The Sultanahmet district, which houses the most important historical buildings of Istanbul, takes its name from this mosque built by the Sultan Ahmed. The Blue Mosque, which is adjacent to Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace, hosts millions of visitors every year. In this article, I will share information about the history, architecture and visiting hours of the Blue Mosque.
History of The Blue Mosque
Built between 1609 and 1616, the mosque is one of the most beautiful works of classical architecture of the Ottoman Empire. It was built by Sedefkar Mehmed Aga, a student of Mimar Sinan, the most important architect in Ottoman history.
The original name of the mosque is the Sultanahmet Mosque. However, because the most distinctive color in the interior decoration is blue, it is known as the Blue Mosque in the world. Iznik tiles decorating the mosque were produced in the period when the Ottoman art of pottery reached its peak.
Short History of Istanbul’s Blue Mosque
Blue Mosque Architecture
Sedefkar Mehmed Aga supported the central dome of the Blue Mosque with four half domes and many quarter domes. The elegance of these domes gives an exquisite look from the outside. Domes descending from the central dome towards the walls are very aesthetic.
Sedefkar Mehmed Aga, who grew up next to Mimar Sinan, the most famous architect in Ottoman history, took the art of his teacher as an example. While building the Blue Mosque, he was inspired by the Sehzade Mosque (also known as Prince Mosque), one of Sinan‘s works and added his own interpretation on it.
The most striking architectural feature of the Blue Mosque is the giant columns inside the mosque. These columns are placed to support the central dome is called Elephant Legs. To make these giant columns look beautiful to the eye, they are decorated with marbles and pencil works. Decorations starting from the top of the columns; it extends to the dome through arches and gives a sense of integrity.
The interior of the mosque has been extended to the sides and gained depth thanks to the half and quarter domes. The Blue Mosque is not the largest Ottoman mosque in Istanbul. It is smaller than the Suleymaniye Mosque built by Mimar Sinan. However, it’s the most visited mosque due to its central location.
Blue Mosque Dome and Decorations
Blue Mosque Opening and Closing Hours
The Blue Mosque is closed to tourists during prayer times. Therefore, when you visit the mosque, you should pay attention to the opening and closing hours. It usually shuts down one hour before the call to prayer and reopens half an hour after the prayer. You can check the current praying times from the internet and set your visit time with this account.
How to Check Praying Times of the Blue Mosque?
If you type “Istanbul Ezan Saatleri” on the Google, you can see current praying times for Istanbul. When you look at the image below, you will see how the prayer times are displayed on the website. For example “Öğle” means noon. The mosque will close about an hour before the prayer time reported here (around 12:00) . Approximately half an hour after the time of the call to prayer will be opened again. (around 13:30).
This is the link to check current praying hours for Istanbul.
Please also note that Blue Mosque will be closed to touristic visit at 17:00. In addition, on Fridays, the Blue Mosque is closed until 14:30 due to Friday Prayer.
Website of the Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs
Visiting the Blue Mosque of Istanbul
When visiting the Blue Mosque, I recommend you to come by the Hippodrome where there are obelisks. This way, you can pass through the monumental gate opening to the courtyard of the mosque and take a picture of the domes in the best way. When you leave the mosque, you can exit the north gate facing Hagia Sophia. So you can see the magnificent view of Hagia Sophia from the door of the Blue Mosque.
Known as Sultanahmet Mosque in Turkey
Six Minarets of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque
The Blue Mosque has 6 minarets unlike other Ottoman mosques in Istanbul. The number of minarets, usually 2 or 4, was increased to six here. Sultan Ahmed I wanted to build a structure that could compete with Hagia Sophia, which is actually a church, and increased the grandeur of the Blue Mosque.
What to See around the Mosque
The Blue Mosque is very close to the most visited Istanbul museums. After visiting the Blue Mosque, you can visit the adjacent Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum. This museum, which houses Islamic works from the caliphate period, will surely interest you. There are also artifacts from the Seljuk Turks and the Ottoman Empire.
Also close to the mosque is the Islamic Science and Technology Museum. The museum, which is located in Gulhane Park, describes the contributions of Islamic scholars to science throughout history. Of course, if you have time, it is recommended to visit the two most visited museums in Istanbul, such as Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sophia.
Istanbul Archaeological Museum and The Great Palace Mosaic Museum are also within walking distance from the Blue Mosque. In addition, Arasta Bazaar, one of Istanbul’s most popular historical bazaars, is right next to the Blue Mosque.
Blue Mosque History and Hours by Serhat Engul