A functioning mosque also attracts large numbers of tourist visitors.
It was constructed between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmed I.
Its Külliye contains Ahmed’s tomb, a madrasah, and a hospice.
Hand-painted blue tiles adorn the mosque’s interior walls, and at night the mosque is bathed in blue as lights frame the mosque’s five main domes, six minarets, and eight secondary domes.
It sits next to the Hagia Sophia, the principal mosque of Istanbul, until the Blue Mosque’s construction and another popular tourist site.
The Blue Mosque was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 1985 under “Historic Areas of Istanbul”.
History of Blue Mosque
After the Peace of Zsitvatorok and the crushing loss in the 1603–18 war with Persia, Sultan Ahmed I decided to build a large mosque in Istanbul to reassert Ottoman power.
It would be the first imperial mosque for more than forty years.
While his predecessors had paid for their mosques with the spoils of war, Ahmed I procured funds from the Treasury because he had not gained remarkable victories.
The construction was started in 1609 and completed in 1616.
Having been paid from the public treasury rather than from the sultan’s war booty, as was done usually, it caused the anger of the ulama, the Muslim jurists.
The mosque was built on the site of the palace of the Byzantine emperors, in front of the basilica Hagia Sophia (at that time, the primary imperial mosque in Istanbul) and the hippodrome, a site of significant symbolic meaning as it dominated the city skyline from the south.
Much of the south shore rests on the grand palace’s foundations, its vaults.
Architecture of Blue Mosque
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque has five main domes, six minarets, and eight secondary domes.
The design is the culmination of two centuries of Ottoman mosque development.
It incorporates many Byzantine elements of the neighboring Hagia Sophia with traditional Islamic architecture and is considered the last great mosque of the classical period.
The architect, Sedefkâr Mehmed Ağa, synthesized the ideas of his master Sinan, aiming for overwhelming size, majesty, and splendor.
The upper area is decorated with approximately 20,000 hand-painted glazed ceramic in 60 different tulip patterns.
Two hundred stained glass windows illuminate the lower stories.
A forecourt precedes the mosque with a large fountain and a particular area for ablution.
An iron chain hangs in the court entrance on the western side.
Only the Sultan was allowed to ride into the mosque horseback, and he would need to lower his head not to hit the chain, a symbolic gesture ensuring the humility of the ruler before Allah.
By way of his works, he left a decided mark on Istanbul.
The square on which the Sultan Ahmed Mosque is situated became known as Sultanahmet.
This mosque can be considered the culmination of his career.
Mehmed Agha, who was the last student of Mimar Sinan, had completed his mission by adding his brighter, colorful architectural style to that of his master teacher.
Interior of Blue Mosque
At its lower levels and every pier, the mosque’s interior is lined with more than 20,000 handmade İznik style ceramic tiles, made at İznik (the ancient Nicaea) in more than fifty different tulip designs.
The tiles at lower levels are traditional in design, while at gallery level, their design becomes flamboyant with representations of flowers, fruit, and cypresses.
The tiles were made under the supervision of the İznik master.
The price to be paid for each tile was fixed by the sultan’s decree, while tile prices generally increased over time.
As a result, the quality of the tiles used in the building decreased gradually.
The upper levels of the interior are dominated by blue paint.
More than 200 stained glass windows with intricate designs admit natural light, today assisted by chandeliers.
On the chandeliers, ostrich eggs are found that were meant to avoid cobwebs inside the mosque by repelling spiders.
The decorations include verses from the Qur’an, many of them made by Seyyid Kasim Gubari, regarded as the most excellent calligrapher of his time.
The floors are covered with carpets, donated by the faithful, and regularly replaced as they wear out. The many spacious windows confer a big impression.
The casements at floor level are decorated with opus sectile. Each exedra has five windows, some of which are blind.
Each semi-dome has 14 windows and the central dome 28 (four of which are blind).
The colored glass for the windows was a gift of the Signoria of Venice to the sultan.
The most crucial element in the mosque’s interior is the mihrab, made of finely carved and sculptured marble, with a stalactite niche and a double inscriptive panel above it.
Many windows surround it.
The adjacent walls are sheathed in ceramic tiles.
To the right of the mihrab is the richly decorated minber, or pulpit, where the imam stands when he is delivering his sermon at the time of noon prayer on Fridays or holy days.
The mosque has been designed so that even when it is most crowded, everyone can see and hear the imam.
The royal kiosk is situated at the southeast corner.
It comprises a platform, a loggia, and two small retiring rooms.
It gives access to the royal loge in the southeast upper gallery of the mosque.
These retiring rooms became the headquarters of the Grand Vizier during the suppression of the rebellious Janissary Corps in 1826. Ten marble columns support the royal loge (hünkâr mahfil).
It has its mihrab, which used to be decorated with a jade rose and gilt and with one hundred Qurans on an inlaid and gilded lectern.
The many lamps inside the mosque were once covered with gold and gems.
Among the glass bowls, one could find ostrich eggs and crystal balls.
All these decorations have been removed or pillaged for museums.
The great tablets on the walls are inscribed with the names of the caliphs and verses from the Quran.
They were initiated by the great 17th-century calligrapher Seyyid Kasim Gubari of Diyarbakır but have been repeatedly restored.
It was first announced that the mosque would undertake a series of renovations back in 2016. Numerous renovation works had been completed throughout Istanbul, and the restoration of the Blue Mosque was to be the final project.
Renovations were expected to take place over three and a half years and be completed by 2020.
Exterior of Blue Mosque
The façade of the spacious was built in the same manner as the façade of the Süleymaniye Mosque, except for the turrets on the corner domes.
The court is about as large as the mosque itself and is surrounded by a continuous vaulted arcade (Revak). It has ablution facilities on both sides.
The central hexagonal fountain is small relative to the courtyard.
The monumental but narrow gateway to the courtyard stands out architecturally from the arcade.
Its semi-dome has a fine stalactite structure, crowned by a small ribbed dome on a tall tholobate.
Its historical elementary school (Sıbyan Mektebi) is used as a “Mosque Information Center,” adjacent to its outer wall on the side of Hagia Sophia.
They provide visitors with a free orientational presentation on the Blue Mosque and Islam in general.
A heavy iron chain hangs in the upper part of the court entrance on the western side.
Only the sultan was allowed to enter the court of the mosque on horseback.
The chain was put there so that the sultan had to lower his head every time he entered the court to avoid being hit.
This was a symbolic gesture to ensure the humility of the ruler in the face of the divine.
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is one of the five mosques in Turkey that has six minarets (one in the modern Sabancı Mosque in Adana, the Muğdat Mosque in Mersin, Çamlıca Mosque in Üsküdar and the Green mosque in Arnavutköy).
According to folklore, an architect misheard the Sultan’s request for “altın minareler” (gold minarets) as “altı minare” (six minarets), at the time a unique feature of the mosque of the Ka’aba in Mecca.
When criticized for his presumption, the Sultan ordered a seventh minaret to be built at the Mecca mosque.
Four minarets stand at the corners of the Blue Mosque.
Each of these fluted, pencil-shaped minarets has three balconies (Called şerefe) with stalactite corbels, while the two others at the end of the forecourt only have two balconies.
Before the muezzin or prayer caller had to climb a narrow spiral staircase five times a day to announce the call to prayer.
Pope Benedict XVI’s visit
Pope Benedict XVI visited the Sultan Ahmed Mosque on 30 November 2006 during his visit to Turkey.
It was only the second papal visit in history to a Muslim place of worship.
Having removed his shoes, the Pope paused for a full two minutes, eyes closed in silent meditation, standing side by side with Mustafa Çağrıcı, the Mufti of Istanbul, and Emrullah Hatipoğlu, the Imam of the Blue Mosque.
The pope “thanked divine Providence for this” and said, “May all believers identify themselves with the one God and bear witness to true brotherhood.” The pontiff noted that Turkey “will be a bridge of friendship and collaboration between East and West”, and he thanked the Turkish people “for the cordiality and sympathy” they showed him throughout his stay, saying, “he felt loved and understood.
🏨 Hotels Near Sultan Ahmed Mosque
|Hotel SultanHill||📍 Sultan Ahmet, Tavukhane Sk. No:15, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey||Fatih||📞 +90 212 518 32 93||hotelsultanhill.com/|
|Hotel Arcadia Blue||📍 No:, İmran Öktem Cd., 34440 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey||Fatih||📞 +90 212 516 96 96||hotelarcadiablue.com/|
|GLK PREMIER Sea Mansion Suites & Spa||📍 Küçük Ayasofya Mahallesi, old city, Mustafapaşa Çk. No:9, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey||Fatih||📞 +90 212 638 30 81||seamansionsuites.com/|
|Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel İstanbul||📍 Alemdar, Ticarethane Sk. No:10, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey||Fatih||📞 +90 212 522 32 00||surahotels.com/sura-hagia-sophia-hotel|
|The Magnaura Palace Hotel||📍 Cankurtaran, Dalbastı Sk. NO : 13 / 1, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey||Fatih||📞 +90 212 458 83 83||magnaurapalacehotel.com/|
|Hotel Amira Istanbul||📍 Küçük Ayasofya Mahallesi, Mustafa Paşa Sk. No:43, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey||Fatih||📞 +90 212 516 16 40||hotelamira.com/|
|Biz Cevahir Hotel Sultanahmet||📍 Cankurtaran, Kutlugün Sk. No:8, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey||Fatih||📞 +90 212 458 55 55||bizcevahirhotels.com/|
|Istanbul Hotel Alzer at Sultanahmet||📍 Binbirdirek, At Meydani No:20, 34122 Sultanahmet/Fatih/Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey||Sultanahmet/Fatih/Fatih||📞 +90 212 516 62 62||alzerhotel.com/|
|Hagia Sofia Mansions Istanbul, Curio Collection by Hilton||📍 Sultanahmet, Kabasakal Cd. No:5, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey||Fatih||📞 +90 212 912 42 12||hilton.com/en/hotels/isthsqq-hagia-sofia-mansions-istanbul/|
|Hotel Sultanahmet Palace||📍 Sultan Ahmet, Torun Sk. No:19, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey||Fatih||📞 +90 212 458 04 60||sultanahmetpalace.com/|