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.
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.
The history, architecture, opening hours and dress code of the Blue Mosque are among the things that tourists are most curious about. In this article, you can find all this information about Blue Mosque, the most visited mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.
History of The Blue Mosque
The history of the Blue Mosque goes back 400 years. 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 Agha, a student of Mimar Sinan, the most important architect in Ottoman history.
The Blue Mosque stands out as one of the last representatives of classical Ottoman architecture. Built in the 1600s, the mosque bears the traces of traditional Turkish-Ottoman architecture. This architectural style, which started in Bursa, the first capital in Ottoman history, and matured in Edirne, reached its peak after the conquest of Istanbul.
Especially in the period of Mimar Sinan, we see that the classical period architecture of the Ottoman Empire reached its peak. The Blue Mosque was built while the influence of Mimar Sinan’s architectural style was still continuing. For this reason, it has similarities with the Sehzade Mosque (aka Prince Mosque), one of the works of Mimar Sinan.
In the 1700s, we see the effects of Westernization in Ottoman architecture. Influenced by the Neo-Classical and Baroque movements in Europe, the Ottomans started to build European style palaces and mosques. This process started with Nuruosmaniye Mosque and accelerated with Dolmabahce and Ortakoy Mosques in the 1800s.
Blue Mosque Architecture
The architecture of the Blue Mosque was designed by the palace architect Sedefkar Mehmed Agha. Mehmed Agha 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.
Interior of the Blue Mosque
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. In order to make these giant columns look beautiful to the eye, they are covered with marbles and decorated with pencil works. Decoration starts from the top of the columns and extends to the dome through arches and gives a sense of integrity.
The interior of the Blue mosque was extended to the sides and gained depth thanks to the half and quarter domes. Despite all this majesty, 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 Opening Hours
The Blue Mosque opening hours are between 09:00 in the morning and 5:00 in the evening. However, the mosque is closed to touristic visits during prayer times. 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.
The best time to visit the Blue Mosque is from 9:00 am to 12:00. The mosque will be open continuously for 3 hours between these hours. Groups that start their tour in the morning can usually form long queues at the entrance of the mosque between 09:00 and 10:00. If you want to avoid the crowd, you can make your plan accordingly.
How to Check Praying Times of the Mosques?
If you type “Istanbul Ezan Saatleri” on the Google, you can check the current praying times of the mosques in Istanbul. When you look at the image below, you will see how the prayer times are displayed on the official website. For example “Öğle” means noon. The mosques will close about an hour before the prayer time reported here.
Since the prayer time is 13:00, the closing time I have mentioned will be around 12:00. Approximately half an hour after the time of the call to prayer will be opened again. (around 13:30). In other words, the mosque will be closed for a total of 1.5 hours during each prayer period.
Website of the Directorate of Religious Affairs
You can check the current prayer times from this link that goes to the official page of the Turkish Religious Affairs Directorate. You will see a chart like the image above. Please also note that Blue Mosque will be closed completely to touristic visit at 17:00.
Mosque is Closed during Friday Prayers
If you are going to visit the Blue Mosque on Friday, you should pay special attention to the visiting hours. Because the mosque will be closed for half a day due to the Friday prayer.
On Fridays, the mosque is cleaned in the morning and prepared for mass prayer. The mosque opens at 14:30 after the congregational prayer, which would start at noon. However, it is not possible to visit the mosque in the morning as in normal days.
Dress Code of the Blue Mosque
The dress code of Blue Mosque requires female visitors to cover their heads. In addition, women or men wearing shorts will be asked to cover their legs. I suggest you do not wear long-sleeved tops or pants on summer days just because you will visit the mosque. Because there are practical ways to apply these rules.
Women can borrow scarves and skirts at the entrance of the mosque. Likewise, men wearing shorts are given a piece of cloth to wrap around their waist. You can return them to the kiosk after use and walk around in your summer clothes for the rest of your day.
Monumental Gate of the Mosque
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.
Six Minarets of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (aka Blue Mosque) has six 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 was originally a church, and increased the grandeur of the Blue Mosque.
Places to See around the Mosque
The Blue Mosque is very close to the most visited museums of Istanbul. 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