Istanbul is a city that connects two different continents and hosted many different empires in the world. The city has traces of its own culture, as is the case with every civilization that lived in Istanbul. There are so many historical artifacts to visit in this city where everyone is excited about.
Istanbul, which holds different cultures together with its museums, palaces, and churches, provides and reflects a branch of different beliefs that come from the past to the present with its mosques. Therefore, the mosques, as well as other historical artifacts, are worth seeing for their architectural structures and the stories they have. Here are 8 historical mosques that must be visited in Istanbul.
Süleymaniye Mosque was built by Mimar Sinan in the Suleymaniye region of the Eminönü district of Istanbul at the request of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent between 1551-1558. This work of 85-year-old Sinan’s was known as a work of his qualification stage.
Around the Suleymaniye Mosque, there is a library, hammam, madrasah, imaret, shops, and treasury. Together with the Suleymaniye Mosque, each of them is a part of the Suleymaniye Complex.
Suleymaniye Mosque is one of the most important works of Ottoman period architecture. Although there are hundreds of earthquakes in Istanbul for centuries, there is no single crack on Suleymaniye Mosque. The mosque consists of a large dome with a diameter of 26.5 meters, resting on four pink pillars, and the depth of the dome is twice that of its diameter.
This large dome was reinforced with a half-dome, just as in Hagia Sophia. There are minarets at the 4 corner points of the mosque’s courtyard. The dimensions of the minarets are different. The minarets in the northern part of the courtyard are built in two balconies and 56 meters in size. These two minarets are at the corner of the entrance facade wall of the last congregation. The other two minarets were built contiguous to the mosque. They have triple balconies and their heights are is 76 meters.
32 windows were built in the main dome pulley of the mosque to provide the best illumination according to the calculations of Mimar Sinan. Sinan also built a section thanks to his talent and intelligence in architecture, by calculating the air flow which would collect the soot coming from the oil lamps inside the mosque and gather them into a room on the main entrance of the mosque. This soot was used in ink making for the artifacts surrounding the mosque.
There are 28 porticoes around the mosque courtyard. There is a fountain in the middle of this courtyard built on a rectangular schema. There is also a burial area reserved for Suleiman the Magnificent and his wife Hürrem Sultan.
Like the other works of Mimar Sinan, the mosque does not compromise simplicity; but it is one of the temples that can transform simplicity into glory. Although ornaments and embellishments are mostly used for inscriptions, architectural geometry has become an aesthetic wonder in itself. The stained-glass windows on the wall where the mihrab rests and the frames on both sides of the mihrab are the work of a master called Sarhoş Ibrahim.
Special bricks were produced for the dome to be light and used in the construction of the dome. In addition, the stones forming the walls of the mosque were connected to each other through internally iron clamps and the molten lead was poured into these clamps. The mosque is illuminated with 128 windows and dozens of lamps; these lamps do not pollute the walls and also; in order to benefit from the soot coming from these lamps, a soot room was built upon the entrance.
There are four minarets on the 4 corner of the white marble-built inner courtyard named White Harem, two of them with two balconies and two with three balconies. The four minarets in the mosque symbolize that Kanuni was the fourth sultan after the conquest of Istanbul, and the ten balconies of the minarets symbolize the fact that he was the tenth sultan of Ottoman history.
The Suleymaniye Mosque is located in the district of Suleymaniye, which is named after it, in the district of Fatih, Istanbul. One of the easiest ways to get to the mosque is to come up to Laleli-University stop by Kabatas-Bagcilar Tram and take a short walk from here.
Address: Süleymaniye Mah, Prof. Sıddık Sami Onar Cd. No:1, 34116 Fatih/İstanbul
The Blue Mosque
One of the most important landmarks of the city, the Blue Mosque is located in front of the Hagia Sophia Museum, one of our most important historical monuments. Sultanahmet Square is also named after the Blue Mosque (aka Sultanahmet Mosque). This valuable structure is one of the most important works that were built in Istanbul during the Ottoman Empire period.
The Blue Mosque was built by the Ottoman Sultan Ahmet I between 1609 – 1616. The most typical example of classical Turkish art, the work was originally the first mosque built with 6 minarets. Although it is not one of the works of Mimar Sinan, this structure has traces from Sinan. Sinan’s student, Architect Sedefkâr Mehmet Ağa, according to what is reported, applied a plan of Sinan’s to a greater extent when building this mosque.
In the Blue Mosque, there is also a complex that includes many social and cultural structures as in many mosques. Within the complex, there is the Grand Bazaar, Turkish bath, soup house, hospital, schools, caravanserai, and Sultan Ahmed’s tomb. The entrance to the mosque is on the side of the Hippodrome built in the Roman Period.
The inner courtyard and the main place surrounded by an outer courtyard in this valuable structure is on a high podium. Through the door opening to the inner courtyard, there are fountains and the domes rising above each other in harmony. When entered through any of the three doors opened, the rich and colorful decorations of paintings, tiles, and stained glasses can be seen.
The Blue Mosque is surrounded by balconies on three sides. The location of the building is covered with carpet as in every mosque. Along the main entrance door, the mihrab, which is designed to be easily seen by people praying even on the most intense days of the mosque, has a marble cushion, one of the best examples of carving work.
The dome, which is one of the most important elements of all Ottoman mosques, is much more magnificent in the Blue Mosque. The main dome is 43 meters high and 23.5 meters in diameter. These measurements show the qualification of Mehmet Aga as an engineer. The architecture of the Blue Mosque has become magnificent as a result of the combination of Ottoman and Byzantine church architecture with over 200 years of experience.
Although it has a feel from Hagia Sophia, the Islamic architecture, outweighs and the Mosque is known as the magnificent work of the classical period. As an architectural structure, the Sultanahmet Mosque has a spacious environment with 260 windows placed very skillfully. Due to the way the windows are placed, the big dome looks like it hangs in the air. This mosque is more bright and spacious than any of its equals.
The 12 types of marble which are used in interior and exterior decoration of the Blue Mosque, shows that there is a special acoustic structure due to the fact that the relationship between walls and columns as well as a special cutting and placement of the marble coverings in the mosque. Since too much marble has been used, it is difficult to come across this feature in other works.
The mosque is located at the Sultanahmet District. Transportation to the mosque is possible with many different alternatives from almost all parts of Istanbul. The easiest way to reach the mosque is to use the Bağcılar-Kabataş Tram Line passing through the Historic Peninsula.
Address: Sultan Ahmet Mahallesi, Atmeydanı Cd. No:7, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul
Eyüp Sultan Mosque
Eyüp Sultan Mosque was built in 1458, five years after the conquest of Istanbul. The mausoleum of the Eyup Sultan, built next to the mosque before him, emphasizes the importance of this mosque. The mosque, which was built as a complex structure, is located in the Eyüp district of Istanbul’s Haliç coast. One of the Arabs who was martyred during the siege of Istanbul and who first accepted Islam was Eyyub.
The building is a great historical monument with its mosques, madrasas, public houses, baths, and tombs. The mosque that was thoroughly ruined over time and III. Selim has completely demolished and rebuilt it including minarets and foundations. At the end of the construction work which started in 1798 and lasted for 2 years, the mosque retained its present-day structure.
The architectural features of the Eyup Sultan Mosque are not known exactly when it was first built. In the earthquake that took place in 1766, this structure was greatly damaged. Although the mosque was requested to be repaired, it was demolished to the foundation and rebuilt in 1800. Later in 1823, minarets were damaged by a lightning strike. The last repair of the Eyup Sultan Mosque was done by the instruction of Adnan Menderes.
Today’s mosque is covered with a 17.5 m diameter dome sitting on an octagonal hoop. This drum sits on six free columns which are connected to each other by arches and two pillars in the mihrab wall. The main dome is surrounded by half domes from eight sides of the hoop.
Eyüp Sultan Mosque’s exterior courtyard in the direction of Eyüp Square was built in the style of baroque. Access is provided through two doors in the west and south. There is a graveyard of many famous people at the north of the outer courtyard, and there is a marble fountain covered with a domed eave sitting on eight columns in the middle. In the middle of the building, there are two great plane trees which are believed to grow from the plane branches planted by Akşemseddin.
It is surrounded by a low stone wall. A metal net is wandering around the wall and four baroque fountains are located on the four corners of the building. The porticos of the last congregation of the mosque continue along the eastern and western walls of the courtyard, and the Eyüp Sultan Tomb is located in just behind the fourth (north) wall, in the middle.
The tomb was found after the conquest of Istanbul and the shrine on it was built in 1459 with the mosque. The exterior of Eyüp Sultan Tomb is decorated with tiles and visited by an influx of visitors. The tomb is on the north side of the famous and holy mosque known as the Eyup Sultan Mosque and right in front of its inner courtyard.
This is the first work in Istanbul. The tomb is an eight-pointed single dome. Made of cut stone. The dome is placed on the facade. There is no drum. The front corners are made of relief columns. Window outlets are marble. There are two windows on the top, others on the other, except on the facade.
To get to the Eyup Sultan Mosque with a private car, you can turn right through Eyüp while using the direction of Gaziosmanpasa from the Edirnekapi, or use the direction of Unkapani from Sirkeci and pass under the Unkapani Bridge. To go by bus you can use gaziosmanpaşa buses at Mecidiyekoy.
Address: Merkez Mh, Cami Kebir Sk. No:1, 34050 Eyüp/İstanbul
Fatih Mosque is the first mosque built by a sultan in Istanbul after the conquest of Istanbul. These type of mosques are built by the Ottoman sultans and their families. Fatih Mosque was built by Fatih Sultan Mehmet and contains 16 madrasas, Turkish baths, soup kitchen, library, guesthouse, and hospital. Fatih Mosque, which took great damage in the earthquake in 1766, was rebuilt in 1971 and repaired.
The mosque is built by Atik Sinan. Its first-day appearance and current look are very different from each other. Fatih Mosque is very important in terms of the Islamic aspect since it is the first mosque where the first Turkish Azan recited in 1932.
In the Fatih Mosque, the central dome was built on four pillars. There is also a half-dome around it. This building has two minarets with two balconies. The bodies of the minarets up to the balconies were built before the earthquake of 1771. The stone balustrades were built during the reign of Sultan Abdulhamid II. The fountain courtyard of Fatih Mosque has 22 domes, sitting on 18 columns.
In the middle of the mosque, there is an enormous fountain. The fire pool in the entrance gate of the courtyard was built in 1825 by Sultan Mahmud II. The first mosque had all the features of the transition to classical architecture. The remaining elements of the old structure reveal the value of this building exactly. Today’s Fatih Mosque is one of the examples of the mix of classical architecture and baroque architecture.
Fatih Mosque graveyard is located on the qibla side. The burials started in 1780. This area was later converted into a closed area by walls. During the Ottoman period, the burial was required to obtain permission from the Sultan. While there was no civil burial before the 19th century, there was a change in many aspects of this century. The graves of the grand viziers, sheikulislams, observers and many scientists began to be buried here.
There are a total of 409 gravestones in the Fatih Mosque. When the number of empty tombs found in the graveyard is added, there are 425 gravestones in total. The tombs belonged to 113 women and 177 men. The tombs found in the building were evaluated in four main groups as the members of ilmiye, seyfiye, kalemiye, and tarikat classes.
The Mosque is located at Fatih District. Therefore, those who will arrive by public transport can reach the mosque and the complex in a short time by using the buses moving from Eminönü. Those who will come with their private cars should come from the direction of Karaköy and pass Galata Bridge, then use the Ataturk Boulevard from the coast of Golden Horn.
Address: Ali Kuşçu Mahallesi, Hattat Nafiz Cd No:6, 34083 Fatih/İstanbul
Ortaköy Mosque is one of the most beautiful buildings of Istanbul from the 19th century. The building of Ortakoy Mosque was completed in 1854 with the name of Büyük Mecidiye Mosque. It is known that the building was first built by Mahmud Agha, but it has been destroyed during the Patrona Halil Rebellion. Later, it was renewed by Kethüda Devattar Mehmed Ağa, the son-in-law of Mahmud Agha. The present state of the Ortaköy Mosque was built by Sultan Abdülmecid.
Besiktas Ortakoy Mosque consists of Harim and Hünkar Pavillions as the Sultan Mosques. The Harim section consists of the main space with a length of 12.25 square meters and an intermediate space passing through this main space. The ceiling of this section is covered with pink mosaic.
Ortaköy Mosque has two minarets with single balconies. In the mihrab part, mosaic marble was used and the minbar was porphyry marble. The Hünkar Pavilion which is built on two floors with an elliptical staircase is located in the northern entrance of the building.
The Ortaköy Mosque attracts lots of attention with its fine and elegant minarets. It is designed in a style of the Ottoman and Baroque combination and has a single dome. The transition from the dome to the square plan is covered with lead by the pendentives between the corners of the adjoining arches and the dome. On the corners of the building, there are counterfort towers. On the northern side, the minarets rise from the sultan’s apartment. The names of Allah, Muhammad and the first four caliphs in the mosque were written by Sultan Abdülmecid Khan himself.
Ortaköy Mosque was restored in 2011 and it was reopened for worship on June 6, 2014, after three years of preparation. A very image of the Ortaköy Mosque which has examples of Baroque style along with Classical Ottoman Architecture has started to built in the Cuban capital Havana, led by Turkish Religious Foundation.
Ortakoy Mosque is open to tourist visits from 8:30 am in the morning as other mosques in Istanbul. The mosque, which was closed during the prayer times, is open to visitors who want to visit and take pictures outside the times of worship. The mosque is closed for visits from 6 pm onwards. It can be visited for worship only during the evening and night prayers. The visiting hours of the touristic mosques in Istanbul can be learned by means of a telephone operator provided by religious affairs. Because they vary greatly according to the season.
If you want to get to Ortaköy Mosque by public transportation, you can use all buses going to Beşiktaş. You can also use minibusses going to Beşiktaş from your location. If you want to go to Ortakoy mosque with your private car, you can get out of Besiktas which is the last exit before the bridge.
Address: Mecidiye Mahallesi, Mecidiye Köprüsü Sk. 1/1, 34347 Beşiktaş/İstanbul
Beyazıt Mosque, located in the center of the historical peninsula, is the oldest mosque built by a Sultan, which managed to maintain its first form among the historical mosques in Istanbul. A social complex was built to meet the needs of the community with the mosque by Sultan II Beyazıt.
The Beyazıt Complex was built around the square where it was scattered, not in a symmetrical manner as other social complexes. The complex is one of the biggest complexes built in Istanbul with Fatih and Suleymaniye Complex. Sultan II. Beyazit shrine is also located in the graveyard of Beyazit Mosque.
The Beyazıt Mosque is the second largest mosque built in the city after the conquest of Istanbul. The building is located in the part of the area known as Theodosius Forum during the Byzantines which is the largest square of the city.
Beyazit who took the throne right after Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror built the second largest mosque built by a Sultan in Istanbul (after the Fatih Mosque). Since Fatih Mosque is collapsed due to the earthquake in 1766, Beyazit Mosque is the oldest building in its first form.
The architect of the mosque, which was opened to worship in 1505, is not clear yet, but it is stated that the Beyazit Mosque is built by Yakubşah bin Sultan Şah. In the Beyazıt Complex, there is a mosque, a kitchen, a nursery school, a madrasah, a Turkish bath, a caravanserai, and tanneries.
The madrasah was built on the street side where the tramway line is located, away from the mosque. The building, which is one of the most important madrasahs of the city during its activity, is now used as the Foundation of calligraphy arts. Hammam is located next to Istanbul University Faculty of Science and Literature, farther than madrasah. A part of the building where the caravanserai and the almshouse were built was destroyed. The surviving part serves as the Beyazıt State Library today.
The construction of the Beyazıt Mosque, whose foundation was laid in 1501, was completed in 1505 and opened for worship. Shortly after the opening of the mosque, an earthquake called the little apocalypse occurred in 1509 in Istanbul. The dome of the mosque was damaged during this great earthquake. The mosque was repaired by Mimar Sinan during the years 1573-1574.
Beyazit mosque has had its share from the fires which were frequently encountered during the Ottoman period and led to great destruction. In a fire in 1683, the minaret cones were ignited and in a fire in 1741, the shops around the mosque became unusable. Some of the minarets were burned as a result of lightning strike in 1743.
Beyazit Mosque architecture reflects the transition period from early Ottoman architecture to classical period architecture. Therefore, examples of Seljuk architecture can be seen in the mosque. The two minaret applications, which are generally seen in the mosques built by Sultans, are different in Beyazıt Mosque. The minarets were constructed adjacent to the rooms on the sides instead of the main mass of the mosque.
For this reason, there is a distance of 79 meters between the minarets which cannot be seen in other historical mosques. The minaret on the left side largely lost its ornaments as a result of the destructions, where the minaret on the right side preserved its ornaments including the colored stones and kufic inscriptions to a large extent. This minaret is shown as the only sample of the transition from Seljuk to Ottoman Architecture in Istanbul.
Beyazit Mosque is located at Beyazıt District. To go to the mosque by using the İETT bus, the distance you have to walk after you get off at Beyazıt Bus Station is 30 meters. To go to the mosque by tram, you can get off at Beyazid Tramway stop (50 meters walking distance) or Çemberlitas Tramway stop (400 meters walking distance).
Address: Beyazıt Mh., Ordu Cad., 34126 Fatih/İstanbul
Yavuz Selim Mosque
The fifth hill of Istanbul rises up with a steep slope from the coast of Golden Horn. There are many buildings on the fifth hill which dominates the Golden Horn. Besides the Yavuz Sultan Selim Mosque crowning the hill, there are also Fethiye Mosque, Kariye Mosque, and the Fener Greek Patriarchate.
The district is named after the Yavuz Sultan Selim Mosque. The mosque was built by Suleiman the Magnificent on behalf of his father. Although Evliya Çelebi mentioned the architect as Mimar Sinan, in most sources Architect is mentioned as Acem Ali. Architect Acem Ali is one of the first architects to be known from classical Ottoman architecture.
According to some sources, it is one of the artists that Yavuz Sultan Selim brought with him on his return from the Iran expedition. Yavuz Sultan Selim, who came to Tabriz after the Caldiran victory in 1514, is known to have brought about three thousand people of art and science to the Ottoman Empire upon his return to Amasya. Acem Ali who was in this convoy also came first to Amasya then to Istanbul Palace. Yavuz Sultan Selim assigned Acem Ali as the chief architect, who was known as the minister of the masters in the Safavid State. Acem Ali has a different style that combines Ottoman and Iranian architecture.
The construction of the Yavuz Sultan Selim Mosque started in 1519 and ended in 1522. The mosque, which is one of the seven mosques built by Sultans on seven hills of Istanbul, has a magnificent view of the Golden Horn. On the right side of the mosque, there are Hagia Sophia and the historical peninsula, Galata Tower and Beyoğlu, one of the oldest districts of Istanbul.
There is a cistern on one side of the mosque. It is not known exactly which empire this Byzantine cistern belonged to. This cistern with a depth of 11 meters is known to have been built in the name of Ayios Makios, one of the saints of the Orthodox Church.
The courtyard of the mosque can be entered with three separate doors. These gates have been named as Tomb Gate, Bazaar Gate, and Kırkmerdiven Gate. Fountain in the middle of the courtyard was built by IV. Murad. The side wall of the entrance door of the inner courtyard has a sundial. Sultan Ibrahim put the ornamental cages. The main dome of the mosque goes down through four walls.
There are two minarets with a balcony. The outer face of the courtyard and the inner face of the portico courtyard are decorated with tiles. Within the mosque, we see the works of carving, marquetry, crafting, calligraphy, and embroidery. Door wings and window sashes are inlaid with mother of pearl. To the right of the entrance door there are soot rooms.
Yavuz Sultan Selim Mosque and Complex are located on a hill close to the Golden Horn on Yavuz Selim Street in Balat District of Fatih/Istanbul. You can only use the bus among public transportation services to reach the mosque. You can use the buses departing from Eminönü and using the Fevzi Paşa Street route.
Address: Balat Mahallesi, Sultan Selim Cd. No:18, 34087 Fatih/İstanbul
Once a Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal cathedral, Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque after Mehmet The Conqueror (1451-1481) conquered Istanbul in 1453. Immediately after the conquest, the structure was strengthened and preserved as a mosque with the additions in the Ottoman Period. The structure, which was damaged by various earthquakes since the date of its construction, was supported with buttresses in both Eastern Roman and Ottoman periods. The minarets built by Mimar Sinan also serve as supports in the building.
A madrasa was built to the north of Hagia Sophia, during the reign of Fatih Sultan Mehmed Period, and the most extensive repair work was carried out by Fossati during the reign of Sultan Abdülmecid (1839-1861). During the reorganization of the Hagia Sophia in the period of Sultan Abdulaziz, the madrasah was demolished between 1869 and 1870 and rebuilt between 1873 and 1874. The ruins of the madrasah, which was destroyed in 1936, were unearthed during the excavations in 1982.
In the Ottoman Period, in the 16th and 17th centuries, the mihrabs, minbar, gathering places of muezzins and a preaching sermon were added to the Hagia Sophia. The bronze oil lamps on the two sides of the mihrab were given to the mosque as a gift by Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566) after Buda Campaign (1526). The two marble cubes belonging to the Hellenistic Period (4th – 3rd century BC) in the left and right corners of the entrance to the main site were brought from Bergama and gifted to the Hagia Sophia by the Sultan III. Murad (1574-1595).
Between 1847 and 1849, during the reign of Sultan Abdülmecid, the Swiss Fossati Brothers had an extensive repair in the Hagia Sophia. During the repair works, the Sultan’s Palace was removed from the niche in the north of the altar, instead, it was rebuilt on the left side of the altar, rising above the pillars, surrounded by wooden gilded balustrades.
In the same period, 8 calligraphic plates with a diameter of 7.5 meters, written by Calligrapher Kadıasker Mustafa İzzet Efendi, were placed on the walls of the main space. These plates with “Allah, Prophet Muhammad, Abu Bakr, Omar, Osman, Ali and Huseyin” written on them, are the largest calligraphic plates of the Islam World. The same calligrapher wrote verse 35 of Sura An-Nur in the middle of the dome.
During the Ottoman period, Hagia Sophia continued to exist as a mosque and attracted special attention from all sultans. The structure which is equipped with works bearing traces of the culture of the Ottoman Empire in time, has been a masterpiece with the influence of both religions and cultures until today. The tombs in Hagia Sophia are the most beautiful examples of the classical Ottoman tomb tradition with its interiors, tiles, and architecture.
Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum with the order of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and the decision of the Council of Ministers. On 1 February 1935, it started to be used as a museum for local and foreign visitors.
Tram: You can reach the Ayasofya Museum by using the Bağcılar Kabataş Tram line and getting of at the Gülhane and Sultanahmet stops.
Train: You can reach Sirkeci using Halkali – Sirkeci Suburban Train Line and from here you can reach the Hagia Sophia Museum by the tram line.
Ferry: If you are coming from the Anatolian side, you can reach the tram line by using the Kadıköy – Eminönü, and Üsküdar – Eminönü ferries.
Address: Sultan Ahmet Mahallesi, Ayasofya Meydanı, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul