In the course of systematization and study of sources, found in the Turkish archives (including new ones), and especially cartographic material (maps of 1770, 1789, 1790), 10 (ten) mosques were located on the territory of the Bendery fortress at the end of the XVIII century, i.e., their exact location was established. Also today, we know the name of some of them, as well as a description of the Main Cathedral mosque, including perhaps some information about their outward. Two mosques have been partially preserved to this day: one in the Gate Tower of the citadel, and the second in the middle tower on the Lower Fortress. These mosques are presented today in the form of mihrabs (prayer ambries) facing Mecca, well preserved, as well as in the form of reconstructed minarets on the roofs of these towers. The Dutch historian of Turkish origin Mehmet Tyutenji, the author of one of the works devoted to this topic, provided significant assistance in this work.

Sources describing some mosques indicate that this particular mosque is stone, implying that some of the others are not built of stone, but obviously of wood or clay (mudbrick). Chelebi in his description directly points out that some mosques have minarets made of wood.

Campenhausen identifies only three mosques, describing them: Munkar-Hamid or Sultan (Cathedral), located on the picture number 4; Dagenstanskaya, located obviously on the picture number 3; Sultan Selim’s mosque, probably located on the picture number 10. “All the others don't matter”, - the author writes.

Сomputational modeling of the localization of mosques. SketchUp2017,VRAY, CorelDraw 2018, ACDSee 10 Pro. G. Vilkov

 Configuration and dimension of mosque models (3D) are selected by the dimension and configuration of mosques on the plan of 1790 and 1770.

  the     number of     Gate

 the number   of mosque

 the location of the future new military temple of Alexander   Nevsky, which was restored in 2010 and exists today


Due to the fact that the names of the gates will be important in the further localization of mosques, their names will be given at the beginning of the article. (G. Vilkov’s remark. The first names are given as they are marked on the map of 1790, on other maps the same Gate has different names).

№1 – (S) Istanbul (Istanbul Kapysy), they are also named as Kaushan, Constantinople, and Tsargrad. Also, in archival documents, the name of the gate is found as Özi (from turkish Ochakov, Achi-Kale), i.e. Ochakov-indicating the direction to Ochakov;

№ 2 – (T) Horde (Horde Kapysy), they are also named Military (Horde) and St. George;

№3 – (U) Varnitsky (Varnitsa Kapysy), they are also named Yassky;

Gates facing the Dniester river (they had different names on different maps):

№4 – (V) Water (Su Kapysy), they are also named Kamensky and Grigoryevsky;

№5 – (W) Stone (Tash Kapysy) they are also named Kamensky;

№6 – (X) Tabanki (Taban Kapysy, from the Turkish “tanners”) they are Tabatsky and Water;

№7 – they are not shown on the above-mentioned map (1790), on other maps are designated as Small Water and also Tabatsky;

№8 Watchtower that also serves as a gateway to the inner fortress;

№9Large or Main (Ulu Kapysy), with a high degree of probability we are talking about the Gate Tower, which serves as the entrance to the citadel of the fortress and the mosque at the same time.

№10 - The Gate, leading from the Upper Fortress to the Lower one, were built during the reconstruction of the fortress in 1793-1795 by Francois Kauffer. Currently, they are presented on the main plan as Grigorievsky Gate.

Below you can see a map from 1790 with highlighted mosques linked to the Gates. The map is also valuable because the cartographer clearly displayed the outlines and approximate scale of each building which we are interested in. As we can see from the picture, the largest mosques are number 4 and number 3, and relatively large ones are number 6 and number 10. The mosque number 6 is missing from the plan below and its location is established by overlaying a map of 1770 – the time of the siege of the fortress by the army of count P. Panin.


The mosque number 1 on the plan is the Sultan Suleiman Mosque in the citadel of the fortress, located in the Gate Tower. Evlia Celebi writes about it. “Travelogue” Evliya Celebi volume 5, part 1, page 172: “ The mosque of Suleiman Khan stands above this gate, but it is not so large in size and does not differ in majesty.” (summer 1657). No other descriptions of this mosque have come down to us, but at least it has survived to the present in the form of a preserved mihrab (prayer ambry), strictly oriented to the south, to Mecca.

From archival documents that mention the Suleiman mosque. (C.AS./296-12297-0) is a document of 1758, which contains a report on renovation work on the fortress, including the mentioned mosque. According to the document, that year the wooden roof and 5 doors of the Suleiman mosque, located inside the inner fortress (so in the original), were reconstructed. The upper surface of the mosque, which was put in commission by Yusuf-pasha, was also reconstructed. The tiles and one part of the floor of the mosque were also repaired by order of Ismail-pasha. We are probably talking about the entire Gate Tower, and not just the mosque itself, since the document mentions the repair of other towers of the citadel.

In accordance with the decree approved by the Sultan in 1761, it was ordered to allocate means from the national Treasury, based on the report on the   inspection of buildings (in the fortress), as well as to restore The Sultan Suleiman mosque and the nearby tower in the border fortress of Bendery, which were damaged by fire / burned. This document also specified the workers and their area of specialization. It was prescribed that all construction activity should be carried out by the Palace architect Elhak Ahmet. The cost sheet was developed and sent to Istanbul. Renovation work, which began in 1757, continued until that time.

(C.AS./1090-48098-0) is a document, dating from 1777-1778, which mentions the deadline of restored and not restored parts of the Bendery fortress. It says that the restoration work of bridges, gates, Sultan Suleiman mosque, ammunition building and tower floors, Muhafiz Palace, Agha mansion, Arsenal squares and winter shelters of janissary units will be completed within 20 days. It says that the restoration work of bridges, gates, Sultan Suleiman mosque, ammunition building and tower floors, Muhafiz Palace, Agha mansion, arsenal areas and winter shelters of janissary units will be completed within 20 days.

In the ferman of 1783, an order was given for the reconstruction of the mosque and minaret in the Bendery castle (citadel) under the supervision of the architect Hafiz Ibrahim Agha with the help of workers who were sent from Istanbul. An expert on minarets and stonemasons were chosen for these works.

Gate Tower of the fortress citadel after reconstruction in 2010 with a recreated roof minaret

The state of the mihrab (prayer ambry) today, located on the second floor of the Gate Tower

An example of a mihrab (a prayer ambry)

The mosque number 2 on the plan is also located, like the first one, in the middle tower in the Lower Fortress (there used to be three towers in the curtain wall, the last southern tower did not survive the assault of 1770, Vilkov’s remark). Evliya Celebi also calls it the mosque of Suleiman Khan, namely: “There is another mosque of Suleiman Khan in the large tower that serves as the gateway to this Lower Fortress. There are canons of bal-emez on both sides of its mihrab.” But researchers believe that this mosque, as well as the tower, could not have been built under Sultan Suleiman in 1538, since it is known that the Lower fortress and, accordingly, the towers were built by the order of the Sultan by the Moldavian ruler Peter the Lame in 1584. The Sultan Murad III ruled by the Ottomans at that time. Ukrainian professor A. Krasnozhon was able to decipher one of the lapidary monuments on the Gate Tower, a memorial plate with an inscription and read the date on it: 992 year of Hija (1584). It was during the construction of the Lower Fortress that the tower was reinforced with armor (additional) masonry. As you know, the name of the newly built mosque was almost always assigned to the name of the ruling Sultan at that time or another famous person, as it was, for example, with the Dagestan mosque. Therefore, it is obvious that the name of this mosque at number 2 was in honor of Sultan Murad III.

The following documents were found in the archives of this mosque, as well as the mosque number 1: (BOA AE. SABH.I. 273, 8341 24-10-1200), on the payment of oil and wax tax for the mosques of Sultan Murad and Sultan Suleiman, located in the Bendery fortress, from the income of the tax administration of the Kiliya district; (BOA İE. EV. 35, 4057 12-12-1111), Bendery fortress governor’s petition for the appointment of the muezzin of the Sultan Murad Mosque, which is located in the curtain wall of Bendery castle.

The mosque in the tower in the Lower fortress (photo by S. Simonenko)

Inside view of the mosque tower in the Lower Fortress, ground floor. The mihrab is visible and cannon loopholes on both sides of it. The picture was made before the restoration of the tower

Mosque number 3 on the plan. Dr. Mehmet Tyutenji believes that this is the place where the Dagestani mosque was located, although none of the sources indicate the exact location of this mosque on the territory of the fortress. The Ali Pasha mosque Daghestanly dated 1190 year of the Hijra, i.e., 1776-77. From the archive document C. AS. 865, 37068 29-06-1190, an order is known to the vezir of Dagestanli Ali Pasha, who administrated Bendery fortress restoration. This order contained gratitude to him for the construction of stone mosques, fountains and charity houses at his own expense during the specified period.

For a long time Dagestanli Ali Pasha held the positions of seraskier and chief of the garrison of a number of fortresses, he was the Governor of various provinces of the Ottoman Empire. Dagestanli Ali Pasha’s elder brother was a famous ruler of Algeria (“Algeria uncle”); his name is Daghestanli Hassan Pasha.  As the ruler of Algeria in 1791-1798, he built the famous Ketshava Mosque (“Kechiova” in Turkish) in Algeria and the Pasha Mosque in Oran.

After the second conquest of the Bendery fortress in November 1789 by the Russian army under the command of field marshal G. A. Potemkin, the mosque number 3 on the plan was consecrated and converted into an Orthodox Church named after the Holy Trinity; on a number of maps it is marked as “Russian Church”. It is marked under its own name only on the map of 1790. Potemkin wrote to his Eminence Amvrosiy – the archbishop of Ekaterinoslav and Kherson of Taurian, dated November 7, 1789 (No. 1591) in his letter: “I have chosen two of the best mosques from the those located here (in the fortress), to convert them to the churches. Your Eminence favor to consecrate one of them with the Cathedral in the name of the Holy Great Martyr and Victorious George (on plan it’s number 4); and to name the other at your discretion, and I gave the command them to be prepared for this.” G. A. Potemkin writes in the order of November 7, 1789 (№ 1592): “ Of the two mosques I have chosen, the large one is to be converted to the Cathedral Church, and the other will also be converted to the Churches, as I order both of them to be cleansed and prepared for consecration.”

Clipping from a map of the Bendery Fortress of 1790 indicating the location of the Church of the Holy Trinity on the map

However, after the conclusion of the Iasi peace (its result is that all the lands east of the Dniester ceded to Russia), the Bender fortress, located on the right Bank, was again returned to the Turks. All Muslim mosques converted to temples of other faiths have regained their status.

In 1806, after the bloodless capturing of the fortress by the corps of Baron Meindorff, the military again adapted the building of the great Turkish mosque for the Orthodox Church, located 65 meters from the citadel, along its Western wall, next to the Turkish bathhouses and wells. As it is indicated above, on Potemkin’s watch it was called the Holy Trinity. It was named St. Alexander Nevsky Church.

In 1807, with the blessing of Metropolitan Veniamin of Iasi, Archpriest Stefan Shamraevsky took over the re-equipment and adaptation of the former Muslim mosque for the military Church of Alexander Nevsky. This former mosque was a two-story stone building with two rows of windows, covered with tiles on top. In the upper part of the great hall, a place for the choir was equipped, and a rich and beautiful iconostasis was installed. As in many churches of the military department of that time, in the church of Alexander Nevsky, military trophies obtained from the Turks were kept in a place of honor; among them were flags, horsetails, guns, firearms and cold weapons. Like many other military churches of that time, Alexander Nevsky’s church fell into the realm of the rapidly expanding separation of military church institutions from the administration of the Holy Synod. In addition to the military district governor and the chief priest who was with him, the church was also subordinate to Metropolitan Dimitri of Bender and Akkerman.

According to the correspondence of the military engineering department, after 15 years, the building of the former mosque, which was severely damaged especially during the first assault on the fortress, began to collapse and, according to its size, could not accommodate parishioners. Therefore, in 1821, a petition was prepared to the commandant of the Bendery fortress, the district military chief, as well as the Metropolitan to allocate space for the construction of a new capital building of the Alexander Nevsky Church. Soon it was chosen and, as it turned out, very successfully: on the site of the demolished former Turkish shopping malls, on the main fortress street – Tsaregradskaya, leading from the fortress directly to the city center, between the citadel and the main gate of the fortress. In 1825, the building of the former mosque was destroyed, so before the construction of a new temple, the Nevsky Church temporarily moved to a private house. Modern picture of the fortress with marks of the location of some mosques. Number 3 is Dagestan mosque, later the Church of the Holy Trinity, afterwards the first temple of Alexander Nevsky

The mosque №4 on the plan. Actually, this is the Main, Cathedral, Sultan's mosque, which had several names in connection with its reconstruction and complete restoration under different sultans. Its location is well known, it was located at the Main (Kaushan, Istanbul) Gates.

At Campenhausen (1789) it was called Munkar-Hamid [Muynkar-Dgaramid]. He’s writing: “People gather in the main mosque, which is called Munkar-Hamid, only on Fridays. This mosque is considered a Cathedral; it’s here where is allowed to pray for the Sultan.” (In the Islamic tradition Munkar and Hamid are angels who interrogate and punish the dead in their graves. In Arabic Hamid means praiseworthy, glorifying, ascending.)

Campenhausen gives a detailed description of this mosque: “The great mosque [Munkar-Hamid] is the most beautiful building in Bendery, has a length of 58 steps. A verse from the Quran is written in gold letters above the doors. A metal washstand, which the Turks call the schadrivan, hangs right up against the doors in a niche. The images of the Kaaba and the grave of Mahomet were depicted to the left of it, but they were removed when Russian troops arrived. There is a small lectern, resembling a guardhouse to the right of the shadrivan; here prayer leader stood when reciting Quran. It is reached by ten steps covered with red cloth.

The inscription on the slab is in Arabic: Mashallah, also Mashalla, ma sha allah — “how beautiful it is!”, literally “what Allah wished”) is Arabic ritual prayer exclamation, an interjection often used in Arab and other Muslim countries as a sign of amazement, joy, praise and gratitude to God and a humble recognition that everything happens according to the will of AllahThe floor of the mosque is covered with beautiful carpets, and sofas are equipped along the walls. A dome decorated with a mahogany star and verses of the Quran written in gold is in the middle of the building. A copper chandelier, called a scherfe, hangs under the center of the star; several hundred glass lamps of different colors are hanging on its branches, which are never lit, except for the holiday of Bayram. In this case, each person, present in the mosque, had to pay several parahs. Several ostrich eggs and artificial flowers made of spangle or gold leaf are hanging over the sherfe. Near the lectern, a prayer against the plague is written on the wall, and next to it you can see a color image of the Aliev’s sword [the sword of the prophet Muhammad, who passed to Ali Ibn Abu Talib].

Turkish people used only three colors in their wall paintings: blue, green, and yellow. I saw here a large hall, there was a drawing of a tree on one wall of it, and on the other side something blue, similar to a ship, was shown. The minarets are tall, thin, reaching into the sky, and their tops are covered with tinplates. They are usually built of stone and stand a few steps from mosques. I saw only one exception to this [rule], which I already spoke about [in Akkerman]. They have a spiral staircase inside that reaches to the highest point of the building. There is a gallery on the outside from which the prayer leader calls for prayer or announces death. For this last service he is paid a dollar, which is about four shillings.

The two galleries of the main Bendery mosque are built with a certain taste, and the spaces [between them] are decorated with blue glass [mosaic smalt], which creates an amazing effect when the sun shines.”

It is more likely that we know how this mosque looked like. Some slabs with the image of mosques in the drawing of lapidary monuments (stone plates with images and inscriptions) from the fortress walls, made by the Russian military in the summer of 1819, are known. Two slabs were redrawn with the explanation that they are located “On both sides of the Dniester Gate from the outside”. We are probably talking about the Gate number 7 on the plan (Tabatskiye, Small Water), which overlooked the Dniester river and which was located near the Main mosque. We can see the image of a mosque with 4 minarets on the right slab. It is known, that small mosques usually had and have one minaret (or no minaret at all), medium-sized ones have two minarets; and there were from four to six minarets in large Sultan mosques in Istanbul. The largest number of minarets, that is ten, is at the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina. That’s why the image of the mosque with 4 minarets in the drawing is most likely a drawing of the Munkar-Hamid mosque, if considering that the stone carver did not distort the image of the original.

However, before Campenhauzen, the Cathedral mosque didn’t have not only the name of Munkar-Hamid, but also, as is known, was rebuilt again, at least once.

It is known as the Sultan Ahmed mosque in documents for 1778-1779. There are several documents related to this mosque in the archives. From the Ottoman archives of the Turkish Cabinet of Ministers:

-AE. SABH.I. 21 1800 H-25-11-1193 (December 4, 1779), a brief note from the former fortress commandant Vidin Ali Pasha about his work on the construction of the charity fountain-cheshme at the wall of Sultan Ahmed Khan’s mosque in the Bendery fortress, and on some other issues;

-AE.SSLM.III 214 12594 H-29-12-1212 (June 14, 1798), amendment to the note of the Bendery fortress commandant, Hasan Pasha, concerning the construction of the Sultan Ahmed’s mosque minaret;

-AE.SSLM.III 257 14872 H-29-12-1212 (June 14, 1798), a copy of the order sent to the Bendery fortress commandant Husein Pasha, based on the request of the Governor of Bendery, Feyzulla, and some other letters, regarding the fact that he instructed the Deputy architect Ismail, who is engaged in the construction of warehouses, to repair the Sultan Ahmed’s mosque minaret near the Istanbul Gate of the said fortress, which (the minaret) was damaged by a lightning strike;

-AE.SSLM.III 264 15277 H-29-12-1212 (June 14, 1798), a petition signed by a certain Abdullah requesting the repair of the lightning-damaged Sultan Ahmed’s mosque minaret in the Bender fortress, with the involvement of the deputy architect named Ismail.

It is the mosque of Sultan Abdulhamid I (dated 1194 by the year of Hejira / 1780-81 /). From the inscription on the memorial plate, copied by the Russians in 1819, it follows that after the destruction of the mosque built by Sultan Ahmed, it was recreated in the same place by Sultan Abdulhamid I.

Redrawing the slab, an inscription above the slab in the redrawing “Above the Mosque at the Kaushan Gate”

The translation of the slab:

1. Oh, Glorious conqueror, the warrior of Allah’s Sultan Abdulhamid Khan, and the Almighty God will give him a place in heaven,

2. He revived the honourable mosque, which needed to be renewed as time passed over it,

3. It was him just, powerful, the most perspicacious Sultan Abdulhamid Khan…

4. It was restored... once built…again by his Majesty…

5. A blessing to this great padishah ... to his soul (?). It was written (?) in 1194.

There were two documents related to this repair during the specified period in the Ottoman archives:

- (C.EV. 645/32553 08-07-1994) is about sending instructions to Bendery local authorities, regarding the purchase of necessary materials for the repair of the mosque built by Sultan Ahmed at the Bendery crossing (so in the original);

- In the archived document (C. ML. /175-7440-0), dating back to the beginning of 1781, the allocation of money for the construction of certain buildings (warehouses, moat walls, etc.) and for the restoration of the Sultan Ahmed’s mosque and the Sultan Murad’s mosque were mentioned.

Cutting from the map of the Bendery fortress in 1790 with the location of St. George Church on the map

 The picture of the area near the former Istanbul Gate, also the Cathedral mosque and the Cathedral Church were located near it earlier. At present, the Old Bastion hotel and restaurant complex is located on this site. The photo was made by G. Vilkov

The mosque № 5 on the plan is a mosque with an unknown name. As can be seen from the configuration of the mosque on the plan of 1790, it is the smallest of all, presented on the plan.

The mosque № 6 on the plan is a mosque with an unknown name. It is interesting because it is displayed only on one map of 1770, compiled during the siege of the Bendery fortress by the troops of the Second army of P.I. Panin, in French. The mosque is marked with the letter J, but there are no other mosques on this map. The mosque is marked on the map in red, apparently it had some special meaning for the military: either as a reference point for the gunners, or as a reference point for the explosion of one of the siege mines. It is indicated as a stone mosque in the description of the object (French – Mosquée de pierre).

The mosque №7 on the plan, also known as the Greek Church, is located at the Horde (Military) Gate, they are also the St. George’s Gate. The name is unknown. It is of small smize by configuration on the plan. On the map of 1789 it is marked as a Greek Church, although on the plan of 1790 it is shown as a mosque. G.A. Potemkin’s notes do not contain any information about the conversion of one of the mosques into a Church of the Greek denomination. Although other changes in the status of mosques are described in detail in his office notes. Campenhausen does not mention the Greek church at the same time in his description. In tsarist and Soviet times this site was the territory of military units’ deployment. After the Second World War until 1994, it was the location of the Second heavy composite pontoon-bridge regiment.

Plan of the camp location under the city of Bendery in 1789 with an indication, including mosques and churches on the territory

If we take into account another lithograph, which Doctor of Historical Sciences I. V. Sapozhnikov dates from 1730-1740, we can presume, that the Greek Church existed during the Ottoman period in the history of the Bender fortress; in Sapozhnikov’s work this Church is designated as "Grichische Kirch" (old German, der Griechischen Kirche) - Greek Church. However, the lithograph shows the location of the Church quite accurately, as well as the location of other religious objects.

After the transfer of D. Cantemir to the side of Russia in 1711, the monarchy of the throne was acquired by the phanariots (wealthy Greek merchants and money-lenders from Phanar - Istanbul region). Moldavian rulers began to be appointed most often from several dynasties (Mavrokordatov, Rakovits, etc.), which were constantly replacing each other. The new system of government was called Turkish-Phanariotic in literature. In the supreme governing body of the Moldavian Principality - the Hospodar Council - the boyar-phanariots occupied a dominant position. Representatives of Porta - effendi in the Council began to observe the activity of the Council.

So, the presence of Greek churches in the Ottoman fortresses at the beginning of the XVIII century becomes natural.

The mosque №8 on plan was located in the area of the Northern Bastion №7. Its name is unknown. It’s of medium size by configuration on the plan. Currently, Bendery Car Assembly Plant, CJSC (former military car repair plant) is located in this territory.

The mosque №9 on plan was located in the area of the northern Varnitsa (Iasi) Gates, on a section of the coastal plateau, where the reconstruction of the fortress in 1793-95 a fortress wall will be built. The name is unknown. It’s of small size by configuration on the plan. Nowdays, it’s also the territory of the plant.

The mosque № 10 on the plan was located northwest of the citadel. If we take into account the above engraving, as well as the configuration on the plan of 1790, the building is relatively large. The presence of four minarets in this mosque is confusing. We can assume that this is the Selim Mosque. Campenhausen referred about it as “Selim Mosque”. Most likely, the Selim mosque was a mosque built by Sultan Selim III. During his reign, the fortification was restored in Bendery. An inscription copied by the Russians confirms that the fortress was reconstructed in 1209 by Hejira (1794 by NC). It is very possible that a mosque was built at the same time.

Later it is the Armenian Church, which is marked on the plan of 1789 under the letter N. This mosque, as well as 2 others, in 1789 fell under the conversion of stone mosques into Orthodox churches and temples of other non-Muslim faiths. From the letter of G. A. Potemkin to the Armenian Archbishop Joseph dated November 7, 1789 (№ 1586): “I entrust all Armenians who are in the lands that were acquired by the victorious arms of Her Imperial Majesty to you. Your Eminence, do not forget to make an order for the better organization of this people and for the suppression of various abuses that took root among them during the reign of the Turks. I have ordered one of the mosques here to be converted into a Church for the Armenian confession, which I am particularly respectful inform you about.”

It is assumed that this was previously the mosque of Sultan Selim, since G. A. Potemkin was guided by their condition, size and material from which they were built when selecting mosques. The preference was given to stone one. The largest mosques were the Cathedral at the Main Istanbul Gate, Dagestan and the Selim Mosques.

Campenhausen writes about the Armenian church in Bendery: “150 Armenian families live here. Their Church is a wretched building.” We are probably talking about the settlement (suburb) of the fortress.” It is known that the town of Grigoriopol (the second predominantly Armenian city of the Russian Empire) was founded on the left Bank of the Dniester river for the compact residence of Armenian migrants. His Highness Prince Potemkin tried that hard for the most painless relocation of colonists, personally choosing the location of the future town. Despite the fact that his Highness Prince did not live till the day of the official establishment of Grigoriopol in February 1792, his wish in choosing the name of the city was fulfilled. Currently, the town of Grigoriopol and Grigoriopol district is a part of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic.

G. A. Potemkin writes in the above-mentioned decree (№ 1592): “In addition to the two mosques described above (which were converted into Orthodox churches, remark by G. Vilkov) two more churches shall be appointed: one for Roman Catholic confession, the other for the Armenian, Armenian one is charged to Archbishop Joseph , and of the Roman confession to a priest Skirnevskiy.”

It is not known which mosque was given to Catholics. As I. V. Sapozhnikov rightly noted, apparently this plan was not implemented due to the small number of Catholic congregations in the town.

The name of one of the above unidentified mosques is known from one archival document. It was called Ibrahim’s mosque. The document (AE. SABH. I\27-2068-0) of 1786 states that the restoration work in the fortress and directly in Ibrahim Aga’s mosque, which was damaged, is completed. The internal parts of the fortress that were damaged in the assault were also repaired (?). Apparently, the mosque was named after the architect Hafiz Ibrahim Agha, who is mentioned in the Sultan’s ferman from 1783. At that time he carried out the reconstruction of the mosque in the fortress citadel. It is unfortunately unknown, where exactly it was located.

Thanks to sources and especially newly identified archival documents for the period from 1657 to 1790, we know about the presence of 12 mosques in Bendery: 10 of them were located in the fortress itself, 2 of them were located in the suburbs. As it turned out, one of the mosques in the fortress was the Greek Church, at least for the period from the first half to the end of the XVIII century.

From the order of G. A. Potemkin to Lieutenant General Krechetov dated November 12, 1789 (№ 1642): “…Order to turn huts, shops and mosques in the suburbs into residential ones...” That is, the two remaining Muslim Mosques in the town were converted into housing.

It should be understood that G.A. Potemkin’s plans to eradicate objects of the Muslim faith in Bendery at that time were not destined to come true. Based on the peace of Iasi in 1791/92, all the mosques returned their status back until 1806, when Russian troops returned to the fortress on a permanent basis under the Bucharest Peace Treaty of 1812 (according to that treaty the Ottoman Empire ceded the Southern Bug and Dniester rivers with the fortress of Ochakov and the village of Hadzibey to Russia, and in return Russia returned Bessarabia to Turkey with the fortresses of Bendery, Akkerman, Kilia and Ismail. i.e., the Bendery fortress was abandoned by Russian troops in 1792).

P. Svinyin also mentioned the mosques in his description of the Bessarabian region, in particular Bendery, in 1816, saying that two mosques “were turned into shops (warehouses)”, and also he made a remark: “When the Turks ruled, there were many buildings both houses and shops, enclosed in narrow streets, inside the fortress; but when they left the territory, almost all the buildings were broken, and the magnificent Pasha's Palace was destroyed.”

The history of the Bendery fortress began to be studied on the basis of new archival data, as well as “on the site” in the fortress itself, not so long ago, no more than 10 years. Every day more and more new data is introduced into scientific circulation, different versions are put forward, studied, accepted and disproved. Map material is being updated. As for mosques, the material of the French engineer Francois Kauffer, who carried out the reconstruction of the fortress after G.A. Potemkin’s leaving in the period 1793/95, which contains a large number of sketches drawn by him personally, would be of great help. As for other fortresses of our region, some information about them is stored in the archives of the Russian State Military Historical in Moscow. But there is no information about Bendery there. We hope that the data on this topic will be updated and the topic of mosques and other Church objects in the fortress will be fully fulfilled.

Kauffer drawing. Bendery fortress. From the archive of A.Krasnozhon

Currently, by order of UNDP, more than 1000 documents have been revealed in the archives of Turkey in which Bendery Fortress is mentioned anyhow. For the present it has been managed to study 100 documents and translate them from Old Ottoman. A lot of cost sheets, reports, correspondence, etc. are among them, which contain invaluable information on different periods of construction and reconstruction of the fortress. Currently, they are being translated into Russian, as well as systematized and registered in the scientific Department of the Bendery Fortress, SUE.

The article was developed by G. S. Vilkov, Deputy Director for scientific work of the Bendery Fortress, SUE.

May 18, 2020


1)    An engraving from 1730-40 showing the location of mosques

2)    Ivanov’s drawing, 1790, indicating mosques and Gates

3)    The picture of mosques in the lapidary monuments (stone slabs)

4)    The picture of the mosque on the Bastion №2 on the escarpment of the outer bypassing moat (near the Main Gate)

5)    The drawing of the slab with a mosque

6)    The inscription in the drawing above the slabs “On both sides of the Kaushan Gate”

7)    The inscription in the drawing “On both sides of the Dniester Gate from the outside”. The Translation of the inscriptions on the first plate: the author (builder, manufacturer (literally from the tour. Amele) Mullah Muhammad is on the top, the date 1280, probably with an error (1180 by Hejira or 1767/1768 by NC is right) is below. The translation of the second slab is given in the article.

8)    Fragment of archive document AE.SABH.I.00027.02068.001.

Приказ Г.А. Потемкина о переоборудовании мечетей под церкви

9)    Order G.A. Potemkin on the conversion of mosques under the church.

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