Like Rhodes, Kos is one of the main islands of the Dodecanese. Due to its strategic location, just off the Anatolian coast of Turkey in the Aegean Sea, the island attracted the interest of the Ottoman Empire, which captured the island on January 5, 1523. Kos thus became a province of the Ottoman Rhodes. The Turks ruled over Kos until 1912, when the island was transferred to the Kingdom of Italy, after the Italo-Turkish War.
The Ottoman occupation of 389 years shaped a lot of the local architecture, lifestyle, and culture. While the Greeks retained their language and national identity, the marks of the occupation stand – visible in architectural landmarks and Muslim muniments all over the island.
According to a paper by Stelios Chitakakis, the Muslim population of Kos is about 1500-2000 citizens. They live mainly in Kos Town and the village of Platani (in Turkish Gkerme or Kermentes). Some are the descendants of the Turks who once occupied the island, others came from Crete. Either way, many attend religious services in the mosques of Kos Town.
The Mosques of Kos
The Defterdar Mosque in Kos Town was built by İbrahim Efendi (Defterdar Hacı), the finance minister of the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid I in 1780-86. It is one of the main landmarks of Eleftherias Square, at the crossroads of civilizations, next to the Municipal Agora, the Archaeological Museum of Kos, and the Ancient Roman Agora.
Formerly, the monument had an impressive minaret, which was completely damaged by the 6.7-magnitude quake that hit the island on July 2017. The temple is not far from the harbor. It is a classic, representative example of Islamic architecture and art on Kos.
It is a two-story building, but only the upper floors still function as a mosque, sanctuary, and prayer room. Shops and a café occupy the ground floor.
Two staircases on the east and west sides of the building lead to the mosque on the first floor. The prayer room and sanctuary are on the upper level. The dome of the building, on twelve arches, is one of its most impressive features.
The mosque is open to public access every Friday before service. Before entering the temple, visitors must take off their shoes.
Next to the mosque there is a Moorish-style fountain with a dome on six arches.
Mosque of Gazi Hasan Pasa
The Mosque of Gazi Hasan Pasa was built in 1786 at the order of Cezayirli Gazi Hasan Pasha or Hasan Pasha of Algiers, Grand Admiral, Vizier and General of the Ottoman Empire. Also known as the Loggia, the mosque was built with materials from the Ancient City of Kos. Specifically, the minaret on the northwestern side of the building features a relief of the Nemean lion cut off from the temple of Hercules.
The earthquake of 1933 severely damaged the mosque. The Italian authorities which occupied Kos at the time restored the mosque and reconstructed the minaret.
However, the mosque remained abandoned for years. Due to its architectural and historical value, the Central Archaeological Council (CAC) of the Hellenic Society for Law and Archeology approved a plan to renovate the building. The earthquake of 2017 interrupted the works and damaged the mosque again. Fortunately, this excellent example of Islamic architecture still stands, but requires urgent renovations and remains closed to the public.
Next to the mosque there is a Moorish-style fountain with a dome on ten arches, where the faithful used to wash their feet before entering the temple. The fountain is next to the Tree of Hippocrates – still one of the most photographed monuments of Kos Town. Unfortunately, the quake of 2017 caused the fountain to collapse.
Minaret of Eski Cami
The Minaret of Eski Cami in Platia Diagora is all that remains from the Yenikapı Camii mosque built by Hacı Mustafa Ağa and his wife Fatma Kadın in 1586. It is the oldest Muslim monument on Kos. At the minaret base there is a fountain, a unique feature for such monuments.
Kermete Mosque (Platani Mosque)
The Kermete Mosque (Platani Mosque) is the second operational mosque on the island, in the village of Platani, where the largest Muslim community resides. It is a protected monument. Due to its resemblance to the Loggia Mosque in Kos Town, it is believed that this was built by Gazi Hasan Pasa too. The mosque is in the central square of Platani, just outside Kos Town, before the Asklepion.
It is a beautiful building, with a courtyard, a small library that preserves old Turkish books, as well as two fountains where the faithful wash their hands and feet before prayer. The interior is richly decorated with mosaics and inscriptions pointing to Mecca.