The Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque) Istanbul , Turkey.
Address:Sultan Ahmet Mahallesi, Atmeydanı Cd. No:7, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
While many European capitals boast of impressive cathedrals, Turkey has its own feat of spiritual architecture. The Blue Mosque is widely regarded as one of the most impressive historical structures in Istanbul and throughout all of Europe. With just one look, it is not hard to see why.
The Blue Mosque is officially called the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. It was built in the early 1600s, with construction coming to a close in 1616. Unlike many other mosques built in this time period, the Blue Mosque was not built after victory in battle. Instead, the sultan decided to build the mosque to appease God. Because of this, the funds for the mosque were taken from the treasury. This decision faced some criticism at the time, but construction continued regardless.
The sprawling structure is intricately adorned both inside and out, and though it is a popular tourist destination, it is still used as a mosque by locals to this day. Its nickname, the Blue Mosque, comes from the extensive use of blue tiles on the inside, which are sure to leave a lasting impression on any visitor. The overall tile work is nothing short of exquisite. The lower level of the interior features over 20,000 ceramic tiles in traditional tulip designs. However, the interior gets more impressive at the gallery level, where the tile work represents more complex images such as flowers and fruit. The design is anchored with blue paint at the ceiling, and stained glass windows were installed to let in natural light.
Other interior decorations include passages from the Qur’an. There is also a richly made mihrab, which is an alcove made of carved marble that directs people where to pray. The interior is carefully designed so that everyone inside the mosque can see the imam at the minber, which is a pulpit from where the message is delivered.
Outside, the Blue Mosque is hard to miss. The main dome stands proudly above the structure with eight smaller domes surrounding it. The architecture is decidedly Ottoman, although it incorporates some Byzantine nuances as well. Along the edge of the structure, there are six minarets, which anchor the design. Originally, using six minarets was cause for controversy, since all other mosques had been limited to four. It was only when the mosque in Mecca added more minarets that the inclusion of six seemed appropriate to the general population. The exterior also includes space for a large courtyard, which is almost as spacious as the rest of the mosque.
The Blue Mosque Tour
Every year, over four million tourists come to the mosque. Among the most famous visitors is Pope Benedict XVI. The pope came to the mosque in 2006. During his visit, he observed Muslim customs and removed his shoes, meditating for several minutes before meeting with the mosque’s leaders. This was only the second time that a pope visited a Muslim place of worship.
The Blue Mosque remains important to Muslims, but people from all cultures are sure to appreciate its beauty.