The brazier, which is an important artifact in the daily life of the Turkish people can be defined as a copper, brass, metal or baked clay vessel used for burning coal (charcoal), for heating closed spaces or for cooking purposes. It has been claimed that the brazier was first used by the Arabs, as the Turkish 'mangal' is derived from the Arabic 'menkal'. We can however, have little doubt that it was the Turks who developed the artifact into the important heating method it became over the centuries. There appears to have been no word equivalent to the brazier in ancient languages. The emergance of fire hearths in the early dwelling excavated in Anatolia suggests that the brazier was only developed after charcoal began to be used, and that it was much used from the Medieval period onwards.
The oldest brazier in our collection originated in Anatolia while the most advanced forms were made in Istanbul, an important cultural and artistic centre in the Ottoman period. They were generally made of copper or brass, the latter being an alloy of copper and zinc, and yellow in tone in contrast to the red of copper. Since it is a work hardening metal, care must be taken when annealing not to overheat, as it then becomes brittle when hammered and can result in cracking and breaking.
It is this factor which necessitates the utmost skill in their making. And yet, since brass vessels are able to hold heat for long periods of time, they have generally been preferred for use as braziers or samovars. Some braziers are entirely of brass or copper, but they may also be a combination of both. In copper circles, brass -pirinc- is called "the blond metal", and it is popularly known as "yellow copper", being a metal alloy of copper, it is the more valuable of the two, and in a well-to-do household, some brass braziers were always to be found, alongside the coppers. From the first half of the 19th century, the covered stove began to infiltrate into Turkish daily life, gradually superceding the open brazier as a major form of heating, but even after the introduction of the stove, the brazier was still used in the other rooms of the house filled with the embers from the stove, as an auxiliary heating source, and in many parts of Anatolia, the brazier is still the major form of heating. Despite changing living habits, the traditional dowry of a Turkish bride would most certainly include one or two 'mangals' among the copperware. The brazier consisted of these parts:
a) The tray, or tabla: This was placed under the vessel to catch sparks spitting out of the fire. It was a circular object, made of wood, and plated with copper or brass, separated from the brazier, which could be put away if necessary.
b) The base and body, known collectively as the 'govde': This consisted of the base or foot resting on the tray and the part in which the ashbowl was placed, which was known as the 'cradle' of the bowl -canak yuvasi- or hearth - ocak-. Some braziers have a bank linking the foot to the cradle which is known as the gullet -bogaz- (see the Konak brazier).
c) The fire bowl -or ateslik: known as the canak in copper circles- pot, bowl. This is the two handled vessel in which the coals are placed. It is not a permanent part of the brazier, but can be removed. This part is popularly known as the 'belly of the brazier'.
d) The cover, or kapak: This covers the ash-bowl, and is generally conical, decorated with pierced work and has a node handle at the finial.
Not all braziers have all the parts mentioned here. Some have bodies which also act as ash-bowls, some are without covers or trays.
Before stoves were introduced, wood was reduced to charcoal regularly, twice a day during winter morning and evening in each home: Each of the braziers in the house was filled with charcoal, which were placed over ashes in the bowl. The braziers in rooms which were to be kept warm continuously had a double ash-bowl which was changed alternately, morning and evening.
Every brazier was equipped with a pair of tongs which were kept on its rim or tray, but used sparingly, as the embers were never unnecessarily disturbed. While it was mainly used to heat the house, the brazier was never without a pot of water heating or a boiling dish, which were set on a tripod-stand over the fire.
A pot roast, boiled on the brazier, had a taste unequalled by any other form of range-cooked dish. The coffee jug was automatically placed over the coals when a visitor arrived. Coffee brewed slowly in this way was frothy and tasty. It is this form of coffee which gave Turkish coffee its renown. Today the special brew of south-east Anatolia, the bitter 'mirra', is a form of coffee brewed on the brazier in special jugs.
The brazier was not only a domestic artifact, but was also used in the Turkish cafe and in shops, such as the barber's shop, where shaving water would be heated on the brazier in a copper jug-gugum, and also coffee, linden or tea would be brewed to be offered to the customer.
Like other copper artifacts, the brazier varies from place to place, and according to its function. There are many different types, such as:
1) The Tall Brazier (Mansion Type)
This is copper-made, a tall and decorative version of the brazier, which stood in the halls of large houses, and was known as the 'hall brazier'-orta mangali! It is one of the most frequently used types, and was known among the public as the mansion brazier- konak mangali. Smaller braziers of similar type, without a tray can be seen throughout Anatolia. And we may even see braziers of this type in Rumania, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, as cultural heritage of the Ottoman empire.
The body is divided into two parts. The upper part a deep conical shape, designed to hold the ash-bowl, which is surrounded by a rim 15cm. 16cm. wide. This was used to rest the coffee jug, tongs, and such like implements, and to heat plates and bowls. The lower part was bell-shaped and was pinned to the upper part from within, with five broad pins or rivets, or with one large brass stay, and the joint was held fast by a copper band 15-20 cm. wide, which also covered it. To lift the brazier, two lugs were fitted to the upper part of the body, below the ash-bowl. These were articulated brass lugs, and there were also two articulated brass lugs on either side of the bowl, which had a conical cover, pierced to allow enough air to kindle the fire slowly. This had a bird shaped finial nob at the apex of the cover, and two fixed lugs on either side.
The brazier rests on a circular copper tray, slightly setted, and stamped in the centre with the word 'nuhas', (Arabic: copper). Trays such as this which were made especially for the brazier are quite difficult to find, and a plain copper tray may very often substitute for it. Brass was very rarely used for the mansion brazier, and even when used, the vessel was called the 'copper type brass brazier'. Sometimes lobed, cast-brass tri-footed bases replaced the conical copper foot. The ash bowl was generally rounded and shorter in this version. Smaller braziers of this type were made in great quantities, the smallest measuring 25-30 cm. These were known as portable braziers or 'outdoor' braziers-cayir mangali, and were used to warm food, grill meat, or pop-corn oft of doors.
The mansion brazier was such a popular form in Anatolia that it was copied in ceramic. This type of ceramic brazier was especially used in western Anatolia.
2) Suleymaniye Braziers
Suleymaniye oval brazier
During the Ottoman period, a large quarter of Istanbul, around Suleymaniye mosque was occupied by forges and metal workshops. The finest braziers and brassware of all kinds was made there for export to all parts of the Ottoman empire. Braziers from this market, renowned for their quality of workmanship and form were known as the "Suleymaniye braziers". Today there are still a few forgers and copper smiths carrying on the tradition in the street of the Mousoleum of Mimar Sinan. There are many varieties of Suleymaniye brazier, but they fall into three basic groups:
a) The oval brazier: These have a cast oval body, which is generally lobed. The body is supported on four horned feet, which are in turn mounted onto four small ruts affixed to the brazier tray. The body itself, the ash-bowl rim and lugs are cast in brass. Only the ash-bowl, which is set into the rim is copper beaten. The edge of the tray, which is lobed like the body is brass-plated wood. Some have small wheels attached to the underside. The cover is also of brass, beaten out within a hammer, and it has two fixed lugs on either side. Some covers have a nob on the top. One of the handles on the lid of the ash-bowl illustrated is stamped with the hall-mark 'pirinc'-brass, and on the peak of the decoratively pierced cover, the date 1279 (1860) has been picked out in pierced work. Oval braziers are approximately 0.65 in height. The finest of these are in the Topkapi Palace Museum.
b) High braziers: Height 0.70-1.00 m. These are two basic groups of globular and conical bodied vessels, which may have many variations. The lid of the globular version is also globular. The body is made by welting together lobed, cast segments. This type has no lug on the body but two rigid lugs are attached to the side of the pot bowl. The base is hexagonal with concave edges and can be set into a groove on the tray made to hold it. The beaten cover has a brass lobe-finial with a leaf-shaped node. High braziers with hexagonal bases may have conical covers.
Both the bodies and lids of conical braziers are beaten and on these types, four feet are attached to the body at the solder. These are revolted at the base in a foliate horn-shape. The body has four oval fluted articulated lugs and a finial on the cover, which is generally crescent-shaped. There are also shorter footed versions of the type with rectangular trays. Since they were exported to all parts of the empire, the Suleymaniye high brazier can be seen in the museums of countries long under Ottoman hegemony, such as Bulgaria and Yugoslavia.
c) Low braziers: Height 0.60-0.70 m. This is the most common Suleymaniye type. It has a round body, stands on its tray on four feet, like the oval brazier, and it has a bell-shaped cover with star-and-crescent finial. The ash-bowl has two fixed handles. Hexagonal or octagonal bodies are quite frequently seen.
3) Thessalonica-Manastir Braziers
Height 0.60-0.65m This was generally of brass, although some are copper. It was given its name as it was frequently used in the region of Thessalonica and the Monasteries, and was made in Istanbul until quite recently. It had a round bowl with
Thessalonica-Manastir braziers, Height: 0,60-0,65 m.
two articulated lugs, and generally a plain rim. The edges of the bowl were usually plain, and it was sometimes decorated with pierced work. It was set into a wooden hollow four-floted stand (14), which takes the place of the body and bowl-cradle in other braziers. The edges of this stand were used to place the coffee pot, plates or tongs etc. Such braziers were generally used without a lid, lidded versions are very rare. Here, both copper and brass 'Selanik' braziers are illustrated. The wooden stand fulfilled the function of an extra piece of furniture.
4) Trabzon Brazier
Height 0.25-0.40m. This is a copper brazier, the body of which also acts as an ash-bowl. It has two raised bands around the lower part of the body near to the base, which is generally a ring-type base of cast brass, welted to the lower body.
Trabzon braziers Height: 0,25-0,40 m.
Rare tripod versions can be found. Vessels with a copper base are higher. It has a flared rim, articulated round lugs, cast in brass. This kind of brazier is well-known in Trabzon, and widely used throughout the eastern Black Sea region, from the beginning of the 20th century onwards, many coppersmiths moved from this region to Istanbul, so the same type began to be made and used in Istanbul. In recent years, these braziers are being turned on pressure moulds. The copper sheet is placed over the mould, and the shape pressed out by sinking. This produces a lighter and cheaper vessel. However, the heavier beaten version is still preferred by some, especially for irs sturdiness.
5) Hookah Brazier
This is a minute brazier used to light the hookah or replenish its fire, which is to be found in cafes or in the houses of the hookah-smoker. Braziers 15-20 cm in diameter and 8-10 cm high are also known as hand-braziers and are used both for the hookah and by housewives engaged in handicrafts, to warm their hands while working.
This type of brazier is made by joining cast brass segments. The bowl is copper welted and has articulated lugs. The brazier is accompanied by a small pair of tongs on the same scale, 7-8 cm high. There are even smaller versions of this type, which are both footed and lugged, and resemble hand-lamps and these are entirely of brass with an ash-bowl no deeper than 3-4 cm. and a diameter of 6-7 cm. Tiny mould bird figures are generally riveted onto the lug base. Such braziers are still used in the cafes of Istanbul and other cities, by hockah-smokers.
6) The Bursa Brazier
Height 0.25-0.30 m. This type of brazier is of beaten brass, coverless, oval-shaped and without an ash-bowl. The body is supported on four long fine brass-moulded feet, riveted to it, and the slightly sunken base plate welted to the lower edges
Hookah braziers Height:8-10cm Tongs:7-8 cm
of the body substitute for an ash-bowl. Being a light weight vessel, a metal band is passed over the rim to strengthen it. The lugs of the vessel are rigid. This is a type peculiar to the Bursa, Inegol and Iznik regions, it may be used indoors, or as an outdoor grill for metal and fish.
7) The Siirt Brazier
Height 0.22-0.27m. Diam. 0.40-0.55m. This is cast in brass, is round of polygonal; the segments of the polygonal types are cast separately, and the feet, matching the number of angles are riveted to the body. The body is decorated with pierced work. A bowl of beaten copper is set into the vessel, which has articulated handles. The foot of the round base is an integral part of the veissel, extending from the same die as the rest of the vessel. This kind of lidless brazier is now used throughout south-east Anatolia, and braziers of a similar type can be seen in Azerbaijan (16).
The feet of the angular Brazier are very occasionally fixed with adjustable pins which serve to level it on an uneven surface. The octagonal Siirt brazier illustrated has feet of this kind. Plain rectangular cast braziers of this type are known as 'Adana braziers'. Although the Siirt brazier is still in use today, the best examples are now kept in the museums of Turkey (16).
Reference: I. Gundag Kayaoglu, Antika, The Turkish Journal Of Collectable Art, October 1985, Issue 7 & November 1985, Issue: 8.