erdogan orbán
Budapest, 2018. október 9. Recep Tayyip Erdogan török köztársasági elnök (középen b) és Orbán Viktor miniszterelnök (középen j) Gül Baba felújított türbéjének felavatásán Budapesten 2018. október 9-én. Orbán Viktor mögött Mevlüt Cavusoglu török külügyminiszter (j2). MTI Fotó: Koszticsák Szilárd

As we already reported, the Hungarian and the Turkish government co-financed the reconstruction of the 16th-century tomb of Gül Baba located near the Margaret Bridge. The tomb was opened by Turkish President Erdogan and Hungarian PM Orban on Tuesday. Orbán said that Gül Baba was born in a “gallant era when the great sons of our nations fought each other.” But who exactly was Gül Baba who fought against the Hungarians? Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent is reputed to have been one of his coffin-bearers during his funeral.

The Muslim dervish who introduced roses in Hungary?

If somebody followed the inauguration of the tomb on Tuesday, they could witness something rather funny. After the Turkish President and the Hungarian PM cut the ceremonial ribbon in front of the tomb, Orban wanted to put away Erdogan’s scissor but the Turkish president did not allow him to do so. A couple of seconds later the Hungarian PM’s interpreter told him that

Erdogan collects the scissors

he uses for inaugurations. Finally, Erdogan’s wife stepped in and gave back even Orbán’s scissor to him probably to keep it. Here you can see what happened:

The renovation of Gül Baba’s tomb started in 2016 and was co-financed by the two states. In fact, we do not know when Gül baba was born exactly, but he was sent to Hungary by Sultan Suleiman. Some say that his name means Father of the Roses because he is said to have

introduced the flower to the country.

However, roses were already in Hungary by the time of the Ottoman invasion. His name can also be a corruption of Kel Baba, meaning ‘Bald Father’.

Anyway, he was an Ottoman Philosopher, poet and writer who was at the same time a Muslim monk, a Bektashi dervish. He took part in many Ottoman invasions in Europe from the reign of Mehmed II onwards. He is thought to have died in Buda, in 1541 August, after the Ottoman Empire occupied the castle by a trick: janissaries walked into the castle to admire its beauties, but did not leave it until 1683 when the city was finally freed of the Ottoman rule.

His tomb became one of the northernmost Muslim pilgrimage destinations

Allegedly, Gül baba died in the fight below the walls and his funeral was the first Muslim religious ceremony held in Budapest (then Buda). Allegedly, Sultan Suleiman was one of his coffin-bearers and declared him

the patron saint of Buda.

Gül Baba’s tomb was erected between 1543 and 1548 by the third Ottoman Beylerbey of Buda. After the city was freed of Ottoman rule in 1686 it was converted into a Roman Catholic chapel owned by the Jesuits. Centuries later the land came under the ownership of a Hungarian who allowed Muslim pilgrims to visit the tomb. The building was renovated several times after 1885 and was declared in 1914 a national monument. In 1987 an Islamic Centre and Mosque were built surrounding it. Now it is the property of the Republic of Turkey.

Gül baba
Inside Gül Baba’s tomb.

In fact, Gül Baba’s figure was very popular in Hungary at the end of the 19th century. For example, Jenő Huszka composed an opera about his story which was adapted on screen in 1989.

The tomb is located on Mecset Street in Budapest, a short but steep walk from the Margaret Bridge in the district of Rózsadomb (Hill of Roses). Here is a short video compilation about the tomb with beautiful photos:

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