SULTANAHMET MOSQUE ISTANBUL (BLUE MOSQUE)
The Blue Mosque, also known as Sultanahmet Camii in Turkish, was built by Sedefkar Mehmet Aga between 1609-1616 during the time of Sultan 1. Ahmet. It is located on the site of the Great Palace of Byzantium, on the southeastern side of the Hippodrome. The mosque is called “Blue” by Europeans due to its interior blue tiles, of which there are over 20,000 pieces.
One of the unique features of the Blue Mosque is its six minarets, making it the only mosque in Turkey with this number of minarets. There are many legends surrounding the mosque, including one about the minarets. According to the legend, the sultan had ordered the minarets to be made of gold to create a unique style, but there was not enough money to do so. Instead, Sedefkar Mehmet Aga decided to build six minarets to make the mosque stand out.
The mosque is illuminated by 260 windows and has a worship area of 64×72 meters with a diameter of 23.5 meters. The entrance of the west yard is marked by a heavy iron gateway, which at the time was a symbol of the importance of the mosque. The mosque has a rectangular shape and is supported by a central dome and four half-domes, creating a unique architectural design.
The Blue Mosque not only serves as a place of worship, but also as a social complex, with various buildings such as a madrasa, a Sultan Resting Mansion, a Turkish bath, a fountain, a hospital, a Mekteb-I Sıbyan, rental rooms and homes. The Sultan Resting Mansion is an important part of the complex, built as a place for the Sultan to rest before and after prayer. The mansion is also home to several tombs, including those of Sultan 1. Ahmet, his wife Kosem Sultan, and their sons 4. Murat and 2. Osman in the northwest.
It is important to note that the Blue Mosque is still an active place of worship, so it may be closed to non-worshippers for a half hour during the five daily prayers. The best way to see the architectural beauty of the Blue Mosque is to approach it from the Hippodrome (the west side of the mosque). Non-Muslims are also required to enter the mosque from the same direction.
In the present day, there is an area called “Arasta” located behind the mosque, which is home to the Mosaic Museum and shops selling tourist souvenirs. The Blue Mosque is a popular tourist attraction and has been visited by many notable figures such as the leader of the Catholic Church and former US President Bill Clinton, who visited the mosque twice.
HOW TO VISIT BLUE MOSQUE? WHAT IS THE RULES?
If you’re planning to visit the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, here’s what you need to know:
- Plan your visit to the Sultanahmet area of Istanbul to arrive mid-morning. The mosque closes for 90 minutes during each of the five daily prayer times, so try to avoid visiting during these times, especially during the midday prayer on Fridays.
- Before entering the mosque, take off your shoes and put them in the plastic bags provided at the entrance. This is a tradition in Muslim places of worship and is required for all visitors. There is no entrance fee to the Blue Mosque.
- Women should wear a head covering when entering the mosque. Head coverings are available at the entrance for free. Place the fabric cover on top of your head with equal portions hanging on both sides, then wrap one side around your neck and cover your shoulders. The covering is meant to hide your hair only, not your face.
- When inside the mosque, please be quiet and do not use flash photography. The mosque is a place of worship, so avoid staring or taking pictures of those who are praying. Visit the mosque respectfully and quietly.
- Before leaving the mosque, you can put your used plastic bags in designated bin bags and return your head covering to the duty staff. There is also an option to make a donation to help maintain the mosque at the exit door. This is not mandatory, but if you choose to donate, you will receive an official receipt for it.
Muslims follow the basic tenets of Islam which include praying five times a day. These prayers are spaced throughout the day, providing a constant reminder of Allah and opportunities to seek guidance and forgiveness. The call to prayer, or ezan, is chanted six times a day. However, the exact time of the ezan changes daily due to factors such as the rotation of the earth, the revolution around the sun, and daylight savings time. As a result, Islamic prayer times are not based on a clock, but are traditionally set according to the movement of the sun. The Presidency of Religious Affairs of the Republic of Turkey provides advice on these prayer times.
Here below is the names of the calls-prayers in Turkish and Arabic.
1) Imsak /
Fajr – Two hours before dawn
/Tulu – Dawn
3) Ögle /
Zuhr – Midday
/ Asr – Afternoon
5) Aksam / Maghrib – Sunset
6) Yatsi / Isha – Right before last light of the day get disappearedIf you like to check real time praying times, you can click here
HISTORY OF BLUE MOSQUE
Following the Peace of Zsitvatorok (1606) and the unfavourable result of the wars with Persia, Sultan Ahmed I decided to build a huge mosque in Istanbul. It would be the first great imperial mosque to be built in more than forty years.His predecessors had paid for their mosques with their war booty, Sultan Ahmed I had to withdraw the funds from the treasury, because he had not won any notable victories during his time. This provoked the anger of the Ottoman ulema, the Muslim legal scholars.The mosque was to be built on the site of the palace of the Byzantine emperors, facing the Hagia Sophia (at that time it was most venerated mosque in Istanbul) and the hippodrome, a site of great symbolic significance. Large parts of the southern side of the mosque rest on the foundation and vaults of the Great Palace. Several palaces was already built there, most notably the palace of Sokollu Mehmet Pasha, so these first had to be bought at a considerable cost and pulled down. Large parts of the Sphendone (curved tribune with U-shaped structure of the hippodrome) were also removed to make room for the new mosque. Construction of the mosque started in August 1609 when the sultan himself came to break the first sod. It was his intention that this would become the first mosque of his empire.
He did appoint his royal architect Sedefhar Mehmet Ağa, a pupil and senior assistant of the famous architect Mimar Sinan to be in charge of the Mosque construction. The organization of the work was described in meticulous detail in eight volumes, now found in the library of the Topkapı Palace. The opening ceremonies were held in 1617 . The sultan could now pray in the royal box which called hünkâr mahfil. The building was not yet finished in this last year of his reign, as the last accounts were signed by his successor Mustafa I. Known as the Blue Mosque , Sultan Ahmed Mosque is currently one of the most impressive monuments in the world.
INTERIOR OF THE BLUE MOSQUE
The Blue Mosque is a stunning structure, known for its intricate tilework and design. The lower levels of the mosque are lined with over 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles, made in the city of Iznik in over 50 different tulip designs. The tiles on the lower levels have traditional designs, while those at the gallery level are more flamboyant, featuring designs of flowers, fruit, and cypresses. These tiles were made under the supervision of Iznik master potter Kasap Haci and Baris Efendi from Avanos, Cappadocia. However, as the price of tiles increased over time, the quality of the tiles used in the building decreased, causing the colors to fade and the glazes to dull. The tiles on the back balcony wall have been restored from the harem in the Topkapı Palace, which was damaged by fire in 1574.
The upper levels of the Blue Mosque’s interior are dominated by a blue paint scheme. The mosque is filled with natural light thanks to its more than 200 intricate stained glass windows. On the chandeliers, ostrich eggs can be found which were used to deter spiders and prevent cobwebs from forming. The mosque is adorned with decorations including verses from the Qur’an, many of which were created by the renowned calligrapher Seyyid Kasim Gubari. The floors are covered with carpets that are donated by faithful followers and are regularly replaced as they wear out. The many spacious windows give the interior a spacious and open impression. Each exedra of the mosque has five windows, some of which are blind. Each semi-dome has 14 windows and the central dome has 28 windows (four of which are blind). The colored glass for the windows was a gift from the Signoria of Venice to the sultan. However, most of these original colored windows have been replaced by modern versions with little artistic value.The most important element inside the Blue Mosque is the mihrab, which is made of finely carved and sculpted marble. It features a stalactite niche and a double inscriptive panel above it. The walls adjacent to the mihrab are covered in ceramic tiles, however, the presence of many windows around it can make it appear less striking. To the right of the mihrab is the richly decorated minber, or pulpit, where the Imam stands to deliver sermons during the noon prayer on Fridays or special holy days. The mosque has been designed in such a way that even when it is crowded, everyone inside can see and hear the Imam.Located at the southeast corner of the mosque is the royal kiosk, which includes a platform, a loggia, and two small retiring rooms. It provides access to the royal loge in the southeast upper gallery of the Blue Mosque. These retiring rooms were used as the headquarters of the Grand Vizier during the suppression of the rebellious Janissary Corps in 1826. The royal loge, also known as the hünkâr mahfil in Turkish, is supported by ten marble columns.The Blue Mosque is adorned with many ornate lamps that were once covered in gold and precious gems. These lamps featured glass bowls that contained ostrich eggs and crystal balls as decorations. However, over time, these decorations have been removed or taken to museums in Istanbul.
The walls of the mosque are adorned with large tablets inscribed with the names of caliphs and verses from the Quran. These inscriptions were originally done by the renowned 17th century calligrapher Ametli Kasım Gubarım, but they have been frequently restored over time.
EXTERIOR OF THE BLUE MOSQUE
The Blue Mosque’s forecourt features a spacious and grand design, similar to that of the Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul, with the addition of turrets on the corner domes. The court is almost as large as the mosque itself and is surrounded by a continuous vaulted arcade. The central hexagonal fountain, however, is relatively small in comparison to the size of the courtyard. The entrance to the courtyard, which is narrow but monumental, stands out architecturally from the arcade. Its semi-dome features a fine stalactite structure, topped with a small ribbed dome on a tall tholobate.A heavy iron chain is hung at the upper part of the entrance on the western side of the Mosque. This was done as a symbol of humility, as only the sultan was allowed to enter the court of the Blue Mosque on horseback. The chain was put there so that the sultan had to lower his head every time he entered the court, in order to avoid hitting it, as a reminder of the ruler’s humility in the face of the divine.
MINARETS OF THE BLUE MOSQUE
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, is one of only two mosques in Turkey with six minarets. The other is the Sabancı Mosque in Adana. When the number of minarets was revealed, the Sultan was criticized for being presumptuous, as this was the same number of minarets as the mosque of the Ka’aba in Mecca. However, the Sultan overcame this issue by ordering a seventh minaret to be built at the Mecca mosque.The Blue Mosque features four minarets at its corners. Each of these fluted, pencil-shaped minarets has three balconies, called Serefe, with stalactite corbels. The two other minarets at the end of the forecourt only have two balconies. In the past, the muezzin, or prayer caller, had to climb a narrow spiral staircase five times a day to announce the call to prayer. Now, a public announcement system is used, and the call can be heard across the old part of the city, echoed by other nearby mosques. Large crowds of both locals and tourists gather at sunset in the park facing the mosque to hear the call to evening prayers, as the sun sets and the mosque is brilliantly illuminated by colored flood lights.
BLUE MOSQUE ADDRESS & MAP LOCATION
Sultanahmet Camii, 34122 Sultanahmet, Fatih, İstanbul,TURKEY
Tel: +90 212 518 13 19 – Fax: +90 212 458 44 66