Top 9 Mosques in Istanbul: Sacred Sites You Shouldn’t Miss
The famous mosques are the pride of Turkey, and Istanbul in particular, as they are its visiting card. The city is simply teeming with various mosques, each of which is several hundred years old. Some Istanbul mosques belong to architectural monuments, including the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Most of the ancient Islamic temples still hold services. Many of them are not just temples, but complexes with their infrastructure, a kind of city within a city. There are schools, hospitals, canteens for the poor, schools, baths, libraries, stables, a mausoleum where the founder of the mosque and his family are buried.
How Many Mosques Are in Istanbul?
There are about 3113 mosques in Istanbul, including the historic Sultan Ahmed Mosque and the Süleymaniye Mosque.
List of the Best Mosque in Istanbul?
Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque)
It is perhaps the most famous mosque in Istanbul. The Blue Mosque was designed by Mimar Sinan’s student Sedefkar Mehmed Agha. The construction was carried out for 7 years, from 1609 to 1616. Once, the territory given over to the mosque was occupied by the palace of the ruler of Byzantium. On the other side of the square is the Hagia Sophia. The mosque is decorated with a huge number of tiles (over 200,000). The décor is dazzling, but at the same time unobtrusive, skillfully smoothed out by correctly aligned light streaming from 260 window openings. The walls and columns of the mosque are decorated with excerpts from the Koran. The famous calligrapher Kasim Gubari was the author of the artistic inscriptions. Chroniclers claim that once on the walls of the mosque were placed gold plates inlaid with 61 diamonds. The plates were engraved perpetuating the names of the Prophet Muhammad and the first caliphs, as well as excerpts from the Koran. When you are nearby, be sure to take some time to visit this famous mosque in Istanbul.
The Süleymaniye Mosque is Istanbul’s second-biggest mosque and one of the country’s most well-known tourist attractions. The legendary Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan designed this magnificent mosque for Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century. It blends tall, thin minarets (typical of Ottoman design) with enormous, domed structures supported by half domes in the form of Hagia Sophia. With a colonnaded peristyle, the courtyard exudes remarkable grandeur. Within its grounds are the tombs of the Sultan, his wife Hurrem, and Mimar Sinan. With four minarets, it is one of Istanbul’s largest mosques (but not the largest overall).
Rüstem Pasha Mosque
This little but magnificent mosque, designed by renowned architect Sinan. Rüstem Pasha is a true treasure, with no other mosque in the city employing Iznik tiles as lavishly as in this one. The structure was built for Suleiman’s Grand Vizier and sits over a network of vaulted shops that served to both financially and physically support the complex. It’s only a five-minute walk from the Spice Bazaar, however, it’s a little difficult to discover (you’ll have to look up because it’s not on street level). Access stairs may be found on Hasircilar Caddesi or a little roadway running north from Hasircilar Caddesi towards the Golden Horn.
Firuz Agha Mosque (Firuz Ağa Cami)
Firuz Ağa Cami is an equally famous mosque in Istanbul that you should visit. This shrine of the late 15th century is named after its founder, Firuz Agha, who served as the chief treasurer under Padishah Bayezid II. The main building material was cut stone.
There are no special architectural delights in the mosque, but it is very proportional, and has the correct square shape. The style of the building is rather restrained – there is only one large dome and only a minaret with a balcony. The entrance group is preceded by a portico with three domes.
The interior of the mosque is interesting for its calligraphic inscriptions and stained-glass paintings. The carved wooden door draws attention to itself, as well as the exquisite stone carvings above it and the decorations depicting the sun.
Once there was a mausoleum of Firuz Agha and other burial places next to the shrine, but in the 19th century, it was decided to expand Divanyolu Street, so the cemetery zone was liquidated. The mosque has lost a fairly large territory – only a small courtyard and the founder’s sarcophagus, made of marble, remained intact.
Our list of the most beautiful mosque in Istanbul can’t help but include the amazing New Mosque. Although its name indicates otherwise, this structure in Istanbul’s Eminönü district dates from 1663. The New Mosque, located at the end of Istanbul’s iconic Galata Bridge. It took more than half a century to complete, owing to financial challenges and political turbulence. It was the last of the imperial mosques to be constructed. The magnificent interior of the New Mosque is embellished with gold leaf, carved marble, and Iznik pottery. Its silhouette has become a part of Istanbul’s distinctive skyline.
The Conqueror’s Mosque was built by Sultan Mehmet himself, the Second Conqueror of Constantinople, on the fourth Istanbul hill. It was erected on the site where the Church of the Holy Apostles used to stand and where the Byzantine monarchs were buried. It was built long before the other above-mentioned shrines – back in 1470. The construction lasted 8 years. The dome was 25 meters in diameter, but three hundred years after its erection, due to an earthquake, it collapsed. The building was restored, or rather rebuilt, by Sultan Mustafa III in 1771. This mosque is of more modern architecture, reminiscent of the Baroque style in places. It housed 8 schools, the premises of which now serve Istanbul University. In general, the entrance, foundations of minarets, and some decoration elements remained from the original view.
This great mosque in Istanbul is famous for its interesting architecture and design: it looks more like a palace. Its minarets are made of white marble, large windows, and, which is unusual for Muslim mosques, decorated with mosaics from the inside of the dome. From the balconies of the minarets in the evening, you can contemplate beautiful pictures of the Bosphorus and the entire region, so hundreds of people flock here at sunset.
Laleli Mosque (Laleli Camii)
One of the best mosques in Istanbul and, perhaps, the main attraction of the fourth hill of Istanbul is the religious complex called Laleli. It consisted of a traditional mosque, school, imaret, mausoleum, and sadirvan (fountain). Sultan Mustafa III commissioned the project in the middle of the 18th century to the architect Mehmet Tahir Aga. Some buildings were eventually demolished, while others were restored in the middle of the 20th century. Laleli is the final religious complex under construction in the city. The mosque is often called ‘tulip’, but it is named not in honor of a beautiful flower, but in honor of Saint Laleli Baba. The burial place of this saint was once not far from the complex. In the Ottoman Empire, there was a custom to call mosques after the ruling sultans, but in this case, the saint won a victory over the power of the padishah.
Laleli’s architecture is completely traditional on the outside and Baroque on the inside, with its exquisite marble decorations. The mosque is a spacious prayer hall in the shape of a square and a courtyard in the shape of a rectangle, which is surrounded by a gallery with a ritual fountain.
Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque (Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Camii)
Padishah Abdülaziz loved to decorate the city with new architectural masterpieces. During his reign, many architectural monuments were built, including the Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque in Istanbul. The sultan built this big mosque in honor of his mother. The author of the project is Sarkis Balyan.
The architectural style of the mosque is incomplete, there is a mixture of different directions, but neo-Gothic prevails. The shrine is crowned with a small, elongated dome and has two minarets. It was originally designed to surpass Aksaray Meydanı, towering above the street. But in the middle of the 20th century, a large-scale reconstruction of this territory was carried out, new transport routes appeared, and it turned out that the mosque fell below the new terrain. A high carved arch crowned with the golden tugra of Abdulaziz leads to the courtyard of the mosque; in the courtyard itself, there is the grave of Valide and a beautiful mausoleum.
It is very difficult to get to Istanbul and not visit at least one of its mosques. Firstly, there are so many of them that it is simply impossible to pass by indifferently. And secondly, it is not just a part of local history and culture. Such places to this day remain unique sources of strength and energy, even for people who are not particularly religious.
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