MOSQUE FLOOR COVERING
Volume 5 Number
1610 George Sandys noted that the floor of St. Sophia was furnished
with "rewes of mats". Mosque floor coverings are regularly
noted by other travellers, with mats conspicuous among them in the
17th century, thus:
c. 1637, of a mosque/tomb outside of Derbent. "...and the
floor cover'd with Mat, for their convenience who came thither
to do their devotions."(1)
in 1655, on the seven royal mosques in Constantinople. "The
floor of the Mosque is covered with covers and mats, so that the
people may not be incommoded at all while praying." (2)
Dreux, on St. Sophia, Constantinople, 1668. "...prostrated
themselves on the rugs which were spread through all the mosque..."
the first Englishman to visit Mecca and Medina, during part of
a 15-year captivity spent largely in Ottoman Algiers, c. 1685,
on mosques in general. "...the Area is a plain beaten floor,
like the Floor of a Malt-House, spread all over with their Mats
of Rushes; but near the Emaum with Carpets. Their Galleries they
have likewise spread with the same." (4)
An excruciatingly detailed, interminable description of the St.
Sophia mosque, by Grelot c. 1680, contains a listing of minor mosque
functionaries. This includes "... the Klimgiler or Carpeteers,
to whom is entrusted the care of carpets. The Kaimgilier...who
must clean them often..." (5) The existence of such a position
would be consistent with a carpet status of regular mosque furnishing.
These observations of matters Ottoman and Turkic suggest that 17th
century floor coverings were a mixture of mat and carpet, with mats
declining and carpets predominating toward the end of the century.
If so, then the 17th century becomes a transitional period, and
carpeting becomes, perhaps, a practice of the modern era. The time
at which carpets came into general use as floor covering is of interest,
obviously, as such period necessarily constitutes the earliest date
which can be assigned to rugs found in mosques on the basis of their
being there. Earlier dating would require other evidence.
The individual prayer carpet is noted in Ottoman Turkey by Thevenot
(c.l660) (6) Rycault, however, (1664, "handkerchief" )
(7) and Sandys (1610, "upper garments") (8) when identifying
things prayed upon did not mention rugs, but indicated other objects.
From the travel accounts, there may be some question whether the
prayer carpet was in general use at this time in Ottoman Turkey.
These matters of prayer rugs and of mosque mats and carpets need
to be taken into account by any speculation involving saffs. Saffs
are nowhere mentioned by 17th century travellers. Thevenot, a sharp-eyed
observer, knew the prayer carpet and referred to mosque floor covering
merely as "carpets". While a datum is not a statistic,
his notations and the tenor of other accounts are cautionary about
whether saffs were in use at this time, in Ottoman mosques and elsewhere.
Adam, Voyages and Travels of the Ambassadors, Second Edition
corrected, London, 1669, p. 301.
Jean, voyages de ..., Third (corrected) edition, Paris,
1727, Vol. I, p. 152. Research Report translation.
- de Dreux,
Robert, Voyage en Turquie, republished and annotated, Hubert
Pernot, Paris, 1925, P. 73. Research Report translation.
- Pitts, Joseph,
Account of the Religion and Manners of the Mahommetans,
Exon, 1704, p. 37.
William Joseph, Relation Nouvelle d'un voyage de Constantinople,
Paris, 1680, p. 293. Research Report translation.
Jean, Voyages de ..., Third (corrected) Edition, Paris,
1727, Vol. I, p. 156.
The Present State of the Ottoman Empire, Arno reprint, Press,
New York, 1971, p. 159.
- Sandys, George, "George Sandys Journey", Purchas
His Pilgrimes, Glasgow reprint, 1905, p. 131.