The Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque (Called Sultanahmet Camii in Turkish) is an historical mosque in Istanbul. The mosque is known as the Blue Mosque because of blue tiles surrounding the walls of interior design. Mosque was built between 1609 and 1616 years, during the rule of Ahmed I. just like many other mosques, it also comprises a tomb of the founder, a madrasa and a hospice. Besides still used as a mosque, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque has also become a popular tourist attraction in Istanbul.

Besides being tourist attraction, it's also an active mosque, so it's closed to non-worshippers for a half hour or so during the five daily prayers.

Best way to see great architecture of the Blue Mosque is to approach it from the Hippodrome. (West side of the mosque) As if you are non-Muslim visitor, you also have to use same direction to enter the Mosque. ​​

Placating Allah

Sultan Ahmet I wasn’t very successful in regard to warfare, to say the least. So he came up with the idea to build a huge mosque that had to surpass the Hagia Sophia (at that time the most respected mosque) in size and beauty to placate Allah.

He therefore chose to have it built opposite the Hagia Sophia and next to the Hippodrome, on the exact same spot where the Great Palace of the Byzantine emperors was standing, using the existing foundations and vaults.

There was only one drawback to his great plan: it cost a lot of money. Contrary to his predecessors, he had no war booty to fund the project with, so he had to withdraw funds from the treasury. An unpopular decision and it wasn’t the only hostility his new mosque would elicit.


The construction of the mosque started in August 1609. The architect in charge was Sedefkar Mehmet Ağa, a student of the great architect Sinan. The detailed workbook of the construction consists of 8 volumes and still lies in the Topkapi Palace library.

Contrary to the date (1616) written on the mosque’s gate, the inauguration of Istanbul’s last imperial mosque took place in 1617 in the presence of Sultan Ahmet I. However, the building wasn’t completely finished by then, since the last accounts were signed by Sultan Ahmet’s successor Mustafa I.

The Sultanahmet Mosque combines the better of two architectural styles. It is a mixture of traditional Islamic architecture with Byzantine elements, taken from the adjacent Hagia Sophia.

Just Short of Spectacular

In order to fully appreciate the mosque’s architecture, you should approach it from the side coming from the Hippodrome instead of entering it through the park. At first glance the Blue Mosque can indeed rival with the Hagia Sophia. There are plenty of elegant curves thanks to an ascending system of domes and semi-domes, the giant courtyard (about as large as the mosque itself) is the biggest of all Ottoman mosques, and the six minarets (more than any mosque in Istanbul) make for a beautiful silhouette, especially when floodlit after dusk.

By contrast, when compared to the Hagia Sophia, the interior is rather underwhelming. The central dome of the Blue Mosque, which is 23,5 meters in diameter and 43 meters high at its central point, is of course impressive. Unfortunately, the architect played rather safe than sorry and installed 4 immense pillars or ‘elephant feet’ to support it all, where the central dome of the Hagia Sophia is seemingly unsupported.

Far more breathtaking are the more than 20.000 handmade Iznik ceramic tiles, in more than 50 tulip designs, that decorate the interior walls of the mosque. Their color gives the place its popular name, the Blue Mosque. The tiles at lower level are traditional in design, while at gallery level they have representations of flowers, fruits and cypresses. Because of the huge demands for tiles, the ones used during the later stages of the construction, vary in quality. The tiles used on the back balcony wall are recycled tiles from the Harem in Topkapi Palace, when it was damaged by fire in 1574.

Good to know

Light inside the mosque is provided by the more than 200 stained glass windows and several chandeliers. They put ostrich eggs on the chandeliers to repel spiders, hence avoiding cobwebs inside the mosque. The floors are covered with carpets, which are donated by faithful people and are regularly replaced as they get worn out.

Noteworthy in the main space are the imperial loge, supported by ten marbles columns, and the mihrab, made of finely carved and sculptured marble.

The legends of the minarets.

The Sultanahmet Mosque is the only mosque in Istanbul that has six minarets and this provoked hostility at the time. Such a display was previously only preserved for the Prophet’s mosque in Mecca and the sultan was criticized for thinking a bit too highly of himself.

According to the most obvious urban legend, this whole issue was the result of a misunderstanding between the sultan and his architect. The sultan supposedly had asked to havealtın minare(minarets in gold) and the architect understoodaltı minare(which means six minarets). A second, less plausible legend is that the architect decided that gold minarets were too expensive and therefore decided to make six of them.

Whatever the true story behind the six minarets is, the sultan overcame the problem by paying for a seventh minaret at the mosque in Mecca.

9 Facts about the Blue Mosque of Istanbul


1:It is also called the Sultan Ahmet cami, (cami is Turkish for mosque) due to its location in the Sultan Ahmet district, that holds all sites belonging to the UNESCO World Heritage list.

2:It is open every day of the year but closed at prayer times for 90 minutes. Muslims may still arrive at the mosque outside of prayer time, so visitors are asked to be respectful, and avoid flash photography.

3:Construction was completed in 1619 by Sedefhar Mehmet Ağa, a student of Mimar Sinan who was the favourite architect of the Ottoman sultans.

4:It has 260 stained glass windows

5:The 20,000 blue tiles adorning the interior were made in Iznik, an area that was famous during the Ottoman Empire for its expert production of ceramic tiles. These tiles also gave themselves to the name of the mosque .

6:The architecture is a blend of Ottoman and Byzantine styles

7:The mosque is most famous for its six minarets, accompanied by one large dome and eight smaller domes.

8:In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI visited the Blue mosque. This visit was repeated in 2014 by Pope Francis

9:In 2009, USA president Barrack Obama arrived in Istanbul and toured the Blue Mosque along with Recep Tayip Erdogan, the former prime minster of Turkey.

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