Thursday's Child: Blue Mosque, Istanbul

Thursday, January 26, 2012

How do you outdo the Hagia Sophia?

Last week I wrote about this stunning building in Istanbul, which began its life as a church, was converted to a mosque, and was finally changed into a museum.  But in the 17th century, Sultan Ahmet I was determined to build a mosque that was even more beautiful than the Hagia Sophia.  And in a further show of fearlessness, he had it built right next door.

Maybe it was his youth that gave him the fortitude to try.  He was only 19 years old when he commissioned the building in 1609.  The first architect was executed for a lack of vision, which provided plenty of incentive for his successor.  One of the most stunning features of the mosque is the presence of six minarets, or towers, that grace the exterior of the building.  Generally, mosques have four or fewer minarets, and it caused some consternation in Mecca, where the holy mosque also had six.  To avoid political problems, the sultan sent his architect to Mecca to build that mosque a seventh tower.

The Sultanahmet Mosque (or the Blue Mosque, as it’s commonly known) is still a functioning mosque, and it closes five times a day for prayer.  We planned our visit for mid-morning when it was open to the public.  When we arrived, we all removed our shoes, and the girls and I covered our heads with scarves as a sign of respect.  The interior was incredibly light and airy, probably because of the 260 windows that let in so much light.  The intricate tile work was breathtaking: over 20,000 tiles line the walls and ceilings. 

Which place of worship is more beautiful?  I couldn’t choose a favourite, but I will say this: Istanbul is far richer for being home to both of them.


Thanks to Sacred Destinations, which helped to fill in some of the details I had forgotten.


38 comments:

Mary Anne MacCrone said...

Beth, regardless of whether you need to look up a few of the details in order to share the full experience, you have created such an amazing travel log that the memories must be a delight. I certainly enjoy hearing about your travels! You would be very qualified to write a travel book or magazine.

Valerie said...

I can't believe all the beautiful detail that went into each and every inch...but I suppose the cloud of possible execution can work miracles!

Gorgeous photos!

Raina said...

Wow! What an incredible place and what a wonderful experience you are giving your girls by seeing all of these magnificent sites:)

Bonnie said...

Beautiful detail. Your travels leave me ready for adventure. Bonnie

Sudha said...

Beth,
That sounds so intriguing - a page straight out of history.One can just stand rooted to the ground and marvel with awe at these architectural wonders.Lovely that you got a chance to get the feel firsthand and so nice of you to have thought of sharing this!Thanks a bunch:)

Neesie Natters said...

What an amazing post and stunning photographs Beth.
I've never been to Istanbul but if I ever do I'll
remember all the facts and make sure I visit.
Thank you for sharing all the fascinating facts from your travels :D

Gloria said...

Nice post Beth and beautiful pictures!

Joanne said...

I see such reverence for their faith in these buildings, in the detail and effort behind it all. Beautiful.

Pam said...

It's a piece of art! Truly stunning. You are so lucky to have traveled to so many places!

Belinda said...

Love the photo of the girls!! I did not commission anything at 16....

Elaine said...

What a truly incredible journey that must have been to see two such stunning buildings - and side-by-side no less! Those stained glass windows are magnificent.

Julie said...

Another amazing journey. Thanks for sharing with us.

cookingmisadventures.com said...

Wow, that is amazing! I am so jealous of all your adventures. :)

Jill | Dulce Dough said...

Beth I love visiting your blog because I always learn so much!

yummychunklet said...

What gorgeous photos!

Tony Van Helsing said...

That is an astonishing building. It reminds me of York Minster just 40 miles up the road from me but with more tiles.

Anu said...

Nice photos.

Charlie Holmberg said...

That first picture is AMAZING. I should stow it away and use it for a later story...

Carol said...

The successor had a stunning vision. Thank goodness :) That is some story. Great shot of you and your girls, lovely adventure's you go on!

Emily Malloy said...

Beautiful!

Claudia said...

Choosing a favorite is always over-rated. So much splendor - and a city I've always wanted to visit.

The Golden Eagle said...

Wonderful pictures!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Love the scarves. Is there anywhere you haven't traveled to, Beth?????

Amie Kaufman said...

Executed for a lack of vision? Holy WHAT? I am pausing for a moment to be intensely grateful that my editor doesn't have the same approach, though talk about motivational!

So gorgeous -- one of my best friends is there right now, so it's fantastic to have a glimpse through your eyes!

Aarthi said...

beautiful


Aarthi
http://yummytummy-aarthi.blogspot.com/

Loveforfood said...

Thanks for sharing the wonderful photos you captured.

julie said...

First off, that is a beautiful picture of you and your daughters! Second, this mosque looks amazing. I've heard so many good things about Turkey. I hope to one day get there for a visit!

sally said...

Another good reason to go to Istanbul! Thanks for sharing your photos!

Achu's Amma's Kitchen said...

wonder full pictures...

lisa is cooking said...

The tile work sounds so amazing. It's interesting that it's so bright inside. Another building I'd love to visit some day!

Jeanne said...

That is some incredible architecture! The towers are so unique, and the interior is just stunning.

shaz said...

Just awe-inspiring. I like how the Sultan solved the problem, forget about reducing your own towers, just go add another one onto the other mosque! I love these travel posts Beth.

bakewithjill.com said...

It's beautiful! I really loved all the lights inside the Blue Mosque.

Elisabeth said...

Such an incredible, and beautiful post of your travel to Istanbul. There's so much history, and stories from that Mosque. Magnificent photos!

comfortablydomestic.com said...

The tilework is absolutely breathtaking. I had no idea that the Blue Mosque was directly next door to the Hagia Sophia.

sweetandcrumby.com said...

Oh my. So gorgeous that I gasped when I saw your photos. Thanks so much for sharing!

nancy at good food matters said...

My daughter and son-in-law visited Istanbul last October, and returned with similar stunning images. I hope to travel there someday. Thanks for sharing.

Needful Things said...

Thanks for sharing. The Blue Mosque is incredibly beautiful - we went to Istanbul six years ago and I remember being completely bowled over by the magnificent architecture of this mosque. Thanks for taking me back there!

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