Photographer's Note


Builder : Sultan Ahmet I (1590-1617)
Architect : Sedefkar Mehmet Agha
Date : 1609-1616-7

Ahmet Khan I who is the 14th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, acceded at the age of 14 and reigned for 14 years had the Sultanahmet Mosque built facing Saint Sophia in the quarter called by his name. Sultanahmet Mosque is a masterpiece built with the understanding of Architect Sinan in the 17th century.

Architect Mehmet Ağa, after he was admitted to the sedefkarlık (inlaying of mother-of-pearl) and architecture department of the palace in 1569-1570, he found himself in a new world and he worked as an apprentice and thereafter, a master-builder under the supervision of Great Architect Sinan Agha for just 21 years. After Great Sinan’s death, he became the Chief Architect. Having become the Chief Architect, his first work was the reparation of the Kaaba and installation of its famous golden gutters.

Location and construction of the mosque: The Princess Ayşe Palace that was located in the southern direction of the Horse Square (hippodrome) was close to the Topkapı Palace. This place was facing the sea, its area was very wide and its surroundings were not much inhabited; and the Sultan was convinced. He send thirty thousand gold coins of standard fineness to the said Princess, and she immediately transferred her realty in the Land Registry to the Sultan willingly. When it was the turn of the excavation of the foundation of the mosque, a great ceremony in the Ottoman way was organized for this purpose. The date was October 1609. The senior officials of the state assembled at the land cleared by demolitions. Sultan Ahmet Khan hit the pickaxe against the ground for the first time. This pickaxe is in the Topkapı Museum today. When the excavation of the foundation started, first Sultan Ahmet Khan carried earth in the fringe of his robe and had prayed, “O the Lord God, this is the service of your servant ...”. Innumerable sheep were sacrificed at the ceremony place and the poor people were given a feast on that Thursday. Favors were bestowed and gifts were given. The mosque was completed in June 1617. Thus the construction had lasted for 7 years, 5 months and 6 days. The opening of the mosque to worship had been majestic. Numerous sheep were sacrificed on that day. All the poor people other than the master workmen and workmen were given a feast and alms. All the people were made contended; it was like a festival. Coral rosaries were made gifts to the congregation with the first ritual prayers performed in the mosque. The officials were distributing these rosaries leaving them on the knees of the people who sat for the prayers. When the corals finished, the “kelembek” rosaries were distributed. It is known that this “kelembek” is made from the sandalwood-tree with a pungent and beautiful smell that is found at the Indian Ocean.

Description of the mosque: The plan of the worship area that is bounded by the walls of the mosque is a rectangle in form that is close to a square. Its dimensions are 53.50x49.47m. The entire hall is 47m2. The inside part of the Sultanahmet Mosque has a plan of a clover with four leaves. Galleries were built at four sides at the outside of the southern part in order to eliminate the monotony. For this reason, the southern wall is opposed to the others. It has no recesses contrarily to the counterweight that remains entirely at the outside. The “eksedra”s (“eksedra”: the small curved meeting place where there is a preacher’s pulpit in the ancient architecture) those are three in number at each of the other sides are only two in number at the southern side, because the one in middle was compulsorily removed. The four elephant feet are very effective. Though they are very large, their marble portals have many convex profiles. At the upper part, there is a band with inscriptions that separates the lower part from the part whose foot is ornamented. Its dimensions spoil the proportions of the dome, because the dome has relatively modest measures with its height of 43 meters and a diameter of 23.5 meters. These measures show the ability of Mehmet Agha as an engineer. The inside of the mosque acquired a very spacious environment by means of the 260 window that was placed very skillfully. Due to the placement of the windows, the grand dome looks as if it were suspended in the air. The windows were covered with stained glass ornamented with flower motifs at the beginning; that is, there were no plain window glass and this color glass engraving was at the uppermost quality. All foreign tourists who visited the mosque noticed this feature and were impressed by this invention of riot of colors and the perfection of applying it.
The tiles used in the wall cover of the Sultanahmet mosque were arranged as panels consisting of the square flagstones or large design compositions constituted with the composition of the different pieces. The colors and arrangements used display differences with respect to the date of manufacture of the tiles and the workshops where they were manufactured. A rich visual diversity is noticed with respect to the periods in the products of İznik and Kütahya workshops by the end of the 16th century and at the beginning of the 17th century. White was used in the square pieces, the branches of vine, globe artichokes, plums, pomegranate flowers, carnation, mint, medallion-like flower groups, violets, verbena, hyacinth and jasmines, hanging bunches of grapes engraved on the rectangular border tiles navy blue in color were used, shades of the colors such as Turquoise, gray, brown, red, coral, navy blue, blue, purple, black, green were used. According to the records related to the mosque, 21043 tiles were used. The each one of the niche, pulpit and royal gallery of the Sultanahmet Mosque is also a masterpiece. Its niche whose inside is covered with tiles with flowery motifs is ornamented with small columns made of marble over which are the cypress-tree motifs. The pulpit that has geometrical fittings and is embossed have golden gilding. The royal gallery is a masterpiece with its tiles with golden gildings, door with mother-of-pearl inlays and fine wall engravings. The inner courtyard of the mosque that was paved with marble is surrounded by a colonnade covered by 30 dome seated of 26 columns. In the middle of the courtyard, there is the fountain for ritual ablutions with six columns. The columns of the fountain were ornamented with verbena and tulip motifs. The beauty of the glass green tiles over the windows of the royal gallery is being enhanced by a verse inscribed with golden gilding in the cursive style of Arabic calligraphy on them. This inscription was never met at anywhere else.
It is the only mosque with six minarets. The four of the minarets have three balconies each and two have two balconies each. Before the construction of this mosque, since the only mosque with six minarets was the mosque of Mecca, in order to keep its honor, a seventh minaret was added to it. The fact that the minarets have 16 balconies possibly shows which sultan was Ahmet I in order. ***Though Ahmet I was the 14th sultan and though the number of the balconies is 16, Emir Süleyman and Musa Çelebi who were the sons of Yıldırım Beyazıt were included in the sultans.*** The rumors concerning that Sultan Ahmet wanted a mosque with golden minarets are unreal. The fact that the cones of the 4 minarets were coated with gold might have affected the launching of such stories among the people."

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