The Blue Mosque was built in the early 1600’s by Sultan Ahmed I on the site that the palaces of the Byzantine Emperors used to occupy. These palaces were demolished to make room for the mosque, which is a little unbelievable to me as people now wouldn’t dream of destroying a monument to build something else. Can you imagine pulling down the White House to make room for a church?
It is a combination of Islamic, Byzantine, and Ottoman architecture and is considered to be the last great mosque of the classical period. What I find surprising is that it isn’t recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, but included in a sweeping recognition of historical Istanbul. On the one hand Istanbul transports you back in time, but on the other this particular place felt special enough to deserve it’s own designation (IMO).
It derives it’s name from the sheer volume of blue tiles lining the walls and the ceiling of the interior. There are over 20,000 hand painted tiles decorating the ceiling and walls. I personally found it all to be really colorful and didn’t notice the abundance of blue in the tile work, but maybe I wasn’t seeing all that there was to see. It wears its age well; they have turned what used to be candle holders into electric light fixtures, but instead of diminishing the mystique that having more than a 1000 candles flickering would confer on the atmosphere, it created a different kind of mood lighting that lent romance to the interior.
How people manage to pray and not just stare at all of the surrounding beauty is beyond me? Shoes are not allowed in the mosque, so it pretty much smells like feet, another thing that would distract me from any prayers that I might consider making…