Kokonozi Mosque (Mosque of Pazari i Ri)
Location: Avni Rustemi Square – Pazari i Ri, VL.
Kokonozi Mosque is located in the northeastern part of the city center. It is a simple mosque of the type “with a hall and a cupola” (with dimensions of mahalle-mosque). Nowadays, differently from the earlier periods, it is known as the Mosque of Pazari i Ri (New Bazaar), because with the demolition of Tirana’s Old Bazaar (Pazari i Vjetėr), the New Bazaar, known at that time as the only bazaar in Tirana, remained near this mosque. Kokonozi, like the mosque called “Xhamia e Tabakėve”, is one of the oldest mosques survived in the city of Tirana. Ethem Bey Mosque follows them. Kokonozi Mosque was reopened and restarted its religious activity in the beginning of the years ’90.
The name of Kokonozi Mosque is noticed in a document of the year 1775, mentioning that kirinci Mustafa Kėllezi owed 6 daily akēes to the khatib of this mosque, while its builder is said to have died a short time earlier. This document allows us to realize that the builder or sponsor of the mosque’s building had died in 1775, meaning that the mosque was built 20 years before his death (about 1750-1760), or before the document’s date, 1775. Thus, we come to the conclusion that Kokonozi Mosque belongs to the midst of the 18th century, years 1750-1760.
By putting the year of the mosque’s building in the midst of the 18th century, we have provided a solution only to one problem. The other problem remains in the fact that on the stele found at the entrance of the inner portal (written in Ottoman Turkish), at the end of the memorial writing, is recorded the year 1269 H. This stele has been restored in the year 2005 by the historian Bledar Komini in consultancy with the architect of culture monuments Prof. Dr. Sulejman Dashi. The year 1269 H on the stele shows probably the year of an intervention or restoration made to the mosque on a later date by any noble family of the city. There are several examples like this in Tirana. Thus, Met Fire Mosque – located where today is to be found Sami Frashėri Global High School – was restored in the 19th century by Beshiri Family (Sulejman Beshiri). Another example is the restoration by Karapici family in the 19th century of the mosque of Terzive, otherwise known as Esnaf Mosque. Since that time the mosque was known as Karapici Mosque, loosing thus its former name. Such a restoration was made also to Sulejman Pasha Mosque. This may be the case also for Kokonozi Mosque, which may have been restored in the year 1853, and this date has been engraved on the stele.
An old legend of Tirana people states that as Kokonozi family wanted to build the mosque, the successors of Sulejman Pasha Bargjini prevented them from building a more beautiful mosque than that of Sulejman Pasha. For this reason, in the beginning the mosque was made of wood. Later, as the successors of Sulejman Pasha entered consecutive wars with Toptani family of Kruja, they asked for economic help and support among the whole population of Tirana, including Kokonozi family. In exchange for their support, Kokonozi family asked from Bargjini to allow the reconstruction of the mosque with stones and to add to it the minaret. Thus, a new life started for the mosque of this 250 years old mahalle.
Although the truth of such narrations may be considered as doubtful, it is more than true the fact that Kokonozi Mosque still exists, and is maintained by the believers frequenting it. Today’s building is completely renewed, and it was completed with the financial support of the quarter’s inhabitants, with most of them being from Dibra, as well as by Mustafa Kokonozi, successor of the old Kokonozi family. The opening of this moque for religious services was made in July 28, 1933, with a speech of the chief-mufti of Tirana area, Muharrem Mullahi, and with the inauguration band cut by H. Vehbi Dibra. In the year 1966, Kokonozi Mosque was closed, and its destination was changed, as it happened with many other sanctuaries in all the cities of Albania, while many other mosques were even completely demolished, although many of them could be transformed into culture monuments and thus conserve the unique values. Kokonozi Mosque was transformed into a food storehouse, and later it was used as a tobacco store. This situation continued till 1990, when a group of believers, after cleaning the mosque, made it ready for religious use. Kokonozi mosque was reopened in February 18, 1991.
After its reopening, the situation of the building was miserable. The walls with their paintings were cracked, and there was danger of collapse. On the lateral side of the dome, the decorated and painted plaster was fallen creating a reedy spot extended out of the roof. The mosque had lost also its minaret, demolished by the communists in 1967.
This situation continued until 1999, as a group of believers started its restoration. The painted plaster of the walls was pulled completely down and the walls were plastered again. Since 1999 the mosque has been repaired several times, with the roof, the classes, the yard, the windows, mihrab and mimbar were restored. In 2003 was reconstructed also the minaret. Reparative interventions have been made also into the system of canalizations and electricity. The intervention made to the artistic decorations of the cupola can be considered the finest one. These decorations have kept their original form as they were painted in the time of the mosque’s construction or reconstruction.
Characteristics for this mosque is the cupola covered with a roof, while in the other mosques the cupolas are covered with lead. This cupola serves as a roof, and at the same time provides a good acoustics, and a decorated view. The mosque’s mahfil is made of wood, and it is situated in a height of 3 meters from the basis. It still serves as a prayers hall for the ladies. The mosque is 10 meters long, 8 meters large and 10 meters high. The mosque contains also a part called “hajat” or lobby, but this is not a true lobby. As the mosque is divided into two parts, the second part has been used as a lobby. The “protohajat” has the dimensions 5 x 8 meters. The upper windows of the mosque are in quadratic shape, while the lower ones are equipped with arcades built on a gothic style. It is difficult to find in Albania other mosques with the gothic style – in our case that of the windows – so well harmonized with the beauty of the cupola and decorations. The mihrab is overarched, with a small exit from outside, with its height reaching the ceiling. It is decorated with some special features, which make it unique in Albanian for its form. It resembles to a great door, carried on two pillars. The mosque nowadays keeps only the paintings of the cupola and those of ceiling, which still enjoy a good situation, while all the other paintings on the walls have not been conserved.
Prepared by: Roald A. Hysa
Translated by: Edvin Cami