The Marmara Reigon
Bursa is the fourth largest city in Turkey with a population of close to two million (TurkStat, 2011). A former Ottoman capital, Bursa has numerous edifices with significant historical-cultural and religious value. Ulu Camii (The Great Mosque) is the largest mosque in the city built at the end of the 14th Century by Sultan Bayezid I. Another tourist objective which attracts many religious-minded visitors is the Green Mosque (Yeşil Camii) which includes besides the mosque a madrasah, a kitchen for the poor, a public bath and the tombs of the founders. Another site where many tourists go to pray is the complex with the mausoleums of the first two Ottoman Sultans: Osman and Orhan. Bursa has also been an important center for the Turkish Jews. Several synagogues built hundreds of years ago are still in good shape and open for the visitors and worshippers. Among these are the Geruş Synagogue, the Ets Ahayim Synagogue and the Mayor Synagogue.
Iznik (old Nicaea), in the province of Bursa was an important center for the Christian faith. Two of the historical church councils were convened here. Of the many churches of Nicaea few have survived. The Church of the Dormition, one of the largest in Anatolia was completely destroyed during the war between Turkey and Greece (1919-1922) but the Hagia Sophia (Saint Sophia) has been partly restored and can be visited.
Not far from Nicaea lies another great city for Christianity: Nicomedia (today’s Izmit). The city served for a few years as one of the four capitals of the Roman Empire during the Tetrarchy. It was also the capital of Constantine the Great before Byzantium.
Many Christian martyrs died during the reign of Emperor Diocletian. They are known as the “20,000 martyrs of Nicomedia”. Today the city of Izmit is known mainly for its industry and none of the sites of early Christianity has survived.
Edirne was the second capital of the Ottoman Empire and one of main centers after the capital was transferred to Istanbul. Therefore many cultural and religious monuments could be found here. Among these is the Selimiye Mosque built by the famous architect Mimar Sinan in the 16thCentury. The construction is absolutely remarkable; the cupola is higher than that of Aya Sophia’s and the minarets are the second highest in Turkey after two minarets of Sabanci Merkez Camii in Adana. In 2011 the complex was featured on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Of the numerous churches that had been built in Edirne only two have survived and are still active both belonging to the Bulgarian Orthodoxy.