Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Blue Mosque

The blue Isnik tiles covering the huge interior of the Sultanahmet Camii have prompted the commonly used name, Blue Mosque. It was built by the Ottomans more than a thousand years after the current Hagia Sophia, and only a few hundred yards of park separate them. It is massive, with a huge dome, supported by four of the largest columns we have ever seen. Jokingly referred to as the "elephant legs," these columns are hard to see past at first. But we've been many times already with our various visitors, in part because it is both central and free, and with each visit we are more taken by the Sultanahmet Camii. The number of lamp-chains transecting the space seem a denser web than in any other mosque, but the excess itself is visually fascinating. The only mosque in Istanbul to have six minarets, it is easy to spot on the skyline. Sultan Ahmed was criticized for building a mosque with the same number of minarets as was in the Ka'aba in Mecca, so he solved this by paying for a seventh minaret to be erected in Mecca. Sultanahmet Camii is an active mosque, so visitors remove their shoes to enter, cover or uncover their heads (depending on gender,) and are kicked out five times a day for prayer. Considered a lesser work of architecture by those in the know, and often very crowded with bus loads of tourists dashing in and out, it is still a surprisingly restful place to visit, and just gets more interesting the longer we look.

Looking across the Bosphorus at the Sultanahmet Camii


One of the six minarets 

We love the crazy trails of chain filling the volume of the interior at the Blue Mosque. 

The traditional oil in the glass lamps has been replaced with electric bulbs. 

One of the four huge columns that dominate the interior and support the dome. 

Shane standing beside the "elephant leg." 

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