Photographer's Note

The Bayezid II Complex at Edirne, where mental patients
were once soothed with `water' and `music', has been
selected Europe's best museum.

By chance one weekend we found ourselves at the
historic Darussifa (House of Cures), identified by the
sign on its facade as the `Health Museum of the
University of Thrace', which is situated on the banks
of the Tunca River in Edirne. The fragrance of flowers
and chirping of birds in the garden were the first
signs that we had come to a unique place. Not knowing
what to make of the faint melodies in the haunting
`Ussak' mode that reached our ears already in the first
court, we at first assumed there were some Turkish
classical music buffs in the vicinity. When the music
got appreciably louder as we approached the second
court, we decided there must be a concert going on
inside. The minute we opened the door of the Darussifa
(Arabic for `house of health'), we saw an ensemble of
singers and instrumentalists, performing Ottoman music
in traditional costume.

We weren't mistaken in our second surmise! How nice. We
were going to be treated to classical Turkish music as
we toured the--by its new name--Bayezid II Health
Museum of the University of Thrace. The gurgle of water
from a fountain in the center of the courtyard mingled
with the music of Ottoman composers Itri and Dede
Efendi. The strains of music in the courtyard's perfect
acoustics made for a truly enchanting atmosphere.


The shafts of light streaming in through the 12 small
domes surrounding the main dome were like natural
spotlights. While the musicians, seated some 10-15
meters beyond the fountain, calmly went on playing, in
the tiny rooms at the side doctors persisted despite
the years in their curative efforts. Clearly everyone
from doctor to nurse was well aware of the Darussifa's
founding purpose.

And what about the patients who listened silently to
the doctor's every word of advice? Everything was in
keeping with the Darussifa tradition. Even the rituals
were as lively as on the first day. Viewed from a
distance everything, from the doctors and nurses to the
patients and the instrumental ensemble, was so
life-like that it was difficult to detect they were not
until you were standing right next to them. Even the
musicians' instruments and the costumes worn by the
mannequins were authentic, and the doctors'
prescriptions written in India ink. Perhaps for this
reason the Darussifa has been dubbed a `living museum'.


As we strolled about in this enchanting atmosphere, a
line from Prof. Dr. Osman Inci's book, `Living
Museum', caught my eye: `The University of Thrace
Health Museum was deemed worthy of the Museum of Europe
Award in 2004,' distinguishing itself among hundreds of
museums that entered the competition.

To tell the truth, this place more than deserves the
prize for Europe's best museum. When Sultan Bayezid II
in 1484 ordered a `darussifa' to be built for `those
seeking a cure for their ills', could he ever have
guessed that five centuries later it would become one
of the most acclaimed museums in Europe? Or did the
architect, Mimar Hayreddin, who began construction
immediately following the sultan's decree, suspect that
his name would go down in history inscribed gold
letters as the architect of this monument? Although the
answer to both questions is undoubtedly no, the Bayezid
Complex, which consists of a mosque, a medical college,
a soup kitchen, a bath and the darussifa, is spoken of
with high praise in the world today.


One of the Ottoman State's finest hospitals in the
period when it was built, the Darussifa fell into
disuse towards the end of the 19th century and was
eventually abandoned.

Now, for the last five years it has served as the
Health Museum of the University of Thrace. But this
period of calm ended last month with its selection as
`Best Museum of Europe', ushering in a new era of
splendor. From 1488 until the Russian occupation of
Edirne in 1877, the Darussifa was a giant complex where
patients sought remedies for their ailments. From this
date on however the door was sealed.

Surviving merely as a building from 1877 to 1980, the
Darussifa was turned over to the University of Thrace
in the eighties. Towards the end of the 1990s, its fate
was transformed when the University's rector, Prof. Dr.
Osman Inci, proposed turning it into a health museum
and its `dark days' were suddenly turned to light.
Undergoing a brief restoration, the Darussifa, with the
significant contributions of Dr.

Faruk Bayulkem and Dr. Ratip KazancIgil, was rapidly
transformed into the venue that would earn it the title
`best museum of Europe'. When the adjacent Medical
College is added in, the Darussifa, a three-part
structure consisting of two courts and a main building,
is actually a complex design.

Six rooms surround the rectangular first court, four
the second. The principal space, which is used as a
museum today, is a spacious area with a central dome
and 12 smaller domes. There are ten sickrooms, six for
winter, four for summer, each with a view of the
fountain. The Medical College immediately next to the
Darussifa has been converted into a Painting and
Sculpture Museum where works by contemporary artists
are exhibited.


Treatment with music is known to have been practiced in
many of the civilizations of Anatolia. The Greeks, who
regarded music as the origin of all virtue, used music
for the edification and purification of the soul. The
Greek philosopher Plato, student of Socrates, said in
the 5th century B.C. that music, with its harmony and
rhythm, endowed a person with tolerance as well as
giving him comfort. And legend has it that 2400 years
ago Hippocrates, who is regarded as the father of
medicine, took some of his patients to temples so they
could listen to the sacred hymns.

But it is also a known fact that in the period when
this `house of cures' was being established at Edirne,
mental patients in some countries were being burned at
the stake on the grounds that they were `possessed by
devils'. Second only to the Ottoman Fatih Darussifa in
Istanbul, the Edirne Health Museum was an important
clinic where patients were cured by `water' and


The renowned 17th century Ottoman traveller Evliya
Celebi describes in his `Seyahatname' how the patients
he saw here were treated: `The chief physician of the
Darussifa, who has ample experience in the beneficial
effect of music on the human soul, has his patients
listen to music in various modes. Noting how their
heartbeat either slows down or speeds up, he determines
which melody is appropriate for them and then begins
the treatment.' There is an expression the Turks use
frequently in connection with music: `Music is the food
of the soul'.

Perhaps it is a legacy from that time. Who knows?

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