Where is the blue mosque in istanbul? What is the history of blue mosque?
Wherever Turkish architectural monuments have been constructed, they have been built there in accordance with nature of the land, as if that monument were placed there by the hand of the Great Creator when the world was created, and it stands stately in coherence with the nature. (Nihad Sami Banarlı, Devlet ve Devlet Terbiyesi, p.81)
This mosque, constructed opposite Hagia Sophia, so to say, is competing with its beauty and magnificence. It has been constructed by an architect named Sedefkar Mehmet Aga with the command of Sultan Ahmet I. Construction of the mosque and kulliyah started in 1609. Sultan Ahmet I, his beloved master Aziz Mahmud Hudayi, Shaykh al-Islam Mehmet Effendi, Sadrazam (Grand Vizier) Davud Paşa and some great statesmen themselves physically worked in the construction of the mosque.
The mosque was opened to worship in 1617, while its kulliyah was not completed until the year 1619.
Kulliyah of Sultanahmet is one of the biggest kulliyahs of Istanbul. It consists of a mosque, madrasas, Sultan pavilion (qasr), bazaar, shopping centers, bathhouse, fountain, tomb, hospital, primary school, soup kitchen and rooms for rent, however unfortunately some of these sections did not survive to this day.
Ground clearance of the dome, which is 23.5m in diameter, is 43 meters. Four elephant legs – each one of them is 5m in diameter – hold this huge dome standing. The main dome is also supported by four semi-domes. Two hundred and sixty windows decorated with colored glasses provide a unique interior lightening to the mosque.
Sultanahmet Mosque has been called “Blue Mosque” by foreigners because of its more than twenty thousand tiles used for interior decoration of the mosque and the shades of blue used in the patterns on these tiles.
The greatest characteristic of Sultanahmet Mosque is that it has six minarets. It preserved to be the only mosque with six minarets in Turkey until a replica of it (Sabancı Central Mosque) was constructed in Adana.
Sultan Ahmet I added a 7th minaret to Magnificent Ka’bah, which had been the only mosque with six minarets until that time, in order to make it superior to the Sultanahmet mosque.
Nacre ornamented gate and window lids, marble engravings on the pulpit and sanctuary, hand-carved ornamentations of the mosque increase the elegance and beauty of the mosque.
Another characteristic of Sultanahmet Mosque is to have a Sultan Pavilion. Sultan Ahmet I was one of the most pious Ottoman sultans. Before and after the prayers he would retire in Sultan Pavilion, which was constructed next to the mosque in the outer court of the kulliyah. It is reported that leaving Topkapı Palace he would go into seclusion there for 10 days at the end of the month of Ramadan.
Sultan Ahmet I, his wife Kosem Sultan, his sons, Sultan Osman II and Sultan Murat IV and his some grandsons are buried in a tomb constructed within the kulliyah. Around the tomb, there is a madrasa that is currently used as the Prime Ministry Archive Storage.* Hospital and soup kitchen of the kulliyah currently serve as Sultanahmet Technical High School.
Paradise is His Place
The following incident is reported about the spiritual aspects of this blessed mosque.
Sultan Ahmet I succeeded to the throne when he was 14 years old and passed away when he was 28. Years after his death, his daughter Gevher Hatun saw him in her dream. He was in Paradise in a magnificent state. In her dream, she wonderingly asked her father:
– Dad, through which of your deeds did you earn this wonderful position?
Sultan Ahmet responded his daughter saying:
– My daughter, I had carried stones on my back when I had this mosque constructed. Therefore, my Lord forgave my sins and bestowed me this position. (Osman Nuri Topbas, Abide Şahsiyetleri ve Müesseseleriyle Osmanlı, p.193)
Lawsuit in the Presence of the Prophet
Another incident reported about Sultanahmet Mosque is as follows:
Construction of the mosque was continuing. Footprint of the Prophet (pbuh) which had been found in the tomb of Mamluk Sultan Kayıtbay in Egypt was brought to Istanbul with the command of Sultan Ahmet I. Sultan thought that when the mosque which he was constructing was completed, footprint of the Prophet (pbuh) would be displayed there, and by means of this more people would come to the mosque to perform prayer…
Footprint of the Prophet (pbuh) which was brought to Istanbul had been temporarily placed into the tomb of Aba Ayyub al-Ansari until the mosque construction was completed. However, soon after that, Sultan saw a dream. In his dream, the Prophet (pbuh) was a judge, Sultan Kayıtbay was a plaintiff. Sultan Kayıtbay was complaining about Sultan Ahmet I. In the dream, Prophet (pbuh) judged by the return of his honored footprint to its original place. Sultan Ahmet I woke from the dream in cold sweat. Upon this dream, he decided to return to the blessed footprint of the Prophet (pbuh) to its original place. However, he was not willing to leave Istanbul devoid from the blessings of the Prophet’s (pbuh) footprint. Thus, its several copies were made. One of them was placed in Tomb of Eyüp Sultan. The other one is currently in the tomb of Abdulhamit I. Another one is preserved in Topkapı Palace. He had made one more copy for himself. This one was a tiny one. Sultan used to wear this tiny footprint as a crest. Sultan Ahmet used to wear this crest during the festivals, holy days and nights such as the Night of Qadr. The following poem was written by the Sultan himself with blue porcelain enamel on this golden crest:
If only I had always carried on my head
The blessed footprint of the king of the prophets
Owner of this footprint is the most beautiful rose in the garden of the prophethood
O Ahmet! Do not stop; rub your face to the footprint of that Rose
Yesterday, heads were in campaign, hands were in campaign
Lead was smelted, marbles were mined.
All of these, these domes, and these minarets
Were not things that could be achieved by money.
In a ship like this, Noah beat the water
And by these sails, the souls attained wings.
O Traveler! If you could find the place
Of the golden crescent lying underneath of all.
Watch the mosques of Istanbul
Count them minaret by minaret, dome by dome!
The path to God passes through those places,
The doors open from the balconies of the minarets.
From there, the blessed months are seen off
The festivals begins there from their eves.
Niches, arches, domes are built
By sultans, janissaries, sages, and viziers.
To carry from generation to generation
The glorious takbir on the wings.
The time for bird to fly, the rose to bloom,
God’s exalted decree in the great dome,
Awake Fatih’s call “wake up” is heard
From far away in Sultan Ahmed.
Some stick the candles, and some others lit,
Candlesticks, candlesticks, great candlesticks
Under their lights for centuries,
The wayfarers were able to find their ways.
Here the dome turned into an arch and niche,
This wiggly shape was a bow over the borders,
In the waves of satin flags,
A thin crescent kissing the wing.
While some were bathing in the fountains,
Some add “hu” “hu” sounds to their takbirs,
Pearl is the feed of the doves in front of Beyazıd
Tell me O coy carrier birds!
Is there any glad tidings from the banks of Danube
From the broken minarets far away,
Storks knock on a gate in the sky,
One day, that gate will open
And the wings will not land on the ground.
Side by side, wing by wing down from the slopes
Flowing the history of the conquests of the Turks
One day, these domes will reach their goals,
And the minarets will grow branches.
If you pass under this dim arch,
Its inside is violet and rose,
The doors of the house of Allah are never closed
Five times a day, it is loud and crowded.
Tiles, tiles, fresh tiles;
Their paint is tears of eyes, their brushes are eyelashes
We came to say “O Art!
Give a green leaf to our dried branches.”
One looked for the mystery of the calligraphy,
Of the marble, of the bronze, of the lead and found it
It turned into the word of “Allah” in the hands of Yesari,
Into a minaret and dome in the hands of Sinan.
This dome tells the time,
Traveler is its first congregation, waves are the last
Its tiles are blue, its name is New
Smog has not darkened its marbles.
Şehzade, Laleli, Haseki Sultan,
Above all is Süleymaniye,
From Süleymaniye, from Ayasofya
Stem by stem roads go down to New Mosque.
While passing over the lands, rocks, and seas
These lead breasts have fed us
In a ship like this, Noah beat the water
And by these sails, the souls attained wings
Arif Nihat Asya
* This storage will be moved to another district called Kagıthane in the summer of 2013 (translator)