The Isa Bey Mosque is fairly easy to find. It is located at the foot of the hill of Ayasoluk Castle and the St. John Basilica in Selcuk. The mosque is still used as a place of worship and is one of the most magnificent examples of Anatolian architecture. Constructed by order of Isa Bey of the Aydinogulları Emirate in 1375, it was built by the architect Ali Dımaski from Damascus.
As the Seljuk Empire period came to a close in the late 15th century, many stone blocks and columns were taken from the ruins at Ephesus, and the Temple of Artemis, to construct the mosque. This is one of the most important examples of mosque architecture from this period. It bears a resemblance to the Umayyad mosque in Damascus which is no great surprise since the plans were based on it. There is a book written by a famous Turkish explorer, Evliya Çelebi. which was published in the 17th century, and which gives very detailed information about the mosque.
After the decline of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century, the mosque was left in a dilapidated and ruined condition. It was used as a caravanserai for a period, and the mosque itself was changed and altered from its original design somewhat. The Austrian Archaeological Institute, working on nearby Ephesus, showed interest in the site in 1895 when they cleaned the mosque and courtyard, but it would 1934 before the mosque was renovated properly. Subsequent renovations in the 1970’s and in 1988 and 2005, have helped to restore it to its former glory and use as a fully functional place of worship and prayer again. The maintenance and restoration is an ongoing process.
Isa Bey mosque was built on a non-symmetrical plan and has doors on both sides of the mosque. Of particular interest are the domes of the mosque which are decorated in Seljuk tiles which date back to when the mosque was originally completed. The mosque would have had two minarets but earthquakes destroyed them on more than one occassion, the last being in 1842 when the remaining minaret fell down. The broken minaret that you see today is now home to the storks nests.
Inside the courtyard you can see twelve large columns which were brought from the nearby Temple of Artemis. The fountain in the centre of the courtyard offered worshipers a place to perform ablutions before prayer. This was a later addition to the original mosque building. Both Selcuk and Ottoman art and architecture is strongly reflected in this mosque.
The mosque actually has two distinct sections. The western facade of the mosque is decorated in the Konya Seljuk style whilst the other facade is decorated much differently in a later style.
Around the courtyard of the mosque you can see old gravestones. The darker stone is from Seljuk times and the marble ones are from Ottoman times and in the Turkish language. It is important to note that the Ottomans did not have just one language. For example Farsi, which was one of them, was never the language of the Ottoman Court. They would speak Turkish at the Court. However, the Ottomans also understood Farsi and Arabic.
There is plenty of parking around or near the mosque and a host of small souvenir shops with their owners doing the usual charm offensive against tourists as they peddle their wares.