The Jewel of the Sultan’s Eye

The Blue Mosque at night

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque rises high above the surrounding city of modern day Istanbul. With its six minarets (tall slender towers) dominating the skyline. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is also referred to as the Blue Mosque.

It was completed in 1616, its construction was ordered by Sultan Ahmed I in 1609. He was the 14th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Ahmed I was only 13 years old when he acquired the throne.

Sultan Ahmed I

HISTORY OF THE AREA

Ahmed I ordered the Blue Mosque to be built directly across from the Hagia Sophia. Also known as the Eye of Sophia. The Hagia Sophia built in 537 A.D. was one of the largest buildings of assembly on the planet at that time.

The Hagia Sophia at night

The Hagia Sophia was built as one of the focal points of the ancient Byzantine city of Constantinople. Which became the new Capital City of Rome in 324 A.D.

The Hagia Sophia was originally a Roman Christian Church, until Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1453. At which point in history it was converted into a mosque.

This particular mosque was located right across from the ancient Hippodrome of Constantinople. The Hippodrome was another famous place for ancient spectators to gather & watch a horse, or chariot race.

View of the Walled Obelisk, which used to be covered in bronze plates (front) & the Obelisk of Theodosius (Rear) from the center of the Hippodrome

The obelisks pictured above were located in the center of the ancient Roman Hippodrome racing circuit. The obelisk of Theodosius was originally ordered to be built by the Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose III.

The obelisk was built around 1480 B.C. It originally stood at the Temple of Karnak in Egypt. It was later moved from Luxor to the city of Alexandria in Egypt by a Roman Emperor celebrating the 20th year of his rule.

The Obelisk of Theodosius was ordered to be cut into pieces & brought to Ancient Constantinople & erected in the center of the Hippodrome by the Roman Emperor Theodosius I. The namesake of the obelisk.

The Obelisk of Theodosius, with the minarets of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque visible in the background at night.

With all of these awe inspiring architectural wonders around him. Sultan Ahmed I request, that the Blue Mosque be built even more beautifully then the Hagia Sophia, & the Hippodrome takes on a whole new meaning.

At a time when morale was low across his country, after losing a war to Persia. In an effort to restore the pride of his people. Sultan Ahmed felt they needed a great symbol to represent the power of the Ottoman Empire.

WHY IS IT CALLED THE BLUE MOSQUE?

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque was this symbol. It gets it’s nickname the “Blue Mosque” from the many tiles which line its interior, each individually hand painted to decorate the inside of the mosque.

Inside of the Blue Mosque

Another part of its name is because of the blueish hue accent lighting that highlights the curvy architecture of the building during the night.

A close up of 2 of the 6 Minarets accentuated in blue light.

THE LEGEND

Another interesting thing about the Blue Mosque, is that it has six minarets. Where as most mosques only have 2 to 4 minarets.

According to legend this was an epic miscommunication between Sultan Ahmed I & his construction crew. Wanting to build a building even greater in architecture then the Hagia Sophia is no easy task.

One of the ways Sultan Ahmed I was going to set his mosque apart, was by ordering the Minarets to be Golden. He made this request in the Turkish language.

  • Altin Minareler – meaning Gold Minarets

On the other hand his construction crew, according to legend heard:

  • Alti Minareler – meaning Six Minarets

This miscommunication, drew much criticism for the Sultan. The reason being only 1 other mosque in all the land had 6 minarets at that time. It is considered the most holy of all the mosques, the Masjid al-Haram, also known as the Great Mosque of Mecca.

The Great Mosque is located at Mecca in Saudi Arabia & surrounds the Kaaba. Mecca is the holiest site of Islam, & also the direction in which all Muslims must face when they pray. Thus the reason behind the anger of the people towards the Blue Mosque also having 6 minarets.

According to legend, to appease his people, Sultan Ahmed I ordered the construction of the Seventh Minaret at the Great Mosque of Mecca, which is the eighth largest building in the world.

By ordering the construction of Mecca’s Seventh Minaret, the Sultan once again bestowed his respect upon the most holy site, & calmed the anger of his people.

After the completion of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. Sultan Ahmed I only lived 1 year longer. He died at the age of 27 due to complications from the Typhus Fever. He was about the age of 20 when ordered the building of the Blue Mosque to begin.

ISTANBUL

My partner & I stopped here on an extended layover to see the many histories the City of Istanbul has to offer. We rented a car & drove to see the Hippodrome of Constantinople, the Hagia Sophia, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the Bosporus Bridge, & drive the Avrasya Tunnel.

Istanbul is unique, in that it’s the only major city in the world to sit on two separate Continents. When your in Western Istanbul, your on the continent of Europe. When your in Eastern Istanbul, on the other side of the Bosphorus Strait. You are on the continent of Asia.

Of course we visited both sides of the continental city . The buildings in this article, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, & the Hagia Sophia are all on the European side of Istanbul. I will go into more details about my trip to Istanbul in a later article.

My Partner & I taking a selfie with the Hagia Sophia
My partner & I taking a selfie with the Sultan Ahmed Mosque.
Picture of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque) with all 6 Minarets & the top of the Obelisk of Theodosius (Bottom Right) in the day time

I hope you enjoyed our photos (if you couldn’t tell, we visited at night 🤣). This was a brief history of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. Next time your passing through Istanbul, stop & visit the many amazing pieces of history this unique city has to offer.

The Roving Gypsy

Thanks for reading my Blog. I hope you enjoyed our adventure as much as we did. Like what you read, & want more content, or have suggestions? Comment, Follow, Share, Like & let me know.

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