The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Turkish: Sultanahmet Camii) is the national mosque of Turkey, and is a historical mosque in Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey and the capital of the Ottoman Empire (from 1453 to 1923). The mosque is one of several mosques known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior.
It was built between 1609 and 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. Like many other mosques, it also comprises a tomb of the founder, a madrasah and a hospice. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Istanbul.
The old Hippodrome of Constantinople with the Blue Mosque on the left side. Painting by Jean-Baptiste van Mour, first half of 18th century.
After the Peace of Zsitvatorok and the unfavourable result of the wars with Persia, Sultan Ahmed I decided to build a large mosque in Istanbul to placate Allah. This would be the first imperial mosque in more than forty years. Whereas his predecessors had paid for their mosques with their war booty, Sultan Ahmed I had to withdraw the funds from the treasury, because he had not won any notable victories. This provoked the anger of the ulema, the Muslim legal scholars.
The mosque was to be built on the site of the palace of the Byzantine emperors, facing the Hagia Sophia (at that time the most venerated mosque in Istanbul) and the hippodrome, a site of great symbolic significance. Large parts of the southern side of the mosque rest on the foundations, the vaults and the undercrofts of the Great Palace. Several palaces, already built on the same spot, had to be bought (at considerable price) and pulled down, especially the palace of Sokollu Mehmet Paşa, and large parts of the Sphendone (curved tribune with U-shaped structure of the hippodrome).
Old photo of the Blue Mosque, taken before 1895.
Construction of the mosque started in August 1609 when the sultan himself came to break the first sod. It was his intention that this would become the first mosque of his empire. He appointed his royal architect Sedefhar Mehmet Ağa, a pupil and senior assistant of the famous architect Sinan as the architect in charge of the construction. The organization of the work was described in meticulous detail in eight volumes, now in the library of the Topkapı Palace. The opening ceremonies were held in 1617 (although the gate of the mosque records 1616) and the sultan was able to pray in the royal box (hünkâr mahfil). The building was not yet finished in this last year of his reign, as the last accounts were signed by his successor Mustafa I. Known as the Blue Mosque, Sultan Ahmet Mosque is one of the most impressive monuments in the world. It is one of the elements included in the complex built by Ahmed I to compete with Ayasofya.
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also known and referred to as the Blue Mosque, from the window of the upper gallery of the Hagia Sophia, in Istanbul.
The mosque was depicted on the reverse of the Turkish 500 lira banknotes of 1953-1976.
The design of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque is the culmination of two centuries of both Ottoman mosque and Byzantine church development. It incorporates some Byzantine elements of the neighboring Hagia Sophia with traditional Islamic architecture and is considered to be the last great mosque of the classical period. The architect has ably synthesized the ideas of his master Sinan, aiming for overwhelming size, majesty and splendour, but the interior lacks his creative thinking. During the rule of Ahmed I, Sultan Ahmet mosque was built between 1609 and 1616 CE. Designed by architect Sedefkar Mehmet Aga, the Sultan Ahmet Mosque is considered to be the last example of classical Ottoman architecture.
Gateway to the courtyard.
View of the inner courtyard.
Mehmet Paşa used large quantities of materials for the construction, in particular stone and marble, draining away supplies for other important works. The layout of the mosque is irregular, as the architect had to take into account the existing constraints of the site. Its major façade, serving as the entrance, faces the hippodrome. The architect based his plan on the Ṣehzade Mosque (1543-1548) in Istanbul, the first major large-scale work of Sinan, with the same square-based symmetrical quatrefoil plan and a spacious forecourt. This prayer hall is topped by an ascending system of domes and semi-domes, each supported by three exedrae, culminating in the huge encompassing central dome, which is 23.5 m (77 ft) in diameter and 43 m (141 ft) high at its central point. The domes are supported by four massive piers that recall those of the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne, another masterpiece of Sinan. It is obvious that Mehmet Paşa was overcautious by taking this inflated margin of safety, damaging the elegant proportions of the dome by their oppressive size. These "elephant feet" consist of multiple convex marble grooves at their base, while the upper half is painted, separated from the base by an inscriptive band with gilded words. Seen from the court, the profile of the mosque becomes a smooth succession of domes and semi-domes. The overall effect of the exterior on the visitor is one of perfect visual harmony, leading the eye up to the peak of the central dome.
Central dome semi-dome with three exedrae; fine overview of the decorations in the mosque.
The Blue Mosque with all six minarets visible.
Sultan Ahmet Cami (Blue Mosque) Interior
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