The colours, shapes and grand design of the ancient buildings of Turkey will always take our breath away. One particular building that stands out, right in the middle of Istanbul, is the Sultan Ahmed Mosque or commonly known as the Blue Mosque. This gorgeous architectural genius of a monument rests on the foundation and vaults of the Great Palace from the previous empire and was completed in 1616. Sultan Ahmed I built the moment during his reign of the empire and appointed Sedefhar Mehmet Ağa as the Royal Architect for the project. He has skilfully combined two centuries of architecture – Byzantine (elements inspired by the Hagia Sophia) and traditional Islamic, which to this day has strong historical and cultural significance and is still running as an active mosque.
The interior is what influences the name “Blue Mosque” as its tiles on the internal wall are the colour blue. Each of these are handmade ceramic tiles and there are 20,000 around every Pier on the lower level of the mosque. On the upper levels, the walls are adorned with blue paint framing 200 stained glass windows. The intricate details of both the tiles and the glass are astonishing – on the lower levels, the tiles feature more than 50 different tulip designs but as you look higher the design is noticeably more extravagant by including flowers, fruit and cypresses. Although natural light drifts through the stained glass windows, giant chandeliers (believed to contain ostrich eggs to keep spiders and therefore cobwebs away) effortlessly hanging from above provide extra light so all the eye catching details are easy to spot. Besides all the beautiful decorations, the Blue Mosque comprises of the key elements of any sort of mosque – the tomb of the founder, a madras (an educational institution) and a hospice (care that focuses on the palliation of a terminally ill).
The Blue Mosque exterior features a central dome surrounded by smaller secondary domes in a simple tier formation. The central dome, placed on four piers and supported by four semi-domes, is 33.6 meters in diameter and 43 meters high at its central point. The minarets, translated into ‘lighthouse’ are not only a visual cue for the Muslim community, but they are also used as a vantage point from which the call to prayer. The special feature about this mosque is that it has 6 minarets, the only one in Istanbul to do so. Another space built on the exterior is the courtyard – consuming almost as much space as the mosque itself, it has public fountain in the centre and is framed by an impressive continuous vaulted arcade.
The architect was aiming for the design to be overwhelming in size, majesty and splendour, and we think he has succeeded in exactly that!
*Please always be respectful when visiting religious and cultural sites. Everyone should have their shoulders and knees covered and women will also have to cover their head with a scarf. Be mindful when taking photos and keep your noise levels to a minimum.