SULTAN AHMET SQUARE
The Hippodrome, known as the Atmeydan› (horse arena) during the Ottoman era, served as an athletic ground in Byzantine times. It was also used for horse and carriage races, always for the honour of the Emperor. After Sultan Ahmet the First (1609-1616) had the mosque built in his name, this historical ground was named after him, Sultanahmet.
The main section of this park is the place which used to be called At Meydan› (the Horse Arena). This section covers a large area in front of the Blue Mosque. The Alman Çeﬂmesi (the German Fountain), Dikilitaﬂ, the Burma Sütun (the Twisted Pillar,) and the Örme Sütun (the Woven Pillar) are all included in this section. This is the actual Sultanahmet Park. Byzantine people would organize horse and war carriage contests in this area. The area that is between the Hagia Sophia Mosque and the Blue Mosque was converted to a park during the Republican Era. The Turkish bathhouse of Hagia Sophia and the Tomb of Sultan Ahmet the First are also within this section. The old courthouse near the Hagia Sophia Mosque burnt down in 1933. This area was later reorganized and turned into an green area and a park. The area between the courthouse as it is today, the Firuz A€a Mosque, and the Divanyolu was also opened during the Republican Era and turned into a park. As a result, Sultanahmet Park consists of four main sections:
The Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque, one of the most famous monuments of the Turkish and Islamic world, is the only mosque built with six minarets. The area where it is located also includes many important works built in earlier periods of ‹stanbul. The mosque silhouette has become the symbol of the city of ‹stanbul. The original name of this mosque is I. Sultan Ahmet Mosque, but it is also known as the “Blue Mosque” owing to the glazed tiles decorating its interior The mosque, built between the years 1609 and 1616, was located in a large scale complex which included social and cultural structures such as a bazaar, a bath, a cookhouse, a hospital, schools, a caravansasaray. Unfortunately, these have not been preserved. The architect of the mosque was Mimar Mehmet A€a. The architect of the mosque was an apprentice of Koca Sinan, the great architect of Turkish classical architecture, and he applied a plan formerly used by his master but on a greater scale. He decorated the interior side of the mosque painstakingly, like a jeweler. The actual entrance to the Blue Mosque is at the side of the Roman era Hippodrome. The interior courtyard is surrounded by an outer courtyard. These and the main structure are situated on a platform. When you enter through one of the three entrance doors, you will notice the painting, glazed tiles and stained glass that supplement the outer view. The interior is one large space which rises above four large pillars which support broad and sharp arches. The interior of the mosque is embellished with over 20,000 marvelous pieces of glazed ‹znik tiles. The upper sides of the glazed tiles and interior sides of all domes are embellished by ornate painting. The pulpit, decorated with marvelous carving, is near the altar past the main entrance. On the other side, the lodge of the sultans can be seen in the form of a balcony. The dome, with a diameter of 23,5 m and a height of 43 meters, is illuminated by 260 windows . The single domed tomb of Sultan Ahmet, who ordered the building of the mosque, and the madrasah are to the south of the mosque towards Hagia Sophia.. It is said that there are 16 minaret symbols (ﬂerefe) on the six minarets of the mosque because Sultan Ahmet was the 16th sultan of the Ottoman Empire. The minarets are another example of the Turkish style. Spiral stairs lead to the minaret symbols. The domes and the minarets are coated with lead. The crescents on their tips are made of copper coated with gold.
The Hagia Sophia Museum
Sultanahmet Square, Eminönü
Tel: (0212) 522 17 50-528 45 00
Everyday except Monday 09.30-16.30
Hagia Sophia is a masterpiece with a synthesis of the Occident and the Orient, a unique example of architectural applications, and is considered to be the one and only example in this respect. It is among the most important monuments have survived to today, now belonging to the history of architecture. Hagia Sophia was used as a church for 916 years and as a mosque for 481 years. It has been a museum since 1935.
Byzantine historians claimed that the first Hagia Sophia was built during the reign of Emperor Constantinus the 1st (324-337). This structure, which had the plan of a basilica and a wooden roof, burnt down during a rebellion. No remains of the structure have survived up to now.
Emperor Theodosius the 2nd had the building reconstructed for the second time and reopened it in 415. This structure, which also had the plan of a basilica, burnt down in 532 during the Nika rebellion. Some remains from this structure were uncovered during the excavations carried out in 1936. These are footboards, pillars, crests and other architectural items.
Emperor Justinianus (527-565) wished to construct a church larger than Hagia Sophia and had Isiodoroos from Miletos and Anthemios from Tralles build the Hagia Sophia that we see today. The construction of Hagia Sophia was started on the 23rd of December 532 and was completed on the 27th of December 537. It consists of two lateral rooms, apse, and outer and interior narthexes. The interior room dimension is 100 x 70 m and is covered with a dome with a height of 55 m and a diameter of 30.31 m.
The mosaics of Hagia Sophia as well as its architecture are of great importance. The oldest mosaics are those that are decorated with golden geometrical and flower figures in the lateral rooms and interior narthexes. The figured mosaics were made in the 9th and 12th centuries. These can be seen above the Emperor’s Gate, on the apse, on the exit door, and on the upper floor gallery. Hagia Sophia experienced many restorations during the Turkish era, which started with the conquest of ‹stanbul. The surroundings of the altar include the most beautiful examples of the Turkish art of glazed tiles and calligraphy. There are sheets on which Ottoman Sultan wrote and that are placed on the side walls of the altar. Sultan’s tombs, the fountain of Sultan I. Mahmud, the school, the soup kitchen, the library, the prayer platform of Sultan Abdülmecid, and the prayer hours calculation room are the examples of the Turkish era in Hagia Sophia and they constitute the most beautiful examples of the classical Ottoman tomb tradition in terms of their architecture, glazed tiles and interior design.
Binbirdirek Cistern (The Cistern of a thousand and one Pillars)
Binbirdirek Mah. ‹mran Öktem Sk. Sultanahmet Square
Tel : (0212) 518 10 01
Every day 09.00-20.00
Binbirdirek cistern, the second biggest water reservoir of ‹stanbul was built in the 4th century. Senator Philoxenus built his palace on the Hippodrome and built this cistern in order to meet the water needs of the palace. The German voyager R. Lubenau, who visited ‹stanbul in the 16th century, reported that there were thread workers working in the cistern. However, there are also others that claim that the cistern
contained water in the 18th century. As there had not been water in the cistern for a long time, it was used by thread workerss as a workshop in the 19th century. Some of the arches were pierced and openings that let light inside
were opened. Binbirdirek Cistern is surrounded with a thick wall and its dimensions are 64, by 56 by 40 m. The brackets, each of which has 16 lines of 14 pillars with a space of 3.75 m between are joined with arches. The pillars and heads were designed for this cistern and they were not collected from other structures. The arches on the heads are joined with opposite stretchers. Only the round holes on them can be seen today. The name of the cistern in the Turkish era may have come from the words “a thousand and one” which represented multiplicity. However, some people claim that these words may apply also to the overlapped pillar bodies. The lower sections of the pillars are buried in the ground to about 5 meters. The total height of the brackets is 12.5 meters. The eighteen holes on the left side of the entrance of the cistern were filled in at somem point in time.
The Basilica Cistern
Yerebatan Cad. Sultanahmet
Tel : (0212) 522 12 59
Everyday: 09.00 – 17.30
This is the biggest and most spectacular cistern in the city. The cistern’s entrance is in the small building to the west of Hagia Sophia. The ceiling of the cistern, which looks like a forest of pillars, is covered with bricks and crosswise arches. It was named the Basilica Cistern because of a basilica which used to be in the vicinity. It was built during the reign of Justinanus the 1st (527-565) to provide water to the palaces in the vicinity. The pillars are decorated with
some plain and Corinthian-style pillar heads. There are 336 pillars in 12 rows of 28 pillars, and their dimensions are 170 x 70 meters. The level of water changed in accordance with the changes in the seasons. Water was distributed outside through pipes on different levels on the eastern wall. The marks left by different levels of water can be seen on the pillars. The floor was cleaned during the big restoration of 1984, unearthing from one meter of mud the original floor of bricks and marble blocks with the figure of Medusa’s head.
Sokollu Mehmet Paşa Mosque
This mosque, which holds priceless riches of the Muslim world, was built in 1571 by Mimar Sinan. It was dedicated to Esmihan Sultan, the daughter of Selim the 2nd and the wife of Sokullu Mehmet Paﬂa, the grand vizier of the Ottoman Empire. The interior of the mosque is decorated with glazed ‹znik tiles. The building grounds include several additional religious units and the courtyard of the mosque is surrounded by madrasahs. These buildings are used as Quran classes today. The front section of the mosque includes the lodge and past this section is the Uzbek Mevlevi Lodge. The back of the mosque used to hold an Ottoman cemetery, which is under protection today. The mosque, which has a capacity of 700 people, has never been damaged by any natural disasters, fires, etc. since it was built and it has always been open to religious services throughout its history. The glazed tiles inside the mosque were applied on the pulpit cone, the section that goes from the altar to the ceiling, window facades and the triangular pendantives supporting the dome in a way which has not been seen in any other mosque. The glazed ‹znik tiles inside the madrasah in the lodge also have unique properties.