Although Selimiye Mosque is the most famous work of Mimar Sinan in Edirne, there are other structures erected by this renowned Ottoman architect in the city. Among other mosques, a caravanserai, a bridge and a bazaar, there is also the building of Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Bath, located in the heart of the old town, opposite the Üç Şerefeli Mosque.
The building was constructed in the years 1568-1569 as the public baths, funded by Sokollu Mehmed Pasha who at this time was the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire. Interestingly, both the architect of the building - Mimar Sinan - and its sponsor - Sokollu Mehmed Pasha - made their spectacular careers on the Ottoman court starting from the humble origins as part of the Ottoman devşirme system. It consisted of the collection of Christian boys to be raised to serve as janissaries.
Mehmed was born in Ottoman Bosnia into an Orthodox Christian family. Like other boys recruited through the devşirme system, he was forcefully converted to Islam, raised and educated. Later, he became one of the best examples how the great opportunities were offered within the system. He rose through the ranks of the Ottoman administrative system, consecutively holding the positions of the commander of the imperial guard, High Admiral of the Fleet, Governor-General of Rumelia, the Third Vizier, the Second Vizier, and the Grand Vizier. His career lasted from 1543 to 1579 under three sultans: Suleiman the Magnificent, Selim II, and Murad II. For the last 14 years, he was de facto ruler of the Ottoman Empire. His career was abruptly finished when he was assassinated in very mysterious circumstances. He was buried at the Sokollu Mehmed Paşa Türbe, also built for him by Mimar Sinan.
Sokollu Mehmed Pasha was a very generous sponsor of numerous buildings in Constantinople and throughout the Ottoman Empire. His best-known contribution to the architecture of his home country - Bosnia - is the bridge in his hometown of Višegrad. However, this is not the place to discuss the history of that magnificent structure that was beautifully described in the novel The Bridge on the Drina, written by Nobel laureate Ivo Andrić. Here we want to get a closer look at Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Bath in Edirne.
Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Bath is one of the largest of its kind in Turkey. It is also one of the most beautiful works of Ottoman architecture. The main entrance to the bath leads through a portico with three arches, supported by two columns. At present, the columns are smooth, but apparently they were originally decorated in the style of the minarets of the Üç Şerefeli Mosque. This grand entry is for male customers only as there is a much modest entrance for women, from the other side of the building. The bath follows a typical double baths plan, with separate sections for men and women.
The interior of the bath retains the original style of the sixteenth century so guests can take baths in the interiors used by distinguished Ottoman dignitaries. The men's section begins with the cold room featuring palmette motifs on coloured stones. One of them is visible on the opposite side of the arch on the double wing entrance door. However, the inscription that had been there before has not been preserved. The cold section is covered with a central dome, supported by the vaults on the sides. The walls of the bath were built with two series of bricks and a series of cut stones. The changing rooms of the men's and women's sections are covered with domes supported on the octagonal drums. The women's section is smaller and more elegant than the men's one. In addition, there are smaller private washing rooms.
Parts of the building belonging to the bathhouse were also shops. However, they were demolished during the road construction in the 1960's. In this time, attempts were made to extend the road and demolish the bathhouse to make a square in its location. Luckily the work was stopped. However, the facade of the bath was partially destroyed, resulting in its strange appearance today.
In the 70s of the 20th century, the bathhouse underwent a thorough refurbishment. For about 50 years the owner of the bathhouse has been a private religious foundation (so-called vakıf) that raises the money for charity purposes.
The bath is also called Üç Şerefeli Hamam (from the neighbouring mosque) or Çifte Hamam (meaning Double Bath) - because it has a traditional plan to separate parts for women and men.
Bathing hours are different for men and women. Men can enjoy the bath from 8:30 am to 11:00 pm, and women from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. The price for a bath and a massage is about 30 TL. It is a very competitive amount compared to the prices to be paid for using the historical baths in Istanbul. Moreover, the well-known Turkish newspaper Hürriyet listed Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Bath on the 7th place among the best baths in Turkey.
Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Bath is located directly opposite the entrance to Üç Şerefeli Mosque, on Hükümet Street.