When the Ottoman army conquered Hadrianopolis around 1361, there were two main districts of the city, on two banks of the Tunca River. Kaleiçi was situated on the eastern bank, while Aina - on the western bank of the river. Not surprisingly, shortly after the capture of the city, Sultan Murat I ordered the construction of the first mosque in Edirne, as the settlement was to be called from that time. This is a short story of the first imperial mosque of the city - Hüdavendigâr Mosque, situated in Aina District.
In the past, many scholars had attributed the construction of this mosque to Sultan Bayezid I, the son of Sultan Murad. However, the well-known scholar on Ottoman architecture - Aptullah Kuran - presented solid arguments to demonstrate that this structure had actually been built by Bayezid's father. Other authors maintain that the erection date of the mosque is 1397. As the lower parts of walls and the foundations of the mosque are clearly of Byzantine construction, it seems that the mosque was not a new construction but the effect of rebuilding an earlier church. There are noticeable mistakes in the plan of the building such as unusual placement of the mihrab.
It is unclear why the mosque was erected on the ruins of an earlier church. As Edirne was captured peacefully by the Ottomans, it was not plundered, and its inhabitants were allowed to live there peacefully, keeping their property. Some researchers argue that in this period, the Muslims worshipped together with the Christians under the same roof. In this light, it is quite possible that the Hüdavendigâr Mosque may have been gradually converted from a church. As the mosque was rebuilt in the 18th century in a major restoration project, it is hard to determine its original plan that was probably based on the shape of a cross.
In the beginning, the development programme of Edirne as the new capital city of the Ottoman Empire focussed on the districts situated outside Kaleiçi - on both banks of Tunca. The first palace had erected in the area where later the magnificent Selimiye Mosque was built, and the first imperial mosque was constructed in Aine district, later renamed as Yıldırım, after the nickname of Bayezid I. In this way, the settlement area in Edirne doubled its size from the times of the conquest, covering the stretch of land from the Old Palace to the Hüdavendigâr Mosque Complex, following an east-west axis.
The mosque is called Hüdavendigâr because of the nickname of Sultan Murad I. This Ottoman monarch not only conquered Edirne but also brought most of the Balkans under the Ottoman rule. He also made the Byzantine emperor to pay him tribute. Many scholars perceive him as the first real sultan of the Ottoman Empire as he established the title in 1383. Moreover, he introduced the devşirme recruiting system that was the base of the corps of the Janissaries. He organised the government in the form of the Divan, the system of timars (fiefs) for the cavalry, and the military judge. His nickname - Hüdavendigâr - is derived from Persian and means the devotee of God but also sovereign.
Another name of the mosque - Küpeli Cami - literally means the Mosque with Earrings. According to a legend, this name was given to the structure because Sultan Bayezid's daughter offered her diamond earrings to pay for its construction. Others explain the name as the reference to numerous chandeliers decorating the interior of the building.
The mosque is preceded by a courtyard, with an octagonal ablution fountain in its centre. The upper structure of this fountain is missing. The east side of the mosque is adorned by a five-bayed porch supported on the columns with distinctly Byzantine capitals. The mosque has just one minaret with a single balcony which is an 18th-century replacement of the original one. It rises from the north-eastern corner of the building.
The mosque was erected with cut stone walls with layers of red bricks. The interior is illuminated by two levels of windows - rectangular ones on the lower level, and finished with pointed arches on the second level. The main doors lead to the barrel-vaulted anteroom that is flanked by square rooms. The main prayer room is covered with a dome. It has three smaller rooms to the south, north, and west. The mimbar and mihrab are located in the corner of the southern room.
According to the local lore, one of the graves in the garden of the mosque belongs to a prince from the Ottoman dynasty - one of the young sons of Sultan Murad II - who was killed when Mehmed II became the sultan.
Hüdavendigâr Mosque is widely known as Yıldırım Beyazıt Mosque - because of the misunderstanding concerning the fact which of the sultans ordered its construction. It is situated on the western bank the Tunca River, in Yıldırım neighbourhood of Edirne. The walking distance from Selimiye Mosque is 2.5 km.