FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Mosques of Istanbul

Posted in Istanbul, Turkey by folkestonejack on October 11, 2014

I headed out early to visit the Sultanahmet Mosque (better known as the Blue Mosque) but clearly not anywhere near early enough! By the time I arrived, at 8.15am, the queue was already around the block. However, once the doors opened the line moved quickly enough. I was inside after just a half hour wait and back outside a few minutes later! In the meantime, the queue had doubled in length…

Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque

Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque

Inside, or outside, this place really imposes itself on any visitor. The exterior view of the seventeenth century mosque with its six minarets is simply stunning, whether viewed from the square or from the courtyard. The interior is equally impressive, featuring 21,000 blue tiles from Iznik and four five metre thick ‘elephant’ pillars. I spent most of the time with my neck craned upwards to better appreciate the ornate designs. As you can only walk within a restricted space the visit itself does not take long, but it certainly delivers in that time!

After leaving the mosque behind, I headed on to Beyasit, to visit an older mosque. The Süleymaniye Mosque (1557) presented a real contrast with barely a soul around, making for an altogether different experience. The decoration is less elaborate than the Blue Mosque, but all the more powerful for its subtle use of colour.

Süleymaniye Mosque

Süleymaniye Mosque

The Süleymaniye Mosque was founded by Süleyman I, whose reign saw the Ottoman Empire extend as far as it ever would and was widely regarded as a great patron of the arts. It is also the masterpiece of the Imperial architect Sinan who was responsible for 131 mosques during his 98 years. The mosque is at the centre of a historic complex of a hospital, soup kitchen, schools and lodgings which must have made this an incredibly active place at one time. Although these surrounding buildings no longer serve these roles, you get a clear sense of just how large and important the welfare network centred around the mosque was.

Rüstem Paşa Mosque

Rüstem Paşa Mosque

I found my visits to the three mosques quite fascinating and I could easily have spent my time exploring the many other mosques in the city. One of the unexpected pleasures of the trip was the incredible sound of the competing calls to prayer resounding from every direction, particularly as dusk approached.

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