About The Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque was the ambitious creation of a young sultan and would become one of Istanbul’s most iconic sites.
History of the Blue Mosque
Begun in 1606, the Blue Mosque is actually called the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii) after the ruler who commissioned it, Sultan Ahmet I. Then not yet twenty years of age, Ahmet I was determined to build a mosque to rival the Hagia Sofia. He heavily involved himself in the construction of the Blue Mosque, to the extent that he actually executed the first architect on the job and is even said to have participated in the build itself.
When it was finally completed in 1616, the Blue Mosque was indeed a worthy neighbour of the Hagia Sofia and showed itself to be a strong marker of Ottoman power and prestige. With its hierarchy of increasingly large domes, this vast complex helped define the city’s skyline and, with its six minarets, it caused an immediate stir – not least because the only other mosque with this number at the time was the Kaaba in Mecca. The Blue Mosque also met with the wrath of the ulama (Muslim jurists) because it was paid for from the public treasury rather than the sultan’s war booty.
The interior of the Blue Mosque is just as grand and ornate. Furthermore, a journey into the interior of the Blue Mosque reveals the reason behind its alternate name – the swathes of blue tiles which adorn its walls.
Ahmet I would live to see his grand design come to be, but only just. He died just a year after the Blue Mosque was opened and is now buried nearby with his family.
In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI made waves by visiting the Blue Mosque – only the second papal visit in history to a Muslim place of worship.
The Blue Mosque today
The Blue Mosque remains an extremely busy place of worship and admission is controlled in order to allow worshippers their chance to visit – as a result it’s closed during the five daily prayer times. Women need to wear a headscarf to enter – you’ll be loaned one if you don’t have your own.
Entry is free and it’s well worth spending some time exploring the intricately decorated mosque with its thousands of Iznik tiles and curvy exterior.
Getting to the Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque is in Sultanahmet in the centre of Istanbul – walking distance from the Grand Bazaar, Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace. It’s hard to miss the two domes with 12 minarets between them. The nearest tram stop is Sultanahmet, which is a couple of minutes walk away.