Home > Words of Power > Eski Cami (Old Mosque)

Eski Cami (Old Mosque)

October 24, 2009

by Elizabeth Angell

These images are of calligraphic inscriptions on the walls and pillars of the Eski Cami (“Old Mosque”), a fifteenth-century Ottoman mosque in Edirne, Turkey. They consist of Qur’anic passages and of particular individual words freighted with religious force — Islamic calligraphy is both a devotional art form and a locus of apotropaic power. (Click on the photos to see larger versions.)


Eski Cami 1, by Elizabeth Angell


Eski Cami 2, by Elizabeth Angell


Eski Cami 3, by Elizabeth Angell


Eski Cami 4, by Elizabeth Angell


Eski Cami 5, by Elizabeth Angell


Eski Cami 6, by Elizabeth Angell


1. The word wahid (“one”) is superimposed over Allah (in outline only), so that together the composition can be read as “God is one.” 2. Hu, or “He,” meaning God. 3. Negative-space calligraphy (detail). 4. A doubled waw. The word wa means “and,” and in this context signifies union. 5. Mirror calligraphy on a pillar. 6. A large Allah (with praying man as punctuation mark).

Download the podcast

Elizabeth Angell is a graduate student (among other things) in New York City. She blogs at verbal privilege.

Categories: Words of Power Tags:
  1. October 24, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing these.

  2. October 25, 2009 at 9:32 am

    Marvellous. Glad they’re black and white. (I think…!)

  3. October 25, 2009 at 11:28 am

    yes, amazing. the signs made me think of both the Taj Mahal, and the OM-sign in buddhist regions, which seems to come with a same curved mood like “wahid”.

    the black and white surely adds to the sense of timeless majety – i got curious, though, and photo googled the mosque, to see it in colour.

    on a sidenote: verbal privilege is a great blog. thanks for sharing all those places and moments.

  4. October 26, 2009 at 2:54 am


  5. JJS
    October 26, 2009 at 11:00 am

    These are stunning photographs, thank you. I’ve spent a fair bit of time in mosques in Istanbul, and you’ve perfectly captured the way I experienced the spiritual geometries of the architecture as much as of the calligraphy – I love these!

  6. Nathan H
    October 28, 2009 at 9:18 am

    Thanks for the word apotropaic, as well as these lovely photos. I have some sort of half-formed thought about synesthesia. The mosque is likely to be fairly quiet, but the calligraphy is kind of (visually) loud in a way, like a superhuman voice speaking. It doesn’t “speak to me” as I can’t read it, but I wonder about how a reader of Arabic would experience it. Is it original to the mosque, or was it done in a later century?

  1. October 24, 2009 at 2:55 pm
Comments are closed.
%d bloggers like this: