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Tombul Mosque “Sherif Halil Pasha” 1744

100 National Tourist Sites

The “Sherif Halil Pasha” mosque in Shumen is the largest in Bulgaria and the second largest on the Balkan Peninsula after “Sultan Selim” in Edirne. It is also known by the name Tombul mosque because of the dome shape of the dome. Today it is a cultural monument , a house of prayer, but also a very visited tourist site.

There are many legends about this mosque, which was once in the very center of the city. The most famous of them tells about Sherif Khalil, a native of the village of Madara, who was a very disobedient son and his father, who often scolded him with the words: “You will never become a man”, sent him to Constantinople. The young man joined the army, where he showed great bravery. He also had a penchant for the natural sciences and literature and became a member of the so-called “Learned Society” at the court of Sultan Ahmed III. He also proved to be a good diplomat and, after holding a number of high offices, was awarded the title of Pasha in 1736. Then he returned to Shumen, where he rudely, arrogantly and disrespectfully said to his father: “As you can see, I have become not only a man, but also a shepherd, I have become a great man.” Legend has it that the bitter father shook his head and answered his son: “You may have become a Pasha, but not a man.” Then he went out and died not long after. Sherif Halil Pasha repented of his rudeness and to calm his conscience, decided to build a mosque in his honor. Construction began in 1740 and they graduated four years later.

The complex has several courtyards. In the largest is the fountain for ritual washing before prayer. Believers are convinced that its water is sacred. This courtyard is known by the name “arcade” because of the shape of the arches in front of the twelve rooms that surround it. They accommodated the students of the theological school, the “Madrasa”. Above them, on the second floor, is the mosque’s library, which contains over 5,000 volumes of religious literature in Arabic and Persian. The volumes of Abu’s writings and maps were also kept here Abdullah Mohammed al-Idrisi – a famous traveler and geographer of the 12th century. Due to their exceptional value, they were transferred to the public library “Saint Cyril and Methodius” in the capital.

The 40 meter high minaret dominates everything. To call the faithful to prayer, the muezzin must climb 99 steps. Tombul Mosque is beautiful both outside and inside. The prayer hall, which is entered through a corridor with high arcades in the Moorish style, amazes with the rich combination of colors and forms. Above the entrance door is a marble inscription consisting of eight verses praising the builder of the temple. The hall itself has a very interesting shape: the base is a square, which in the middle part becomes an octagon, and the upper part – a circle, and ends with a sphere /dome/, 25 meters high, which symbolizes the sky. They say that the excellent acoustics of the prayer hall is due to the clay pots skillfully built into the walls – a technique that was used by many builders at that time and in the construction of Christian temples.

It is also richly decorated, but since the Koran forbids the depiction of people, the motifs are geometric figures, inscriptions in Arabic and plant elements – but of plants from which alcohol cannot be obtained. The so-called mihrab – the place of the imam, as well as the podium from which he delivers his sermons on Fridays – is lavishly decorated. The recent restoration brought out the true beauty of Tombul Mosque. There are assumptions that Christians also contributed to its decoration.

Work time:
Opening hours:
09:00 – 18:00 all year round (no holidays)

Entrance fees:
adults – BGN 4, students – BGN 2.
Talks: Talk in Bulgarian – BGN 6.
Photo shooting – BGN 2.
Video recording – BGN 4

Address: city of Shumen, “Rakovski” street #21
Phone: +359 54 802875

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