Wednesday, September 26, 2018


Eyüp - Istanbul - Turkey

GPS : 41°02'54.0"N 28°56'02.0"E / 41.048333, 28.933889


The Eyüp Sultan Mosque is situated outside the Walls of Constantinople, near the Golden Horn, in the district of Eyüp on the European side of İstanbul. Built in 1458, it was the first mosque constructed by the Ottoman Turks following their conquest of Constantinople in 1453. The complex is located in Eyüp on the shores of the Golden Horn. The mosque, mausoleum and hamam of the complex still stand today, but the medresse and soup kitchen for the poor no longer survive. The first structure built in the complex was the tomb of Ebu Eyyub El-Ensari a "sahabe", or companion of the Prophet Mohammed. He is said to have hosted Mohammed the first time he journeyed to Medina.

Known as "Eyüp Sultan", he is believed to have been martyred during the siege of İstanbul by the Umayyad people in 668-669. It is believed that after the conquest of Istanbul by the Ottomans, the site was revealed to Sultan Mehmed, the Conqueror's teacher, Akşemseddin, in a dream. The Conqueror had a mausoleum built on the site. It is built where Hz Eyyubu El-Ensari (An important Islamic character) was thought to be buried, he was one of the first acceptors of Islam and died during the first Islamic siege of Istanbul in 688-669. A tomb and a mosque was built by the command of Mehmed the Conqueror.

The mosque rises on the spot where Abu Ayyub al-Ansari (Turkish: Eyüp Sultan), the standard-bearer of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, died during the Arab assault on Constantinople in 670. His tomb is greatly venerated by Muslims, attracting many pilgrims. Some of the personal belongings of Prophet Mohammed are preserved inside this mosque. His other belongings are preserved in the Topkapı Palace and in several other mosques of İstanbul, which was the final seat of the Islamic Caliphate.

Two outstanding structures in this district - the Eyüp Sultan Mosque and the adjacent tomb of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, a companion of Prophet Mohammed - draw thousands of people from across Turkey every year. In 1459 Sultan Mehmed, The Conqueror went on to build a mosque, a medresse, a soup kitchen and a hamam, so that the site became a full complex.

The Eyup Sultan Complex, located in the middle of the city, gave its own name to its district It is one of the most prominent complexes experiencing a stream of sightseers visiting Istanbul. The name of the complex comes from Eyüp el-Ensari, a host of the Prophet, who participated in pincer movement of Istanbul by the Umayyad army and was martyred in the area of the present mosque.

The current mosque has substantially different features compared to the original. The main dome of the mosque, built from limestone blocks, measures 17.50 meters in diameter which consists of the ceiling structure of the Harim (sanctum sanctorum) at a size of 26 x 11m. It is supported by two half-domes, each of which has same diameter, and the interior lighting of the mosque is strengthened by window gaps placed on the half domes and the pulley of the central dome. The mosque’s decorations are of an Ottoman Baroque style and are remarkably plain when compared with the predominate, more complex architectural style of the time.

There are small fountains, which are known as kısmet çeşmeleri (destitny fountains), located in the middle of the inner court encircled by domed porches. The motifs and architectural elements used on these fountains are made of white marbles, giving a pleasing aesthetic view to them. The mosque has two minarets, each with two shrefes (balconies). Since the minarets were built in the period of Sultan Mehmed II, and were relatively short, both were raised in 1723 by Damat Ibrahim Paşa.

The madrasa (religious school) and the imaret (soup kitchen) of the mystical complex are the major structures which have not reached our time. In general, the Eyüp Sultan Complex hosts visitiors from every area in Turkey. Due to the spiritual athmosphere of the complex, it is considered a sacred place of pilgrimage for those whose beliefs are strengthened by making its visitors contemplate the afterlife. Furthermore, the number of graves encircling the complex both shows how much the grave owners wished to be buried near Eyüp el-Ensari and illustrates the importance of the city in Islamic Culture.

The construction of the complex was initiated by building a tomb on the location he had already been buried. According to rumors, Akşemseddin, a teacher of Sultan Mehmed II, had a dream in which he saw the place where the blessed person was buried upon which Sultan Mehmed II  had initially began building a tomb. The complex, which consists of a mosque, a tomb, a madrasa, (religious school) and a Turkish bath, took its first shape in the year 1459, during which the mosque’s construction began.

The complex has seen numerous changes in its history and has lost its original shape during restoration works. After the earthquake of 1776 and experiencing large scale structural damage, Sultan Selim III (1789-1807) made the decision to tear it down and rebuild it on the same site. The mosque, built by a group of people, of which Uzun Hüseyin Ağa was at the head, was reopened for worship on October 24, 1800 by Sultan Selim III.

Located beyond the city walls on the southern reaches of the Golden Horn, this historic quarter derives its name, Eyüp, from Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, one of the standard-bearers of the Prophet. Sultan Mehmet II had a finely embellished mausoleum and a striking mosque built in memory of this distinguished companion.

The first mosque was built in 1458, but it was collapsed and with the command of Sultan Selim III it was rebuilt by Uzun Hüseyin Efendi between 1798-1800. The mosque for the last time was repaired in the period of Sultan Mahmud II. A thunderbolt had fallen to the minaret looking through the sea, the upper gallery of minaret was rebuilt. Mosque, can be grouped a 8 graded mosque.

The Mosque and Mausoleum of Eyup Sultan, located outside the corner where the land walls meet the walls along the Golden Horn, is considered a sacred site for Moslems. Eyup-el-Ensari was a standard-bearer of Mohammed and he died-here during an Arabic siege of the city in the 7th century. His grave was discovered at the conquest and later the mausoleum and the first mosque in Istanbul were built on this site.

The original mosque was destroyed in an earthquake and the present one was constructed in its place in 1800. On Fridays, holy days for Islam, throngs of the faithful visit the mausoleum. The old trees, flocks of pigeons, the praying believers and the visiting crowds create a mystical and colorful atmosphere around the mosque and the mausoleum. The walls of the mausoleum in the courtyard are covered with tiles from different periods.

Historical sources indicate that in Byzantine times this district was also a holy site where people came to visit the grave of a saint and to pray for rain during times of drought. The sultans succeeding Mehmet the Conqueror completed their coronation and sword-bearing ceremonies with a visit to the Eyup Sultan Mausoleum.

The vicinity of the Eyüp Sultan Mosque and the neighboring hills are occupied by cemeteries. The famous Pierre Loti Cafe is also in this district. The well-known poet and author Loti was enraptured by Istanbul and he came here often to watch the beauties of the Golden Horn of those days. The view from this small cafe and the terrace, particularly during full moon, leaves long-lasting impressions on the visitors.

The Eyüp Sultan Mosque becomes particularly crowded during Friday prayer. People from other districts come for the prayer as well. For many people, praying Sunday’s dawn prayer at this mosque has become a tradition, and the mosque is filled to capacity for the occasion, with rows of the faithful spilling into the streets around the mosque.

The first prominent mosque of İstanbul, Eyüp Sultan Mosque, was the first mosque to be built after the conquest together with a madrasah, imaret (public kitchen) and hamam (public bathhouse) in memory of the distinguished companion.

The mosque has a rectangular design with a mihrab (a niche in the front wall, indicating the direction of prayer). The central dome rests on six columns and is supported by arches based on two piers. According to historical sources, the mosque has undergone several renovations since 1458. There are galleries surrounding three sides of the mosque. The mihrab is vaulted (eyvan) and the pulpit is made of marble. The seven domes of the mosque’s portico stand on six columns.

The mosque’s former minarets, which were shorter, were replaced by new higher minarets in 1733. The minaret facing the Golden Horn was rebuilt in 1823 as it was damaged by a thunderbolt. The Sinan Paşa pavilion located in front of the main gateway (of the inner courtyard) was demolished in 1798. An old plane tree now stands in the pavilion’s place, surrounded by railing and with a fountain on each of the four corners.

The first mosque built on the site was so badly damaged in the earthquake of 1776 that Sultan Selim III had to tear it down and rebuild it. A ceremony was held to reopen the mosque to worship in 1800. The mosque we see today is this second mosque built by Sultan Selim III. The mosque has a main dome of 17.50 meters in diameter and two minarets, built rather high according to the standards of 1723. The interior of the mosque is very plainly decorated, differentiating it from other mosques of the period, although the gilding decorating the mosque niche is eye-catching.

The most distinctive aspect of the complex is its mausoleum. It is octagonal in shape and has a single dome. The inner and outer walls of the mausoleum are covered with glazed tiles, and the lid of the sarcophagus is decorated with symbolic inscriptions. The protective shields in front of the sarcophagus are each a masterpiece, crafted out of pure silver.

The outer courtyard of the Eyüp Sultan Mosque has two gates opening to the street. The inner courtyard has 13 domes based on 12 columns. The main round-shaped fountain is located at the center of the inner courtyard. The marble gateway to the inner courtyard holds nine lines of inscription.

Another feature that distinguishes Eyüp Sultan is that it is perhaps the only mosque which is surrounded by a very large number of graveyards and mausoleums clustered closely together. Since Abu Ayyub al-Ansari’s mausoleum was built, thousands of prominent personalities as well as commoners have been buried in its vicinity. Both sides of the mosque house centuries-old graveyards of Ottoman family members and state officials. Today, the Eyüp graveyard is one of the largest in İstanbul, but it is difficult to find a plot there as almost every pious Muslim would like to be buried there in the hope of being raised on the Day of Judgment together with the Prophet’s companion, Abu Ayyub al-Ansari.

The tomb of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari
The tomb of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari (Eyüp Sultan Türbesi) has always been a center of attraction, drawing a variety of people, including Ottoman sultans, throughout its history. Today, it remains the district’s nucleus and holds a special place in people’s hearts.

The tomb of Hz Eyyubu El-Ensari was built in 1458 in the surrounding walls of the mosque. The tomb was decorated with tiles after 16th century, it was restored in the period of Sultan Ahmed I and Sultan Mahmud II. Although the silver carvings and candlesticks belong to recent periods, it is said that the fountain on the rear of the sarcophagus was found during discovery of the grave. Eyüp Sultan Tomb became a visiting place for the Islam World for many centuries.

Eyüp Sultan’s tomb, built on an octagonal plan covered by a dome, was built from cut lime stone. Kütahya tiles are used in the inner design of the tomb, and the protective shields crafted out of pure silver by Sultan Selim III and a green pall, a souvenir of Sultan Mahmud II (1785-1839), cover the sarcophagus of Eyüp el-Ensari. Silver sülüs calligraphies, belonging to the calligraphers, Mustafa Rakım Efendi and Sultan Mahmud II, are prominent elements in the inner design of the tomb. As for that the bath of the complex, which was designed as a double bath, is one of the oldest Ottoman baths that continues to stand today.

Abu Ayyub al-Ansari still beckons thousands of people. Farmers from Anatolia, businessmen, statesmen, intellectuals, students, women from the countryside in their colorful local dress and foreigners all come to pay their respect, to recite verses of the Quran, to ask for the Creator’s blessing or simply to breathe the spiritual air radiating from area. For many people who come to visit İstanbul for whatever reason, Eyüp is a must see.

The number of visitors to the mosque and the tomb increases significantly during religious holidays, Friday prayers and the holy month of Ramadan in particular. Streets become overcrowded due to traffic during Ramadan, but despite having to wait in traffic for hours, they keep on coming. It is also a common tradition among newlyweds to visit the tomb as well as the mosque and for families to bring their sons to celebrate their circumcision.

Sultan Mehmet II had the tomb built in 1459 after his spiritual mentor, Akşemsettin, saw the burial site in a dream. A plane tree beside which al-Ansari’s body was discovered still stands in the middle of the inner courtyard of the Eyüp Sultan Mosque.

The outer and inner walls of the tomb are adorned with tiles. The single-domed tomb has an octagonal shape. That part of the tomb housing Abu Ayyub al-Ansari’s sarcophagus, enclosed in silver with beautifully adorned railings, is separated from the rest of the hall. The velvet curtains at the tomb are said to have been originally made for the shrine of the Prophet Mohammed, known as Rawdat-ul-Mutahhara (Dome of the Prophet); nevertheless the curtains could not be sent there due to the outbreak of World War I and were hung in Abu Ayyub al-Ansari’s tomb instead.

The mausoleum hall and the tomb chamber have been adorned with calligraphy, crystal chandeliers and silver decorations from different centuries. Furthermore, a footprint of the Prophet Mohammed in marble stone and framed in silver lays embedded in the wall that faces the direction of prayer.

The hamam, which is also part of the complex, is one of the oldest Ottoman hamams still surviving today. The medresse and soup kitchen, however, are no longer standing. Another feature of the Eyüp Sultan Complex is that for hundreds of years people wanted to be buried near the tomb of Eyyüb el-Ensari. As a result, the complex is now surrounded by graves and tombs. Following their ascent to the throne, Ottoman sultans girded their sword in the vicinity of Eyüp Sultan Mosque. The tradition is said to date back even to Byzantine times, when new rulers of the city did the same to signify their standing.


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