Yahya Efendi’s tomb, which is situated on the top of a high hill right across Çırağan Palace and next to Yıldız Palace, is in Beşiktaş province.
The tomb is one of the beautiful places in Istanbul which sees the Bosphorous. It’s quite far away from the hustle and bustle of the city, which makes it a really quiet and peaceful place.
Ahmet Hamdi Tampınar, a famous Turkish poet, describes the tomb and its surroundings in these words: ‘’The heavenly grace disguises itself as a nice face of a human being here in Yahya Efendi’s Tomb. In the garden, death stands hand in hand with life, and thus it’s usually mistaken for life itself. In other words here in Yahya Efendi, it feels like the gravestones turn into a love garden in summer’s eve or a sacred road where saints await.’’
Mimar Sinan is the architect of this monument. The building was completed in 1571 with the order of Sultan Selim II. The tomb was built on the grave of Yahya Efendi who was buried here long ago. It has been restored three times so far.
There’s a low dome over the tomb.
There’s a wide wall between the tomb and the mosque and an arch ties both the tomb and the mosque as one building under the same roof.
It can be visited between the hours of morning prayer and night prayer. As the tomb is already inside the mosque, one can pray there as well.
It was written on the sign above the two-winged wooden entrance door that the mosque was restored in 1873 by the mother of Sultan Abdülaziz. In other words, thanks to Pertevnial Valide Sultan, the tomb is in its good shape today.
Upon passing through the door of this place, a single-story library with a red roof tile welcomes you. The library was built by Hacı Mahmud Efendi in 1901 and all the books once kept here were moved to another library, Süleymaniye in 1940.
The fountain, which stands right next to the main entrance of the building, was built by Sultan Abdülhamit II in 1906. There’s also the grave of Güzelce Ali Pasha who once served as grand vizier during Ottoman period.
The tombs of several famous people of that time and also royal family
members including the famous religious scholar Yahya Efendi and his family members (his wife and his two sons, his own mother), Sheik Hasan and Şemsettin Efendi, Dervish Ali Efendi, Raziye Sultan (the daughter of Suleiman the Magnificent), Hatice Sultan (the daughter of Sultan Abdülhamit II), and her son, Prince Bedrettin are still in the graveyard of this mosque.
Yahya Efendi was the milk sibling of Suleiman the Magnificent, one of the important sultans of the Ottoman family. The prince was born two days after him. When Süleyman’s father Prince Selim (the son of Bayezid II) was on a duty in Trabzon, Yahya Efendi’s father was working as a Kadı (a Muslim judge) there. Afife Hatun (Yahya Efendi’s mother) had to breastfeed the baby prince as his actual mother’s milk was scarce, and thus Yahya Efendi and Sultan Süleyman continued their lives as milk siblings from then on.
Yahya Efendi was a genius in Islamic studies as well as medical science and maths. Also, he had a poetic side in him. People adored him because of his generosity. He used to help people as much as he could or write to the palace about the situations if he wasn’t able to solve them on his own. Moreover, the people of Greek origin, who used to live in Beshiktash, used to call him as Saint (also as Hızır, a godsend, an immortal person believed to come in time of great need )
Süleiman the Magnificent used to see him as an older brother since Yahya Efendi was born two days before him. Before leaving the city for an expedition or a war, he used to pay a visit to his older brother and asked for him to pray.
Right after the morning prayer, all the fishermen used to gather in front of Yahya Efendi’s house, which once was near the shore, and he used to pray for fishermen’s plentiful catch and all the fishermen used to say ‘Amen’ to that sincere prayer. Then he used to say goodbye waving his hands and adding the words ‘Eyyam Ola! ‘ which means something like good luck today. After that, the fishermen used to set sail to catch their fish. Nowadays, this old phrase is still being used by some fishermen. Even though its spelling has been a bit changed through the years, the origin of the phrase ‘Heyyam Ola!’ comes from that lovely story.
Yahya Efendi is accepted as one of the four guardians of the city. However, he has been known as a religious scholar mostly. Moreover, he’s the one who discovered the tomb of the Prophet Joshua (PBUH) and showed the exact place of the prophet’s tomb to the people of that time.
As it’s known from the notes written by Evliya Çelebi (a famous Ottoman
Explorer, traveler and writer), people used to flock to the mosques where Yahya Efendi gave a sermon, and they used to listen to him wholeheartedly until the end of his speech. Because of that reason, there wouldn’t be any spots left in the mosque or the place he gave his speech. Morever, people loved him so much that they used to reserve their places three days before those sermons or gatherings.
All his poems, which were written under the pseudonym ‘Müderris’ (mudaris, professor) were gathered together as one volume after his death. The only known copy of this work is in the National Library, Fahri Bilge department.
If you’d like to go to Yahya Efendi’s tomb and if you live on the European side of Istanbul, all you have to do is use Kabataş Tramline and once you reach the last stop, get off the train. Now, you are in Kabataş.
So, you’ve got two alternative ways to reach there after getting off the train. These options will be either walking towards there or taking a bus from
Beşiktaş square to the tomb. If you choose walking towards there, you’ve got a 30-minute walk, after passing DolmaBahçe Palace you’ll reach to Yıldız Park and there you will see Yahya Efendi Street upon the hill. If you like to take the bus instead, you’ve got to get off the bus at the Yahya Efendi stop which stands right in front of Yıldız Park.
If you’re using metro buses then you might want to take buses from the last station of the Zincirlikuyu line and take a bus to Beşiktaş. The Beşiktaş port once was the last stop of the bus route and one could walk 15 minutes to Yıldız Park from there. But nowadays, the bus goes to the Kabataş stop since they put the tramline active. You don’t have to go all the way till Kabataş, all you have to do is follow the bus route towards Yahya Efendi either by bus or on foot.
If you’re aiming at coming from the Asian side of Istanbul, from Üsküdar or Kadıköy, then you’ve got to catch the boat to reach Beşiktaş first.
From there on, you’ve got a beautiful shady road that leads you to the tomb. You’ve always the choice of taking a bus instead, but walking is the best thing while discovering a city, it only takes 15 minutes anyway!