Abdi İbrahim “heals” the five centuries old Sultan Bayezid II Edirne Dar-al Shifa Hospital

Healing the lives it touches through its bold, pioneering and innovative efforts for over a century, Abdi İbrahim has carried out an important project that brought to light a part of the history of medicine. As part of the project, Abdi İbrahim restored Sultan Bayezid II Edirne Dar-al Shifa Hospital, an important center in the history of medicine with its history going back 500 years, with a view on contemporary museology.
Sultan Bayezid II Edirne Dar-al Shifa Hospital, which served as a hospital during the Ottoman period, was inaugurated after its restoration in a ceremony on May 13, attended by Dursun Ali Şahin, Edirne Governor; Recep Gürkan, Edirne Mayor; Prof. Dr. Yener Yörük, President of Trakya University; and Nezih Barut, Chairman of Abdi İbrahim.

Sultan Bayezid II Edirne Dar-al Shifa Hospital had opened its doors in 1488, and provided treatment to patients until its closure in 1915. Following a long period of preliminary scientific preparations, the Dar-al Shifa Hospital was brought back to life with a modern design. One of the most notable centers of medical history, the Edirne Dar-al Shifa was 'healed' in accordance with its long history and architecture, revealing important information about medicine in the Ottoman period in the process. 

The 26 rooms that make up the Edirne Dar-al Shifa have been conceptualized with great effort and meticulous attention to detail to reflect the practices of its time. The efforts have unearthed invaluable treasures of our history of medicine. Visitors to the museum find the opportunity to learn various less-known facts about medicine in the Ottoman period, such as reconstructive breast surgeries performed on men in the period between the 15th and 18th centuries, female surgeons who performed hernia operations on Janissaries, how Turkish smallpox vaccine–used later by the British Royal Family–spread from Edirne to Europe, and how Edirne was the homeland of roses and rose water contrary to general belief, and the surgery methods used, through texts as well as reconstructions.

About Sultan Bayezid II Edirne Dar-al Shifa Hospital

Sultan Bayezid II Edirne Dar-al Shifa Hospital is part of the social complex commissioned by Bayezid II using the spoils of war obtained during the Akkerman Campaign in 1484. The Dar-al Shifa served all patients during approximately 400 years from its establishment to the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, and exclusively to mental patients afterwards. With the opening of a new hospital in Edirne, Dar-al Shifa became a mental institution, and was renamed the Edirne Asylum. After the invasion of Edirne during the Russo-Turkish War, mental patients were transferred to the Istanbul-Topbaşı Asylum. Repaired after the war, the Edirne Asylum started receiving patients once again on November 23, 1893. By 1910, a stove was set up on the fountain pool, and patients’ beds were placed around the stove. Dangerous patients were kept under lock in separate rooms. Afterwards, through the efforts of Dr. Mazhar Osman, mental patients were relocated to the French Hospital in Kıyık, thus marking the end of the 427-year institution. 

Sultan Bayezid II Edirne Dar-al Shifa is composed of three sections: two interconnected courtyards and a sanatorium. The six rooms (offices) located in a row on the right of the first courtyard (Bîrun) were used by physicians, eye specialists and surgeons who performed initial examinations of patients. Certain rooms were used as isolated chambers for mental patients. Laundry, cellar and kitchen were located on the left of the courtyard. The kitchen prepared meals for patients only, and the staff ate at the public soup kitchen on the premises.

The sanatorium section has six winter rooms with stoves, and five chambers (summer rooms) surrounding a high-domed, marble-lined hall with a fountain. One of the summer rooms was used for musical therapy, with the remaining four estimated to serve as summer rooms. The Edirne Dar-al Shifa has an important place in the history of hospitals on account of being one of the first examples of the centralized layout in hospital architecture. The hexagonal architectural structure, which allowed the hospital to accept a high number of patients with relatively fewer staff, informed the design of hospitals in Europe and the U.S. in the 19th century. 

The lantern on the top of the large dome of the sanatorium was placed for both illuminating the indoor area, and for drawing out stale air.

Evliya Çelebi, who visited the hospital in the 17th Century, wrote that singers and musicians came to Dârüşşifa three times each week to perform to patients, who were calmed by the sound of music. The acoustics of this section was designed with this very purpose in mind.

The hospital was also home to reconstructive aesthetic surgeries during the Ottoman period, with breast reduction on men among the most common procedures, in addition to operations for extra digits, fused digits, and drooping or short eyelids.  

Another important information gleaned as part of the restoration of the Sultan Bayezid II Edirne Dar-al Shifa Hospital is the existence of female surgeons in the Ottoman period. Twenty-one surgical consent forms signed to Küpeli Seliha Hatun, a female surgeon who treated Janissaries, reveal how successful she was in hernia operations.

Edirne Dar-al Shifa Museum also tells the story of smallpox vaccination, which spread from its origin in Edirne to Europe through Lady Mary Wortley Montagu who witnessed the practice of Turkish smallpox vaccination in Edirne during her time in the country, and introduced it in England upon her return. The practice spread across Europe, and was regarded as the only cure to the disease until the development of vaccination using cowpox instead.

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