Sokollu Mehmed Pasha

Quarantine Diaries and Beyond

Long before American independence Ottoman Empire ruled many places. One of the memorable statesman was a Grand Vizier of three Sultans, Mehmet Pasha Sokollu.

Some years ago monument showing two brothers or two close relatives, Mehmed Pasha Sokollu – Sokolovic and Makarije Sokolovic, was unveiled at Andric Grad near Visegrad. Visegrad is a home town of the Sokolovic Family famous for its bridge built by Josif, Koca Mimar Sinan Aga for the account of Sokolu Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic.

In the book that was inspired by the endowment of Sokollu Mehmed Pasha, born Bajica Sokolovic, “The Bridge on the river Drina” the Nobel Price winner Ivo Andric silently witnesses the four centuries of history, from Ottoman rule to Austro-Hungarian occupation, and let us learn about the living conditions, politics, relations, expectations, kismet of the local inhabitants. Many truths are written inside, subtly revealing main reasons why Sokollu Mehmed Pasha left with us, so many endowments! When you run the Empire as it was the Ottoman Empire, you become aware of all human and other influences and desires, finding out that “life is an incomprehensible miracle, because it is constantly worn out and shed, and yet it lasts and stands firm-like a bridge on the river Drina!” ( Ivo Andric-The bridge on the River Drina).

At the same time, it is at least intriguing that during Mehmed Pasha Sokollu’s 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, which was the invasion and conquering of Cyprus by the Ottoman Empire in 1571.

Here are some details.

Makarije spent some time as Archimandrite at Hilandar Monastery of Mount Athos before becoming Patriarch and had the nickname “topuzli Makarije” due to the mace (Topuz) he carried under his mantle.

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

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

Makarije had contact with Sokollou Mehmet Pasha. Obviously! 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. Always the crucial, vital things are conveyed behind the curtain. Some details are stored awaiting discovery, and we hope we will have the privilege to learn about them during our lifetime. Ottoman archives are slowly being presented to the public…

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

In the book Hamam Balkania, cleverly written by Vladislav Bajac, there is a quote said to be Sokollu’s, which explains why he was entrusted the position of Grand Vizier by three different Sultans. It helps to also understand his practical moves during the 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 these passages found Mehmed Pasha Sokollu’s descendants in Cyprus. Yes, in Cyprus! It was an emotional encounter even though Sokollu Mehmet Pasha’s descendants did not know English, and my Turkish is still poor. Our dear common friend helped us, and I would like to thank her from the bottom of my heart!

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

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

In planning the campaign to conquer Cyprus, Porta needed to find out how this campaign would be financed like today when the NATO alliance is asking for extra funding. Finance is the crucial ingredient to be agreed upon in the war plans.

I found just brief information on Wikipedia that the Cyprus campaign was financed by “confiscation and resale of monasteries and Churches of Greek orthodox Church.” Again it looks fascinating, having in mind the beginning of this article. And as there were two opinions regarding the Cyprus campaign, Mehmed Pasha Sokollu Sokolovic is said not to favor it. The DIVAN asked Sheikh-ul-Islam and got a favorable opinion that as Cyprus was the “former land of Islam,” it was 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 in 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 today’s famous HALA SULTAN TEKKE on the brinks of salt lake in Larnaca was built by Ottomans on the place where a relative of MUHAMMAD, Umm-Haram, fell off the mule and died.

Coincidence or not, Ebussuud el Amadi ( Sheikh-ul-Islam) was a neighbor of Mehmed Pasha Sokollu Sokolovic, and not only that they highly respect one another, they also spent long hours together discussing issues of the 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 Pasha’s kinsman! This happened with the conniving acceptance of Sultan Selim II.

Some 350-400 ships were built, and nearly 100000 soldiers assembled, with Lala Mustafa Pasha in charge. He managed to conquer Cyprus with significant losses(50000 soldiers !) and only after the supplies for the last stronghold fortress of Famagusta stopped due to the diplomatic effort of Mehmed pasha Sokollu Sokolovic using his personal connections with Venice and making a secret peace agreement. Then Venice stopped sending ships with supplies to Famagusta, enabling Lala Mustafa Pasha to conquer it.

As Janissary( coming from Bosnia and from the same tribe of Sokolovic) and being extremely nervous about the losses, Lala Mustafa Pasha 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 the negotiated handover of Famagusta fortress. Lala Mustafa Pasha went back to Istambul as a hero. Still, he was very unpleasantly surprised when he learned that he would be deprived of all income from the Cyprus campaign, which, by the decision of Sultan Selim II, had been transferred to Mehmed Pasha Sokollu, born Bajica Sokolovic. From that income, I am very sure he built mentioned caravanserai in Iskenderun to stay as a memory for the Cyprus campaign. 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 a close, beautiful friendship with Josif Mimar Sinan, the greatest architect, and builder of that time, thought to leave behind him as many endowments as possible. He realized what we all should recognize, that life is a temporary state we are passing through and that living a life is a unique way to prepare for death leaving behind achievements recognized by new generations. That, and only that, will stay behind us! Even this story contributes to the immortality of the great diplomat, soldier, and devoted Turk Sokollou Mehmed Pasha.
His Mosque in Istanbul with Islamic school and many other monuments are still open for all the visitors to see and feel unique energy transmitted there! Enjoy some of the memorable photos of Mehmed Pasha Sokollu Mosque in Istanbul!

Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic Sokollu achieved his immortality, quiet and humble, yet firm and powerful, exactly as he was! More than 500 years after his death, we still remember him through his deeds, one more to mention here-the bridge over the river Drina.
The humble message to the people who have more money today than they will ever need comes 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, kiss, 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 respect for bread. Forgot they are today. Like the old word – ENDOWMENT. ………. Like Father Mitrofan from the Serbian monastery of Hilandar said: “Ours is only what we give to the others.”

Bajica Sokolovic, Mehmed Pasha Sokollu knew that long before! He was recognized as the wealthiest man of the epoch leaving behind him the worth of eighteen million(18000000) golden ducats. Today that would be a huge number, especially having in mind all the inflation approaching us.

Dear readers, do good and build your endowment for future generations. It is not about the size. It is about attitude! Some of us can leave the buildings for a 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, some will paint. Some will compose, some awake, some will write, and some will make others happy. Some will do all that only with just one pure human smile! I sincerely feel that this is happening and that we are awaking as human beings! All that comes from pain and our desire to make peace with God!

Darko Richard Lancelot


Philosophy of good news

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