One of the most recognizable landmarks in Istanbul, or rather Turkey, the Blue Mosque is a wonder of the country and a historical site of significant importance that visitors should never miss. Dominating the skyline, it’s a prolific tourist attraction and photo magnet – but it serves up more than just eye candy and Instagram-worthy snaps. With its magnificent architecture and stunning decor, the breathtaking Blue Mosque is an active religious establishment deeply rooted in the history of Turkey – a dynamic nation where two great continents collide.
About Istanbul Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque is widely considered to be the last remaining great mosque of the classical period, representing a beautiful blend of two religious aesthetics: Byzantine Christian style intertwined with traditional Islamic architectural elements. The staggering structure is one of the finest symbols of Islamic architecture and calligraphy, whose depictions of old-world Muslim designs and artwork remain impeccably intact for all to see. Interestingly, part of the Grand Palace of Constantinople was destroyed in order to accommodate this enormous structure – a marvel of architecture and design of yesteryear.
Also called “Sultan Ahmet Camii” and “Sultan Ahmed Mosque” – named after the sultan who ordered its construction – the building undeniably retains its place among the most regal Ottoman mosques in Turkey. Famous for its five main domes, eight smaller domes and six minarets, its infrastructure is quite unique and unlike any other of its kind. In fact, it’s one of only three mosques in the country to have this many minarets, which is as impressive as a feast for the eyes and the camera lens, to say the least. say.
When was the Blue Mosque built?
Turkey’s Blue Mosque was built between 1609 and 1616 by architect Sedefkâr Mehmet Ağa, whose building design was followed by Sultan Ahmed I – a monarch who, surprisingly, did not ascend the throne until 1603 when he was just a 13 year old child. In the aftermath of the Fifteen Years’ War that took place between the Ottoman Empire and the Habsburg Monarchy, the Sultan felt that he had to earn his people’s trust in the empire, which had noticeably diminished throughout the unstable era.
Conjuring up ideas for gaining public confidence, boosting morale and reasserting his authority, he decided to commission the Blue Mosque to complement the nearby Hagia Sophia, another imposing building of almost equal splendor facing him from the other side of Sultanahmet Square. As an imperial show of strength, his intention was to surpass the majesty of Hagia Sophia with his new design, which featured four “elephant foot-shaped pillars and a large central dome measuring 23.5 meters in diameter and 43 meters high, with the dome being surrounded by four half-domes – creating a finished structure that is almost square in shape.
The Blue Mosque also features more than 20,000 handmade Iznik ceramic tiles, decorating its elegant interiors with designs and patterns of roses, tulips, lilies and carnations, each illuminated by 260 majestic windows. Completed by a huge courtyard adorned with very detailed and sumptuous decorations, it is surprising that the entirety of the splendid property is not considered among the wonders of the world.
Although Sultan Ahmed I did achieve his goals of building a dominating Islamic structure of immense grandeur, it did not come for free; he gained nothing during the Fifteen Years’ War before the construction of the Blue Mosque, instead supporting the expensive project with Treasury funds. It may have still been expensive, but it served its purpose – and continues to do so today, existing as an incredible feature on Istanbul’s skyline, attracting travelers from around the world to come and bask in its prodigious glory, soak up its exquisite wonder on guided tours and also snap some photos as souvenirs.
The historic Blue Mosque controversy
As mentioned, one of the most distinctive features of the Blue Mosque is its six minarets; most mosques in Istanbul only have two or four, making this one of the city’s striking and extravagant buildings that immediately catches the eye. However, legend has it that the grand total of six minarets was actually a misunderstanding; Sultan Ahmed I decreed that there should be “altın” minarets – that is, “golden” minarets. According to historical rumors, the architect would have heard “altı” (six minarets) minarets, which is, of course, an easy mistake to make, not to mention one that would have greatly impacted the budget and the final appearance of the construction. At the time, the Blue Mosque and its six majestic minarets caused controversy; the Prophet’s Mosque in Mecca was the only other with six minarets, so to overcome the problem the sultan ordered that a seventh be built to that of Mecca.
How to visit the Blue Mosque
With its illustrious history, cultural and religious significance, and striking size and beauty, the Blue Mosque is one of the most popular attractions in Istanbul – moreover, Turkey. Although it is open to visitors for tours, it is important to know that it is still a working mosque, which means that it is closed to tourists during Muslim prayers.
Generally, the daily opening hours of the mosque are from 9 a.m. until approximately one hour before dusk each day, with exceptions including the 90-minute duration of each prayer time and the two hours during Friday noon prayers (Friday is the Islamic holy day of the week). Naturally, visitors to the mosque – and any mosque in general – are advised to behave respectfully and wear modest indoor clothing that covers the shoulders, arms and legs, while women are also required to wear a hair covering in accordance with Muslim tradition. However, anyone who doesn’t have the proper attire need not worry, as shawls and outerwear are provided for guests at the door.
How much does it cost to visit the blue mosque?
Luckily for patrons, the Blue Mosque does not charge any entrance fee; the visit is free for everyone, including children. It is considered a revered place to visit and pray to Allah (the Muslim God) and not a gallery, museum or tourist site. therefore, it remains a holy place with no monetary demand.
How to get to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul?
Probably the easiest and most convenient way to get to the Blue Mosque is to hop on a tram to Sultanahmet – from there; it’s only a two minute walk. Plus, visitors can explore its sibling – the Hagia Sophia – as it’s only a short walk away. Nevertheless, visitors wishing to visit either of these two iconic Istanbul landmarks should take into account that long queues can occur during the peak holiday season and during Turkish holidays.
What other attractions are near the Blue Mosque in Istanbul?
Located in Istanbul’s historic old town, the Blue Mosque and its mesmerizing counterpart – the Hagia Sophia – are close to a number of other awe-inspiring sights worthy of visitors’ time and attention. Fantastic places to discover include Topkapi Palace, the Basilica Cistern, the Grand Bazaar and the Archeology Museum, all of which will complete an Istanbul itinerary and enrich your vacation – whether it’s your first time in Turkey or your fiftieth. Additionally, it is also possible to visit the one and only Tomb of Sultan Ahmed I – a magnificent burial site ornately decorated with an array of 17th-century Iznik tiles, much like the mosque itself. Located just outside the boundary wall northwest of the Blue Mosque, the tomb is free to visit and is a must see for anyone fascinated by the history of the mosque, as well as Turkish history in his outfit.