“A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight.” This majestic mosque of Istanbul, definitely stands tall in the sands of time. The beauty, grandeur and brilliance that are associated with this great monument make it everlasting.
The Sultan Ahmed or Sultan Ahmet mosque is considered to be one of the finest examples of the standards of the majestic Turkish architecture. It was built by Mehmet Aga, the student of the greatest Turkish Architect known to the world, Sinan. The plan of this mosque was actually a plan used by Sinan on a smaller scale previously which Aga adapted for the Sultan Ahmet Mosque orthe Blue mosque. The name, Blue Mosque comes from the blue tiles that adorn the interiors of this wonderful mosque. This place is believed to be one of the most beautiful places of worship in the world. With its magnificence, this mosque attracts a large number of visitors to Istanbul. The Sultan Ahmet mosque is situated right opposite to the World famous Hagia Sophia which is known for its long history and architectural styles. These two almost compete against each other.
The construction of this mosque was started by Sultan Ahmet I as a rival to the Hagia Sophia. Just as all the other mosques, this mosque also houses the tomb of its founder. It took seven long years to complete the construction of the mosque which was started in 1609. Sultan Ahmed did not live long enough to enjoy the marvel. He passed away about a year after the construction was completed. This is one of the two mosques in turkey that have six minarets. each minaret was pencil shaped and had two to three balconies. Legends say that Sultan Ahmet actually wanted to build a minaret of gold which was ‘altin’ in turkish, it is said that Aga heard it as Alti which meant six an built this. When it was completed, Aga was scared that he might get killed when the Sultan sad that he loved minarets too. It was a time in the world when a mosque with six minarets was a rare sighted scene. The mosque is one of the most important landmarks of Istanbul. It has a small market building to its east, a mausoleum which is single domed and is of Sultan Ahmet. The medrese or the religious school building is to the north where the famous Hagia Sophia is situated.
The mosque has more than one entrance, the main one being the one from the Hippodrome side which is grand and shows the domes rising one above the other. The mosque also comprises of two courtyards where, the outer one is leveled. The courtyard which is on the inside and the edifice are elevated. The interiors of the mosque and decorated with intricate and exquisite designs to aptly complement the grandeur of the exterior. The domes are risen by four long columns which support pointed, broad arches.
The interior walls are decorated with special Iznik tiles. The space accounted for by the domes is about 23.5 meters in diameter and 43 meters in height. The interiors of the domes and beautified with sensational paintwork. Just as all the other mosques, the floor is covered with carpets. The interiors have about 260 windows that illuminate the holy place.
The minarets of this mosque and the domes of this mosque are covered with lead. The tops of all the minarets are made of gold plated copper which add to aesthetic aspect. Highly skilled craftsmen are employed to assure the structures maintain their charm. The minarets are classic examples of the turkish style of architecture. The balconies of the minarets and reached by spiral staircases on the inside. The announcement of prayer timings is done from these balconies.
The religion of islam requires of the followers to pray five times a day. The announcements made from the minarets tell the believers that its time to pray. When they hear the call, they wash themselves and sit to pray. The main prayers on holidays, or important days are performed at the mosque where as the other days, the believers can perform the prayers anywhere. In the prayers performed in the mosque, the imam is the one who takes the lead by chanting verses from the koran. They maintain separate areas for both men and women. When it comes to the central area, only men pray there whereas the women occupy the places near the galleries.
The monument has been maintained very well by the turkish government. Over the years, this monument has become one of the symbols that represents Istanbul and the country itself. Every evening, when the sun sets, floodlights are used to exhibit the class of this wondrous monument. You are not allowed to wear shoes and walk into the mosque, the ladies are supposed to use a shawl to cover the hair on their head and there is not entry fee for the mosque. This place is known for its well-maintained boundaries and disciplines. Nevertheless, visitors could always donate in the name of the mosque which i used for the development and to cater the needs of this mega structure.