The Blue Mosque of Istanbul is one of the most famous Muslim places of worship. Every year, it attracts millions of visitors amazed by its magnificent architecture. Located in the Sultanahmet district in Istanbul, it stands right in front of Hagia Sophia, as a symbol of the meeting between East and West.
THE HISTORY OF SULTANAHMET CAMII
This remarkable mosque dates from the 17th century. Sultan Ahmet I ordered his edification to reaffirm Ottoman rule after a defeat against Persia and a peace agreement with the Habsburgs in Austria. It clearly shows his willingness to compete with the impressive Hagia Sophia, built a millennium earlier by Christians.
The works, entrusted to the architect Sedefhar Mehmet Aga, last from 1609 to 1616. They lead to the criticized demolition of several Byzantine palaces. The tradition was that the Sultans’ war booty financed imperial mosques. However, Ahmet I decided to use in the treasure of the empire and attracted the wrath of the elite.
Also, the construction of the six minarets of the mosque caused serious controversy in the Muslim world at that time. Indeed, only the sacred mosque of Mecca had this number of minarets. No other mosque had the right to match it. Faced with the pressure, the sultan preferred to pay for the construction of the seventh minaret of Mecca rather than to remove a tower from his masterpiece in Istanbul.
THE BLUE MOSQUE, AN ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL
In Turkey, this monument is called “Sultanahmet Camii“, the mosque of Sultan Ahmet. It houses the tomb of its founder, as well as a Koranic school and a hospice. Its European nickname “blue mosque” comes from the dominant color of Iznik faience adorning its interior.
Hagia Sophia directly inspired the construction plan. A majestic dome of 23.5 meters in diameter surmounts the mosque, 43 meters high. Four half-domes surround it and rest on four imposing columns, called “elephant’s legs.” More than 200 windows illuminate this exceptional building.
The vast outdoor courtyard consists of vaulted archways hosting a fountain. From here you can contemplate the perfect symmetry of the harmonious architecture of the mosque. Its minarets and central dome are visible from Topkapi Palace and the Asian side of the Bosphorus.
VISIT THE GREAT BLUE MOSQUE OF ISTANBUL
Sultanahmet Camii is not only a monument. It is above all a place of prayer for Muslims. There are several elements to take into account to organize your visit if you are Non-muslim. In Islam, five prayers are held daily between dawn and dusk. The site closes several times during the day to allow the faithful to gather in peace. Schedules are available on the Internet, on the official page of the mosque.
Do not miss to include the most famous mosque in Istanbul on your road during your next trip to Turkey!