Lead Mosque (Kurshum Dzhamiya) – Karlovo, Bulgaria

The Lead Mosque (Kurshum Dzhamiya) is a 15th century mosque from the period of Ottoman Yoke (1396-1878/1912) when Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire located in the central Bulgarian town of Karlovo, Plovdiv District. The Lead Mosque was built by Ottoman Turkish governor Karluzade Ali Bey in 1485 AD. It is the oldest standing archaeological, architectural, and historical monument in Karlovo. Its name comes from its lead roof. The Lead Mosque was last used for Muslim services at the end of the 19th century. It has the status of “a monument of culture of local importance” granted by the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture.

The mosque was supposed to be turned into a museum but in November 2013 the Regional Court in Plovdiv started a controversy by ruling to transfer the ownership of the mosque from Karlovo Municipality to the Bulgarian Chief Mufti’s Office. The case was just one of many cases in which the Chief Mufti’s Office tried to gain ownership over long-inactive mosques and former Ottoman waqf estates with the status of cultural monuments all over Bulgaria in municipalities with little or no Muslim population. Many in Bulgaria saw these attenots as an outside Islamist or Neo-Ottomanist conspiracy against the country. The case with the Lead Mosque and other long- inactive mosques in Stara Zagora, Kyustendil, and other Bulgarian cities was resolved in May 2015 when the Sofia Appellate Court ruled in favor of Karlovo Municipality, and against the Chief Mufti’s Office arguing that the present religious leadership of the Muslims in Bulgaria cannot be considered an heir to the institutionalized Muslim communities since Bulgaria’s National Liberation from the Ottoman Empire in 1878, i.e. the Muslim communities in the Principality (Knyazhestvo) of Bulgaria (1878-1908), the Tsardom of Bulgaria (1908-1944), and the People’s Republic of Bulgaria (1944-1989). This decision has allowed Karlovo Municipality to initiate the archaeological excavations of the Lead Mosque (Kurshum Dzhamiya) in order to have it researched and to turn it into a museum.

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