Istanbul is a unique city in terms of its historical texture. The city was the capital of the Ottoman Empire for more than 400 years. The finest examples of the Ottoman architecture clearly manifest themselves in the mosques scattered all over Istanbul. Here are some of the most frequently visited mosques in Istanbul.
Also known as Sultan Ahmet Mosque, Blue Mosque gets its name from the beautiful blue tiles adorning its interior walls. It was constructed between the years 1609 and 1616, during the rule of the Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I. Although the mosque includes some Byzantine Christian elements in terms of architecture, it is a great example of traditional Islamic architecture and considered as the final and the finest example of the classical Ottoman period.
Today, in addition to being used as a mosque, Blue Mosque is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Sultanahmet district in Istanbul. Pope Benedict XVI also visited Blue Mosque on 30 November 2006.
Located in Ortaköy, Beşiktaş, this mosque is one of the best known symbols of the district. In Turkish it is known as Büyük Mecidiye Camii, or Grand Imperial Mosque of Sultan Abdülmecid. The mosque, which was constructed in neo-baroque style, is situated right by the Bosphorus.
Meaning “Holy Wisdom”, Hagia Sophia was constructed in 537. It was initially a Christian patriarchal basilica; however, it was converted into a mosque right after the conquest of Istanbul by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. Finally in 1935, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey and the first Turkish president, secularized the building by turning it into a museum. Hagia Sophia is now among the most outstanding examples of Byzantine architecture. It is definitely a must see!
Built under the order of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, Suleymaniye Mosque is the largest one in Istanbul. It is located in Beyazıt Hill, the third hill of Istanbul. Although it was damaged by a fire in 1660 and an earthquake in 1766, it was restored and regained most of its magnificence. Just like other imperial mosques in Istanbul, Süleymaniye mosque was also designed as complex, known as külliye in Turkish. The original complex consisted of several facilities in addition to the mosque itself, such as a hospital, a primary school, public baths, a medical college, and a public kitchen serving food to the poor. Many of these structures still survive today, and can be visited every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., except for the prayer times.
Eyüp Sultan Mosque
Eyüp Sultan Mosque is located in Eyüp, near the Golden Horn. Its construction started in 1458, just 5 years after the conquest of Istanbul. However, it was almost completely destroyed and rebuilt upon the orders of the Ottoman Sultan Selim III at the beginning of the 19th century. It is now visited by thousands of people every day, both for religious and touristic purposes.
Another mosque on the fourth of the seven hills of Istanbul, Fatih Mosque was built upon the orders of Fatih Sultan Mehmed, also known as Mehmed the Conqueror. The mosque was constructed as a complex including several structures to serve both cultural and religious needs.
Rüstem Pasha Mosque
Rüstem Pasha Mosque is a 16th century mosque located in the Fatih district. It was commissioned for Rüstem Pasha, the grand vizier of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Rüstem Pasha was also the husband of Mihrimah Sultan, the daughter of Suleiman the Magnificent and Hurrem Sultan, also known as Roxelana.
Rüstem Pasha Mosque is famous for Iznik tiles ornating the porch as well as the mihrab, minbar and walls of the mosque in approximately 80 different patterns.
Bayezid II Mosque
Located in the Beyazıt Square in Istanbul, Bayezid II Mosque was commissioned by the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II. The complex includes the tombs of Sultan Bayezid II, his daughter, and his grand vizier as well as several shops, the rents of which were collected so as to financially support the mosque.
Regarded as a great example of the Ottoman baroque style, Nuruosmaniye Mosque attracts the attention of both locals and tourists alike. It is located in Çemberlitaş, Fatih. Nuruosmaniye literally means “the light of Osman”, referring to the Ottoman Sultan Osman III. Nuruosmaniye Mosque is very close to Grand Bazaar, which adds to its popularity as a very well-known tourist attraction in Istanbul.
Another mosque commissioned by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, Şehzade Mosque is also known as the Prince’s Mosque due to the fact that Sultan Suleiman had this mosque built as a memorial for his favorite son, Prince Mehmed. Sultan Suleiman thought to enthrone Prince Mehmed since he was the eldest son of Suleiman’s only legal wife, Hürrem Sultan. Prince Mehmed’s untimely death, however, made the Sultan so upset that he personally mourned his son for forty days. After that, he had the imperial architect, the world-famous Architect Sinan to design this mosque. Architect Sinan designed the complex, a work he would later call the work of his apprenticeship. The complex is made up of five major sections: a mosque, the tomb of Rüstem Pasha, the tomb (turbe) of Prince Mehmet, a tabhane (hostel), and a madrasa (theological school).