Blue Mosque Istanbul


BLUE MOSQUE (Sultanahmet Mosque)

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Turkish: Sultan Ahmet Camii), or the Blue Mosque, is a historical imperial mosque from the Ottoman era that can be found in Istanbul, Turkey. It is both a working mosque and a major tourist destination. During Ahmed I’s reign (1609–1616), its construction began. The Külliye is home to a madrasah, a hospice, and the tomb of Ahmed. Inside, the walls are covered in hand-painted blue tiles, and at night, the mosque’s five main domes, six minarets, and eight secondary domes are illuminated, bathing the entire structure in a calming blue glow. Until the construction of the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia was the most important mosque in Istanbul. In 1985, UNESCO designated the “Historic Areas of Istanbul,” which included the Blue Mosque, as a World Heritage Site.


History of the Blue Mosque

Sultan Ahmed, I decided to build a massive mosque in Istanbul to reassert Ottoman power after the Peace of Zsitvatorok and the crushing loss in the 1603–18 war with Persia. After more than forty years, this would be the first imperial mosque to be built. While his forebears had used war booty to fund mosque construction, Ahmed I instead borrowed money from the Treasury due to his lack of notable military victories. Starting in 1609, construction on this structure lasted until 1616.

Infuriating the Muslim scholars known as ulama was the fact that the sultan’s army had been paid for out of the general budget rather than the spoils of war. The mosque was constructed on the site of the former palace of the Byzantine emperors and faces the Hagia Sophia, the city’s primary imperial mosque at the time, and the hippodrome, a prominent symbolic location in the city’s southern skyline. The south side of the mosque is built on the foundations and vaults of the previous Grand Palace.


The Blue Mosque’s Architecture

The Blue Mosque represents two centuries of development in Ottoman mosque architecture and Byzantine church architecture. It is the last great mosque from the classical period of the Ottoman Empire and combines traditional Islamic architecture with some Byzantine features from the nearby Hagia Sophia. By remembering what his teacher, Sinan, had taught him, the architect made a building of the epic size and opulent beauty.

Blue Mosque’s Minarets

Only two mosques in all of Turkey have as many as six minarets, and one of them is the Blue Mosque.
The Sabanci Mosque in Adana is the second. The Sultan took some heat for his arrogance after the number of minarets was made public, as they matched the number at the Ka’aba Mosque in Mecca. To solve this issue, he had a seventh minaret added to the Mecca mosque.

The Blue Mosque has four minarets, one at each of its four corners. These minarets, called Serefe, are fluted and pencil-shaped; they each have three balconies supported by stalactite corbels, whereas the other two minarets at the end of the forecourt have only two. Once upon a time, the muezzin, or prayer caller, had to make the ascent of a steep, narrow spiral staircase five times each day to make the call to prayer.

The call is now broadcast over a public announcement system and can be heard throughout the historic district of the city and echoed by other mosques in the area. As the sun goes down and the mosque is brilliantly illuminated by colored flood lights, huge crowds of Turks and tourists gather in the park in front of it to hear the call to evening prayers.

The Blue Mosque’s Interior

More than 20,000 hand-made ceramic tiles, made in Iznik (Nicaea), in more than fifty different tulip designs, line the lower levels and piers of the Blue Mosque’s interior. Even though the tiles on the ground floor have a classic look, the ones in the upper galleries are more ornate and feature bright colors and elaborate patterns of flowers, fruit, and cypresses. Iznik master potters Kasap Haci and Avanos and Cappadocia native Baris Efendi oversaw the production of over 20,000 tiles. Since the cost of tiles in general went up over time, the sultan issued a decree setting a standard price for them. The building’s tiles gradually became of lower quality as time went on. The glazes have dulled, and the colors have faded. The tiles on the rear wall of the balcony are originals that were salvaged from the harem of the Topkapi Palace after it burned down in 1574.

Blue is the predominant color used on the upper levels of the mosque’s interior. The building has over two hundred stained-glass windows, many of which feature elaborate designs. Ostrich eggs were hung from the chandeliers to keep spiders out of the mosque and prevent the buildup of cobwebs. Many of the Qur’anic verses adorning the walls were written by Seyyid Kasim Gubari, widely considered the greatest calligrapher of his era.

Carpets, provided by faithful individuals and replaced as they wear out, cover the floors. The abundance of tall, wide windows creates the illusion of a roomy interior. There are five windows in each exedra of the mosque, and some of them are covered by blinds.

There are a total of 28 windows in the central dome, with 14 in each of the two outer domes (four of which are blind). Venetian authorities presented the sultan with stained-glass windows as a gift. Most of these colorful panes of glass have been replaced with less creative new versions.
The mihrab is the most important part of the mosque’s interior. It is made of marble and has intricate carvings, a stalactite niche, and two panels with writing on them.
Ceramic tiles cover the adjacent walls. However, the abundance of windows in the area diminishes the effect. The imam delivers his sermon at noon on Fridays and other holy days from a pulpit called a minber, which is located to the right of the mihrab and is elaborately decorated. Even when the mosque is at capacity, everyone will be able to see and hear the imam thanks to the thoughtful layout.

The southeast corner is home to the royal kiosk, which features a platform, loggia, and two small private rooms for the king and queen. You can use it to enter the Blue Mosque’s royal loge, which is located in the southeast corner of the mosque’s upper gallery. During the 1826 crackdown on the defiant Janissary Corps, the Grand Vizier set up headquarters in these private quarters. In Turkey, this section of the palace is known as the hünkâr mahfil, and it is surrounded by ten marble columns.

Once adorned with gold and precious stones, the Blue Mosque’s many lamps are now plain white. Ostrich eggs and crystal balls were hidden in the various glass jars. All of these ornaments were stolen or removed to be displayed in Istanbul museums.

Originally written by the great 17th-century calligrapher Ametli Kasim Gubarim, the names of the caliphs and verses from the Quran adorn the large tablets that line the walls.

The Blue Mosque’s Exterior

The large forecourt’s facade was inspired by Istanbul’s Süleymaniye Mosque but features turrets instead of minarets on the four corner domes. The court, which is enclosed by a continuous vaulted arcade, is roughly the same size as the mosque. The courtyard is quite large for its diminutive central hexagonal fountain. The architectural highlight of the courtyard is the monumental but narrow gateway that leads to it through the arcade. The small ribbed dome atop the tall lobate is topped by a fine stalactite structure.

When entering the Mosque’s western court, you’ll notice a heavy iron chain hanging from the ceiling. The sultan was the only person permitted to ride a horse into the Blue Mosque’s courtyard. To avoid being struck by the chain, the sultan must bend over slightly whenever he enters the court. Symbolically, it served to show the ruler’s respect for the divine.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Blue Mosque


Q: What is the Blue Mosque?

A: The Blue Mosque is an old mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. It is also called the Sultan Ahmed Mosque.


Q: When was the Blue Mosque built?

A: The mosque was built between 1609 and 1616.


Q: Who built the Blue Mosque?

A: Ahmed I, the Ottoman Sultan, was the one who built the Blue Mosque.


Q: Why is it called the Blue Mosque?

A: The mosque is called the Blue Mosque because of the blue tiles used in its interior decoration.


Q: What are the main features of the Blue Mosque?

A: The Blue Mosque has six minarets, a large central dome, and smaller domes surrounding it, as well as intricate calligraphy and tile work.


Q: How many domes does the Blue Mosque have?

A: The Blue Mosque has one central dome and eight smaller domes.


Q: What is the capacity of the Blue Mosque?

A: The Blue Mosque can accommodate up to 10,000 worshippers at a time.


Q: Is the Blue Mosque open to visitors?

A: Yes, the Blue Mosque is open to visitors and tourists, except during prayer times.


Q: What are the visiting hours for the Blue Mosque?

A: Visiting hours for the Blue Mosque are typically from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.


Q: How much does it cost to enter the Blue Mosque?

A: There is no admission fee to enter the Blue Mosque, but donations are appreciated.


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Map of Blue Mosque

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