KÜTAHYA: A CITY THAT LIVES WITH A LEGACY MADE UP OF TILES

TODAY, THE FIRST THING THAT COMES TO MIND WHEN ONE SPEAKS OF KÜTAHYA IS THE FAMOUS KÜTAHYA TILES.  TODAY’S KÜTAHYA TILES ARE THOUGHT TO BE NOT MATCHING THOSE MANUFACTURED IN THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE IN TERMS OF FINE TASTE AND MINIMALIST AESTHETICS. THE REASON IS THOUGHT TO BE THE FACT THAT THE MYSTERY OF COLOR MIXES OF THOSE TIMES REMAINS UNSOLVED.

Once you see the vase-shaped fountain situated on the main square you will immediately know that you have come to the city of tiles. The same impression goes for those arriving at the main terminal with its tiled walls. This is Kütahya… If you are also confused about comparisons between İznik and Kütahya tiles, you should visit the Tile Museum and explore the history of tiles from the 14th century to date.

The first collective agreement in history
Amongst the tiles, you will spot a scroll with Ottoman inscription: the first collective agreement in history.  The Fincancılar (teacup manufacturers) Agreement was signed in 1766 between tile workers and their employers.  Signed in the presence of Ali Paşa, Governor of Kütahya, the Agreement represents the first known collective agreement signed with the State assuming the role of an arbitrator. The Agreement lays down the principles governing the activities of and payment regimes for masters, semi-skilled workers and apprentices. A provision ‘banning the establishment of more than 24 businesses’ and a sanction according to which‘those who violate the agreement shall be sentenced with penal servitude equaling a death sentence…’ are two striking components of the Agreement.

Embroidery as Valuable as Tiles
Today, neither the Fincancılar Agreement nor penal servitude is applied… However, Kütahya remains a city famous for its tiles. Around 15,000 of its inhabitants work in plants, workshops and from home to make a living out of tile manufacturing: a souvenir item that tourists are sometimes keen to buy. Modern designs are especially popular abroad.  Most particularly, Master Sıtkı from Kütahya, who opened new horizons in the art of tile manufacturing with groundbreaking designs, is remembered on every occasion. In the Sarraf Bazaar, one can find traditional Kütahya clothes, velvet garments embroidered with silver thread (bindallı), embroidered handkerchiefs (çevre), large embroidered napkins (peşkir) and silver hasır belts. One store catches the eye: Oturakçılar (Those who do business from where they sit) Those are the stores where shopowners did business from where they sat and such shopowners used to be called ‘Oturakçı’. In this 100-year-old store owned by Halil and Ali Temizeller who inherited the shop from their grandfather, one can see traditional Kütahya clothes, velvet garments embroidered with silver thread using the Divan embroidery technique and other handicrafts. Embroidery is as valued and as valid an art as tile manufacturing in Kütahya… When Germiyans ruled the region, the clothes and curtains used in the harem were embroidered in Kütahya. The tradition has survived. One can talk about the weddings in Kütahya for hours: 10-15 strings of pearls, a silver belt on the waist on the henna night; 99 strings of gold with a gold coin worth 5 gold coins (beşibirlik), diamond necklace, and ottoman diamonds passed down to generations on a fez for the wedding…
Doğan Şapçı, continues the Ottoman-style diamond jewelry-making tradition in Şapçılar situated in the Kuyumcular (Jewellery makers) Bazaar.

Competition Amongst Tile Manufacturers During Ottoman Times
When, I. Sultan Selim won a victory against Iranians in Çaldıran in 1514, some tile makers from Tabriz were placed in Kütahya while others were placed in İznik. This marked the beginning of a competition that would last for 200 years between the two cities. İstanbul gave greater weight to tiles manufactured in İznik while Kütahya had already lost in this game. Today’s Kütahya tiles are thought to be not matching those of Ottoman times in terms of fine taste and minimalist aesthetics. The reason for that is thought to be the fact that the mystery of color mixes of those times remains unsolved. Today, the first thing that comes to mind when one speaks of Kütahya is the famous Kütahya tiles. Initially, Kütahya tiles featured traces of Byzantine and Seljukian cultures. Later, during Ottoman times, Kütahya tiles decorated the architectural structures in İstanbul and Jerusalem. Tile manufacturing, a tradition which goes back 5000 years, is a source of income for 10,000-15,000 artists. Many modern buildings in the city, including the bus terminal, are decorated with tiles.

From Ancient City to Mosque
Many of the city’s touristic attractions are situated at the city center. The recently decorated Dönenler Mosque is just one of those attractions. The first mevlevihane established by Rumi’s grandson, the Mevlevi Şeyh Ergun Çelebi… A minaret was added to the 14th century building. The mausoleum that is adjacent to the Semahane Masjid houses the tombs of Ergun Çelebi and other mevlevis.  The wooden space, which once saw dervishes whirl, houses a well. If the carpet and the underlying piece of wood is removed one can still see the well.  A similar well exists in the Grand Mosque (Ulu Cami), the biggest mosque in the city. The pillars in the mosque were taken from the ancient city of Aizonai. To see the pillars, a visit to the mosque is strongly recommended. The tiles covering the mosque were manufactured by Hafız Mehmet Emin, who also manufactured the tiles covering the walls of the former Governorate before being killed by the Greeks in 1922. Explore the building that houses the Kütahya Museum which was opened in 1965. The building is also known as Vacidiye Medrese. The Medrese was initially built to serve as an observatory and a school of sciences and mathematics by Umur Bin Savcı, a Germiyan ruler. The cut stone building has a gate which bears the characteristics of Seljukian art. Once you enter the building, you will see the Amazon sarcophagus (second century AD) dating back to Roman Period in the domed courtyard in the middle. The pillars constitute the most interesting piece in the museum as well as the best preserved examples of such sarcophagi.

Tiles Throughout History
In a beautiful garden, across the Grand Mosque (Ulu Cami), stands II. Yakup Çelebi İmaret Külliyesi (complex), today hosting the city’s Tile Museum. The complex used to comprise an imaret, medrese, mescid, mausoleum, library and a bath. However, only the mesjid and the mausoleum have survived to date.  The building which consisted of the imaret section of the last Germiyan ruler II. Yakup Çelebi’s complex, houses a museum where Kütahya tiles from various eras starting from the 14th century are displayed.  An important item displayed in the museum is the Fincancılar Agrement, a document signed between the workers and employers in 1766 and recognized as the first collective agreement in history…

A Hungarian in Anatolia
When you pass the Grand Mosque and the Tile Museum, you will arrive at a wooden two-storey 18th century mansion with seven rooms and a garden.  Lajos Kossuth (1802-1894), a distinguished Hangarian politician of the 19th century, who was the leader of the Independent Hungarian Kingdom in 1849 as well as the leader of the fight for the right to democratic freedom and national sovereignty, a hero leading the Hungarian fight for independence, took refuge in the Ottoman Empire and lived in that very house between 1850-1851.   The Kossuth House is also known as the Hungarian House. When you look up from the Kossuth House, you will spot the Kütahya Citadel. Settlements in the citadel go back to ancient times. It is possible to observe the traces of Byzantine, Seljukian, Germiyan and Ottoman rule in the area.

‘Only you, the members of the army of knowledge…’
One of the most interesting structures in the city is the Court House in the Saray neighborhood which used to house the former Governorate.  Kütahya High School is situated in a building across the Courthouse known as Taş Mektep (Stone School). Established in 1890 as a high school, the building hosted an Agronomics School in 1917. Later, it was used as a regimental command and a military hospital during WWI. In 1922, the building was used as a school once again. Atatürk came to Kütahya on March 24th, 1923 and visited the building which formerly hosted the Governorate and which currently houses the Courthouse stopped by and delivered the famous speech which included the following words: ‘‘Only you, the members of the army of knowledge’’ in this very building. Old Kütahya houses are located on Germiyan Street and Eğdemir Street, next to Dönenler Mosque. Germiyan Street which houses 250-year old Turkish mansions is worth visiting to get a feel of the old town.

WHAT TO DO?
The Phrygian Valley which houses caves, altars, churches, sepulchers and chapels is an entirely different world.

DID YOU KNOW?
In the first commodity exchange of the world situated in the ancient city of Aizanoi a horse was considered to be more valuable than a human being.

A TASTY BREAK
Join the queue in front of Neşe Bakery to taste the famous tahini and poppy seed flavored pita bread.

DON’T MISS
The products of the Phrygians, the first civilization to have produced children’s toys in Anatolia are interesting items displayed in the Archeological Museum.

SHOPPING
The legacy of the world famous Master Sıtkı, whose work interested many collectors, was inherited by his daughter Nida Olçar. Take a look at the stunning needle lace and silver-gilt thread embroidery work at the store owned by Cemile Gül, a leading figure in the embroidery sector.