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1284x0x An aesthetic symbol of compassion

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  • TRH
    Nov 1, 2005
      [See the following for photographs:
      http://www.kulturturizm.gov.tr/portal/arkeoloji_en.asp?belgeno=1799 ]

      x0x An aesthetic symbol of compassion


      How many of us have fleetingly yearned to take wing and
      fly like the birds? How many have dreamed of touring
      the world from end to end like them on beating wing?

      Was not this dream behind the airplane in which you are
      sitting at this very moment? What inspired Hezarfen
      Ahmed Celebi, who, leaping into the void one morning in
      view of all Istanbul, flew from the Galata Tower to
      Uskudar across the Bosphorus, thus going down in
      history as the first person in the world to fly? Surely
      it was the birds.

      In a few hours your plane is going to land. But what
      about the birds when they get tired of flapping their
      wings? Are there no `ports' where they can take refuge?
      There are, right here in the city, on every side. Near
      homes, mosques, inns, baths, everywhere. What are these
      stopping off places, you ask. Bird houses! Man's humble
      offering to his winged, feathered friends, and one of
      the oldest and most important expressions of the love
      of and compassion for animals that is gradually being
      lost today.

      The history of houses built for birds like sparrows,
      finches and swallows goes back a long way.

      Some of these tiny dwellings, whose numbers
      proliferated in parallel with the development of
      classical Ottoman architecture in the 15th century,
      indicate that they were being built, albeit on a
      smaller scale, already in the pre-Ottoman period. The
      purpose of these charming bird houses, which the Turks
      continued to build up to the 19th century, is to
      provide refuge to birds, who range freely through the
      skies but are consequently lonely to the same degree,
      and to protect them from storms, rain, mud and the
      burning sun.


      Bird houses come in all varieties, just like the houses
      we humans live in. There are gerrybuilt ones, palatial
      ones, even highrises like skyscrapers. While the first
      bird houses tended to be simple, in the 18th century
      they were transformed into structures of comfort
      exhibiting a refined aesthetic sense. But aesthetics
      isn't everything of course. All bird houses have to
      meet certain standards, the most important of which is
      to ensure that birds feel safe inside them.

      What would be the point, for example, of building a
      bird house in a place accessible to a cat? Their houses
      need to be constructed on the sunny side of buildings,
      in a place that is not exposed to strong winds. One of
      the most beautiful examples of civilian architecture,
      bird houses are the centre of attraction on any
      building. Some have been added following construction,
      others built in at the start. We encounter them
      everywhere--on mosques, madrasas, libraries, houses,
      inns, baths, tombs, bridges, churches, synagogues, and
      even palaces, in short, in every place that has been
      touched by human hands.


      Bird houses fall into two groups. The first group
      consists of those built specially into the facade of
      the building in the form of either a single aperture or
      several side by side, in other words, structures that
      do not extend far beyond the facade. Those on the
      Suleymaniye Mosque, the New Mosque (Yeni Cami) and
      Buyukcekmece Bridge in Istanbul are examples of this

      There are also bird houses that project out from the
      facade of the building, most of which were built in the
      18th century. More than houses, these are highly
      ornamental, elegant dwellings reminiscent of palaces or
      pavilions. Indeed, some of them even have feeding and
      water troughs for finches and sparrows, runways for
      landing and take-off, and even balconies where the
      birds can venture out and survey their surroundings.
      Among the loveliest examples of these houses, which are
      the product of delicate workmanship, are the Yeni
      Valide, the Ayazma and Selimiye mosques at Uskudar, and
      the building in the inner courtyard of the Darphane at
      Topkapi Palace. Other important buildings with bird
      houses in Istanbul include: the Feyzullah Efendi and
      Seyyid Hasan Pasha madrasas, the tomb of Mustafa III,
      Cukurcesme Han, and the Ahrida Synagogue in Balat. But
      Istanbul is not Turkey's only landlord catering to

      From Thrace to Eastern Anatolia, bird houses are to be
      found in every place touched by human hands.
      Kirklareli, Tekirdag, Edirne, Bolu, Bursa, Milas,
      Antalya, Amasya, Kayseri, Ankara, Nevsehir, Sivas,
      Erzurum, Sanliurfa, Dogubeyazit are just a few of the
      Turkish cities with bird houses that we can mention


      Bird houses are a symbol of the value and importance
      Turks place on animals, especially birds. Several
      foundations were founded in the Ottoman period for the
      care and protection of animals. Some of these
      foundations specialised in feeding birds on cold winter
      days, caring for and treating sick storks, and
      providing food and water to animals in general. Folk
      beliefs, for example, that homes where swallows make
      nests are protected from fire or that doves keep lovers
      together, may have had a hand in the proliferation of
      bird houses. And what about the choral music birds
      make, or the call of the tiny sparrow, finch or swallow
      saying, "Wake up, it's morning, the sun is up!" This
      pleasant chirping which warms the human heart is
      another reason why people build houses for birds.

      Bird houses are one of mankind's most beautiful
      designs. While symbolizing such lofty feelings as love
      and compassion, they also reflect the architecture of
      their period and the refinement and taste of the person
      who had them built. Bricks, tiles, stone and mortar are
      the building materials of bird houses. Unfortunately
      those that were made of wood have not survived.


      It is most unfortunate that no new bird houses are
      being built while many of those that have survived are
      facing ruin today. Let alone doing something extra for
      the birds, sometimes we even interfere with the
      habitats that nature provides them. Or are we simply
      becoming more and more self-centered? Anyway, the
      tradition of buying a bag of birdseed from one of the
      vendors around the New Mosque is alive and well today.

      Let us conclude with a few lines from Mehmet Zaman
      Sacliolu's poem, `Bird Houses', which we hope will fill
      your heart and the hearts of the birds with happiness:
      "The outer walls of houses should be bird houses / That
      take wing when children laugh. / Even if it's winter
      outside / The summer sun should rise inside the walls /
      And happiness will warm the birds too."