Saturday, August 25, 2018


Sultanahmet - Istanbul - Turkey

GPS : 41°00'20.0"N 28°58'36.0"E / 41.005556, 28.976667



Work on the Complex of Ahmed I (1603-1617) began in August 1609 (1108 AH). The southern part of the ancient Hippodrome or Atmeydani (today's Sultanahmet Square) was cleared of residential palaces belonging to members of the aristocracy and a large portion of the Byzantine sphendone (the semi-circular end of the hippodrome) was taken down to make space for the mosque. Construction on the mosque finished in 1617 just before the sultan's death and work on the complex (külliye) continued for three years under his sons Mustafa I (1617-1618) and Osman II (1618-1622), who also built a mausoleum for their father and predecessor.

For a variety of reasons including the terrain of the site, master architect Sedefkar Mehmet Aga organized the complex's buildings in functional groups in the vicinity of the mosque rather than arrange them symmetrically around the mosque as was done in its precedents at Fatih and Süleymaniye.

The complex is composed of a mosque, royal pavilion (hünkar kasri), mausoleum (türbe), madrasa (medrese), school for koran readers (dar'ül kurra), Koranic school for boys (mekteb), hospice (tabhane), hospital (darüssifa), soup kitchen (imaret), an open air market street (arasta), rental rooms (kira odalari) and mansions (konak), cisterns (mahzen) and public fountains (sebil). The complex buildings conform to the orientation of the mosque, 39 degrees east of south.

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque) is the only one which has 6 minarets among mosques in Istanbul. The four minarets with three sherefes each (minaret balcony) were erected at the four corners of the mosque, and the remaining two short minarets with two sherefes each were erected opposite at two corners of the courtyard. The central dome, placed on four piers, is 33.6 meters in diameter and 43 meters high at its central point.  It is supported by four semi-domes. The ceiling structure of the Blue mosque is similar to the Şehzadebaşı (Prince) Mosque.

The interior of the mosque, which is 64 x 72 m, is lighted with 260 windows. The outer courtyard, encircled with windowed walls, has eight doors on both sides and in front. The inner courtyard with marble floor coverings is enclosed with 30 domes. The tulip and carnations motifs of the fountain with six columns in the inner courtyard is eye-catching. It is entered by the inner court with three doors.

Those three doors and the main door of the outer court are made of bronze.  On the pulpit of the mosque with nacre-inlay, the embroidered muezzin mahfil (a gallery/platform for the call to prayer) and the niche were worked with the architectural details. In addition, it has artistic value with carpets, kilims, rahles (reading desks), engravings, and colourful stained-glass windows.

The Sultanahmet Mosque has the unusual feature of having six minarets, four of which rise from the corners mosque and two lower minarets placed at the front corners of the courtyard. The four around the mosque have three balconies each, while the courtyard minarets are furnished with two. All six minarets have fluted shafts and balconies with stalactite corbels. The northeastern minaret was restored in 1955.

The mosque, named after its donor Sultan Ahmed I, has been donned the name "Blue" by foreign travelers based on the Kütahya tiles in dominant tones of blue, turquoise and green that cover most of its interior. The interior galleries have displays of tiles composed in panels at the balcony level depicting gardens with cypresses, flowers and fruit trees, but the most precious tiles have been used to decorate the royal lodge, which has notable jade and gilt work in its marble mihrab niche.

Similar motifs, painted in gold and corresponding colors, adorn the multiple convex facets of the elephant feet above their marble bases, two of which are furnished with fountains. This rich polychrome complexion of the interior comes alive with sublime light flooding the interior from three tiers of windows on the walls and numerous others pierced into the domes: The central dome has twenty-eight windows in its drum and each of the four semi-domes has fourteen. Colored glasses on windows were originally imported from Venice, but have since been replaced with modern substitutes.

The preacher's pulpit, doors and window shutters display mastery of woodcarving and mother of pearl inlay of the period. The mosque holds many treasures, such as Quranic tablets from the hand of the renowned Ameti Kasim Gubari, while many others have been lost or placed in museums. The interior has been renovated several times, as early as 1837, and also more recently.

The walled mosque precinct, enclosing the mosque and the royal pavilion, occupies the peak of a hill alongside the Atmeydani to the northwest. Terraces descend down to the Bosphorus on the southeast side of the precinct wall. In 1912, a fire leveled the Ishakpasa (today's Küçükayasofya) neighborhood down the hill from the mosque, allowing archaeologists to reveal the remains of the Great Palace of Emperors (Büyük Saray) that was inhabited between the 4th and the 12th centuries. The mosque and market streets that run along its precinct wall to the southeast were built over the undercrofts of this palace.

Further excavations in the market street and vicinity in 1935-1938, 1951-1954 and from 1983 to our day have unearthed 6th century palace floor mosaics that are on display at the Great Palace Mosaic Museum that occupies part of the rebuilt market street. Nothing remains of the rental rooms that were located above the stores here and others that were distributed among the buildings of the complex. The hamam of the market street, located at its southwest end, remains in disrepair.

On the north corner of the precinct, the madrasa (school for Koran readers) and the mausoleum form an enclosed cluster. These buildings were built on the cisterns of the 4th century Byzantine Sphendone, which was already in disuse by the early 13th century. The soup kitchen, hospital, and hospice form a second cluster that was built on top of the sphendone after the Hippodrome was filled with earth from the mosque's excavation. Only sections of the soup kitchen remain at this location today where an industrial school complex (mekteb-i sanayi) was built in the 19th century.

The qibla wall of the Sultan Ahmed I mosque doubles as a retaining wall to the southeast where there is a partial basement (mahzen) under the walled qibla garden; it is first in a series of terraces that were built downhill from the mosque. From here, two gated passages lead down to the level of rental housing that sits above market stores, culminating at portals on the market street and Tavukhane Street. An intermediate layer contains seven more rental rooms and a public fountain. The qibla wall has been differentiated in its design from the other walls to accommodate its special function.

Where the peripheral extensions on three sides are covered with three semi-domes, the qibla recess is composed with two semi-domes on the sides, joining a straight wall in between, where the tall marble frame of the mihrab niche is positioned at the center. The piers supporting the structure, which project freely into the mosque interior on three sides, have been restrained along the qibla wall, resulting in a flatter but more subtly varied surface. A slender marble minbar rises along the pilaster to the right of the mihrab, and is crowned with a golden crescent above its conical cap.

The arasta or market street of Sultanahmet was to provide income for the mosque and its dependencies. It is the only example of its kind to have remained from the 17th century. It is composed of two facing rows of stores running northeast and southwest, with over thirty stores in each row. There is a portal at the northeast end through which a passage leads up to the qibla garden of the mosque, and a single row of nine stores beyond it that used to be double-story rental rooms. An additional five stores are located around the corner at the southwest end on Tavukhane Street, where the market baths (arasta hamami) are located.

There are two adjacent portals here, one of which may have belonged to a rental mansion; the other marks the location of the vaulted passage that leads up to the qibla garden. Since the market street was destroyed by fire in 1912 the area had been haphazardly rebuilt on multiple occasions up until the 1980s at which point the General Directorate of Foundations (Vakiflar Genel Müdürlügü) carried out a historical reconstruction of the stores. Traces of the domed rental rooms above stores were judged inadequate guides to a reconstruction, but were maintained as archaeological evidence. The Mosaic Museum, established in 1953 and re-opened as the Great Palace Mosaic Museum in 1997, occupies 16 rooms of the market street.

The madrasa, mausoleum and a funerary garden are accessed from a private lane that is entered from the mosque precinct. They are isolated from the outside by walls that closely follow the outline of the two buildings. The mausoleum, located on the north side of the lane, is a large square building set in a garden and entered from a three-bay domed portico to the northeast.

Elevated from the surrounding grounds, the mosque courtyard is entered through three portals with cascading steps. The main entrance is to the northwest in axis with the central gate on Sultanahmet Square. It is deep and has a stalactite semi-dome. Inside, a domed arcade frames the court on three sides and the mosque portico - with arches slightly wider and taller than those of the arcade - completes the gallery on the fourth side. The two side entrances are found on either end of the domed portico. At the center of the courtyard, in axis with the main entrance, is a hexagonal fountain. It is crowned by a pent roof raised on elaborately carved arches that spring from six marble columns; this roof has recently been replaced by a small dome.

The columns of the arcade and the portico are also carved from marble as well as porphyry, and the floor is paved with marble tiles. The courtyard has two rows of superimposed windows - rectangular below and arched above - that are placed at regular intervals on all three façades, which are topped with a marble balustrade. A double-story gallery runs along the court on the exterior, with ablution spigots provided at its basement level. This narrow gallery, which has a slanted roof at the level of the upper court windows, is continued at a grander scale and flanks the prayer hall on either side where it is roofed with domes and barrel vaults, interrupted only by the projecting piers.

The prayer hall's main entrance is from the courtyard and there are two secondary side entrances. The main entrance is highlighted by the raised central portico dome, which bears a marble Quranic panel on its tall drum. Set in a niche with a stalactite semi-dome, the entry has a triptych foundation plaque. The prayer hall is a rectangle, slightly wider than it is long. Inside, it is spacious and open, with a focus around the tall central dome. The dome sits on pendentives carried on four colossal piers or "elephant feet" that delineate the central court. Beyond the court, the space is extended by use of semi-domes and buttresses that transfer the lateral loads to piers set inside the walls.

The central dome is surrounded by four semi-domes below its drum, which are wrapped by smaller semi-domes - three on all sides except for the qibla wall. The semi-domes are braced with buttresses on either side that are articulated with hipped roofs and domed turrets. This structural arrangement provides for a spacious and open interior and creates an effect of cascading domes on the exterior. The composition ends at the four corners where small single domes complete the pyramidal succession.

The flow of space on the interior is uninterrupted except for a few functional elements. There is a muezzin's platform elevated on columns in front of the southern pier, which has geometric patterns carved in its marble balustrade. An elaborately decorated wooden pulpit is set adjacent to the opposite pier. The royal lodge (hünkar mahfili), a screened platform raised on arches carried on precious marble columns, is located behind this pier and occupies the bay underneath the eastern corner dome.

It is accessed from inside the mosque, as well as from the royal kiosk outside. An arcade, with balustrades at the balcony level, follows the entire length of the interior walls with the exception of the qibla wall. It is broken up into segments by the projecting structural piers and the supporting piers of the smaller semi-domes, which replace the arcade columns on their way down.

The small domed building behind the mausoleum is a dar'ül kurra, or a school for training Koran readers. It is built close to the mausoleum eyvan into which it opens with a large window. A room for the timekeeper of the mosque (muvakkithane) was added to the front of the mausoleum in the 18th or 19th century, replacing a sebil. There is a walled-in cemetery (hazire) between the dar'ül kurra and the mosque precinct. There were six adjoining stores on the Hippodrome side of the cemetery, which appear as two-story wooden buildings with domes in 19th century photographs.

The hospice (tabhane), soup kitchen (imaret), hospital (darüşşifa) were erected one behind the other over the sphendone (the semi-circular end of the hippodrome) to the southwest of the mosque. At this end, the hippodrome is a terrace supported by a deep circular wall of vaults and arches that retain the hill towards the Marmara Sea. The retaining wall has maintained its function and is still visible today.

The charity cluster of Sultan Ahmed I, however, was already in ruins by the time the School of Industry (Mekteb-i Sanayi) was erected at this location in 1866. Sections of the hospital, the soup kitchen and possibly a former Sword Factory (Kiliçhane) that had existed here in some form since Byzantine times, were incorporated into the campus. The buildings that occupy the site today are from 1894 and were built by Architect Raimondo D'Aronco after the original school collapsed in an earthquake.

Along with the School of Industry, three separate buildings originally housed the Janissary Museum (Yeniçeri Müzesi), the Ministry of Agriculture, Mining and Forestry (Ziraat, Maadin ve Orman Nezareti) and the School of Industry. The remains of the hospital and soup kitchen were restored and incorporated into the new development. Restored in 1977, the buildings are in use by the Registrar of Marmara University (Marmara Üniversitesi Rektörlüğü) and the Sultanahmet School of Industrial Arts (Sultanahmet Endüstri Meslek Lisesi).

The Blue Mosque with all six minarets visibleThe Sultan Ahmed Mosque is one of the two mosques in Turkey that has six minarets, the other is in Adana. When the number of minarets was revealed, the Sultan was criticized for presumption, since this was, at the time, the same number as at the mosque of the Ka'aba in Mecca. He overcame this problem by paying for a seventh minaret at the Mecca mosque. Four minarets stand at the corners of the mosque. Each of these fluted, pencil-shaped minarets has three balconies (Şerefe) with stalactite corbels, while the two others at the end of the forecourt only have two balconies.

Until recently the muezzin or prayer-caller had to climb a narrow spiral staircase five times a day to announce the call to prayer. Today a public address system is used, and the call can be heard across the old part of the city, echoed by other mosques in the vicinity. Large crowds of both Turks and tourists gather at sunset in the park facing the mosque to hear the call to evening prayers, as the sun sets and the mosque is brilliantly illuminated by coloured floodlights.

Hünkar Kasrı
There is a royal kiosk (hünkar kasri) to the southeast of the mosque, which was rebuilt recently following destruction by fire. It features, for the first time in Ottoman architecture, the entry ramp, which allowed the sultan to enter the lodge mounted on his horse. The ramp leads up to a loggia with a view over the Bosphorus, with two retiring rooms on one side and a connection to the royal lodge inside the mosque on the other. Today, the royal kiosk is home to the Carpet and Kilim Museum (Hali ve Kilim Müzesi) that displays historic samples from mosques around Anatolia.

Madrasa (School)
The madrasa stands on the opposite side of the lane from the mausoleum and the walled-in cemetery. It is composed of twenty-four rooms around a rectangular arcaded courtyard with a fountain at the center. The main entrance, in axis with the fountain, is located at the center of the northwestern wing. Traces of columns around the fountain suggest that it may have been roofed. The madrasa rooms have windows opening to the courtyard and the exterior and are equipped with fireplaces (ocak) and shelving niches.

The main classroom (dersane) is atypically annexed at the northern corner of the cloister rather than on its longitudinal axis. Madrasa functions were discontinued with the education reform law (Tevhid-i Tedrisat Kanunu) in 1924. The building was restored in 1935 and the courtyard was covered with a glass roof to prepare for its new use as an archive for the Directorate of Public Affairs.

The hospital of the Sultanahmet Complex is often identified as an insane asylum (timarhane) and was probably dedicated to that purpose. Located at the western end of its cluster closest to the circular retaining wall, the hospital consisted of rooms around an arcaded courtyard and adjoining baths (darüssifa hamami). Its rooms and portico had collapsed prior to the construction of the School of Industry but its external walls and main portal, which faced northeast, have been preserved. Certain columns and capitals belonging to its portico have been used at the entrance of the school building.

There are three separate structures of the soup kitchen that are identifiable upon entering the School of Industrial Arts from Sokollu Mehmet Pasa Highway. The kitchens (matbah or mutfak) have been preserved entirely whereas the bakery (firin) and the cellar (kiler) have been modified. The kitchens were entered from northeast and southwest and had a vaulted storage room and a chimney. Their twin domes had ventilation slits along the drum and oculi with glass lantern for further aeration.

The bakery, which opens to the southwest towards the kitchen, is a square building with four domes. Its ovens have been enclosed and only one of its chimneys remains. The cellar is the largest structure in the soup kitchen and is located to the west towards the hospital. There is no trace of the dining hall (mekel or yemekhane).

The Koranic school and other buildings
The Koranic school, a single room raised on a vaulted basement, is attached to the northeast wall of the outer courtyard next to a gate. It has a fireplace, shelving niches and a small toilet. It has a flat roof but may have been covered with a dome prior to rebuilding after the 1912 fire. The northeast façade has some of the original stone paneling.

Turkish Bath (Hamam)
The baths were also damaged in the fire of 1912, at which time the changing room collapsed. It was spared from destruction during the Great Palace Excavation and remains in ruinous condition. It has a changing room leading into an L-shaped warm room (iliklik) that wraps around the hot room, and a furnace (külhan) that supplied the hot water. The hot room can be entered from either wing of the warm room and consists of a hexagonal bathing area at the center surrounded by private bathing cells (halvet) that square off the room. It has lost its dome and marble fixtures.

The tomb of Sultan Ahmet I the türbe (tomb) of the Blue Mosque’s great patron, is on the north side of the mosque facing Sultanahmet Park. Ahmet, who had ascended to the imperial throne aged 13, died one year after the mosque was constructed, aged only 27. Buried with Ahmet are his wife, Kösem, who was strangled to death in the Topkapı Harem, and his sons, Sultan Osman II (r 1618-22), Sultan Murat IV (r 1623-40) and Prince Beyazıt (murdered by Murat).

The tomb is decorated with 7th century Iznik tiles and plaster work in a square plan. The tomb of Sultan Ahmed I commenced by Sultan Mustafa I and was finished by Sultan Osman II (Osman the Young) It took 3 years and was completed in the year 1619. The architect was Sedefkar Mehmed Ağa who had also built the Sultanahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque) complex. This hall is extended with an eyvan opposite the entry. The interior is decorated with Kütahya tiles, penwork (kalemisi) and painting on plasterwork (malakari) that was restored in the 19th century. The exterior is paneled with marble.

The tomb of Sultan Ahmet I is located to the north of Sultanahmet Mosque (Known as Blue Mosque). Ahmet I was born in 1590 and became sultan when he was only 14. He was the one who rejected and stopped the tradition of killing siblings for the unity of the country which started with Beyezid and even became a law during the time of Fatih. He also commanded that the throne should be ascended by the eldest one in the dynasty. In 1617 Sultan Ahmed I died and was buried in his tomb.

Sultan Ahmet Tomb has a square plan and is covered with a dome that is supported by a polygon drum. The arcade after the entrance is covered with three domes. The inside of the tomb is decorated with rich tiles, pen and wood crafts. Above the tile panels, there is an epigraph surrounding the structure written with white calligraphy over dark blue background. In the tomb, also buried Kösem Sultan (Mahpeyker Sultan, wife of Sultan Ahmed I), their sons Sultan Murad IV and Sultan Osman II, their daughter Ayşe Sultan in addition to about forty other members of the dynasty .

Located on the north west corner of the of Sultan Ahmed Mosque (The Blue Mosque) complex.


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