Damaskus : Bautradition und Notablenpolitik im 18. Jahrhundert (1708 - 1808) ; öffentliche Architektur als Spiegel von Lokalpolitik

Faculty/Professorship: Islamic Art and Archaeology  
Author(s): Daiber, Verena
Alternative Title: DAMASCUS: ARCHITECTURAL TRADITION AND THE POLITICS OF NOTABLES IN THE 18TH CENTURY (1708-1808). Public architecture as a mirror of local politics ; Promotionstitel: Die Bau- und Kulturgeschichte von Damaskus im 18. Jahrhundert unter Berücksichtigung der Erdbeben von 1173/1759
Volume Number/Title: 1. Text. - 267 S.
2. Katalog. - 169 S. : Ill., Kt.
Publisher Information: Bamberg : opus
Year of publication: 2013
Edition: Überarbeitete Version
Supervisor(s): Korn, Lorenz  ; Neuwirth, Angelika
Year of first publication: 2009
Language(s): German
Bamberg, Univ., Diss., 2009
Licence: German Act on Copyright 
URN: urn:nbn:de:bvb:473-opus4-36675
The dissertation includes an analysis of the building and restoration activities in the city of Damascus as well as an examination on the impact of the 1173/1759 earthquakes on the buildings and reactions to the disaster.

For a long time the 18th century was considered an era of political-economic as well as intellectual and artistic decline but this assumption is not maintainable considering the transmission of several exclusive rights to the governor of Damascus that added to the stabilization of his authority and position as well as to the stabilization of the political circumstances in the entire province. One of the privileges assigned to the governor was the leadership of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in 1708. The assembly of pilgrims in Damascus from the entire Mashreq, Persia, Central Asia and even as far as China was the largest gathering after Cairo and added to the trade volume of the Syrian province as well as to the wealth of the authorities that now had gained the right of collecting taxes for the Sublime Porte themselves. Several still extant buildings of considerable prominence attest to the newly gained wealth and self-awareness of the local elite. Among these buildings are the Khan ar-Ruzz, Khan Asʿad Pasha, Madrasa Fathiyya, just to mention a few, and even private buildings such as the Qasr al-Azm gained public attention through their splendor that was transmitted via hearsay among people.
While in the 17th century Turkish governors were delegated to the Syrian province, now local families gained ground as state officials which enabled them to strengthen their local hierarchy. The most well known family were probably the ʿAzms who were originally landlords and traders from Hama. Between 1725 and 1807 they gained nine times the post of governor and contributed considerably to a certain economic prosperity that was expressed in several large-scale building projects within the city.

The history of economy and politics as well as of building activity can be reconstructed through local sources including Damascene chronicles (hawadith, tarajim, khitat), court registers and building inscriptions. The narrative sources give a lively picture of the daily life in the city and of the impression of the deeds – among them their building activity and the resulting monuments – of the ruling class.

Along with the political ongoings of the 18th century the two severe earthquakes in October and November of the year 1759 – one reaching VIII, the other X MMS (Modified Mercalli Scale) which corresponds to 6,5 and 7,2 on the Richter Scale – was perceived as an incisive event. Indeed it caused considerable damage to both people and material but in fact it coincided with several incidents: two years before the dramatic fall of the mightiest governor of that century, Asʿad Pasha, who was first deposed and than assassinated under obsure conditions is considered the big break in the authority of the ʿAzm family that lost power in the aftermath until in 1807 the last ʿAzm governor was displaced, followed by the heaviest earthquakes that hit the regions since more than 600 years – some of the sources still recall the 1171 earthquakes after which Nur ad-Din Zengi commissioned several major reconstructions and restorations.

The research is completed by a survey of all detectable building and restoration measures undertaken in the public sector during the 18th century (1708-1807), recorded in a comprehensive catalogue. It shows that the ʿAzm family was cross-linked within Damascene society to the extend that they were able to construct private and public buildings that reached the dimension of large-scale real estate investments. Since we have – apart from the building inscriptions – no written records of the ruling elite itself, their buildings constitute a major source of their actions and self-perception as they reflect the position – or what the patron thought to be his standing within urban structure as well as society – through their monuments. The monuments commissioned by the governor Asʿad Pasha and his administrator of finance Fathi Afandi for instance show – without words – their rivalry about acceptance and positioning within the social and economic order of Damascene society, and Fathi’s aspiration after the post of governor.

Imperial Ottoman elements in architectural style and decoration are obvious – which was already the case shortly after the Ottoman conquest in the early 16th century – though never exactly copied but moreover adapted to the traditional Damascene style. At the same time local traditions were maintained. A close analysis reveals the definite diversity and the development of characteristic features for each type of building. The 18th century may be considered the last century of a predominant local architectural tradition. Yet in the first third of the century singular modern style architectural features find their way into local structures, announcing new European style decorations and structural elements introduced via the Ottoman capital Istanbul that would massively infiltrate 19th century Syrian architecture coming along with the central directed administrational reforms (tanzimat) of the Ottoman Empire.
GND Keywords: Damaskus; Baupolitik; Elite; Öffentliches Gebäude; Geschichte 1708-1808
Keywords: Damaskus, Architektur, 18. Jahrhundert, Erdbeben
DDC Classification: 720 Architecture  
RVK Classification: EH 5502     LO 87151     LO 87170   
Type: Doctoralthesis
URI: https://fis.uni-bamberg.de/handle/uniba/1611
Year of publication: 19. August 2013
Awards: Görres Wissenschaftspreis 

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