Blue Mosque

Sultanahmet Camii

The Blue Mosque or the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, as it is also called, is another symbol of Istanbul. It is considered to be the most popular among the tourists visiting the city. Its six minarets once sparked a great scandal in the Muslim world. The mosque was commissioned by the young Sultan Ahmed I. The construction began in 1609, when the sultan was only 19 years old, and finished in 1616. The design was created by Sedefkâr Mehmed Ağa, an apprentice of the great Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan. Sultan Ahmed desired to outdo his predecessor, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, who ordered Sinan to build the amazing Süleymaniye Mosque. And naturally, Sinan’s apprentice desired to excel his master.

Due to some unfortunate military campaigns Ahmed I was forced to resort to the funds from his own treasury to build the mosque. In the treasury of the Topkapi Palace there is a little golden shovel which was used by the sultan himself while starting the foundation of the mosque. During the construction of the mosque many ancient buildings were destroyed, including the Byzantine Great Palace. According to a popular legend, the sultan ordered to erect four golden ("altin" in Turkish) minarets, but the architect built six ("alti" in Turkish) minarets, which was unacceptable – the sacred Medina Mosque had only 5 minarets and it was a sacrilege to try to excel it! Fortunately the problem was solved with the construction of two additional minarets for the Medina Mosque (there are 7 minarets today), and the poor architect managed to justify his actions with the similarities of the phonetics ("alti" and "altin").

Mosque’s architectural design combines stone and marble, the Ottoman and Byzantine stules. The Blue Mosque got its unusual name (which is more commonly used) after more than 20 thousand white and blue Iznik tiles with plant patterns that adorn its interior. The light comes into the building through 260 windows. The mihrab is unique – it was carved from a single piece of marble. A piece of the Ka'aba brought from Mecca was placed on the mihrab. Originally the minarets had 14 balconies in accordance with the number of the Ottoman sultans who were Ahmed I’s predecessors (including himself). Later another two balconies were added, when the sons of Ahmed I became sultans.

The main hall is covered with a 43-meter high dome. The dome is supported by four gigantic pillars 5 meter in diameter (they were nicknamed "elephant’s legs"). The dome and the half-domes (30 domes in total) are decorated with surahs from the Koran and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. The mosque’s courtyard has practically the same area as the prayer hall. At the center an ablution fountain is placed. The next year after the mosque was completed Sultan Ahmed died of typhus and was buried in a mausoleum near the mosque. There also rest his beloved wife, Kösem Mahpeyker Sultan, and his two sons, sultans Osman II and Murad IV.

Address: Sultanahmet Mah. At Meydani Cad 7
Opening hours: Mon-Thu, Sat-Sun 8.30 am – 11.30 am, 1 pm – 2.45 pm, 3.45 pm – 5 pm, Fri 1.30 pm – 5 pm
How to reach: Sultanahmet (TR1)
Coordinates: 41.005205, 28.977025