L. J. Sandlow
Chicago, Illinois, United States
High up in the mountains of Anatolia, bordering the Black Sea, lies the ancient hospital of Bimarhane or Darüşşida. Located in the city of Amasya, it was built during the reign of the Ilkanid Sultan Mehmet and his wife Uduz Olcaytu Anbar and constructed by Babe Bin Abdullah in 1308-1309. One of the most famous physicians working there was Serefedin Sabuncuoglu. The hospital was famous for its unique approach to treating mental patients by exposing them to music, using melodious sounds and the sound of water as therapy. Music was also used to treat patients with physical diseases and Bimarhane was a hospital until the eighteenth century. Today the hospital is a museum, musical rehearsal studio, and coffee shop.
The building is a valuable example of Anatolian Seljuk architecture from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries. The front of the building is considered very valuable in terms of art. The original columns bore geometric leaves and turbans and inverted triangle headings were used for the first time in Turkey. The rest of the columns are cylindrical and the corners of the building are made of cut stone. The building is entered through an ornate portal with an arched doorway inside a shallow iwan (three-sided rectangular space) with a ceiling consisting of a muqarnas (honeycomb vaulting) hood. The doorway is framed with bands of vegetal and geometric ornament carved in stone. Within the recessed entryway are two smaller muqarnas niches surmounted by inscription bands.
The portal leads into the building’s central open courtyard through a vestibule. The courtyard is rectangular and bordered by arcades on the north and south sides. On the east side, a large iwan opens facing the vestibule.1
Amasya is the capital of the province of Amasya in the Black Sea Region. It stands in the mountains above the coast, set apart from the rest of Anatolia in a narrow valley along the banks of the Yesilirmark River. Although near the Black Sea, this area is high above the coast and has an inland climate, well-suited to growing apples, for which the Amasya province, one of the provinces in north-central Turkey, is famed. It was the home of the philosopher Strabo and the birthplace of the fifteenth-century scholar and physician Amirdovlat Amasiatsi. Located in a narrow cleft of the Yesilirmark (Iris) river, it has a history of 7,500 years which has left many places still viewable today.
In antiquity, Amasya was a fortified city high on the cliffs above the river. It has a long history as a wealthy provincial capital, producing kings and princes, artists, scientists, poets, and thinkers—from the kings of Pontus, through Strabo the geographer, to many generations of the Ottoman imperial dynasty. The city has Ottoman wooden houses, and the tombs of the Pontus Kings are carved into the cliffs overhead.
During the early Ottoman rule, it was customary for young Ottoman princes to be sent to Amasya to govern and gain experience. Amasya was also the birthplace of the Ottoman sultans Murad I and Selim I. It is thus of great importance in Ottoman history. Traditional Ottoman houses near the Yesilirmark and the other main historical houses have been restored; these traditional Yaliboyu houses are now used as cafés, restaurants, pubs, and hotels. Behind the Ottoman wooden houses, one can see the rock tombs of the Pontic kings.
All photographs are from the author’s collection.
- Patricia Blessing: Rebuilding Anatolia after the Mongol conquest: Islamic architecture in the Lands of Rum. Ashgate 2014.
LESLIE J. SANDLOW, MD, is Emeritus Professor of Internal Medicine and Medical Education at the UIC College of Medicine. He was a practicing gastroenterologist and served as Senior Vice President for Academic and Professional Affairs at Michael Reese Hospital. He also served as Senior Associate Dean for Academic and Education Affairs at UIC. He has been active in medical education for over fifty years and developed a continuum of programs in medical education from certificate programs to a doctoral program to prepare educators and physicians for active leadership roles in medical education. He has coordinated the development of an online core curriculum for medical and dental residents which is used at over twenty institutions across the United States.