Centuries-old trees, pigeons flying in the air, people praying or strolling about, the faithful kneeling in prayer… the tombs and the mosque of Eyup are filled with a mystical, vibrant atmosphere. The walls of the tombs in the courtyard are overlaid with tiles from different centuries. Historical sources verify that this was a holy site in Byzantine times; it is said that people would come here to pray for rain at the grave of a saint. Hills encircle the mosque and its vicinity. The famous French poet and writer, Pierre Loti, who was in love with Istanbul, used to come here and contemplate looking at the beautiful view. A coffeehouse in his name is on top of a hill, surrounded by gravestones.
Located in the center of the Eyiip district, on the shore of the Golden Horn, the Eyiip complex includes the mosque, tombs, and a Turkish bath. There was also a medressa and a soup kitchen that do not exist today. The complex is an important place for visitors from the Islamic world. The first construction of the complex was a tomb named for the man who had hosted the prophet Mohammed when he went to Medina. This man’s name was Ebu Eytip el-Ensari. Known among people as Eyup Sultan, he had joined in the siege of Istanbul in 668-669 and had died as a hero in that battle. After the conquest of Istanbul in 1453, Mehmet the Conqueror’s teacher Alqemsettin, had a dream about Eyiip Sultan. Thus, his tomb was built at the site identified in this dream. In 1459 Sultan Mehmet added a medressa, kitchen, and bath to the mosque, forming a complex.
The first mosque was so badly damaged by an earthquake in 1766 that it was deemed irreparable. Therefore, Sultan Selim III had the building torn down in 1798 and a new mosque built. This new mosque was completed in 1800, and in a ceremony attended by the sultan, was opened for worship. It is now one of the two mosques that have survived up to know. The mosque has a dome 17.50m in diameter and two very tall minarets. The inside of the mosque is quite plain, in contrast to most 18th century mosques. The gilding under the mihrab is attractive. When Ottoman sultans came to the throne, the sword of Osman was girded on here in this mosque.
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