Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Istanbul 2014 - Blue Mosque

Date of visit: 6th April 2014

Front view
Back Courtyard of the Blue Mosque

Sultan Ahmed I was an Ottomon Empire ruler for 14 years after he succeeded his father’s throne, Sultan Mehmed III in 1603. He is remembered mainly for the construction of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, 1 of the masterpieces of Islamic architecture. He died at Topkapı Palace in Constantinople and is buried in a mausoleum right outside the walls of the famous mosque. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is a historic mosque in Istanbul popularly known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior.

The panorama view of the 398 year old mosque
It was built from 1609 to 1616. Its Kulliye contains a tomb of the founder, a madrasah and a hospice. The Sultan Ahmed decided to build the big mosque after the Peace of Zsitvatorok took place and the unfavorable result of the war with Persia was resolved. While his predecessors had paid for their mosques with their spoil of war, Ahmet the First had to remove the funds of the Treasury, since he had not gained remarkable victories which caused the anger of the Muslim jurists. He insisted that the mosque be built on the site of the palace of the Byzantine emperors, in front of the basilica Hagia Sofya (at that time, became a mosque the most worshipped in Istanbul) and the racecourse, a site of a big symbolic meaning. Big parts of the south shore of the mosque rest on the foundations, the vaults of the old Grand Palace.

90% of the front view showing 5 out of 6 minarets in 1 photo
The Mosque has 1 main dome, 6 minarets and 8 secondary domes. The design is the culmination of 2 centuries of Ottoman mosque development by its architect, Sedefkar Mehmed Aga, It incorporates some of Byzantine Christian elements of the neighboring Hagia Sophia with traditional Islamic architecture and is considered to be the last great mosque of the classical period. The architect produced the ideas of his master Sinan, aiming for overwhelming size, majesty and splendour in his design.

Main dome, minarets and semi circle domes visible from the courtyard

The same facade of the spacious forecourt was built in the same manner as the facade of the Süleymaniye Mosque, except for the addition of the turrets on the corner domes. The court is about as large as the mosque itself. It has ablution facilities on both sides. The central hexagonal fountain is small relative to the courtyard. The monumental but narrow gateway to the courtyard stands out architecturally from the arcade. Its historical elementary school is used as "Mosque Information Center" which is adjacent to its outer wall on the side of Hagia Sophia. This is where they provide visitors with a free orientational presentation on the Blue Mosque and Islam in general.

The six minarets were a matter of contention and a first, since four minarets were the common maximum. Only after one more minaret was added to the Masjid al-Haram, Grand Mosque, in Mecca was the six minarets issue settled.

Happiness overloads

The interior of the mosque is lined with more than 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles, made at Iznik (the ancient Nicaea) in more than 50 different tulip designs. The tiles at lower levels are traditional in design, while at gallery level their design becomes flamboyant with representations of flowers, fruit and cypresses. More than 20,000 tiles were made under the supervision of the Iznik master potter. The price to be paid for each tile was fixed by the sultan's decree, while tile prices in general increased over time. As a result, the quality of the tiles used in the building decreased gradually. The upper levels of the interior are dominated by blue paint. On the chandeliers, ostrich eggs are found that were meant to avoid cobwebs inside the mosque by repelling spiders.

The decorations include calligraphy verses from the Qur'an, many of them made by Seyyid Kasim Gubari, regarded as the greatest calligrapher of his time. The floors are covered with carpets, which are donated and are regularly replaced as they wear out. The many spacious windows confer a spacious impression. Each semi-dome has 14 windows and the central dome 28 blinds. The coloured glass for the windows was a gift of the Signoria of Venice to the sultan. Most of these coloured windows have by now been replaced by modern versions.

The most important element in the interior of the mosque is the mihrab, which is made of finely carved and sculptured marble, with a stalactite niche and a double inscriptive panel above it. It is surrounded by many windows. To the right of the mihrab is the richly decorated mimbar, where the imam stands when he is delivering his sermon at the time of noon prayer on Fridays or on holy days. The mosque has been designed so that even when it is at its most crowded, everyone in the mosque can see and hear the imam.

3 sisters

The many lamps inside the mosque were once covered with gold and gems. Among the glass bowls one could find ostrich eggs and crystal balls. All these decorations have been removed or pillaged for museums.

The great tablets on the walls are inscribed with the names of the caliphs and verses from the Quran. They were originally by the great 17th-century calligrapher Seyyid Kasim Gubari of Diyarbakır but have been repeatedly restored.

Pope Benedict XVI visited the Sultan Ahmed Mosque on 30 November 2006 during his visit to Turkey. It marks as only the second papal visit in history to a Muslim place of worship. The Pope was seen after having removed his shoes, paused for a full two minutes, eyes closed in silent meditation, standing side by side with the Mufti of Istanbul, Mustafa Çagrici and the Imam of the Blue Mosque, Emrullah Hatipoglu.

The pope “thanked divine Providence for this” and said, “May all believers identify themselves with the one God and bear witness to true brotherhood.” The pontiff noted that Turkey “will be a bridge of friendship and collaboration between East and West”, and he thanked the Turkish people “for the cordiality and sympathy” they showed him throughout his stay, saying, “he felt love and understood.”

After all, we, the Jewish, the Christians and the Muslims are people of the same inheritance Holy Book. Reunite people, say yes to Peace and no to War.
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