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Saturday, 6-Aug-2005 00:00 Email | Share | Bookmark
Blue Mosque

What's so blue about the Blue Mosque? Not much.

Istanbul's imperial Mosque of Sultan Ahmet I (Sultan Ahmet Camii) is called the Blue Mosque because of its interior tiles, mostly on the upper level and difficult to see unless you're right up there with them.

Forget the blue tiles! The mosque (built 1603-17) is the masterwork of Ottoman architect Sedefkâr Mehmet Aga. It's built on the site of the Great Palace of Byzantium, on the southeastern side of the Hippodrome.

With its six minarets and a great cascade of domes, the mosque is a worthy sibling to Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia) just a few minutes' stroll to the north.

The Blue Mosque has fascinating secrets revealed in my travel memoir, Bright Sun, Strong Tea, and on the Magic of the Blue Mosque page.

This is one of Istanbul's premier sights, and you're welcome to visit at most times of day, for free (donations gratefully received).

But it's also a working mosque, so it's closed to non-worshippers for a half hour or so during the five daily prayers, and may be closed for a longer time midday on Friday, the Muslim holy day.

The architect of Istanbul's Blue Mosque, Sedefkâr Mehmet Aga, paid tribute to his colleagues Anthemius of Tralles and Isidorus of Miletus, architects of neighboring Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia), who designed their masterwork a thousand years before Mehmet Aga was born.

As you proceed deep into Ayasofya, the domes seem to billow upward into space, creating their own "heavens." In the Blue Mosque, Mehmet Aga has duplicated the effect on the exterior of the building: as you approach from the front and ascend the stairs toward the courtyard, the domes billow upward until, entering the courtyard, the full grandeur of the exterior is revealed.

Sultanahmet's two great timeless monuments, side by side....

The images below allow you to see some of the effect, but there's nothing like being right there. When you go, be sure to enter the Blue Mosque's enclosure from the west (Hippodrome) side. Walk slowly, looking ahead, and watch the drama of the domes--and the architect's genius--being revealed for you.

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