Istanbul Photo Series: Mosques
May 4, 2012 by chamborres
For the second post of our Istanbul Photo Series, we are highlighting the mosques of the city. Although Turkey is secular by law, the presence of Islam is clear. The skyline is filled with domes and minarets of the numerous mosques, and the calls to prayer can be heard in all corners of the city. Yet, at the same time, locals are very much embracing Western culture, European fashion and a hopping nightlife. It is a city with many dualities. In some countries, mosques cannot be visited by non-Muslims; however, in Istanbul, mosques are a top tourist destination. (NOTE: there are many photos in this post, therefore it may take some time to load)
THE BLUE MOSQUE
We arrived in Istanbul just as a fair was being set up in front of the famous Blue Mosque. Turkey’s strong sense of national pride can be seen by the flags hanging from windows, poles and bridges all over the city.
The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art was one of our favorite stops in Istanbul. The exhibits were magnificent, and the view of the Blue Mosque was icing on the cake.
The inside of the Blue Mosque is jaw-dropping. The mosque gets its name from the haze of blue light that emanates from the painted blue tiles which touch nearly every surface in the building.
As one of the city’s main attractions, the Blue Mosque remains lit-up throughout the night, making it an awe-inspiring structure 24 hours a day.
The construction of the Blue Mosque was inspired by Istanbul’s main attraction, the Hagia Sophia. The Sultan Ahmed built the mosque just a few hundred meters away to try and trump the magnificence of the Hagia Sophia. The result was two unbelievable places of worship in the same block. This photo of the Blue Mosque was taken from the second floor of the Hagia Sophia.
THE HAGIA SOPHIA
The Hagia Sophia is one of the Seven Wonders of the Medieval World, and now we know why. It is hard to believe that this magnificent structure was constructed between 532-537 A.D.
As you enter the Hagia, symbols of the various religions that it has served can be seen. First constructed as a Cathedral, it was later converted to a mosque, and today is a museum.
The sheer size of the Hagia is impressive. The central dome is supported by 40 ribs, each of which has a window at its base allowing natural light to flood inside.
The juxtaposition of Christianity and Islam can be seen by the tile mosaic of the Virgin Mary with Jesus in the background of the Minbar.
THE LITTLE HAGIA SOPHIA
We found visiting the Little Hagia Sophia much more enjoyable than its well-known counterpart simply due to the lack of crowds. It is named as such because it is thought to have served as a model for the Hagia Sophia.
Behind the Minbar, you can see the apse of the former church that this mosque used to be, the Church of the Saints Sergius and Bacchus.
The restoration and maintenance in the Little Hagia can be seen in this ornate painting in the central dome.
YENI CAMI (THE NEW MOSQUE)
Only in Istanbul would the “new” mosque refer to a mosque built over 400 years ago.
This is the ablution area where Muslims wash their hands, feet, face and forearms before entering the mosque to pray.
The sunny day on which we visited Süleymaniye made for a vibrant contrast between the blue sky and stone white minarets.
Many of the historic sites we visited had been restored using preservation techniques. In this mosque, however, the interior was scrapped away and completely redone. Controversy aside, it gave us a feel of what the mosque may have looked like when it was initially constructed.
The Süleymaniye Mosque sits atop a hill that provides beautiful views of the city, Golden Horn and Bosphorus River. This photo was taken from the Galata Bridge, where fishermen line up to catch fish each day.