Famous Ceilings: Blue Mosque

Written by Milan Jara

The Sultan Ahmet Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, was built in Istanbul, once the capital city of the Ottoman Empire, between the years 1609 and 1616. It was commissioned by the young Sultan Ahmet I and was meant to rival its neighbor, Hagia Sophia, a former Christian Church that had been converted into a mosque. In some ways, the Blue Mosque also rivaled the mosques of Mecca with its six tall, thin minarets. It is the only mosque in Istanbul that has six minarets. One can be found at each corner of the prayer hall and two more at the foremost corners of its expansive courtyard.

Inside the mosque, one can find thousands of floral-patterned, blue-and-white Iznik tiles and natural light filtering in through the intricate stained-glass windows, once made of real, Venetian glass. The predominantly blue décor in the mosque's interior is what inspired the massive building's nickname. Islam discourages depictions of the human form in art, because Muslims believe it could distract people from the worship of Allah. Therefore, it's unsurprising that the Blue Mosque's interior features mostly floral patterns, geometric designs, and Arabic calligraphy. There is a marble niche, known as the mihrab, set into one of the walls of the mosque. The mihrab indicates the Qibla, or the direction Muslims should face while praying. This is important, because in the Muslim faith, one must always pray facing Mecca.

The prayer hall's famous ceiling culminates in a large, central dome. The dome sits atop four pendentives, an indication of the Byzantine influence on Islamic architecture. The dome and pendentives are supported by four thick fluted pillars. Surrounding the central dome are several partial domes, the drums of which boast countless stained-glass windows that let in streams of natural light. About 77 feet in diameter and looming approximately 141 feet above the ground, the Blue Mosque's beautiful central dome is truly awe-inspiring.


- Milan Jara

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