Sarajevo’s Founding Father

Isa Bey Ishaković

downloadSarajevo is indebted to the works of many people, but among them all, one person deserves special attention; the city’s founder – Isa Bey Ishaković. Although the roots of Sarajevo go back to prehistory, it is Isa Bey Ishaković’s name that is tied to the most important episode in the long history of the formation of this city as a recognizable urban whole.

In 1462, Isa Bey Ishaković laid the foundations for an entirely new city, with a new name, new content and a completely different layout. The oldest source for the study of Sarajevo is Isa Bey Ishaković’s endowment created in the year 1462, which is taken as the year of creation of Sarajevo, the future capital of the Bosnian Sandjak ( district), later to become an eyelet (administrateive province or governorate of the Ottoman state).

In addition to his court, Isa Bey Ishaković built the Mosque in 1457, which was donated by Sultan Mehmed II Fatih, which later on became the Emperor’s Mosque. In the area from Bentbaša to Baščaršija, Isa Bey began the formation of an urban city. Among the first public buildings, as a Sufi devotee, Isa Bey built a tekija (dervish house) and the musafirhana (guest house) in Bentbaša which served as a shelter to poor, students, soldiers and travelers. There were cooking facilities and free handouts of food for travellers, the surplus of food being distributed to the poor children in Sarajevo. The guests had a right to eat free food for three days.

Along with Gazi Husrev Bey, he was one of the major benefactors who built the buildings in Baščaršija: the great caravanserai – today known as the Kolobara, the public baths near the Emperor’s mosque, and a mill in Bentbaša amongst others.

Commander Isa Bey Ishaković was extremely rich. His possessions as the Bey of the Sandjak of Bosnia in 1468 amounted to over one million “akçe”, which represented the fortune of the grand vizier of the Ottoman state. The place of his burial is not known with certainty. It is assumed that his grave is located behind the mihrab in the harem of the Emperor’s Mosque in Sarajevo, where there is a high tombstone with no inscription. Isa Bey’s endowment was bequeathed “… so that the constructions cannot be sold or given away, or by any means passed in full ownership, but to remain forever”, as it is stipulated in the endowment, “as long as God remains the sole master of the Earth and everything on it; he is the best successor.” Isa-beg states in one of his endowments that “Sarajevo is the flower among the cities”, but he could not have imagined that the city he had founded would soon become one of the most beautiful and important city of the Balkans.