Ottoman Istanbul
Sane Mind Turkey

Ottoman Istanbul

I mentioned in my previous post that one reason why I like Istanbul is because of its history and historical sites. Certainly, firstly known as Byzantium and then Constantinople, it was the centre of power and the capital city of various empires for almost 16 centuries. But, the Ottoman legacy and monuments are the most visible today, although several structures older than 1000 years are still there, such as magnificent Hagia Sophia. Ottoman Istanbul is, in my opinion, the most impressive, culturally and architecturally.

 

IMPERIAL MOSQUES

 

The most famous and the most visited are big imperial mosques in the central area and rightly so. The Blue Mosque, opposite Hagia Sophia, with its 6 minarets, is truly an impressive site. No other Ottoman imperial mosque has 6 minarets.

 

Blue Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Blue Mosque

 

The Blue Mosque may be the most famous of all big imperial mosques, but it is the Süleymaniye Mosque that dominates the Istanbul’s skyline. When you cross the Galata Bridge from Beyoğlu to Eminönü, this mosque stands out. Its size and beauty and its carefully chosen location, from where it dominates the city, are all very impressive.

 

Süleymaniye Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Süleymaniye Mosque

 

That is just in the very centre of the historical area. However, when you move a bit further away, there are other big imperial mosques and complexes. Perhaps, they are not as famous as the two mosques that I’ve just mentioned.

But, that certainly doesn’t mean that they are less impressive or historically important, such as the Şehzade Mosque. Suleiman the Magnificent dedicated this mosque to his son Şehzade Mehmed, who died in 1543. Despite that fact that I had already been to Istanbul many times in the past, I visited the Şehzade Mosque for the first time now.

 

Şehzade Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Şehzade Mosque

 

I suspect that most tourist only visit the most famous sites in the central area of Istanbul. The city is big, there is so much to see and there is perhaps not enough time to see everything during the usual short weekend stay. The most famous sites such as Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar are all very impressive.

But, I would say that the Fatih Mosque and the surrounding complex, that I also visited for the very first time, are equally impressive. As a matter of fact, I was totally taken aback by this mosque and its history. But, I’ve never seen it before, despite my numerous visits to Istanbul.

 

Fatih Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Fatih Mosque

 

I can say the same about the Yavuz Sultan Selim Mosque. This and the Fatih Mosque are two mosques that you can also see when you cross the Galata Bridge from Beyoğlu to Eminönü, but they are a bit further away from the most popular sites. So, I’ve seen both of them many times in the past, from a distance. However, this time, I finally visited both of them.

 

Yavuz Sultan Selim Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Yavuz Sultan Selim Mosque

 

 

TOPKAPI PALACE

 

The Ottoman heritage is so vast in Istanbul, it’s impossible to present everything in one post. These magnificent imperial mosques all merit a separate post, the same as the Topkapi Palace, another gem of Ottoman Istanbul, right in the heart of the old city.

But, the Ottoman legacy is more than just these impressive sites. The less famous ones are all over the city. They are equally beautiful and historically and culturally important.

 

Topkapi Palace - Ottoman Istanbul
Topkapi Palace

 

 

SOKOLLU MEHMED PASHA MOSQUE

 

Like almost everything else that I mention in this post, I visited the Sokollu Mehmed Pasha Mosque for the first time now. Frankly speaking, it was only when I started to make some tentative preparations for my travel in Turkey that I found out about it.

 

Sokullu Mehmed Pasha Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Sokollu Mehmed Pasha Mosque

 

Once I read about it and after I saw its location in the old part of Istanbul, a lot became much clearer to me and I understood much more about Sokollu Mehmed Pasha.

 

Sokullu Mehmed Pasha Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Sokullu Mehmed Pasha Mosque

 

Sokollu Mehmed Pasha was in fact Mehmed Paša Sokolović, a Bosnian Serb born as an Orthodox Christian, but taken by Ottomans at a young age, under the devshirme system. It was a blood tax imposed only on the Christian subjects of the empire, in villages of the Balkans and Anatolia. Boys were converted to Islam. Ottomans selected and trained the brightest ones for the military or civil service of the empire. The blood tax practice started in mid 1300s, under Sultan Murad I. The aim was to counteract the growing power of the Turkish nobility.

 

Sokullu Mehmed Pasha Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Sokullu Mehmed Pasha Mosque

 

We studied about Sokollu Mehmed Pasha in Serbia, but not very much. For sure, the Serbian school system didn’t want to praise his personal success and achievement within the Ottoman empire. After all, Ottomans enslaved Serbia for nearly 500 years. It is understandable that Serbs do not look at that period in their history favourably. But, the history is as it is and it can’t be changed.

 

Sokullu Mehmed Pasha Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Sokullu Mehmed Pasha Mosque

 

Also, the fact remains that, for a small boy taken from a Bosnian village at a delicate young age, to become one of the most powerful officials of the Ottoman empire – the Grand Vizier –  was truly impressive.

 

Sokullu Mehmed Pasha Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Sokullu Mehmed Pasha Mosque

 

This mosque, its location, size and interior decoration reaffirm that he was very powerful. He served under three Sultans, between 1565 and 1579, and was married to Sultan Selim’s II daughter.

 

Sokullu Mehmed Pasha Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Sokullu Mehmed Pasha Mosque

 

And that’s also what I understood after visiting the mosque.

 

Sokullu Mehmed Pasha Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Sokullu Mehmed Pasha Mosque

 

The mosque is slightly away from the most central parts of the old historical area.

 

Sokullu Mehmed Pasha Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Sokullu Mehmed Pasha Mosque

 

The famous imperial architect Mimar Sinan constructed it in 1571.

 

Sokullu Mehmed Pasha Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Sokollu Mehmed Pasha Mosque

 

What makes this mosque famous is its interior decoration with Iznik tiles.

 

Sokullu Mehmed Pasha Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Sokollu Mehmed Pasha Mosque

 

In fact, it is easily one of the most beautifully decorated mosques that I have seen. And I’ve seen a lot of them during my travel across Turkey.

 

Sokullu Mehmed Pasha Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Sokollu Mehmed Pasha Mosque

 

Anyone going to Istanbul should visit this mosque, in addition to other more famous sites. It is only a short walk from the Blue Mosque.

 

Sokullu Mehmed Pasha Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Sokollu Mehmed Pasha Mosque

 

I was very lucky because there was no one when I was there, there were no tourists whatsoever.

 

Sokullu Mehmed Pasha Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Sokollu Mehmed Pasha Mosque

 

Otherwise, mosques are usually very busy places, either with tourists or with people praying.

 

Sokullu Mehmed Pasha Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Sokollu Mehmed Pasha Mosque

 

When I go back to Istanbul, I will visit this place again. No photo can convey the architectural and artistic beauty of this mosque. But, I remember that I was very impressed.

 

Sokullu Mehmed Pasha Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Sokollu Mehmed Pasha Mosque

 

 

CERRAH MEHMED PASHA MOSQUE

 

Cerrah Mehmed Pasha was the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman empire from 1598 to 1599. He was a palace surgeon before he became the Grand Vizier. His epithet cerrah means surgeon in Turkish.

 

Cerrah Mehmed Pasha Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Cerrah Mehmed Pasha Mosque

 

I came across the Cerrah Mehmed Pasha Mosque in the Cerrahpaşa neighbourhood of Istanbul. I was on the way to see something else, when I unexpectedly discovered this beautiful Ottoman mosque. Ottoman Istanbul is full of surprises.

 

Cerrah Mehmed Pasha Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Cerrah Mehmed Pasha Mosque

 

This mosque is far away from the usual touristic areas of Istanbul. There was no one there, apart from several worshippers who were busy preparing for prayer.

 

Cerrah Mehmed Pasha Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Cerrah Mehmed Pasha Mosque

 

And that’s exactly what I like about Istanbul. In a seemingly ordinary part of the city, you discover a magnificent historical structure like this mosque.

 

Cerrah Mehmed Pasha Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Cerrah Mehmed Pasha Mosque

 

What I also like is that, at the same time, I learn something new. For example, I’ve never heard of Cerrah Mehmed Pasha before.

 

Cerrah Mehmed Pasha Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Cerrah Mehmed Pasha Mosque

 

The mosque has a beautifully decorated dome.

 

Cerrah Mehmed Pasha Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Cerrah Mehmed Pasha Mosque

 

There is also the Cerrah Mehmed Pasha Türbe in the courtyard.

 

Cerrah Mehmed Pasha Türbe - Ottoman Istanbul
The Cerrah Mehmed Pasha Türbe

 

 

GAZI ATIK ALI PASHA MOSQUE

 

What’s interesting about the Gazi Atik Ali Pasha Mosque is that I saw this mosque every time when I was in Istanbul in the past.

 

Gazi Atik Ali Pasha Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Gazi Atik Ali Pasha Mosque

 

It is right in the heart of the old Istanbul area, close to the Grand Bazaar and next to the Column of Constantine and the imperial Nuruosmaniye Mosque. If you walk between the Grand Bazaar and Hagia Sophia, you have to pass by this mosque.

 

Gazi Atik Ali Pasha Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Gazi Atik Ali Pasha Mosque

 

But, I’ve never really paid attention to it, until now.

 

Gazi Atik Ali Pasha Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Gazi Atik Ali Pasha Mosque

 

It’s a very beautiful historical mosque, constructed in 1496.

 

Gazi Atik Ali Pasha Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Gazi Atik Ali Pasha Mosque

 

Hadim Ali Pasha, of Bosnian origin, was the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman empire, during the reign of Sultan Bayezid II.

 

Gazi Atik Ali Pasha Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Gazi Atik Ali Pasha Mosque

 

This mosque is one more example of the vast Ottoman heritage that you can find in Istanbul.

 

Gazi Atik Ali Pasha Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Gazi Atik Ali Pasha Mosque

 

 

RÜSTEM PASHA MADRASA

 

One more important historical site that I visited for the first time is the Rüstem Pasha Madrasa. I may have passed by this monument in the past without noticing it. It’s also in the central area of old Istanbul, close to the Grand Bazaar and the Bazaar Quarter.

 

Rüstem Pasha Madrasa - Ottoman Istanbul
The Rüstem Pasha Madrasa

 

The Rüstem Pasha Madrasa is a splendid example of the great Ottoman heritage in Istanbul. Commissioned by the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman empire, Rüstem Pasha, the great imperial architect Mimar Sinan built it in 1551.

 

Rüstem Pasha Madrasa - Ottoman Istanbul
The Rüstem Pasha Madrasa

 

It was an institution for religious education until 1869. From 1923, the building initially served as an orphanage and then as a dormitory for university students. From 1987, it has been used by the local Social Assistance and Solidarity Foundation.

 

Rüstem Pasha Madrasa - Ottoman Istanbul
The Rüstem Pasha Madrasa

 

Damat Rüstem Pasha was the Grand Vizier under Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. He was married to the sultan’s only daughter, Mihrimah Sultana. He was one of the most influential and successful Grand Viziers of the empire and also one of the wealthiest in the empire’s history.

 

Rüstem Pasha Madrasa - Ottoman Istanbul
The Rüstem Pasha Madrasa

 

This magnificent structure, right in the middle of the old historical area of Ottoman Istanbul, is beautiful. It is also an overlooked site, as there was absolutely no one when I was there.

 

Rüstem Pasha Madrasa - Ottoman Istanbul
The Rüstem Pasha Madrasa

 

 

RÜSTEM PASHA MOSQUE

 

Another site in the old area of Istanbul, connected with this same historical figure, is the Rüstem Pasha Mosque. It was designed and built by the Ottoman imperial architect Mimar Sinan, between 1561 and 1563. Rüstem Pasha died in 1561. The mosque complex now hosts a religious school.

 

Rüstem Pasha Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Rüstem Pasha Mosque

 

This mosque is also very famous for its interior decoration with Iznik tiles. I’ve already mentioned that a lot of sites were closed for renovation and this mosque was one of them. It was not possible to get in, although the mosque was open for prayers.

I will visit this mosque when I am in Istanbul next time, especially because I’ve never seen it before. In fact, I never paid attention in the past, despite the fact that the mosque is in Eminönü, the area to which you arrive when you cross the Galata Bridge from Beyoğlu. The Rüstem Pasha Mosque is right in front of you. But, you have to know about it, to properly understand its historical and cultural importance.

 

Rüstem Pasha Mosque - Ottoman Istanbul
The Rüstem Pasha Mosque

 

 

GAZANFER AĞA MADRASA

 

Gazanfer Ağa was the Chief Eunuch and Chief Chamberlain of Sultan Mehmed III. He commissioned this madrasa and the chief architect Davut Ağa designed and constructed in 1596.

 

Gazanfer Ağa Madrasa - Ottoman Istanbul
The Gazanfer Ağa Madrasa

 

I came across this historical site when I was on the way to the Fatih Mosque.

 

Gazanfer Ağa Madrasa - Ottoman Istanbul
The Gazanfer Ağa Madrasa

 

This place is also far from the usual touristic areas and there was no one there, apart from a group of students attending a class.

 

Gazanfer Ağa Türbe - Ottoman Istanbul
The Gazanfer Ağa Türbe

 

Another fascinating observation is that the Chief Eunuch, at the imperial court, had sufficient power and money to fund the construction of what clearly is an impressive complex. In my opinion, it is an amazing piece of history.

 

Gazanfer Ağa Madrasa - Ottoman Istanbul
The Gazanfer Ağa Madrasa

 

 

THE REST OF OTTOMAN ISTANBUL

 

Ottoman Istanbul is much more than what I’ve mentioned in this post. The Ottoman heritage is vast and rich and it is impossible to present all its aspects in one article. There is, for example, the magnificent Grand Bazaar.

 

Grand Bazaar - Ottoman Istanbul
The Grand Bazaar

 

The Bazaar Quarter is a big area around the Grand Bazaar, where you can see many Ottoman era buildings. As a matter of fact, you can see the typical Ottoman wooden houses in many parts of old Ottoman Istanbul.

 

Bazaar Quarter - Ottoman Istanbul
The Bazaar Quarter

 

Then, there are the imperial and other fountains all over the city. But, there are so many of them and some of them are so beautiful and historically important, that they also merit a separate post.

 

Saka Fountain - Ottoman Istanbul
The Saka Fountain

 

Apart from the Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque, everything else that I’ve mentioned in this article is what I’ve seen for the first time. That’s despite the fact that I’ve already been to Istanbul many times in the past.

But, it’s also true that there are many different aspects of being in a new city. We don’t dedicate all our time to just visiting the historical sites. There has to be time to relax and enjoy too.

I am very glad that I’ve seen all these, for me, new historical sites. I have learnt a lot about Ottoman Istanbul, although I am aware that there is much more to see.

But, I will do that another time, as I am sure that I will go back very soon.

 

 

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