THE 18TH AND 19TH CENTURY OTTOMAN IMPERIAL MOSQUES IN ISTANBUL
Usually built as monumental complexes that comprise various structures, they are historically significant and are a crucial part of the architectural and artistic heritage. But, some imperial mosques are smaller and reflect contemporary trends of an era in which they were constructed.
I wrote about the Ottoman 16th and 17th century imperial mosques in my previous post. This post is about the mosques constructed in the later period of the Ottoman Empire, namely in the 18th and the 19th century. They are the mosques that I visited during my latest stay in Istanbul.
Certainly, the list is not comprehensive because I visited just those ones located in the most central part of Istanbul’s historical area. Almost every sultan wanted to leave his mark on the city, thus there are many of them.
Additionally, other members of the Ottoman dynasty also commissioned constructions of mosque complexes. I will visit the remaining ones next time.
VALİDE-İ CEDID MOSQUE / YENİ VALİDE MOSQUE (1711)
The same as some other Ottoman imperial mosques in Istanbul, this mosque has two names. The sign at the entrance to the mosque shows the name Vâlide-İ Cedid Mosque. Otherwise, the other name is the Yeni Valide Mosque. This is the same as the Blue Mosque, the most famous of all mosques in Istanbul, which is in fact the Sultan Ahmed mosque.
This mosque is in Üsküdar, on the Asian side of Istanbul. I went to Üsküdar for the first time during my last stay in Istanbul. I also visited this mosque for the first time. When I went there, there were no foreign tourists, only a handful of worshippers and there were also some local people within the complex.
What I particularly like when I visit places like this one is that I learn something completely new. My knowledge of the 18th and 19th century Ottoman history and especially of this mosque was non-existent. But I read about it, so that I could understand what I was visiting.
I also think that it is important to put everything in its proper historical context. Of course, there is no need to learn the most minute details, far from that. Usually, a bit of information is perfectly sufficient. After all, there is so much history in the world and it’s impossible to learn and know everything.
Sultan Ahmed III ordered construction of this mosque in honour of his mother Emetullah Râbi’a Gülnûş Sultan.
The mosque opened in 1711. In fact, it’s a complex consisting of a mosque, a hospice, arasta (shops built beneath or close to the mosque to provide income for repairs and maintenance), a primary school, a courtyard fountain, a clock tower and offices.
The building is typical of the classical Ottoman period and of the “Sinan school” of the Ottoman religious architecture. In fact, it’s a copy of the Rüstem Pasha Mosque.
What’s also interesting about this mosque is that it is one of the earliest examples of the 18th century trend when they started to construct mosques with higher and narrower domes.
Gülnuş Sultan was Haseki Sultan (wife) of the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed IV.
Additionally, she was Valide Sultan (queen mother) when her two sons became sultans – Mustafa II and Ahmed III.
Gülnuş Sultan was born in Crete, at the time when the Venetian Republic ruled the island. Her original name was Evmania Voria and she was an ethnic Greek. The Ottomans captured her during the invasion of Crete in 1645.
She was three years old when she was sent to Constantinople, as a slave. She lived in a harem of the Topkapi Palace, where she received the thorough Islamic education. It was in the harem that she caught the attention of Sultan Mehmed IV.
She became Valide Sultan when her older son, Mustafa II, became a sultan in 1695. She held that powerful position until her death in 1715. At the time of her death, her younger son Ahmed III was the sultan.
That was a bit of a history about the woman that had this magnificent complex built in her name, in Üsküdar. As I said, the proper historical context makes it much easier to understand and appreciate what we are seeing.
Another interesting fact is that, in the Ottoman empire, slaves could reach powerful positions. This particular slave woman was the sultan’s wife and mother of two sultans of the Ottoman empire.
Everyone visiting Üsküdar should visit this mosque, especially as it’s very close to the port. It is a beautiful complex and a jewel of the Ottoman heritage.
NURUOSMANİYE MOSQUE (1755)
The Nuruosmaniye Mosque is also one of the most recognisable Istanbul’s landmarks. When you cross the Galata Bridge from Karaköy to Eminönü, it is right in front of you. It dominates Istanbul’s skyline, together with other prominent constructions such as the Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, the New Mosque and the Süleymaniye Mosque.
Additionally, it is right next to the Grand Bazaar and most tourist inevitably pass through its courtyard on the way to the Grand Bazaar.
I have also seen this mosque every time when I was in Istanbul in the past. In fact, you can’t miss it. It’s in the most central part of the old historical area, close to other famous historic structures.
Sultan Mahmud I commissioned its construction in 1748.
But, his successor Sultan Osman III completed it in 1755.
This mosque is one of the finest examples of the Ottoman baroque style. Its name means “the light of Osman”, after Sultan Osman III, who completed it. Also, many windows let a lot of light into the mosque.
I believe that, because of its location, this mosque is one of the most visited ones, together with the Blue Mosque.
If you happen to pass nearby, I encourage you to visit it. The mosque and its surrounding complex are beautiful. A feature that caught my attention were the calligraphic writings in gold letters on red metal plates, representing the Islamic art at its best.
FATİH MOSQUE (1771)
Despite the fact that I visited Istanbul many times in the past, I’ve never been to the Fatih Mosque. I’ve seen it many times, every time when I was crossing the Galata Bridge. The Fatih Mosque is also one of Istanbul’s landmarks.
But, it’s a bit further away from the central historical area and you have to specifically go there to see it. That’s also why there were no foreign tourists when I visited this complex. I didn’t know very much about this mosque and didn’t know what to expect.
The Fatih Mosque and the surrounding complex are one of the biggest in Istanbul. The whole site is breath-taking. However, only after I had read about it, I properly understood its historic significance.
In fact, this mosque is possibly one of the most important ones among all Ottoman imperial mosques in Istanbul. Its history is fascinating and of particular interest to me, which I will mention later.
The construction that we see today is from the 18th century. Fatih in Turkish means conqueror. Fatih Camii means the Conqueror’s Mosque.
The Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II – Mehmed the Conqueror – commissioned the original mosque in 1463, 10 years after he had conquered Constantinople. The original complex was completed in 1470.
But, the original construction was completely destroyed in an earthquake, in 1766. Sultan Mustafa III pulled it down and built a completely new complex in 1771.
So, what is so interesting about this mosque?
First of all, it is dedicated to a person that conquered Constantinople in 1453. That conquest cemented expansion of the Ottoman Empire in one of the most powerful empires for over 600 years.
Additionally, Fatih Sultan Mehmed II conquered Serbia. Serbia was an Ottoman vassal state since the Battle of Kosovo in 1389.
But, Fatih Sultan Mehmed II ended the Serbian Despotate in 1459 and fully absorbed Serbia within the Ottoman Empire.
In other words, from that moment until the independence in 1867, Serbia doesn’t have any history. For approximately 400 years, history of Serbia is history of the Ottoman Empire.
The original complex was the oldest in the city, as it was built right after the Ottoman army had captured Constantinople. The existing 18th century complex is monumental.
Behind the mosque, there is a tomb (türbe) of the Conqueror. I went there to see the resting place of the person that changed the history of Serbs. I mentioned in my post on Belgrade that the Renaissance never arrived to Serbia as it was firmly within the Ottoman grip.
In any case, the Fatih Mosque is a must see.
The surrounding area is very interesting, you can find some nice coffee shops there. Also, it’s on the way to the Yavuz Sultan Selim Mosque, so you can combine the visit.
The nearby traditional area of Istanbul is equally fascinating. It projects a very specific image of the city, totally different from what you find in other areas.
LALELİ MOSQUE (1783)
I’ve never visited the Laleli Mosque in the past. Actually, I don’t think that I’ve ever seen it before, despite the fact that it is very close to the Grand Bazaar.
In fact, when you are in front of the Grand Bazaar, close to the Bayezid Mosque and you start walking down the Ordu street, you will arrive to the Laleli Mosque.
And if you continue to walk, you will arrive to one more Ottoman imperial mosque that I will mention in this post. Ottoman imperial mosques are all over Istanbul.
Sultan Mustafa III ordered construction of this mosque in Ottoman Baroque style.
The mosque was completed in 1764, destroyed in fire in 1783 and it was immediately rebuilt.
The fire of 1911 destroyed the madrasa within the complex. Finally, the construction work on nearby Ordu street destroyed other structures of the original complex.
Regardless of its unfortunate history, the mosque is beautiful. It is smaller than other imperial mosques.
Most importantly, if you go there you will be able to enjoy in its relative tranquillity, as there are no tourists. At least, there were none when I visited this mosque.
In fact, it’s quite interesting that this mosque is approximately a ten-minute walk from the Grand Bazaar and, while the bazaar and its surrounding area are usually completely invaded by tourists, this and other historically important and interesting sites are completely overlooked.
Like all other mosques, its interior decoration is stunning.
It wasn’t the prayer time when I visited this mosque but, as you can see in these photos, some worshippers were praying.
The only time when mosques are closed for visits is during the official prayer times, which is five times per day. At other times, mosques are open for everyone, for as long as you take your shoes off before you enter.
Additionally, as you can see in the photo below, mosques are also used to rest. There were some people sleeping. It was a very hot day, while it was cool and pleasant inside of the mosque.
Certainly, the Laleli Mosque is a beautiful late 18th century building and one more precious jewel of the Ottoman imperial heritage in Istanbul.
PERTEVNİYAL VALİDE SULTAN MOSQUE (1871)
The Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque, also known as the Aksaray Valide Mosque, is the last in the list of Ottoman imperial mosques that I visited during my stay in Istanbul.
This mosque is very close to the Laleli Mosque. You can easily visit both places at the same time.
It is also the smallest of all Ottoman imperial mosques that I visited.
Built in 1871, it was one of the last imperial mosques to be built in Istanbul during the Ottoman era. Consequently, it is very different to all other mosques.
This mosque is an example of Ottoman Rococo, with elements of Turkish, Gothic, Renaissance and Empire styles. In my opinion, it’s possibly one of the most beautifully decorated mosques, provided you like the Rococo style.
Who is this mosque named after? Pertevniyal Sultan was the wife of Sultan Mahmud II.
Her further powerful role was Valide Sultan (queen mother) of Sultan Abdülaziz.
The interior is magical, especially the opulently decorated dome.
The mosque is in a busy area, with a lot of traffic and perhaps that can take some pleasure away when you visit it.
The surrounding complex is small but very interesting, especially because it’s completely different from all other Ottoman heritage that you can see in Istanbul.
In this and the previous post, I presented the Ottoman imperial mosques that I visited during my stay in Istanbul. The list is not comprehensive. There are other imperial mosques that I didn’t see.
I will visit them next time. We don’t need to see absolutely everything at once. Then, I will complete these two articles.
Additionally, I hope that these posts will serve as an inspiration to people interested in Ottoman history. They may inspire you to follow in my steps and visit these magnificent historic sites and structures.
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