The Ulu Cami of Diyarbakır is the work of many patrons over several centuries, who honed the form and decoration at the site to create a significant mosque and Islamic educational complex for the city. The narrative of the origins of the Ulu Cami dates back to the seventh-century conquest of Diyarbakır by early Islamic Arab forces making their way northwards. In a chronicle attributed to the historian al-Wakidi (d.823), upon arriving in the city, the soldiers were said to have partitioned the main cathedral, presumably to share their prayer space with the Christians.
The narrative trope of a shared place of worship goes hand in hand with historical notions of the appropriation and eventual conversion of architecture by conquering forces, and the supposedly rapid adoption of Islam by the local people of Mesopotamia. Many versions of early Muslim history only mention architecture in the context of shared and confiscated sites. In the case of Diyarbakır, although the Ulu Cami itself provides structural and epigraphic evidence, there are more questions than answers about the site prior to the arrival of the Ottomans in the early 1500s. The architectural record does not always appear to match the historical texts that single out the mosque. Furthermore, al-Wakidi is writing two centuries after the conquest, about an architectural solution to the need for prayer space that left no physical traces. This means that the shared church trope should be considered within both the early Islamic socio-political context and the realm of European scholarship that repeatedly translated and emphasized the short phrase on the partition of the building without sufficiently connecting it to future development at the Ulu Cami site.
Anahtar Kelimeler: Diyarbakır Ulu Cami, al-Wakidi, shared church