Sultanahmed Complex

The complex is located opposite Ayasofya Mosque in Sultanahmet Square. It was built by the architect Sedefkar Mehmed Aga for Sultan Ahmed I.The construction of the complex began with a large ceremony in 1609. The ceremony was attended by the great religious leaders of the day, such as Seyhulislam Mehmed Efendi, and notable state figures like Aziz Mahmud Hudai, Sadrazam Davud Pasha and even the sultan himself were present at the laying of the foundations.

The construction of the magnificent complex lasted for quite a time, with the mosque being completed in 1617 and the rest of the construction in 1619.

One of the largest of Istanbul's structures, the complex includes a mosque, medresses, the sultan's chamber, shops of tradesmen, a hamam, a public fountain with a spout, a mausoleum, a hospital, a soup kitchen and a primary school. Some of these have survived to the present.

The mosque is located in the centre of the complex and referred to by foreigners as "The Blue Mosque" on account of the roughly 20,000 blue glazed tiles which cover its exterior. The mosque consists of a wide courtyard and an interior of equal size. The courtyard is above ground level and accessible by steps. It is covered with a dome and contains a pool with a water jet. Another distinguishing feature of the Sultan Ahmet Mosque is the minarets. Four of the six minarets form a part of the mosque and have three galleries, while the remaining two rise from the corners of the courtyard and have two galleries each.

The main dome of the mosque is 34 meters in diameter, rises to a height of 43 meters above ground level and rests upon four massive pillars five metres in diameter. Four half domes also support the main dome. The mosque is five stories high from ground level to the top of the dome and is illuminated by 260 stained-glass windows. Other than the glazed tiles, the mosque is a showcase of other important structural ornamentations of the period.

The marble 'mimber', or pulpit, features mother-of-pearl relief; striking chandeliers hang from the dome. These are just a few of the things worth seeing in the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. Another of the structures of the complex is the Hünkar chamber of the sovereign. It was designed as a place for the sultan to rest before or after performing his prayers and was the first structure of its type to be built in the environs of a mosque.

In the north west cormer of the complex is a mousoleum. Sultan Ahmed I, his wife Kösem Sultan, his sons Sultan Osman II and Sultan Murad IV, and some of his grandchildren are buried here. A medresse is located near the tomb and functions as an archive today.

A primary school is attached to the wall of the inner courtyard of the mosque. There is a fountain and shops on the ground floor of the school and classrooms on the top floor. The last structure on the kiblah side is an 'arasta' - a row of shops of the same trade. A section of the 'arasta' was destroyed by fire in 1912, but the remaining part contains the mosaic museum and a souvenir shop.

The hospital and kitchen were built some distance from the mosque. In their original state they would have been separated from the square by shops in front. The buildings, which were constructed after the 1894 earthquake and now house the dean of Marmara University, completely severed the ties between the hospital and soup kitchen and the other parts of the complex. The hospital and soup kitchen, which are found on Sokullu Mehmed Pasa Yokusu, are used today by the Sultanahmet Technical High School.

Three of complex's four fountains are still standing today. One is in the 'arasta', another at the entrance to the outer courtyard and the third in the area of mausoleum.

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