A Visit to Adrianople
from an article
by Martha L. Root1

...We know He [Bahá'u'lláh] arrived with His family and friends on Saturday, 12 December 1863, and remained until Wednesday, 12 August 1868; He was forty-six years old when He came and His son, 'Abbás Effendi known as 'Abdu'l-Bahá, was a youth of nineteen years while His daughter, Bahíyyih Khánum, was a girl seventeen years old. How different was their journey from Constantinople to the present luxurious Oriental Express trip when the train speeds swiftly over the distance in exactly six hours' time! Their journey to Adrianople, evidently hurried and enforced, for they were not prepared and were only thinly clad, took twelve days and was full of hardships as the weather was bitterly cold. Bahíyyih Khánum said long years after that she was a strong, well girl before those terrible exile journeys.

Their first lodging in Adrianople was in the Khán-i-'Arab Caravanserai where they stayed three nights. All one knew about it was that it was near the house of 'Izzat Áqá. Then they lived for one week in a house in the Murádíyyih quarter near the Takyiy-i-Mawlaví and then changed to a winter house close by. Twice Bahá'u'lláh lived in the house of Amru'lláh Big, which has been spoken of by Áqá Ridá in his early account as a three-storey house to the North of Sultán Salím Mosque. Another house in which He lived was the home of Ridá Big. Then He returned to the residence of Amru'lláh Big, but the last eleven months of His stay were spent in the home of 'Izzat Áqá. We know, too, that He was sometimes in the


1. Martha Root, excerpts from an article in The Bahá'í World, Vol. V, p. 581.

Murádíyyih Mosque and very often in the Sultán Salím Mosque where He met and spoke with thinkers...

Miss Marion E. Jack, a Bahá'í who is a painter from Canada and the writer, a Bahá'í who is a journalist and magazine writer from the United States, came to Adrianople, on 17 October 1933, to look for 'traces of the Traceless Friend'. Their quest was 'to seek, to find and not to fail' to portray Adrianople to the Bahá'í world...Miss Jack through her brush and the writer through her pen...

The beautiful road lighted by the moon was lined on each side with great poplar, plane and willow trees mystic with shadows, and as we came over the fine Maritza bridge the lights of the city gleamed a welcome in this 'Land of Mystery'...

This Adrianople, which the Turks call Edirne, was a city of two hundred thousand inhabitants before the Balkan wars and the world war. Now it numbers only forty thousand. It is on the direct Oriental Express route from Constantinople to Paris, and is also on the main motoring way from Central Asia to Western Europe. One remembers, too, that in 1360 Adrianople was made the capital of the great Turkish Empire and became the centre from which radiated the light of Islám to a Western world. Its mosque architecture is extraordinarily beautiful. Adrianople is interesting, too, because it is so typically Turkish, much more so than is Constantinople, which is now considerably westernized...

The first morning it rained. Down through the stone-cobbled streets the water poured in little torrents. Standing at our window, we saw the people of Adrianople trying to cross these fiercely flowing rivulets but none could do it without immersing their feet far down in the pools. However, after mid-day dinner the skies suddenly cleared, the streams disappeared leaving the cobble stones clean and white. The sun came out in glory, shedding its warmth generously, and we took a horse and carriage driven by a kind Turk whose name was Mustafá.

We rode through Government Street, the principal thoroughfare, picturesque with its vistas of bazaars and its brightly


coloured rugs hanging outside the shops, but most interesting of all we passed some of the most beautiful mosques to be found anywhere in the world. We drove over the cobbled stones of some extremely narrow streets till we came into a more open road which led to the Murádíyyih district. Leaving Mustafá and the carriage at the foot of the hill, we walked up the steep, needle-eye road lined on each side with little shops and a mill where a horse goes round and round turning wheels to grind the olive into oil. The Murádíyyih Mosque crowns the slope and, just as we were coming, the muezzin came out on a parapet of the slender, graceful minaret and using his hand as funnel loud-speaker chanted the call to prayer.

When we reached the historic mosque we did not go in at once because a Hájí and some others were engrossed in their daily devotions. We walked about looking at this noble mass of splendid architecture, but most of all scanning the horizon to see where Bahá'u'lláh might have lived. Murádíyyih section in Bahá'u'lláh's day was one of the most fashionable residential summer districts of Adrianople, even the Sultán had a summer palace in that quarter. The air is most pure and fresh on this mountain slope and the grapes there were world renowned. The route to Bulgaria and on to Central and Western Europe and the road to Constantinople wind like broad white ribbons through the plains below stretching on and on until out of sight.

We found the Takyiy-i-Mawlaví, a building for dervishes in the last century, it is just in front of the mosque--and we knew that Bahá'u'lláh's houses, one at least, was very near to that. Miss Jack took her pencil and sketch book to draw this Takyiy-i-Mawlaví and the fountain in front of it where women were carrying away heavy pails of water hung on poles balanced over their shoulders. What Water of Life the women of Bahá'u'lláh's time could have carried away when He was at that well!

I went into the mosque, for now it was quite empty except for the kindly old caretaker whose eyes were filled with peace. It is


a beautiful interior, high and lofty and the blue faience, of various hues from the delicate Chinese green-blue of the East to the deep rich Sévres' blue of the West, is marvellously colourful although now it is more than five hundred years old. No wonder a man from Poland famous in tile designing has just come to make a study of these tiles and that many come from the United States just to see this faience work. It was made by a Persian whom the Turks invited to come and decorate this mosque.

Quotations from the holy Qur'án illumined the walls. All colours were soft and harmonious, such rich old tones are seldom seen in our modern churches; but the outer things were almost as if I did not see them, so absorbed was I in the consciousness that this was a place where He had prayed and where God had spoken to Him as of old He had spoken to Moses in the Burning Bush! I was impressed how in all His exiles, Bahá'u'lláh seemed always to live close to the mosques--the symbols of the divine in he earth-plane. In His hours of prayer in these terrestrial edifices God certainly revealed to Him how the dead world was to be revivified. What wonderful Works were written by Bahá'u'lláh in Adrianople! There were fourteen that we know of, and among these were the Tablets to the Kings, the Prayers on Fasting, the first Tablet to Napoleon III, and the great Tablet to the Sháh of Persia which have been translated into our Western languages.

Kneeling with forehead to the rugs in this memorable mosque, the writer felt with a throb of wonder how far Bahá'u'lláh had come to meet our Western world! Adrianople was His closest approach--in the outer plane--to our Occident: but all these thoughts dropped into subconsciousness as one bowed in silent love in His Living presence. He was there in that mosque! And the one listening heard anew that His Teachings, the Logos, carry in Themselves the Power that will make of this world of earth a high paradise. The moments there were sublime, not to be described but experienced!

Later when the writer lifted her eyes from devotion, she glanced once more about the mosque before arising from her


knees. As she saw the Verses from the Qur'án upon the walls, she thought of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Words when He was asked what we in the United States and Canada should do with the Tablets He revealed to the United States and Canada and sent to us in 1919. He replied to put them into the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár in Chicago, not into the vaults but upon the walls. Our new Bahá'í temple in the West and probably other Mashriqu'l-Adhkárs in various parts of the globe will become renowned later as the great new architecture and the new ideal of spiritual edifices conceived in the twentieth century. The Bahá'í architecture will reflect the essential traits of our Bahá'í believers--universality, spiritual solidarity, spiritual refinement, beauty, joyousness, sincerity and light. More than any other edifice in the world, the new Mashriqu'l-Adhkár in Chicago presents in concrete, in bronze, in quartz a gleaming reflection of all these inner qualities. How little we realize that we, too, are building for the centuries ahead in our new architecture, and that the name of our Louis Bourgeois, who designed this first Mashriqu'l-Adhkár in the Americas, will be much more known and praised five hundred years from now even than it is today in the West. Sometimes it is good to see the famous mosques of Sinán and other Muhammadan architects who lived in the epoch of a former World Teacher; it quickens in us a realization of the stupendous spiritual age in which we ourselves are living.

As the days went by we kept coming back to this Murádíyyih section so often, that Mustafá, our driver, said to the neighbours gathered about us to see the sketches, that we seemed to love Murádíyyih the best of all the places in Adrianople. Then after nearly two weeks' time we found the sites of the two houses where Bahá'u'lláh had lived; how we found all the sites is as interesting as a novel, but space does not permit its telling.

An old man, Muhammad Hilmí Big, a fine type of Turk, told us that he had been a neighbour, that his boyhood home had been just across the roadway from Bahá'u'lláh's house and he showed us the old structure of his place. He explained that there


had been two 'Bahá'í Bigs'*--one great Persian, who lived in the mansion just adjoining the entrance gate to the Murádíyyih Mosque, seldom went out, but the other one, 'Abbás Big, used to go everywhere and used to treat the boys with much friendliness; but the great Bahá'í Big, too, was good to the boys. He had pilau given to them. This man told us too, and showed us what an immense house had been the mansion of Bahá'u'lláh; it had eighteen rooms and a Turkish bath--one can see from the site that it had been a very great mansion. The house was demolished in the Russian war fifty years ago; a cheap house had been built twenty-five years ago on the part of the lot nearest to the entrance gate, but most of that, too, had been razed in the last Balkan war. Muhammad Hilmí Big showed us that just beyond the wall of Bahá'u'lláh's house was a stretch of land through which runs a brook, and the Bahá'ís also had that entire place which extended down to the river in that time. There were several different buildings including stables and a large, long garden. He told us that these Persians had beautiful Arabian horses and two donkeys. There had been a house rather larger than the others in this garden enclosure, situated at the lower bend of the grounds and several people told us that Bahá'u'lláh had also lived there for a short time. That house overlooked the summer palace of the Sultán which stood lower on an opposite slope still in the Murádíyyih section. Now there is only the site of Bahá'u'lláh's house, all his houses were demolished in the wars. We think that Bahá'u'lláh might have lived in this lower house the first week as it was close to the Takyiy-i-Mawlaví, just as an early historian relates. It could be reached from Takyiy-i-Mawlaví and Murádíyyih Mosque by going down a steep, narrow pathway part of which is stone steps, or one could have approached it through the garden.

Muhammad Hilmí Big told us there were more than fifty Persians living in these places and that very many visitors came; they, too, were entertained there. This genial man explained


* 'Big' is a Turkish title meaning a person of high rank, a Lord. (A.T.)



One of Bahá'u'lláh's most devoted servants. He threw himself into the sea when he was prevented from accompanying Bahá'u'lláh



Entitled Dhabíh. An outstanding teacher of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh and one of His most devoted followers. He was the recipient of the Súriy-i-Ra'ís

that one of the members of Bahá'u'lláh's family gave Persian lessons to the head of the Mevlevi Cherleri dervishes.*

Our kind Adrianople friend, Muhammad Hilmí Bey, at the end of our visit said very softly that perhaps we knew they were exiles because they changed religion, but he added most sincerely and with love straight from the heart: 'They were very, very kind, they didn't harm anybody and they did good to everybody!'

Then he said good-bye to us and with a questioning smile--before he started cane in hand to stride slowly down the hill to his house--this brave, true man who has seen three Balkan wars and the world war despoil Adrianople said to us: 'How have you liked us Turks? Do you find Turkish folks don't eat people from other countries!' Beloved Turkish brother whose boyhood home was close beside the house of Bahá'u'lláh, if only we could express to you how lovely we found you and how kind we found the citizens of Adrianople! And to learn from you and others that your citizens here were good to Bahá'u'lláh endears us forever to your historic city!

The home of Amru'lláh Big was the third residence where Bahá'u'lláh lived in Adrianople; this site was the easiest to find and was verified by the greatest number of citizens. This great house stood just near the main entrance to the magnificent Sultán Salím Mosque,...Also, a man in public life showed us this place--and walked with us on through two or three other streets and pointed out the sites of the houses of Ridá Big and 'Izzat Áqá and the Khán-i-'Arab Caravanserai site very near the grounds of 'Izzat Áqá. We could see from the ruins that the


* Dervishes no longer hold their services in these buildings at Takyiy-i-Mawlaví, but one man there who used to be dervish told us that Bahá'u'lláh had lived in this lower house and then later in the one up by the entrance gate. He said that Bahá'ís had used the kitchen, the dining-room and the bathroom of the Takyiy-i-Mawlaví and showed us these rooms--and probably they did in those first few days until they could get established. The dervishes then were a large and flourishing group, they had four buildings right beside the mosque. Some of the photographs of earlier meetings show that they all wore the high táj headdress.

three residences were all remarkably large mansions and we heard that all three hosts were distinguished men of Adrianople at that time.

Now this Amru'lláh Big lot, which is like one whole block--and the house covered all of it--is only a place of ruins; the ground is covered with crumbled stones, flowering thistles and weeds. Part of the old wall still stands and a large portion of an enormous old fireplace which the Turks call the 'kitchen'.

We heard of an old man, Mustafá Big, eighty-five years old, who had seen Bahá'u'lláh. When we met him he told us that he had been a neighbour living near the house of Amru'lláh Big and that he had carried yogurt to "Bahá'í Big" (Bahá'u'lláh), and the latter always had pilau given to him to carry home. His eyes shone as he spoke of Bahá'u'lláh, and he tried to show us how noble He was; this kindly, sincere old man, a Turk, stood up and tried to make us understand how Bahá'í Big walked with such dignity and power, and how He bowed to people who saluted Him--he told us that all people saluted Bahá'u'lláh, that every one loved and revered Him.

We were informed that Bahá'u'lláh had a kitchen for the poor.

This man told us, too, that Bahá'u'lláh had a great vineyard--from his description we think it was like a garden with an arbour in the centre. He said that Bahá'u'lláh went there often, sometimes alone to spend the day, sometimes He went there with His friends and they walked up and down. When He would return at night with his cortége, this man told us, that Bahá'u'lláh's twenty servants (followers) would all stand together outside the house to salute Him and He always returned their greeting so lovingly.

We took this good friend with us and went out to the vineyard site. He measured off the distances and showed us where the entrance gate had been. The grounds would cover in area about three city blocks; the land is on an elevation and the place is only about seven minutes' walk from Sultán Salím Mosque. This vineyard was between the Murádíyyih Mosque slope and


Sultán Salím Mosque; one could walk to it easily from either location. Mustafá Big said to us: 'Oh, how many grapes did we receive from the hand of Bahá'í Big! He gave us so many grapes always!' I heard that the grapes of Adrianople were very celebrated then; later in the wars the grapevines were all destroyed. I was very impressed how in every place Bahá'u'lláh lived in His exiles, He had a garden.

One day when Miss Jack and I went again to the vacant lot where the house of Amru'lláh Big had stood, Mustafá Big came over to us, cane in hand, with the firm eager tread of one who knows and wishes us to know all the history of the place. He showed how one part was the quarter for the women, another the suites for the men and he pointed to the great fireplace in the rear where the cooking was done. However, he pointed to a two-storey house with the middle portion three storeys just across the street but a little further down, and he said that some of Bahá'u'lláh's followers lived in that house, that most of the cooking was done over there. He said that generally the food was prepared and brought to Bahá'u'lláh at the Amru'lláh mansion--though I did understand him to say sometimes the cooking would all be done in the Amru'lláh 'kitchen' fireplace and carried over to the green house where most of the Persian friends ate their meals. He told us that this old house, which was green in colour in Bahá'u'lláh's time, has now been remodelled and is painted pink. He made it very clear that Bahá'u'lláh Himself never lived there. (A pretty Turkish girl came out from the pink house when we took a photograph and a sketch; she asked about the great Man whose friends had eaten in her home!)

This much at least we learned, that Bahá'u'lláh lived for a long time in the home of Amru'lláh Big; the old man told us He lived in Adrianople nearly five years. We know that when the Prince of Peace lived and walked in Adrianople He was an honoured member in three of the great Turkish families, He lived in some splendid mansions of that great former metropolis, and He was loved and reverenced by those who


knew Him. Is it not significant that the one man in Adrianople who said: 'I saw Bahá'u'lláh!' tells us that he received pilau and grapes and that Bahá'u'lláh loved the poor and had a kitchen for them!

It seems to me that it must have been in this house of Amru'lláh Big or in the house adjacent that Subh-i-Azal poisoned the food of Bahá'u'lláh, for he was living there in the latter time of His stay, and then left this house and went to live in the home of 'Izzat Áqá for the last eleven months of His sojourn in Adrianople...

There is not very much to be said about the ruins of the houses of Ridá Big and 'Izzat Áqá except that one can see from the old stone walls and baths and fireplaces what extraordinarily large mansions they were. Certainly from them one would have a glorious view of the Sultán Salím Mosque. We were told that the house of 'Izzat Áqá had a very large library 'where the Bahá'ís studied'--perhaps they meant where Bahá'u'lláh wrote or received the thinkers and seekers. It was the room where the three fireplaces are,...The fact that Bahá'u'lláh was living in the homes of these three great citizens of Adrianople proves in itself that He was loved and honoured in their midst. We hope that others coming after us will find out more about these two houses.

Concerning the Khán-i-'Arab Caravanserai, we searched for that for nearly three weeks; in going to the old caravanserais we saw what luxurious hostelries they must have been in that epoch, but we were told later that the Khán-i-'Arab Caravanserai was not one of the great fashionable ones but was for the Arab middle and poorer classes. Probably Bahá'u'lláh and His followers were taken there by the Turkish officials from Constantinople who brought them to Roumelia. There were said to be two Khán-i-'Arab caravanserais--or some persons said that one was called 'Arab-i-Khán, or simply Arab Caravanserai--there were great differences of opinion but both sites are now used for large schools. We took a photograph of the one they said was Khán-i-'Arab Caravanserai near to the house of 'Izzat


Áqá, and a sketch of the other one which is not far from the Sultán Salím Mosque.

Sultán Salím Mosque, where Bahá'u'lláh often went, is considered to be the most beautiful mosque in Turkey and was designed by Sinán, the great Turkish architect. Certainly its wide cloisters would be ideal as a place to sit and speak of matters divine, and its interior is full of beauty. Miss Jack and I were each asked to write our impressions of this mosque to be used in a Turkish book and we did so.

...I feel happy that we could meet the man who had seen 'Abbás Big and knew the Murádíyyih house well, and that we had explained to us the Amru'lláh Big house and the Vineyard by a man who was a neighbour and who saw Bahá'u'lláh.

[Note: the Persian names in this article have been transliterated in accordance with the system used in this book.]