The neighborhood of Fatih covers most of the oldest part of the city – the former Constantinople and later Ottoman populated peninsula which extends between the Golden Horn to the north, Sea of Marmara to the south, the Bosporus on the East and the old city walls to the west. Strictly speaking, it includes Sultanahmet, the main locus of tourist activity, but I’m going to cover that in another post so this one will cover the areas western side in a mosque-hunting walking tour I took myself on the day before KJ arrived. My goal was to see a number of beautiful historic mosques and walk until I was too tired to stay up late being excited so I covered a lot of ground and visited three exquisite mosques.
The Suleymaniye Mosque was built at the direction of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent by his architect Mimar Sinan (creator of many of the most beautiful mosques in the city. The Suleymaniye is the largest in the city and shows most of the classic forms including the grand entry courtyard, paneled wooden door, high central dome resting on a ring of windows and using half domed arches to mediate between the circular dome form and the square floor plan below. It was very imposing but actually not one of my favorites. It felt a little cold and empty compared with smaller and more populace mosques I’ve visited before and after.
The Şehzade Mosque was another Süleyman commission designed by Sinan, this time commemorate his eldest sons death. This was actually Sinan’s first building for the sultan and really enjoyed its relatively simple decoration and red tile details. In the forecourt, nearly every door has a different tile pattern in the half circle arch above it.
The Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque is (for a change) not by Sinan but a much later work, done in the middle 1800s and (to my eye) having an almost an almost Art Noveau sensibility in its delicate floral detail (although of course its much too early). It is currently being renovated and the inside has just been completed. I was entranced by the delicate stone work detailing on the outside and the success of the trompe-l’œil interiors. I would have stayed much longer but was counter intuitively driven away by the excessive friendliness of the eager door guard who insisted on showing me all the spaces and taking my picture and followed me around until I had to smile at him and make my escape.