Mehmed Pasha Sokollu and Makarije Sokolovic

A little more than a year ago monument showing two brothers, Mehmed Pasha Sokollu – Sokolovic and Makarije Sokolovic was unveiled at Andric Grad near Visegrad. Visegrad is a home town of Sokolovic Family famous for its bridge build by Josif, Koca Mimar Sinan Aga for the account of Sokolu Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic.

In the book”The Bridge on the river Drina” by Nobel Price winner Ivo Andric you can find out about this silent witness to the four centuries of history, from Ottoman rule to Austro-Hungarian occupation, and learn about the life conditions , relations, expectations, kismet of the local inhabitants.

At the same time it is at least intriguing that during Mehmed Pasha Sokollu reign as Grand Vizier from 1565 to 1579 Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate of Pec was restored with his close kinsman Makarije Sokolovic becoming the first Patriarch. Also another event took place and that is the invasion and conquering of Cyprus by Ottoman Empire 1571.

Here are some details.

Makarije spent some time before becoming Patriarch Archimandrite of Hilandar monastery of Mount Athos and had a nick name “topuzli Makarije” due to the maze (topuz) he carried under his mantle.

Using just common sense thoughts one could conclude that during his days in Athos as Archimandrite of Serbian Monastery of Hilandar he had encounters with other monasteries, including Greek Orthodox Monastery of Vatopedi as well as with Ottomans. We could imagine that he could convey to them the solicitude of Orthodox Church towards the involvement and actions of Catholic Church in Cyprus.

This could have happened, as even today we express our deep feelings over coffee and especially tasty food accompanied with even better wine.

That, combined with the position of Sokollou as a Grand Vizier is at least a sign that there was a talk going behind the scenes. And behind the scenes talks are often crucial, vital for the fate of the people. Some details are somewhere stored awaiting discovery and we do hope that we will have the privilege to learn about them during our life time.

What is certain is that Bajica Sokolovic – Mehmed Pasha Sokollu was second longest serving Grand Vizier of Ottoman Empire with continuous fourteen years in the office, serving three different Sultans, Suleiman the Magnificent, Selim II and Murat III. He got married with Ismihan a very young daughter of then heir of the throne Selim II . Ismihan mother comes from the famous Bafos family of Venice ( gave the wife of the Grand Duke ) and she was a grand daughter of Sultana Roxelana ( her self being the daughter of Russian priest) and Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Their son Ibrahim ( Jovan) birth was kept in secret in order to avoid any attempt on his life from would be future Sultans.

In the book Hamam Balkania, cleverly written by Vladislav Bajac there is a quote, said to be his, which explains why he was entrusted the position of Grand Vizier by three different Sultans and will also help to understand his practical moves during siege of Cyprus and building, among other endowments, the famous bridge over the river Drina. ” I like to see myself more as a wise person who is careful about what he says than as a great statesman who is careful about what he won’t say.”

And just to make this story even more interesting the writer of this passages found Mehmed Pasha Sokollu descendants in Cyprus.

So as stated above Venetians were the rulers of Cyprus in 1571 when Ottomans invade it and manage to conquer it. The fleet for Cyprus conquest was built at Payas ship yard in Iskenderun ( Alexandretta). It was used as a rest place for caravans going to Syrian town of Aleppo. Interesting it is. In today’s Iskenderun you can still find 13000 sq.mtrs Caravanserai financed by Mehmed Pasha Sokollu Sokolovic and build and supervised by famous Josif born Mimar Sinan, intimate friend of Mehmed Pasha Sokollu Sokolovic and a chief architect of Ottoman empire. It was built after Cyprus campaign.

As one beautiful friend of mine always asks WHY, the reader might ask it self why it was built after Cyprus campaign. There is a common sense explanation which I will mention later.

In planning of the campaign to conquer Cyprus, Porta needed to find out how this campaign would be financed like today when NATO alliance is asking for extra funding.

I found just a brief information at Wikipedia that Cyprus campaign was financed by “confiscation and resale of monasteries and Churches of Greek orthodox Church.” Again it looks extremely interesting having in mind the beginning of this article. And as there were two opinions regarding Cyprus campaign, Mehmed Pasha Sokollu Sokolovic said not to be in favour of it ,the DIVAN asked Sheikh-ul-islam and got a favourable opinion that as Cyprus was “former land of Islam” it is justified to conquer it. If you want to find the reason you can always find it! In this case it was a brief Arab conquest of Cyprus at 649 AD under the leadership of Muawiyah I and in 650 they established a garrison of more than 10000 soldiers. They remained until 680 AD. Another interesting detail is that todays famous HALA SULTAN TEKKE on the brinks of salt lake in Larnaca was build by Ottomans on the place where a relative of MUHAMMAD, Umm-Haram felt from the mule and was killed.

Coincidence or not Ebussuud el Amadi ( Sheikh-ul-islam) was a neighbor of Mehmed Pasha Sokollu Sokolovic and not only that they highly respected one another they also passed long hours together discussing issues of Ottoman empire and, believe it or not, a practical way to renew the Serbian orthodox church Patriarchate with first Patriarch to be , as already said Makarije Sokolovic, Mehmed Pashas kinsman! This has happened with connive acceptance of Sultan Selim II.

Some 350-400 ships were built and nearly 100000 army assembled with Lala Mustafa Pasha being in charge of it. He managed to conquer Cyprus with big losses(50000 soldiers !) and only after the supplies for last stronghold fortress of Famagusta stopped due to the diplomatic effort of Mehmed pasha Sokollu Sokolovic.

Lala Mustafa Pasha as Janissary( coming from Bosnia) and being extremely nervous for the losses, tried to confirm his loyalty to the Sultan by killing many people especially in Nicosia and Famagusta. At Famagusta he brutally killed Marco Antonio Bragadin a Captain-General and commander of Famagusta even as he agreed to let him and his remaining soldiers and protégés go back to Venice in negotiated handover of Famagusta fortress. Lala Mustafa Pasha went back to Istambul as a hero but he was very unpleasantly surprised when he learned that he will be deprived of all income from Cyprus campaign which, by the decision of Sultan Selim II has been transferred to Mehmed Pasha Sokollu Sokolovic. From that income I am very certain he built mentioned caravanserai in Iskenderun and definitely there was more money left to finish the bridge on the Drina river and caravanserais or han nearby.

Mehmed Pasha Sokollu – Bajica Sokolovic having seen how cheap and fragile life is and having close, beautiful friendship with Josif Mimar Sinan, the greatest architect and builder of the time, had a thought to leave behind him as many endowments as possible, realising what we all should realise, that life is a temporary state we are passing through and that living a life is a special way to prepare for the death leaving behind achievements to be recognised by new generations That, and only that will stay behind us!

Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic Sokollu definitely achieved it as more than 500 years from his death we still remember him through his deeds one being the bridge over the river Drina. The humble message to the people who today have more money than they will ever need is coming through one awake and aware human being who passed away some years ago with the name of Momo Kapor.


“ Our predecessors taught us to raise a piece of bread from the ground to whiff it, kiss it and cross it. Once I saw Princess Jelisaveta Karadjordjevic raising a piece of fallen bread kissing it and making a cross on it. Good, forgotten custom, full of the respect for bread. Forgot like the old word – ENDOWMENT . ………. Like Father Mitrofan from Serbian monastery of Hilandar said : “Ours is only what we give to the others”

Bajica Sokolovic – Mehmed Pasha Sokollu knew that long before! Dear readers , do good , build your endowment for the future generations. Some of us can leave the buildings for common purpose, some of us can help without wanting to be known – that is the word SEVAP meaning, some of us will plant a tree and some will paint. Some will compose and some awake, some will write and some will make happy the others. Some will do all that only with just one pure human smile! I deeply feel that this is happening and that we are awaking as a human beings!

Philosophy of good news

First published July 2018 and republished December 2019 with some additions.

Connect and Respect

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