Thursday, January 21, 2010


In my time of researching both in Istanbul and the U.S. for information on the lives of people buried in the Protestant Cemetery in Ferikoy-Istanbul, I learned that many of those early people were missionaries connected to the American Board of Commissions for Foreign Missions. Many books were written by these missionaries and one that I found especially interesting was entitled CONSTANTINOPLE OLD AND NEW by H. B. Dwight, Chas. Scribner & Sons, N.Y., 1915. It is hard to find some of these books now and I was lucky to come across one in the Los Angeles Public Library. I took lots of notes from it and will share one with you, about the Mosque shown above.

Kilic Ali Pasha Mosque was built by an Italian who was born in Calabria. Captured by Algerian pirates, he turned Turk after 14 years in the galleys and changed his name of Ochiali to Oulouj Ali - Big Ali. He then became a commander of Galleys. At the battle of Lepanto he saved a shred of Turkish honor by capturing the flagship of the Knights of Malta, turning the squadron of Doria and bringing 40 galleys safely back to Constantinople. For this exploit he was made high admiral of the fleet, and his name was turned into Sword Ali - Kilij Ali.

An interesting sidelight is thrown on this picturesque character from so unexpected a source as the novel of "Don Quixote". In Chapter 32 of the first part of that book, in which the captive relates his life and adventures, Cervantes tells with very little deviation from the fact, how he himself lost his left hand at the battle of Lepanto, how 4 years later he was captured by pirates and then taken to Algiers, and how he lived there five years as the slave of a cruel Albanian master. Trying then to escape, he was caught and brought for trial before a personage whom he calls Uchali, but who was none other than our friend Kilij Ali. The upshot of the matter was that the builder of our beautiful mosque bought the author of our immortal novel, whom he treated with great kindness and presently accepted for him, in 1581, the very moderate ransom of 500 crowns. So might a half-forgotten building in Tophane be brought back to light as the mosque of Don Quixote.

Who knows whether or not this is true. But I suspect that Dwight did. Lots and lots of history in Istanbul, that's for sure.

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