Sultan Ahmed Mosque also known as the Blue Mosque is a historic mosque located in Istanbul, Turkey. It remains a functioning mosque, while also attracting large numbers of tourist visitors. It was constructed between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmed I. Its Külliye contains Ahmed’s tomb, a madrasah and a hospice. Hand-painted blue tiles adorn the mosque’s interior walls, and at night the mosque is bathed in blue as lights frame the mosque’s five main domes, six minarets and eight secondary domes. It sits next to the Hagia Sophia, another popular tourist site.
Istanbul’s Sultan Ahmet Mosque has never been called by the Turks as “the Blue Mosque” but it is known as the Blue Mosque by many tourists because of the blue tiles adorns the interior and gives the building its unofficial name. The interior of the mosque is lined with more than 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles, which were produced in İznik (historic Nicaea), and represent the cultural and artistic zenith of the Ottoman Empire. The architect of the Blue Mosque was Sedefkâr Mehmed Ağa, who became chief imperial architect to the Ottoman court in 1606, and was the last student of Architect Sinan, Turkey’s most celebrated architect. He was a master-builder under the supervision of Great Architect Sinan for 21 years. The Blue Mosque is considered to be his masterpiece work. The design of the mosque was a blend of the style of Hagia Sophia and the works of his master Architect Sinan. After the construction the mosque was completed, Mehmed Ağa died in 1617 at about the same time as his sultan.
Entrance to the Blue Mosque is free (despite over five million visitors per year!) so making a small donation is welcome. The Blue Mosque became famous for its six minarets, accompanied by one large dome and eight smaller domes. However, the six minarets stirred concern among the people as the holy Mecca Mosque (Al-Masjid al-Haram), which was the holiest in the Muslim world, had also the same number of minarets. To resolve the problem, the seventh minaret was ordered to be added to the Harem Mosque. The Ottoman Turks didn’t limit their mosques only to a place of worship but rather a large complex of buildings with various social aims. The Sultan Ahmet Mosque also included madrasah (a higher educational institution), a hospital, an imaret (a soup kitchen), a primary school, a market (bazaar) and a tomb for the members of the royal family. There was also a room called ‘Muvakkithane’ (time house) where the astronomers made calculations of the times of prayer and other important occasions in the Muslim calendar. Many of these buildings were later torn down in the nineteenth century.
Simply, the mosque’s wonderfully curvaceous exterior features are breathtaking. If you are a person who has religious faith, a person who manifests devotion to a deity, the blue mosque is a must visit place.