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Süleymaniye Medical Medrese (I)

Tuncay Zorlu

Ottoman medicine reached a formal teaching institution with the Süleymaniye medical medrese which was built by Mimar Sinan as a component of a building complex (külliye) in 1556, during the reign of Süleyman the Magnificent. The construction of this medrese is considered to be a new stage in the history of Ottoman medical institutions. Unlike the former hospital traditions having medical education in their bodies, Süleymaniye was the first "medical medrese" in the Ottoman state to have a deed of trust mentioning its medrese character.

If we consider the conditions paving the way for the construction of this medrese, it will be proper to talk about the insufficient number of doctors in Ottoman cities. We know that Bursa Yıldırım Bayezid Hospital (Darüşşifa), which was the first Ottoman hospital known, demanded a doctor from Memlukids to commission him in the post of chief-physician (hekimbaşı). Additionally, in the later years Mehmed the Conqueror's appointment of Persian doctors as his consultant physicians as well as Suleyman the Magnificent's employment of Musa b. Hamun in his palace as his private physician and later demands for physicians from other lands and their employment in high posts, give the impression that there has not been sufficient number of physician in Ottoman medical institutions, at least, up to the construction of the medical medrese of Suleymaniye. On the other hand, Sultans' imperial edicts (fermans) preventing incapable and unqualified physicians from medicine and medical practices show the insufficiency of competent medical cadres.

Contemporary writers and historians' views about the foundation of the medical medrese are also enlightening. Küçük Hasan-Beyzâde Ahmed Paşa (d. 1636), in his Tarih puts forward its medical educational character. Additionally, Ottoman geographer and cosmographer Aşık Mehmed (d. after 1006/1598) draws also attention to its educational function in his Menâziru'l-Avâlîm. These views all seem to be in harmony with the explanation "...ve ilm-i tıbb için bina olunan medrese-i tayyibe..." in the trust deed of Suleymaniye. On the other hand, historian Ahmed Cevdet Paşa (1882-1895) highlights its military character rather than general medical education and says that Ottoman armies fighting in distant places far from their own lands needed doctors, so the Süleymaniye medical medrese was founded to meet this need. The twentieth century-historian Tayyip Gökbilgin and doctor-historian Osman Şevki [Uludağ] (1889-1964) agrees with Cevdet Paşa while Süheyl Ünver considers this medical medrese to be second university complex and the beginning of our medical faculties, stating that this medrese perpetuated its function of educating civilian doctors even when military medical schools Tıbhane and Cerrahhane opened in 1827.

Having assessed all these approaches as well as some archival documents, it can be said that this medrese has supported both military and civilian institutions through its educated doctors. Therefore it is understood that Medical Medrese's occasional changing focus on military or civilian-learned institutions, stem from needs caused by political and social circumstances of the period.

Regarding the academic personnel of the medical medrese, there were müderris, muid, şakird and danişmends. Apart from academic personnel there were also service personnel composed of one noktacı (responsible for observing of carrying out education and teaching orderly and has 3 akçes daily), 2 bevvabs (doorkeeper having 2 akçes daily) and 2 ferraşes (responsible for cleaning and furnishing the medical medrese and has 2 akçes daily). Salaries of the personnel and other expenditures were met by large waqf revenues of the Suleymaniye Complex.

As for the architectural features of the medical medrese, first of all, we can say that it was planned as a component of Süleymaniye Complex like other components such as the mosque, medreses dedicated to Islamic sciences, caravansaray, bath, hospital, drugstore etc. So it should be examined within the system of a multi-functional building complex. The medical medrese having a perpendicular plan is composed of 12 domed-cells lined up on the shops in the Tiryakiler street which is located in the south-western part of the Süleymaniye Mosque.

The medical medrese seems to have a direct interaction with components such as Dârüşşifâ (hospital), Dârülakâkîr (drugstore), Tabhâne (the place where patients stay during their convalescence period) and Imarethâne (kitchen). A kind of division of labor shows itself with respect to these components. The students having medical education in the medrese used to sleep in the cells there, eat foods cooked in the kitchen of Imaret without paying any money, use Dârüşşifâ for practicing the theoretical lessons they learned in the medical medrese, get their medicine from Dârülakâkîr, and after being cured in the hospital stay in Tabhane for the period of convalescence.

After the Second Constitutional Period (II. Meşrutiyet), the medical medrese was included in the body of "Dâru'l-hilafeti'l-aliyye Medresesi" which was planned to assemble all the medreses of İstanbul under one roof. It is understood that the medical medrese was out of use and needed restoration during the year 1330/1914. It also seems that on 21 December 1918 this medrese was used by people who lost their homes during fire. It is known that Permanent Committee of the Istanbul Prefecture (Istanbul Vilayeti Daimî Encümeni) put the 15 rooms of the medical medrese on auction for rent. The building was restorated when Dr. Lütfi Kırdar was in the post of governor and later mayor in 1944-45 and it has been used as a Maternity Clinic (Süleymaniye Doğum ve Çocuk Bakımevi" since 1946.


Son güncelleme: 01.11.2016

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