The Blue Mosque, (Sultanahmet Camii)
The Blue Mosque, (Sultanahmet Camii)

Blue Mosque

One of the most famous monuments of the Turkish and Islamic world is the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, which enchants visitors of Istanbul. An example of classical Turkish art and architecture, it is the only mosque with six minarets. It is surrounded by two thousand year old historical monuments. 

The Sultanahmet Mosque has a significant place in the famous silhouette of Istanbul as seen from the sea. Known as the “Blue Mosque,” its real name is the Mosque of Sultan Ahmet I. Constructed to represent its true purpose, the architect Mehmet Aga, decorated the mosque with a jeweler’s care. 

Built in the years 1609-1616, the mosque was within a large complex. In which there was a covered bazaar, a Turkish bath, a kitchen, a hospital, schools, a caravansaray, and Sultan Ahmet’s tomb. The architect had been a student of the great architect Koca Sinan and used, on a larger scale, a plan his teacher had experimented before. The main entrance to the mosque is on the side facing the Roman-era Hippodrome. Surrounded by an outer courtyard, the inner courtyard and the building itself is on a high podium. Entering the inner courtyard through a gate, one is met by a marvelous harmony of domes rising one on top of the other above the symbolic fountain in the center of the courtyard and the galleries encircling it. From whichever of the doors one enters, rich and colourful paintings, tiles and stained glass complement the outside view. The interior is a vast area; the main and the side domes rise from wide, pointed vaults on top of four huge columns. 

The walls of the balconies which encircle the inner area are decorated with more than 20,000 marvellous tiles from Iznik. Those higher up and inside the dome are painted. The main colour of the painted decoration was not blue. The name of the mosque comes from the blue colour used in later repairs. The last repair, done in 1990, changed the colour from a dark tone to its original soft tone. The floor is covered with rugs, as are the floors of all mosques. Beside the mihrab across from the main door is a beautifully worked marble minber. On the other side is the sultan’s loge, shaped like a balcony. 260 windows illuminate the inside; the dome is 235 meter diameter and 43 meter high. 

The market connected to the mosque was recently repaired and is located to the east. The single-domed tomb and the medressa building are to the north, on the St. Sophia side. During the summer months, Sound and Light shows are held here. Another of the elements of classical Turkish style found in the mosque and in other religious buildings and museums of the area is the spiral stairway. The domes and minarets are coated with iron, the tips of gold-plated copper. The upper coverings are repaired expertly, as in the past. 

In Islam, every Moslem is required to say his prayers 5 times daily. On Fridays and other important religious days, he must go to the mosque and pray in congregation. Otherwise, he can pray anywhere at the proper times. In group prayers at the mosque the “imam” (religious leader) reads from the Koran. Women and men pray separately, women pray either behind men or at balconies above. A special feature of classical Turkish mosques is that the mihrab should be seen easily by most of the people, even on the most crowded days.

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