The Bajrakli Mosque

The Bajrakli Mosque is o­ne of the most famous and long-lived pieces of architectural history in Belgrade. Constructed by the invading Ottoman Turks in 1575, it was o­ne of 273 mosques built by the Islamic Empire during its occupation of Serbia. It consists of a single dome and a single minaret as opposed to the usual two or four. It was endowed by a wealthy cloth merchant named Hajji-Ali, and the original name was the Čohadži-mosque, referring to the endower’s occupation. The modern name “Bajrakli” comes from the name of the flag which was used to alert the faithful that it was time to pray, as the Bajrakli Mosque would use this flag to signal to all other mosques that they should begin the call to prayer. This because the Bajrakli Mosque kept the time for all other mosques in Belgrade, as it was among the largest and the oldest.

The Bajrakli Mosque is the o­nly mosque of the original 273 to remain standing in Belgrade, thanks to a few twists of history and lucky coincidences. When Austria threw the Ottomans out of Belgrade during an 18th century invasion, it was converted to a Roman Catholic Church, thus saving it from destruction. It was then turned back into a mosque by the Ottomans in 1741, specifically by a Turkish commander named Ali-pasha. Serbian noblemen further restored the mosque in the 19th century that wished to make it clear that they harbored no hostility towards their Muslim subjects. The many restorations, and the fact that it has been used by multiple faiths, is reflected in the interior architecture and decoration, making it look unlike any other mosque in the world.

The mosque had the good fortune of avoiding the bombing and purges of the Second World War and the Soviet occupation of Yugoslavia, as well as the subsequent conflicts during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia and war of Serbian independence. Unfortunately it was damaged by arsonists in 2004, necessitating extensive repairs and destroying many priceless works of religious art. Fortunately, the mosque was repaired with help from the citizens of Belgrade, the Serbian government and international aid. It is still a practicing mosque and so while it is open to visitors, they must follow traditional Islamic practices of respect and custom when visiting.