IDENTIFICATION OF CULTURAL SITE AND ITS PROTECTED STATUS
Historic-artistic analyses of Cifte Hammam in Skopje
Description of site
Different cultures and spheres of influence crossed paths at the territory of the Republic of Macedonia in the past, which legacies have aroused enormous interest in the academic community. Each has left its marks, both in the material and spiritual culture of the Macedonian people. However, it seems that the five centuries of Ottoman presence (end of 14. – beginning of 20. century) have left a special mark and indelible traces in the physiognomy of villages and cities, which experienced their cultural and economic growth in that period. This is a period when a number of buildings of profane and sacral character were built in order to meet the needs of the Muslim population, as a reflection of the cultural and artistic aspirations and opportunities in certain periods. The construction of Ottoman buildings reached its peak in the 15.-16. centuries, when a number of mosques, hammams, roofed bazaars, inns, palaces and other buildings were constructed, magnificent in their beauty and architecture.
The Cifte Hammam is located in the middle of the Old Skopje Bazaar, near the Bezisten, Suli and Murat Pasha Mosque. It was built in mid-15 century and is the second-largest hammam in Skopje from that period. It was built by the third regional leader Isa Bey, stated as patronage in the book of the Isa Bey mosque in 1531. In the records of the renowned writers of travels Evliya Celebi, the Cifte Hammam is also called “a new hammam”.
The Cifte Hammam is a type of double hammam, which function is in its name. It is a single building on the outside, with two separate parts in the interior, including separate entrances that lead to the rooms for bathing of men and women respectively. It was build from brick and stone, coupled by whitewash plaster that has defied centuries. Two big domes are located above the main rooms, while the khalwas and the other rooms are arched by a number of small domes that are currently covered by sheet metal.
The women’s section was located in the southwestern part of the building, resembling the one-part hammams according to its setup. The men’s section was in the building’s northeast and differs from the women’s according to the number of rooms. The setup of the rooms in the two sections is standard, depending on their function – first is the room intended for wardrobe and rest, then a partially heated room leads to the bathing rooms. The significance of the hammam has been enriched with wall decorations in the sub-dome rooms, i.e. the squinches and the pendentives. The stylized geometrical and floral ornaments, stalactites and rhombs, presented with great precision in a shallow relief, are just partially preserved in some of the khalwas. The corridor into the sub-dome rooms has a characteristic frieze of Turkish triangles. When using the decorative elements one can see the difference between the women’s and men’s section, i.e. they are more present in the men’s section.
There was also a separate area in the northwest part of the hammam for bathing of the Jews. This was a special khalwa with a pool for ritual baths.
Lighting is zenith-like through the openings in the domes and the window openings underneath the domes.
During its existence, the hammam was probably damaged on several occasions – in the 1555 earthquake that hit the Skopje region, which resulted in damages to numerous buildings, as well as during the great fire in Skopje by the end of the 17. century, when the damages were not that significant. The complete preservation of the hammam was launched after the 1963 earthquake, when it suffered larger damages.
Given its solid construction, one can say that the hammam has mainly maintained its original image, but not the elements regularly present in the hammams – tummy stone, water basins etc.
The Cifte Hammam lost its function in 1916/17, while its premises later served for different types of economic uses: manufacturing of tobacco, soap, leather and finally as storage house. The complete preservation of the hammam was launched after the 1963 earthquake, when it suffered larger damages, but it was not used until 2001.
The facility was preserved, restored and revitalized in 2001, becoming an art gallery. Today, the Cifte Hammam is transformed into a modern gallery that displays works by renowned artists from the country and abroad. The hammam walls are almost continually covered with artworks by domestic and foreign artists. The public eagerly awaits each new exhibit, which represents an event that the entire Old Bazaar is looking forward to. In fact, the Cifte Hammam is one of the places that actively contribute to the revival of the Bazaar from sunrise up to the late evening.