5. Eyup Sultan Mosque
Eyup Sultan Mosque is a major pilgrimage site for Muslims. Built for Mohammed’s standard-bearer, Ebu Eyüp el-Ensari who fell in battle during the seige of Constantinople in the 670s, the mosque was first built in the 1450s and then rebuilt to fix damage due to earthquakes in 1800. The mosque was the traditional site for the coronation ceremony of sultans. The tomb of Eyup is decorated in Iznik tiles.
4. Yeni Camii – New Mosque
The New Mosque is not really very new, as it was finished in 1663, the second attempt to build a mosque on that site after the first one fell into disrepair before being finished. It has a huge courtyard and many domes cascading down the exterior of the building, two minarets, and the interior is decorated with gold, marble, and Iznik tile. On the edge of the water near the Galata bridge, the mosque has become a beloved silhouette on the skyline.
3. Süleymaniye Mosque
Mimar Sinan’s crowning glory, Suleymaniye Mosque is the imperial architect’s best known building. Large domes supported by half-domes, and the tall slender minarets typical of the classic Ottoman period of the 16th century make this a beautiful mosque. Only mosques endowed by the Sultan could have 4 minarets, and this mosque was built on the order of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. The largest mosque in the country, the interior of the dome is decorated with red, although restoration work has shown that Sinan originally started with blue before switching. The tombs of Süleyman and his sultana Roxelana are out in the garden and are quite magnificent with tiled panels and stained glass.
2. Hagia Sophia
The Hagia Sophia started life as a Christian Basillica in 537 when it was built on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, and was the world’s largest cathedral for nearly 1000 years, until Seville Cathedral was built in 1520. In 1453 it became a mosque and served as such for almost 500 years, until 1931. It was then secularized and became a museum in 1935. The Hagia Sophia is famous for its huge dome and amazing mosaics. There are several 9th century mosaics left from its time as an orthodox church, including Christ the Pantocrator above the imperial doorway, and the Virgin and child on the apse.
1. Sultanahmet Mosque – the Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque was completed in 1616 under the rule of Ahmed I by the apprentice of the great architect Mimar Sinan. The last great mosque of the classic Ottoman period, it has tens of thousands of blue toned Iznik tiles decorating the interior; traditional in style at the lower levels, they become more flamboyant the higher they go. Unfortunately the Sultan fixed the price to be paid per tile at the beginning of construction, and by the time the mosque was finished several years later, the price of tiles had risen. The ceramic makers took to providing inferior quality tiles to match the low price, so the tiles higher up in the dome have faded and are generally not lasting as well as those on the lower levels. The tall, heavy central dome is supported by four massive pillars, and there are more than 200 stained glass windows. There are an additional four main domes and eight secondary domes. This is the only mosque in Istanbul with six minarets.