The Blue Mosque (aka the Sultanahmet Mosque) is a defining part of Istanbul. It was built in the 17th century by Sultan Ahmed I to ease the pain of a string of military defeats in Persia. Whereas past imperial mosques were paid for with the spoils of war, the Blue Mosque was built with money borrowed from the treasury. Construction began in 1606 and was completed in 1616.
The architect was Sedefhar Mehmet Ağa, the protege of Mimar Sinan, who was responsible for the Süleymaniye Mosque. The basic design is based on that of the Süleymaniye Mosque, which in turn was based on Hagia Sophia. The main dome is bolstered by a series of half domes. The rest of the facade is an intricate series of smaller, cascading domes. The six minarets are the most in Turkey.
The interior is as beautiful as the exterior. The mosque is named for the blue paint on the ceiling, which creates an almost otherworldy effect. There are more than 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles in a variety of wonderful patterns. The lighting is aided by more than 200 stained glass windows and a massive chandelier. There's also some excellent marble work.
The Blue Mosque is a signature landmark of Istanbul and it is hard to imagine a visit to the city without a trip here. It's located in the heart of Sultanahmet, just across the street from the old Hippodrome and Hagia Sophia.
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Opening Times: Open daily.