The Blue Mosque is one of the masterpieces of Ottoman architecture, and one of the most beautiful mosques in the world.
The mosque’s Turkish name is, Sultan Ahmet Camii, which is a reference to its founder and sponsor, the Ottoman emperor Ahmet I. However, due to the colour of the blue covering three-quarters of the mosque walls, it is known as the Blue Mosque.
Some 21,000 tiles with over fifty different designs were produced in Iznik by all the factories of the city for Blue Mosque.
The construction of the mosque which took place between 1606 and 1617, swallowed a ton of money, sparking sharp criticism both within the locals and among religious scholars.
The architect Mehmet Agha, had reviewed all the major buildings previously made in Istanbul and the rest of the empire before designing what would become the Blue Mosque. There are thus a number of elements already present in the achievements of his predecessors – and especially those of Sinan – alongside innovations of his own.
The central dome of the mosque has a rectangular base, with a large central space and covered galleries lit by a series of small domes, all features that are found in mosques designed by Sinan, including the Shehzade mosque.
A mosque with six minarets
Compared to the older mosques, cathedrals, Ayasofia (St. Sophia), the Blue Mosque is both more proportionate and more elegant – with a dome less impressive (23 meters diameter) and placed lower (it rises to 43 meters), but also incomparably bright, thanks to the countless windows with elegant stained glass surrounding domes and semi-domes.
Among the innovations, there are particular ablution taps placed along the adjoining galleries to the court, and the number of minarets: six, a first for all mosques other than the Sacred Mosque surrounding Kabah in Mecca. This particular innovation triggered most of the criticism from the religious scholars, for they believe no building should compete, with the Sacred Mosque (al-Masjid al-haram). Wise and circumspect, Sultan Ahmet I st did add a seventh minaret at the mosque in Mecca to stop criticism.