Major Seljuk monument comes to Istanbul, in pictures .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;} .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink:hover { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline; color:#990000;} ISTANBUL - Considered the most important work of Turkey’s medieval age, the Divriği Külliyesi complex near the Black Sea city of Sivas is also perhaps the country’s least visited UNESCO World Heritage site.

But more people will get the chance to examine this fascinating construction, with its unique structural concept, monumental look and detailed sculptural ornamentation, through the giant photographs of the complex and its architectural details that will be on display for one month at Istanbul Technical University’s Faculty of Architecture. The exhibition, "Gates of the Heaven," will run through May 29.

Organized by architect Basri Hamulu with consultation from Prof. Doğan Kuban, who has been writing books and articles on the Divriği Külliyesi since 1965, the exhibition features photos by architect Cemal Emden of this sublime building from the Seljuk era. The exhibition aims to create awareness and public sensitivity about the building, especially its intricately carved gateways, which are in need of preservation.

Built by the architect Hürremşah of Ahlat in 1228 for Shah Ahmet and his wife Turan Melik, the building’s style differs from other examples of Islamic architecture and is considered one of the best indications of the symbiotic lives of settled inhabitants and nomadic societies, because while Islam generally prohibited figurative art, it built this unique work of great sculptural ornament.

Divriği was a center for the Anatolian Seljuks, whose history is still somewhat undiscovered. The complex covers the Ulu Mosque and mansions, built in the 13th century and displaying magnificent stonework. The buildings were constructe next to each other in independent styles, but within a single structure. The doors of Divriği Külliyesi are special because of their Baroque characteristics, which were not seen in other works of Turkish architecture until the end of 13th century.

The western part of the Ulu Mosque collapsed during an earthquake in the beginning of 16th century, after which it was rebuilt. It is considered the most glorious example of the Anatolian Seljuk mosques. The mosque’s floor plan includes five naves for prayer aligned with the mihrab pointing toward Kaaba. The middle part is wider and sits atop 16 columns.

Although the Divriği Külliyesi is a monumental structure, compared to the mosque, it is much simpler. Unlike similar structures, the architecture on the second story is more detailed. The statues of double-headed eagles and wild birds on the western part of the complex are among the beautifully rendered elements that remain to this day. The mausoleum of Shah Ahmet and his family sits in the northeastern part of the structure.

However, the façade of the complex contains many broken and damaged parts, mostly due to erosion, pollution and ignorant and incorrect restoration policies. The building’s integrity has also been corrupted due to the disruption of its stones and its small, detailed sculptural ornaments make it difficult for even a good restoration project to heal the structure.

Because it is impossible to transport the whole structure, an Islamic social complex centered around a mosque and a hospital, to a museum to be protected and displayed, the building itself must be turned into a museum, said a press release announcing the exhibit in Istanbul, which aims to promote the importance of protecting and maintaining this world-renowned masterpiece and the cultural values it represents.

The press release compared the Divriği Külliyesi to Bergama’s Zeus Altar, constructed in 159 B.C. and now displayed in Germany, and the Parthenon Frieze, whose parts are in the British Museum, and said protecting its cultural values should be a national task.