Why Anıtkabir Is Ankara's Most Monumental Site

Anitkabir | © Dr._Colleen_Morgan/Flickr
Anitkabir | © Dr._Colleen_Morgan/Flickr

Anıtkabir is not only a profoundly important site due to its status as the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (founder and first president of the Turkish Republic), but also as a result of it being a grand feat of architecture and a great example of a Turkish architectural style called the Second National Architectural Movement. Here we take a look at the mausoleum’s significance for Turkish history and its impressive architectural elements.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

Located in the heart of Ankara, this mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is reason enough to visit Ankara. Having served as a military officer in the Ottoman Empire, Atatürk led the Turkish National Movement in the Turkish War of Independence after the dissolution of the empire. After leading his troops to victory, Atatürk established a program of reforms in order to turn the former empire into a modern and secular republic. He became the first president of the newly established Turkish Republic in 1923, serving until his death in 1938. It was at this time that plans for his final resting place began as a superior commission.

Atatürk's Mausoleum | © Volki16/Wikimedia Commons

Choice of location and project competition

After much deliberation, Rasattepe, a hill overlooking the city in the Çankaya neighborhood, was chosen and later renamed Anıttepe. During the initial stages of construction, remnants belonging to the Phrygians, an ancient state dating back to the 12th century BC, were unearthed and can still be viewed at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations. As for the actual architectural project, a competition was held and even though it was the middle of WWII, 49 proposals from Turkey, Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, France, and Czechoslovakia were submitted. In the end, the project proposed by Professor Emin Onat and Assistant Professor Orhan Arda was chosen for its superior representation of the national architectural style.

Anitkabir | © Михал Орела/Flickr


Anıtkabir has an area of 750,000m², 120,000m² of which belongs to the monument block while 630,000m² is covered by the Peace Park which has 50,000 decorative trees and 104 types of bushes. The monument also has several statues and reliefs that express the history of the Turkish War of Independence, the Republic, and the life of Atatürk. In terms of the specific architectural elements, the monument block is composed of travertine and marble imported especially from various corners of the country. The Hall of Honor within the monument block is especially stunning, composed of cream-colored marble from Çanakkale, red marble from Hatay, and black marble from Adana.

Anitkabir | © Михал Орела/Flickr

Another striking feature are the two monolithic stones upon which Atatürk’s sarcophagus rests. These stones weigh around 40 tons each and were cut from the Gavur Mountains in the Adana district and were manufactured in Kayseri for TL25,000 (US$6,855). The travertine paved road leading from the entrance to the Ceremonial Plaza is named the ‘Road of Lions,’ and is decorated on the sides with roses and junipers as well as lion statues typical of the style of the ancient Hittite Empire. The mausoleum itself is the most important part of Anıtkabir and is reached by ascending 42 steps from the Ceremonial Plaza.

Anitkabir | © Dr._Colleen_Morgan/Flickr

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