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About Sultanahmet Mosque
This grand mosque was commissioned by Sultan Ahmet I and constructed by the architect Mehmet Aga between 1609 and 1616. Sultan Ahmet Mosque is next to the Hippodrome across the Hagia Sophia Church. Like Sinan's Sehzade Mosque, this mosque comprises four semidomes and a dome encompassing a nearly square prayer hall (51 meters long, 53 meters wide). Four pointed arches and four gigantic pillars support the dome (23.5 meters in diameter and 43 high). Pendentives fill in the triangular spaces between the arches and the dome. On the picture below (extreme right), one of the semidomes and two of the pendentives can be seen. Arches that spring from the pillars and extend to the buttresses in the back walls lend strenght to the supporting system. They also create square corner spaces topped by small domes. An absolute symmetry reigns everywhere inside the mosque. The semidomes open up the covering system on the four sides above. However, the colossal pillars (five meters in diameter) hinder the expansion of the central space from below the dome to the corners. In order to break their massiveness, the architect added convex flutes that create softer contours.

The building took its second name, Blue Mosque, from the colour of the painted decoration covering the surfaces of the upper structure. It is predominantly in blue. Furthermore, the galleries and the lower parts of the walls are overlayed with Iznik tiles of blue and green colours. The main entrance to the prayer hall is through a portal on the north, which faces an arcaded open courtyard. There are 30 small domes that cover the square spaces behind the arcades. While entering this courtyard from its northern gate one can have an outstanding view of the exquisite fountain (sadirvan) and the mosque behind it (see the photograph above, extreme right). The symmetry, which leads the eye to an invisible directional central line climbing through the ascending order of the domes and culminating at the spire (alem), is a unique feature of this monumental building. The grey colour of the stone used in the construction and the balanced interrelation of the solids and voids outside and within the arches on the facade break the monolithic effect of the building. A second courtyard extends on the outside of the mosque, which encloses the buildings of the complex (kulliya). A sultan's qasr (hunkar kasri) is attached to the northeastern corner and a ramp leads to it. A madrasa, primary school, public kitchen (imarat), market, (charshi), turbah, storerooms and stables are parts of the kulliya. The hospital and the karawanserai of the complex were demolished in the nineteenth century.

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Additional Photos by Levent ALTINTAS (levocan) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 403 W: 1 N: 236] (2253)
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