The Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Mosque)

Sultan Ahmed mosque in Istanbul
The Sultan Ahmed mosque in Istanbul

The Blue Mosque or the Sultan Ahmet Mosque is considered by many to be the greatest feat of Ottoman architecture. In what proved to be a vital departure from the past, the Mosque was built in the aftermath of Ottoman failures in wars against the Persians and the Austrians. Construction started in 1609 CE and finished in 1617 CE.

  • It is popularly referred to as the ‘Blue Mosque’ – this is due to the more than 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles with over 50 separate designs with marvellous green, turquoise and blue hues. The motifs of many tiles include fruits, roses and trees – perhaps in an attempt to evoke images of a plentiful paradise.
Mehrab and mimbar of the Blue Mosque
Mehrab and mimbar of the Blue Mosque
  • The chief architect was Sedefekar Mehmet Agha who aimed for tremendous size, splendour and magnificence as an ode to his master Mimar Sinan, the greatest Ottoman architect.
  • To highlight the civilisational continuity in Istanbul, some of the Mosque is built over what would have been the Byzantine Great Palace. Some parts of the Hippodrome also had to be removed. It was likely built opposite the Hagia Sophia on purpose – as a way to emphasise the supremacy of Islamic civilisation over Christendom.  
  • The Mosque was built with six minarets – this apparently caused some controversy since the Mosque of Makkah also had the same amount so Sultan Ahmet I (who it is named after) decided to build an extra one there.
  • An iron chain hangs in the court entrance on the western side. Since only the Sultan was allowed to ride in on horseback and he would have to lower his head to not get hit, it was a symbolic gesture ensuring the humility of the ruler before Allah.
  • Despite the grandeur of the Mosque, its construction was a bad omen for the Ottoman Empire. Traditionally, massive architectural projects would only be commissioned in the aftermath of successful wars. But the Blue Mosque was the first major building project funded by the state treasury and not war booty.  Many historians see this as a sign of the Ottoman Empire entering a period of stagnation that was characterised by complacency.
  • Video by Hikma History showing an overview of the history of the mosque:

Article contributed by Hikma History

Reference: Hikma History