Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey
Constructed during the rule of Ahmed I between 1609 and 1616, the mosque earns its colloquial name from the thousands of hand-painted blue tiles adorning its interior walls. Its sublime aesthetic appeal extends beyond these tiles to include intricate mosaics, beautiful stained glass windows, and an imposing exterior characterized by cascading domes and slender minarets.
As a vital cornerstone of the Istanbul skyline, the Blue Mosque invites exploration into the Ottoman era's architectural prowess, deeply rooted in rich cultural and historical tapestries. This marvel is not merely an architectural monument but also an active place of worship, welcoming thousands of faithful visitors each day.
The Mosque of Sultan Ahmet I is the masterpiece of Ottoman architect Sedefkâr Mehmet Ağa. It was erected on the site of the Great Palace of Byzantium, on the southeastern side of the Hippodrome (map).
The mosque's six minarets and central dome make it a worthy counterpart to the Hagia Sophia, located just a short walk to the north. The Sultanahmet Mosque is unique among Ottoman mosques, being the only one with six minarets.
The mosque's interior, illuminated by 260 windows, is adorned with over 21,000 blue tiles, contributing to its reputation as the "Blue Mosque".
However, visitors searching for an abundance of blue may be disappointed since the blue tiles are mostly in the inaccessible upper galleries. Otherwise, the mosque is a fine example of an imperial mosque.
When To Visit
Because the Sultan Ahmet Mosque is a working mosque, it is not always open to visitors. The Mosque is open to visitors each day of the week.
Admission is free; donations are gratefully accepted.
Here are the prayer times so you can plan your visit. The last visitor is allowed to enter the mosque until half an hour before it closes, which is 7 pm in the summer, and 5 pm in the winter.
The most impressive time is when the mosque call to prayer reverberates from the minarets. With four of the finest müezzins in Turkey taking turns at the microphone, the call is heard from 100 different loudspeakers, which makes the sound level exceed 100+ decibels.
What to Wear in the Blue Mosque
Keep in mind the following guidelines when visiting the Blue Mosque:
- Neither men nor women are permitted to wear shorts. It's not permitted to wear clothing (including skirts) that exposes an excessive amount of skin.
- Women are required to wear a headscarf.
- If necessary, scarves can be obtained, free of charge, from the office located at the entrance.
- Footwear must be removed prior to entering the mosque.
- Visitors are encouraged to maintain silence and refrain from creating excessive noise.
- Visitors are restricted to designated visitor areas within the mosque.
Smoking within the premises is strictly prohibited.
How To Get There
Located in the center of Old Istanbul (map), it is near many of the other top sites in Istanbul.
The best and easiest way to get there is by the Bağcılar-Kabataş Tram T1 line. To get there, disembark at the Sultanahmet/ Blue Mosque station, then you will find yourself in Sultanahmet Square. Once there, if you turn to the west you will see the Blue Mosque, and if you turn to the east you will see Hagia Sophia.
Which Entrance to Use
There are several gates by which you can enter the Mosque. The way to properly appreciate the architecture of the Blue Mosque is to approach it from the Hippodrome, located at the west. Take the gate labeled "C".
If you are a non-Muslim visitor, you must enter by the door on the south side of the mosque (to the right as you enter from the Hippodrome. If you're entering from the Ayasofya side, the tourist entrance is on the opposite side of the mosque.)
What To See Nearby
As splendid as the Sultan Ahmet I Mosque is, its architecture is no more splendid than several of the other great imperial mosques of Istanbul. If you can't stand crowds, you could substitute any of the other great imperial mosques and have a similar, but less hectic, less crowded, and longer visit.
Sultan Ahmet I requisitioned the Blue Mosque after ascending to the throne at the young age of 14. He envisioned a grand mosque under his name by the time he was 19. His ambition was to create a structure that would be visible from every part of Istanbul.
However, this period was marked by economic challenges and territorial losses for the Ottoman Empire. The decision to construct such a grand mosque by the Ottoman sultan during this time was met with considerable public concern, especially given the significant cost involved. Adding to the public's unease was the fact that the Blue Mosque's construction was financed directly from the state treasury, rather than using war spoils.
The Blue Mosque was designed with a specific goal - to surpass the grandeur of the Hagia Sophia mosque. During this era grand imperial mosques were seen as symbols of supremacy, often leading to a sense of competition. To outshine the Hagia Sophia, the Sultan Ahmet Mosque was designed with six minarets. It's been said that this decision sparked controversy, as the Mosque in the Kaaba also had six minarets. Many believe that in order to resolve this conflict, Sultan Ahmet I added a seventh minaret to the Kaaba mosque.
A local legend suggests that Sultan Ahmet I initially intended to construct the minarets of the mosque in gold, known as "altın" in Turkish. However, the architect, Sedefkar Mehmet Ağa, aware of the budget constraints, is said to have misinterpreted "altın" (gold) as "altı" (six in Turkish). This is one anecdote that speculates why the mosque was constructed with six minarets instead of golden ones.
The Blue Mosque remains an excellent example of imperial Ottoman mosque architecture.
In summary, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, fondly known as the Blue Mosque, is a symbol of the intricate and complex history of Istanbul, a city where East meets West. This masterpiece of Ottoman architecture, with its blend of traditional Islamic and Byzantine elements, showcases the aesthetic grandeur of an epoch and stands as a testament to the aspirations of a young Sultan. A visit to the Blue Mosque offers a journey through time, an exploration of history, culture, and faith, and an appreciation for architectural brilliance. This mosque continues to be an active place of worship and a beacon of cultural heritage, seamlessly merging the past with the present.