The Sultanahmet Mosque, as it is known in Turkey, is the most famous and important mosque of Istanbul. It is named after Sultan Ahmed I, who ordered its construction, between 1609 and 1617, although it was completed in its entirety during the reign of Sultan Mustafa I, Ahmed successor. It is a major tourist destination, but it continues to function as a mosque.
The Sultan Ahmed I wanted to build a mosque that surpassed the favorite Hagia Sophia, so he ordered to be held just in front of the Byzantine Cathedral, in the former location of the old Palace of Byzantine emperors.
But he didn’t took into consideration that such work would cost so much money, so that, not having any war booty, like their predecessors, he began to spend treasury funds, a totally unpopular decision that aggrieve his subjects.
Sultanahmet Mosque has a main dome, six minarets and eight secondary domes. It combines the best of two architectural styles: a mixture of traditional Islamic architecture with Byzantine elements, taken from the nearby Hagia Sophia. It is considered the last great mosque of the classical period. The architect, Sedefkâr Mehmed Aga, synthesizes the thoughts of his master Sinan, focused on the overwhelming size, majesty and splendor.
To fully appreciate the architecture of the mosque, we recommend you to get in from the Hippodrome, rather than through the park. At first glance, the Blue Mosque could rival Hagia Sophia. It displays countless elegant curved lines through an ascending system of domes and semi-domes, has a huge yard (almost as large as the mosque itself) and is the largest of all Ottoman mosques. Its six minarets (more than any mosque in Istanbul) give it a beautiful silhouette, especially at sunset.
The interior of the mosque is covered by more than 20,000 blue ceramic tiles, hand made in Iznik (the ancient Nicaea) and forming more than fifty different tulip designs. The tiles at lower levels are traditional in design, while at gallery level they become extravagant representations of flowers, fruit and cypresses. These tiles have given the international name of this amazing building: The Blue Mosque.
The upper levels of the interior are dominated by blue paint. More than 200 stained glass windows with intricate designs let the natural light come in, enhanced by large lamps, in which they putted ostrich eggs destined to repel spiders for they not to build their webs inside the mosque. The decorations include verses from the Qur’an, many of them made by Seyyid Kasim Gubari, regarded as the greatest calligrapher of his time. The numerous and large windows give a feeling of space.
The legend of minarets
Although there are numerous stories about it, the most obvious legend on the subject of the six minarets (so far the standard was only four, six minarets was only the mosque of Mecca) says it was a result of a misunderstanding between the sultan and his architect. The Sultan allegedly asked “Altın minaret” (golden minarets) but the architect understood “Altı minaret” (which means six minarets). Whatever the real story was, this pretentiousness of the Ottomans offended the sacred site of the Muslim world, so the Sultan, to solve the problem, ended up paying for a seventh minaret to the Mosque in Mecca.
Our approach and recommendations
The Blue Mosque is, no doubts, one of the most fascinating places in Istanbul, an amazing construction, historic and beautiful, not to be missed on your visit. It is also a symbol of the city. However, despite being always crowded with tourists, it remains as a mosque, with prayer times and a religious site atmosphere, so we recommend you to dress properly. As in every mosque, to enter the Blue Mosque you must remove your shoes (at the entrance you can take a bag to put your shoes or leave them on a shelf). Women should wear covered shoulders and head with a scarf. If you don´t have it there is no problem, there are many available at the entrance, for free use of tourists and visitors.
During prayer time (five times a day), the mosque is closed to the public for a short period of time.
Everyday, from 9:00 to 19:00.
Tram: To Sultanahmet, T1 line.
Turkish and Islamic Art Museum (195 m)
Basilica Cistern (352 m)
Haghia Sophia (443 m)