By: Casey Bucher
Istanbul, Turkey is known as a city divided. With its rich history of two continents, two dominant religions, a skyline that provides two massive domes, flanked by many minarets, Istanbul is a city that has seen it all. At the heart of the city, lies the two most historic structures, each with its own storied history. This research will focus on the younger of the two mosques. By focusing on a mosque and the culture that surrounds it, I will be able to develop further information regarding non-western traditional culture and architecture. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, or known to many as the Blue Mosque, is a grand feature of Turkish architecture. Though the country of Turkey resides in both Europe and Asia, Istanbul is predominantly a historic non-western city as far as architecture is concerned. This Islamic city boasts many traditional structures in both the western and non-western sides and is primarily known for the Ottoman and Byzantine architecture.
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque features the classic Ottoman style, meaning that it is a domed based structure. Built primarily as a shrine to Sultan Ahmet I, the mosque continues to be a place of worship for the Sunni Islam. With its expansive footprint, the Blue Mosque can hold nearly 10,000 worshippers and/or tourists.
The city of Istanbul was a predominantly Christian city until around the 15th century. The Hagia Sophia, a large Ottoman style worship hall was used as a Christian orthodox church for much of its early years. After serving as a Roman Catholic cathedral for almost sixty years, the structure was finally overtaken by the Muslims and converted to a mosque and remained that way for many years. The Hagia Sophia became a staple feature to the Istanbul skyline, with its red domes and massive minarets. That is, until Ahmet the First came to power.
At the young, tender age of thirteen, Sultan Ahmet I became the ruler of a massive territory that spanned across three countries. Not being a war hero or qualified leader, Ahmet wanted to make his presence known to his empire. Istanbul already had a landmark mosque to its name but Ahmet was determined to make an even grander piece of architecture. He wanted a mosque that was truly devoted to the Islamic religion, not one whose religious history was shared.
Thus, the Sultan Ahmet Mosque was conspired. The plans for the great mosque originated in 1609 by the Sultan Ahmet I when his army’s loss in the Persian War. Sultan Ahmet designed the mosque to repossess Ottoman authority in Istanbul. Due to his losses in the war, Ahmet the First had to empty the treasury of all its earnings to pay for the construction of the mosque, as opposed to using his own funds to support the building. This action caused plenty of tension between the Sultan and the people of Istanbul, specifically the Muslim leaders.