Divriği is a dusty mining town with one of the country’s greatest architectural works tucked into the brutal iron-ore rich mountains of south-eastern Sivas. While it has been a settled region since (at the latest) the early Iron Age, it rose to its zenith a few millennia later, in the 13th century as a capital of the Turkic Mengujekid kingdom, and a part of the Seljuk Empire. Evidence of the wealth and power of this period remain in its magnificent historical buildings.
Grand Mosque and Hospıtal of Divriği
Divriği Ulu Camii ve Turan Melek Darüşşifası
Unfortunately, this amazing place is closed to the public for restoration work that is expected to last until 2019 or beyond. I got most of these pictures by giving my camera to the security guard and doing some heavy editing.
The Grand Mosque of Divriği and the adjoined House of Healing are by far the primary reasons for visiting Divriği. Even taking all the major pieces of religious architecture from the last thousand years into account this stands as one of the most unique and impressive.
Built in 1228 and included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985 the single unified structure is divided into two main parts; a mosque and a hospital. The larger (though shorter) of the two is the mosque which is the portion of the building to the north and far side from the entrance. Inside, the octagonal pillars are mismatched due to unfortunate restoration attempts. The Mihrab, or large niche that denotes direction for prayer, is ornate and beautifully incorporates the dome above it.
In the hospital, which is the smaller portion on the south end of the building, the design is strange and asymmetrical with more mismatched, though ornate, pillars holding up the heavy vaulted ceiling. A fountain sits in the center of the floor with its spiraled outflow carved into it. There is also a set of tombs under a Seljuk style dome in the north-east corner of the hospital.
While this building is certainly far from standard, it does bear a number of Seljuk era hallmarks. The domes for example appear to be tall angular cones from the outside but inside they are rounded. Most importantly and certainly most striking is the Seljuk obsession with immensely grand and ornate doorways that can be seen reaching an entirely new level at Divriği.
There are four doors in total, one serving the hospital and three to the mosque. All four of these doors are of different size and drastically different in design. The door to the hospital, for example, is a pair of arches recessed into one another with heavy stone motifs protruding as if hung from the masonry. The western gate on the other hand is comparatively simple relying instead on highly detailed geometric reliefs covering the entire surface.
Scattered throughout the historical town are a number of well restored mansions from late in the Ottoman era. While some are fairly standard there are a number of them that are quite interesting architecturally with large towers and impossible cantilevers.
The Maidens Bridge takes a bit of effort to find. If you follow the Sivas- Divriği yolu (also called Istasyon Caddesi) to the north out of the city, take a right turn where you see an Opet on your right. Park where you can and take the short hike to the river and follow it northwards till you reach the bridge.
Turns out finding information about the bridge is a lot harder than finding the bridge. I have no idea who built it or when it was built or why it’s called Maidens Bridge. If you know anything more PLEASE let me know!
Divriği and Kesdoğan Castles
Divriği ve Kesdoğan Kalesi
Directly north of the Grand Mosque and Hospital, perched above the town on one side and the river behind, is a heavily restored Divriği Castle. As restoration is ongoing the castle is closed, though if you wander, there are a good number of points to view it from.
The best view of Divriği Castle and the mosque inside it is actually from Kesdoğan Castle, another mountaintop castle on the other side of the river. To get to this one will take some hiking and climbing as there doesn’t appear to be a major road that runs the whole way. If you ask around people will be glad to point out the way or find someone who knows. Again, if you have any more information let us know!
How To Get There
Divriği is large enough to have regular bus service though most would be passing through from East to West. For more information check out company websites or offices for full service details. For more on inter-city bus travel check out our article Getting Around in the Understanding+ portion of the site.
The main road to Divriği, the D260, runs from Kangal in the west to Elazığ in the east. If you’re looking for something slightly slower though much more scenic I would recommend the drive from Divriği to Zara on the Sivas – Divriği road, connecting to the Kangal – Zara road.
Where To Stay
A short walk around the old town will bring you past a number of hotels quickly enough. If you’re looking for something a little bit more interesting there are a number of Ottoman era mansions that have been restored and converted into boutique hotels.
Have any tips or info to add? Spot any mistakes? We’d love to hear about it.