All About Turkey

Major mosques of Istanbul

Sultanahmet (The Blue Mosque)

Blue MosqueThis 17th century mosque, facing the Haghia Sophia, is famous for its beautiful blue tile work ornamenting its interior walls. Its surrounding six slim minarets distinguish it from other mosques which normally have two or four minarets. The mosque was built in seven years between 1609-1616 by the architect Mehmet Aga with the order of Sultan Ahmed I and became the most important mosque of the city, right in the Sultanahmet square.

Suleymaniye (the Magnificent)

The Mosque of Suleyman the Magnificent This outstanding piece of architecture was built in the 16th century by the famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan for Sultan Süleyman the Magnificient. Standing on a hilltop of the ancient city over the Golden Horn, it contributes gracefully to the city's skyline. The tombs of the Sultan, his wife Hürrem and Mimar Sinan are found within its compounds. It is the largest mosque of Istanbul with four minarets.

The Suleymaniye mosque was closed for restorations since 2008, and it's re-opened to public in November 2010.

Eyup

The first mosque built after the conquest of Istanbul, the great Mosque of Eyüp lies outside the city walls in Eyüp district, near the Golden Horn, at the supposed place where Eyüp (Eyyub el Ensari), the standard bearer of the Prophet Muhammed, died in the Islamic assault on Constantinople (Istanbul) in 670. Today it's considered as the second place of pilgrimage for Muslims after Mecca.

Fatih (the Conqueror)

Built over the ruins of the Church of Apostles, Fatih Mosque was constructed between 1463 and 1470 and bears the name of the Ottoman conquerer of Istanbul, Fatih Sultan Mehmet. The mosque is the site of his mausoleum. Its vast size and its great complex of religious buildings, including medreses (theological school), hospices, baths, a hospital and a library, make it well worth a visit.

Yeni Cami (New Mosque)

Yeni MosqueBeautiful 17th century mosque situated in Eminönü district near the Egyptian Spice Bazaar next to the Golden Horn. The doves flocking its compounds in large numbers provide a sight worth seeing. The interior of the mosque have great examples of Ottoman tile work.

Ortaköy mosque

Ortakoy Mosque on the BosphorusThe mosque is located on the shores of the Bosphorus in Ortaköy district. It was built in 1853 by the royal architect Nikogos Balyan, during the reign of Sultan Abdulmecid, and named as Büyük Mecidiye mosque. The mosque is designed in Baroque style and has a fine location. It is composed of intimate rooms and a private area for the sultans. The wide and tall windows were designed to let in light from all around the Bosphorus. It has two minarets each with a single gallery that are be reached by a flight of stairs. The walls are made of white stone. The walls of the mosque's only dome were decorated with pink mosaics. Its recess in the wall of the kiblah was made of marble and decorated with mosaic, and the mihrab (pulpit) where the preacher stands was made with porphyry covered marble.

Beyazit complex

The complex, which is scattered throughout Beyazit Square, was built by Sultan Bayezid II and completed in the years 1500-1505. It was originally thought to have been designed by Mimar Sinan Hayreddin or Mimar Kemaleddin but later research suggests the architect may been Yakubsah Bin Sultan.

The complex is composed of a mosque, a kitchen, a primary school, a hospital, a medrese, a hamam, a soup kitchen for the poor and a caravanserai. It differs from the Fatih complex before it in that it was not built symmetrically but in a seemingly random style.

Beyazit Mosque is at the center of the complex. Its main dome is 16.78 meters in diameter and is supported by four pillars. An oddity is that one of the minarets is 79 meters from the other and is contiguous with the hospital. The stone and wood craftsmanship and stained glass are artistic  masterpieces. The courtyard paving materials and pillars used for the reservoir for ablutions were reclaimed from Byzantine ruins and re-used. These pillars in particular demonstrate the quality of Byzantine workmanship. The soup kitchen and Caravanserai are to the left of the mosque and are used today by the Beyazit State Library. The medresse far to the right of the mosque is used as a museum by the Turkish Foundation of Calligraphy. The hamam is some distance from the medresse on Ordu Street next to the Department of Literature. Tombs are found on the Kiblah [Mecca] side of the mosque. Sultan Bayezid II, his daughter Selçuk Hatun and the architect of Tanzimat Fermani, Mustafa Resit Pasa, are buried here.

Dolmabahce mosque

Dolmabahce Mosque on the BosphorusThe Dolmabahçe Mosque is located on the Bosphorus in the southern part of Dolmabahce Palace. Construction of the mosque began at the behest of Sultan Abdülmecid's mother, Bezmialem Valide Sultan, but when she died, Sultan Abdülmecid took over. It was completed in 1855, and the architect was Karabet Balyan. It is one of the highly decorated Baroque-style mosques. Being part of the palace complex, the mosque contains a front section in which the sovereign and state officials could worship and a two-storey section for the sovereign suitable for the public procession of the Sultan to the mosque on Fridays. The circular arrangement of the windows, which resembles a peacock's tail, is an unusual sight relatively unknown among the architects of mosques.

The two minarets both have a gallery. The inner door is decorated in a mixture of the Baroque and Empire styles. A valuable chandelier hangs from the alcove. The niche (mihrap) and pulpit (minber) of the mosque are made of porphyry marble.

Zeyrek mosque

Zeyrek MosqueDuring the 12th century, the Byzantine Empress Irene and Emperor John II Kommenos commissioned the Pantocrator, a three-church monastic complex, to serve as the dynastic mausoleum for themselves and later Byzantine emperors. In the 14th and 15th centuries, Palaeiologan emperors were also buried in the multi-domed structure in the heart of what is now the old city of Istanbul.

After the Ottoman conquest in 1453, the buildings were converted to a Medresse (Koranic school) and subsequently to a mosque. One part of the Zeyrek Camii is still used for Muslim worship. But the building is situated in a poor neighborhood of immigrants who have little historical and cultural attachment to it. The impressive structure has been allowed to deteriorate in the past. Because the structure remains relatively stable, the most immediate actions required are to secure it from further damage from the weather. Restoration work is on its way but funding is still needed to complete re-roofing, replace all the windows, repair damaged walls, and consolidate interior surfaces.

Zeyrek Mosque is selected as 100 most endangered sites of the world by World Monuments Fund.

Other mosques

Other interesting mosques in the city are: Nuruosmaniye, Mihrimah, Arap, Atik Ali Pasa, Beylerbeyi, Hirka-i Serif, Kalenderhane, Kilic Ali Pasa, Laleli, Mahmud Pasa, Mihrimah Sultan, Nusretiye, Rüstem Pasa,  Sokullu Pasa, Sultan Selim, Sehzade, Valide etc. For more information please contact to Mr. Burak Sansal.

All About Turkey © Burak Sansal 1996–2014, a certified professional tour guide in Turkey. Contact Burak at buraksan@superonline.com for all kinds of regular and/or private travel services throughout the country.