and Otman Baba served as the centers of Bektashi tekkes (gathering places) before 1826.[2] The türbe of Haji Bektash Veli is located in the original Bektashi tekke (now a museum) in the town that now bears his name and remains a site for Alevi pilgrims from throughout Turkey.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Meri, 270
  2. ^ Lewis, p. 7.


External links[edit]