Tiny Bird Mansions Of The Ottoman Empire

CULTURE | September 16, 2019

One of the more elaborate Ottoman birdhouses. Source: (pinterest.com)

While it no longer exists, the Ottoman Empire, which lasted from the 14th to the early 20th century, was once one of the most powerful empires in the world. It encompassed a large area which includes present-day Turkey. The capital city of Constantinople was the center of Ottoman art and architecture. Among that architecture were beautiful mosques, palaces, and fortresses. Also, among that architecture were birdhouses which, despite being a great deal smaller, were equally impressive.

These birdhouses were attached to the outer walls of important buildings such as mosques, inns, libraries, and schools as well as bridges and fountains. In many cases, they matched the shape and style of the structure to which they were attached. They consisted of multiple stories and were designed to accommodate a wide variety of birds, including pigeons, sparrows, and swallows.

The Ottoman Empire. Source: (realhistoryww.com)

There were two types of birdhouses. The first type was actually built into the structure of which it was a part, having been built at the same time. This allowed the front of the birdhouse to be flush with the side of the building. The other type protruded out from the structure and was most likely added sometime after the original structure was built. The second type of birdhouse was often made of wood and, as a result, only a few have them still exist.

Birdhouse protruding from a building. Source: (interestingengineering.net)

In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, these birdhouses served a purpose. That purpose went beyond providing small birds with shelter from harsh weather as well as a place for them to safely lay eggs. The birdhouses also helped to preserve the buildings. Attracting the birds to the birdhouses ensured that the majority of the birds’ excrement would be in the birdhouses rather than corroding the walls and gutters of the buildings.

Traditional Ottoman birdhouse. Source: (weburbanist.com)

However, this was not the only motivation for building the birdhouses. Many cultures, including the Ottomans, considered birds to be sacred. In fact, the history of building houses for wild birds dates back hundreds of years. However, none were so elaborate as those built by the Ottomans. They believed that building the tiny bird mansions was a good deed for which they would be rewarded. Eventually, the birdhouses became important monuments for the Ottomans.

Traditional Ottoman birdhouse sits above the building’s window. Source: (weburbanist.com)

Sadly, the majority of the birdhouses no longer exist as a result of weathering or architectural modifications. Still, several of these beautiful birdhouses have survived in cities throughout Turkey, including Kırklareli, Tekirdağ, Edirne, Bolu, Bursa, Milas, Antalya, Amasya, Kayseri, Ankara, Nevşehir, Sivas, Erzurum, Şanlıurfa, and Doğubeyazıt. The majority of them, however, can be found in Istanbul. In fact, the oldest surviving birdhouse, which dates back to the 16th century, is attached to the Büyükçekmece Bridge in Istanbul.

Tags: The Ottoman Empire | Traditional Ottoman birdhouse | birdhouses

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