Ahmed I, who ascended the throne at the age of fourteen was an extremely
religious-minded sultan, who displayed his religious fervor in his decision to construct a
mosque to compete with Ayasofya. For the site, a suitable place was long sought before the
decision was taken. At last the mosque decided to build on the site of the palace of Ayse
Sultan. The owner of the palace was compensated and the site prepared by the architect
Mehmed Aga, who began the construction in 1609.
This architect poet and inlayer completed this great work in 1617. An imperial lodge,
school, service kiosk and single and double storied shops were included in the complex,
which spread over the area around the mosque. The mosque itself is surrounded on three
sides by a broad courtyard, and is entered on each side by a total of eight portals. The
inner court is reached through three gates, and is paved in marble, and surrounded by
revaks supported on columns of pink granite and marble, and two of porphyry, and
surmounted by 30 cupolas. A fine fountain for ablution takes up the center of the
courtyard, surrounded by six marble columns. The mosque is unique with its six minarets in
Istanbul. Four of these have three balconies, two have two
balconies each, a total of 16 in all.
According to the memoirs of Mehmed Aga, the Risale-i Mimariye -the number
of balconies was originally to be 14 in honor of the number of Ottoman sultans, but in the
16th century, the number was increased by two, according to Incicyan, to include the sons
of Yildirim Bayezid, Emir Suleyman and Musa Celebi, who had meanwhile been counted among
the sultans. This mosque intended to match and compete with Ayasofya,
but in reality surpass it in proportion and the balance of internal spaces. It covers an
area of 64x72 m in all.
The central dome rests on four pointed arches with corner pendentives, which are in
turn set upon four large round and fluted piers, 1.60 m in diameter. Four semidomes, one
to each side of the central dome, and small cupolas in the corners complete the
roof-system of the mosque. The sultans gallery in the left corner is flanked by the
penitentiary cell of Ahmed I. Sultanahmet Mosque is given a bright and open effect through
carefully calculated illumination balanced with faience decorating in the interior, as if
heralding a new type of architecture.
The most original feature of the mosque is the 260 windows through which
it is so well lit. Later these colored windows were repaired and consequently light
entering the interior increased. However this is said to have removed the mystic
atmosphere of the interior. According to Celal Esat Arseven, the architect Mehmet Aga has
attempted to create an extremely well lit sofa, (divan area).
The walls and piers are covered with faience for a third of their height to the level
of the upper consoles. A total of 21043 tiles have been used in the interior. The mosque
received its synonym as the Blue Mosque from the bluish haze given to the interior by
these tiles. The faience consists of floral and rumi motifs of various colors on white
ground. These are very fine examples of the art of tiling. The bronze and wooden
decorations and artifacts of the mosque are also very fine. Calligraphy is the work of
Ameti Kasim Gubari and the fine mother-of-pearl window shutters are the work of Sedefkar
Mehmet Aga. Ahmet I died in 1617 and was buried near the mosque.
The tomb, which was begun after this date, was completed in the time of his son Osman
II. The building is basically rectangular with a domed portico and a square extension at
the rear. The entrance rivak is supported on 6 columns, with a cross vault in the center
flanked by a cupola on either side. The ebony doors of the tomb are worked with
inscriptions from the Koran.
The plaster windows have been replaced by glass, making the interior very light. The
narrow panels between these windows on the interior are covered with 17th century tiling.
These are dark green, dark red, blue and white. The most striking feature of this tiled
decoration is a band of inscription in reserve white over a dark blue back ground around
the interior. The dome and walls are plastered. Above the marble mihrab-like niches on the
facade facing the entrance are to be found inscriptions relating to the construction of
the tomb of Osman II. This mausoleum contains 36 tombs of various sizes; the central one
of which belongs to Ahmet I. In front of the mausoleum a marble-faced clock tower was
built during the 19th century. Behind this is a library.