Across from Hagia Sophia stands the supremely elegant Imperial Sultanahmet Mosque with six minarets. Built between 1609 and 1616 by the architect Mehmet, the building is more familiarly known as the Blue Mosque because of its magnificent interior paneling of blue and white Iznik tiles. During the summer months and evening light and sound show both entertain and inform visitors.
The cascading domes and four slender minarets of the Imperial Suleymaniye Mosque dominate the skyline on the Golden Horn’s west bank. Considered the most beautiful of all imperial mosques in Istanbul, it was built between 1550 and 1557 by Sinan, the renowned architect of the Ottoman Empire’s golden age.
Erected on the crest of a hill, the building is conspicuous for its great rise from each corner of the courtyard. Inside are the mihrab (prayer niche showing the direction to Mecca) and the mimber (pulpit) made of finely carved white marble and exquisite stained-glass windows coloring the incoming streams of light.
It was in the gardens of this complex that Suleyman and his wife, Hurrem Sultan (Roxelane), had their mausolea built, and near here also Sinan built his own tomb.
The mosque complex also includes four medrese, or theological schools, a school of medicine, a caravanserai, a Turkish bath, and a kitchen and hospice for the poor.
Rustem Pasa Mosque
The Rustem Pasa Mosque, another skillful accomplishment of the architect Sinan, was built in 1561 by order of Rustem Pasa, Grand Vizier and son-in-low of Suleyman the Magnificent. Exquisite Iznik tiles panel the small and superbly proportioned interior.
The Imperial Fatih Mosque, constructed between 1463 and 1470, bears the name of the Ottoman conqueror of Istanbul, Fatih Sultan Mehmet, and is the site of his mausoleum. Standing atop another of Istanbul’s hills, its vast size and great complex of religious buildings-medreses, hospices, baths, a hospital, a caravanserai and a library make it well worth a visit.
The great Mosque of Eyup lies outside the city walls, near the Golden Horn, at the traditional site where Eyup, the standard bearer of the Prophet Mohammed, died in the Islamic assault on Constantinople in A.D. 670. The first mosque built after the Ottoman conquest of the city, this greatly venerated shrine attracts many pilgrims.
Built between 1597 and 1663, the Yeni (New) Mosque looms over the harbor at Eminonu, greeting the incoming ferryboats and welcoming tourists to the old city. Today its graceful domes and arches shelter hundreds of pigeons that make this area their home. Marvelous Iznik tiles decorate what was once the sultan’s balcony.
Sokullu Mehmet Pasa Mosque
The 16th-century Sokullu Mehmet Pasa Mosque built on an awkwardly shaped plot on a steeply sloping hill neat Sultanahmet, is one of the most beautiful examples of classical Turkish architecture and another masterpiece of the architect Sinan. Inside breathtaking blues, purples and reds color the elegant designs of the Iznik tiles.
Mihrimah Sultan Mosque
Walls of glass fill the four immense arches that support the central dome at the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque inside the Edirne gate of the old city walls. One hundred and sixty-one windows illuminate this mosque, built in 1555 by Sinan for Mihrimah Sultana, the daughter of Suleyman the Magnificent.