The Blue Mosque of Istanbul

The Blue Mosque, which is officially called the Sultanahmet Camii (the Sultan Ahmet Mosque), is perhaps the most famous site in Istanbul, Turkey, and most certainly one of its most spectacular postcard views. It towers above the old city, and sits overlooking the Sea of Marmara and the Bosphorous Straight.

The mosque is named after Sultan Ahmet I who commissioned its construction in 1609. Designed by Mehmet Aga, it took seven years to complete. It consists of a number of domes, surrounded by six minarets. There is one gigantic central dome, which is a whole 33 meters wide (100 feet), and is surrounded by a large number of smaller domes. They all sit atop four huge pillars which each measure 4.5 meters (15 feet) thick. These foundational pillars are referred to as the “elephant’s foot” pillars.

The interior of the building is spectacular, with the inside of all the domes and arches are covered in beautiful Islamic calligraphy. In addition to that, the interior walls are covered with over 20,000 blue iznik tiles. Many people have wondered why a light gray mosque is called the “Blue Mosque”, but the name actually derives from the color of these tiles. The interior is also enclosed by 260 stained glass windows, and when sunlight
shines through the colored light upon the blue tiles is a beautiful site. The original stained glass windows were, however, destroyed in an Earthquake, so these are replacements.

The Blue Mosque caused some controversy when it was first built. At that time the only mosque in the world with six minarets was in the holy city of Mecca, and by outshining Mecca Sultan Ahmet had stepped on some toes. He creatively solved the problem by having a seventh minaret added to the mosque in Mecca, restoring its supremacy and calming religious fervor.

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