The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, better known as the Blue Mosque, is one of the most famous historical mosques in Turkey. It is located in Istanbul, which was not only the headquarters for the Ottoman Empire until 1923, but it is also Turkey’s largest city. The reason why it is often called the Blue Mosque is due to the beautiful blue tiles that garnish its interior walls. This mosque was built over the course of 17 years, beginning in 1609 and ending in 1616; during the Sultan Ahmed I reign. Like most holy mosques, it contains the tomb of its founder, a hospice facility and a Madrasa (Medrese in Turkish). The latter is a center for education about the Islamic religion. The Blue Mosque is still used for its original purpose; to pray and educate locals and tourists about the Islamic faith. However, the sheer beauty and elegance of this mosque makes it a very popular tourist attraction. Travelers from all over the world come to Istanbul to see this magnificent piece of construction.
In order to understand the elements that make the Sultan Ahmed Mosque so breathtaking, one must realize the significance of the Islamic architecture of era in which it was constructed. The completion of its design is the culmination of 2 centuries of mosque and church ontogeny; that being the Ottoman mosques and Byzantine church. One of the reasons the Blue Mosque is widely viewed as the last impressive, lavish mosque of the classical era, is because it contains and amalgamation of Islamic architecture and Byzantine components of its neighbor, the Hagia Sophia.
The architecture on the exterior of the mosque are grandiose, aptly combined with the vision of the master Sinan. It’s size is overwhelming as it contains eight adjacent domes and one large dome. It also has six minarets. The forecourt is also spacious and built within the same vein as another famous mosque, the Suleymaniye Mosque. The primary difference is that the latter mosque does not contain turrets on the corner domes as the Sultan Ahmet. The courtyard area is massive, and almost as spacious at the interior of the mosque. The peripheral area is encompassed by a vaulted arcade with ablution (washing areas) facilities on both sides of the mosque. In the Islamic faith, these are crucial to ones testimony of faith to Allah. Another facet to the importance of showing reverence to the Almighty, was a heavy iron chain placed on an upper level of the western side of the court entrance. Only the ruling sultan was permitted to enter this court area on horseback, however, he had to lower his head upon entry so he would not be hit by the iron chain. It was purely a symbolic gesture to establish servility in the eyes of the Divine.
The most crucial area within the interior part of the Blue Mosque is the mihrab. This is carefully carved and sculptured marble, with a dual inscriptured panel located above. Next to the mihrab is known as the minber (or what Westerners call a pulpit) where the Imam conveys his sermon on Friday’s at noon and on Holy days. Most of the walls are encased with ceramic tiles and many tablets on the walls contain verses from the Quran and names of some of the most important caliphs in Islamic history.
It is very difficult to describe the absolute beauty of the Sultan Ahmet Mosque with words alone. The intertwining of many art forms and architectures during the Ottoman period, are a sight to behold and best understood only through the visual sense.
- Sheila S. Blair, Jonathan M. Bloom – “The Art and Architecture of Islam, 1250-1800”, Yale University Press, 1994
- Goodwin G., “A History of Ottoman Architecture”; Thames & Hudson Ltd., London, reprinted 2003
- Naima M.,Annals of the Turkish Empire from 1591 to 1659 of the Christian Era; Frazer, London, 1832
- Sultan Ahmet Camii or Blue Mosque. MuslimHeritage.com. Retrieved 2015-07-11