Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque)

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque at night
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque at night

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Built to rival the impressive Hagia Sophia, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque is not only of a remarkable scale, but also beautifully intricate in its detail both internally and externally. The mosque also features six minarets, something quite unique in traditional mosque architecture, and is one of the most significant mosques of the classical period of Ottoman architecture.

Pope Benedict XVI visited the mosque in 2006 – only the second papal visit to a Muslim place of worship.


About the Sultan Ahmed Mosque

Situated directly opposite the monumental Hagia Sophia, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque or Blue Mosque is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful mosques in the city of Istanbul. We visited both during the day and in the evening – the mosque is visually spectacular and a rather special place at both times. While the sheer scale of the building alone would make a visit worthwhile, the architecture is also unique in many respects and the historical context that led to the construction of the mosque is fascinating.

Completed in 1616 following seven years of construction, the creation of the mosque was at the direction of Sultan Ahmed I. The mosque is officially named after this sultan but is more widely known as the Blue Mosque, a name given as a result of the blue mosaics covering the interior walls of the mosque. Constructed on a historically significant site – that of the former palace of the Byzantine emperors – the Sultan Ahmed Mosque was the first imperial mosque constructed in Istanbul for 40 years. At a time when the might of the Ottoman Empire was beginning to stagnate, and later to decline in the 1700s, the mosque could be viewed as something of a vanity project for the young sultan (he died at 27) whose unsuccessful wars are a stark contrast to the splendour and might of the mosque he commissioned.

Interior of the Blue Mosque.
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque was the first imperial mosque constructed in Istanbul for 40 years and could be viewed as something of a vanity project for the young sultan.

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque was designed by Sedefkar Mehmed Agha, a former apprentice of Mimar Sinan who is considered the greatest architect of the classical period of Ottoman architecture. Featuring a large forecourt enclosed by a revak or vaulted colonnade, a small domed fountain, and what could probably be best described as a cascade of domes, similar to those of the Süleymaniye Mosque designed by Sinan; the most notable feature of the mosques is the six minarets. Traditionally mosques would have one, two, or four minarets – normally dependant on the size of the mosque. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque was the first outside Mecca, where the Masjid al-Haram or Grand Mosque has six, to feature six minarets. This caused some contention, only resolved when a seventh minaret was added to the Masjid al-Haram.

Entering the mosque itself, the architecture of the prayer hall is breathtaking. Roughly the same size as the entrance court, the most notable feature architecturally is the layering of vaults that emerges as a result of the square plan. Square plans themselves are not uncommon in the design of mosques, but the sheer scale and complexity, coupled with the uniformity of ornamentation makes the three-dimensional expression of the internal space quite striking. Large windows, both in the walls and above, bring light in to the building which reflects off the 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles decorating the prayer hall, creating a remarkably bright space. Much of the calligraphy in the mosque was done by Seyyid Kasim Gubari, considered one of the greatest calligraphers of the day. The Qibla wall is marked by a sculpted marble mihrab, or niche, the change of material inferring an additional importance.

Sultan Ahmed I died just a year after the completion of his mosque. He is buried in a mausoleum outside the walls of the mosque.


Exterior of the Blue Mosque.
The Blue Mosque is characterised by a ‘cascade’ of domes and the its six minarets.

Visiting Details: Sultan Ahmed Mosque

It is free to visit the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, if you enjoy your visit please consider making a donation to support the upkeep of the mosque. Shoes must be removed when visiting the mosque, plastic bags are provided for your shoes as you enter the mosque.

Woman should dress appropriately and cover their hair.

The mosque shuts for about 90 minutes during prayer times so plan ahead.