Blue Mosque, from the Park, Istanbul, Turkey
Sultan Ahmet Mosque is an historic mosque located in Istanbul. A popular tourist site, the Blue Mosque, as it is popularly known, was constructed between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmet I. It contains Ahmet's tomb, a madrasah and a hospice. Hand-painted blue tiles adorn the mosque’s interior walls, and at night the mosque is bathed in blue as lights frame the mosque’s five main domes, six minarets and eight secondary domes. It sits next to the Hagia Sophia.
The Mosque was constructed after the Peace of Zsitvatorok and the crushing loss in the 1603–1618 war with Persia. Sultan Ahmet decided to build a large mosque in Istanbul to reassert Ottoman power. It would be the first imperial mosque for more than forty years. While his predecessors had paid for their mosques with the spoils of war, Ahmet I procured funds from the Treasury, because he had not gained remarkable victories.
It caused the anger of the ulema, the Muslim jurists.
The mosque was built on the site of the palace of the Byzantine emperors, in front of the basilica Hagia Sophia (at that time, the primary imperial mosque in Istanbul) and the hippodrome, a site of significant symbolic meaning as it dominated the city skyline from the south. Parts of the south face of the mosque rest on the foundations and vaults of the old Grand Palace.
The Mosque has five main domes, six minarets, and eight secondary domes. The design is the culmination of two centuries of Ottoman mosque development. It incorporates some Byzantine Christian elements of the neighboring Hagia Sophia with traditional Islamic architecture and is considered to be the last great mosque of the classical period. The architect, Sedefkâr Mehmed Ağa, synthesized the ideas of his master Sinan, aiming for overwhelming size, majesty and splendour.
The façade of the spacious forecourt was built in the same manner as the façade of the Süleymaniye Mosque, except for the addition of the turrets on the corner domes. The court is about as large as the mosque itself and is surrounded by a continuous vaulted arcade (revak). It has ablution facilities on both sides. The central hexagonal fountain is small relative to the courtyard. The monumental but narrow gateway to the courtyard stands out architecturally from the arcade.
A heavy iron chain hangs in the upper part of the court entrance on the western side. Only the sultan was allowed to enter the court of the mosque on horseback. The chain was put there, so that the sultan had to lower his head every single time he entered the court to avoid being hit. This was a symbolic gesture, to ensure the humility of the ruler in the face of the divine.
The Sultan Ahmet Mosque is one of the three mosques in Turkey that has six minarets (the other two being the modern Sabancı Mosque in Adana and the Hz. Mikdat Mosque in Mersin). According to folklore, an architect misheard the Sultan's request for "altın minareler" (gold minarets) as "altı minare" (six minarets), at the time a unique feature of the mosque of the Ka'aba in Mecca. When criticized for his presumption, the Sultan then ordered a seventh minaret to be built at the Mecca mosque.