Photographer's Note

The last photo I posted featured the 1500-year old Hagia Sophia, by any measure the jewel of the architectural crown of Istanbul. Across a street and a pair of courtyards away is another architectural gem, a relative newcomer, just four hundred years old. The Mosque of Sultan Ahmet, otherwise known as the “Blue Mosque,” was completed 1616 after a frenetic building activity of just six-years. I am posting this image to complete a matching pair of photos.

In a city that boasts numberless mosques, it was only the heads of state — the Sultans — that were allowed to commission mosques with more than one minaret. The incomparable Sultan Suleyman ‘the Magnificent’ (known in Turkey as ‘Kanuni’ or the ‘Law Giver’) hired the great architect, Mimar Sinan, to design the Suleymaniye Mosque. It featured four minarets. But then seventy years later, the relatively minor sultan, Ahmet I, (the great great grandson of Sultan Suleyman, ordered his own architect Mehmet Aga to build a mosque, which he specified was to have “… a dome larger than the Hagia Sophia, and feature a single minaret made of solid gold.”

The architect, realizing that even the deep Ottoman coffers could not afford a solid gold minaret, took advantage of an anomaly in the language. The word in Turkish for gold is “altin;” the word for six is “alti.” According to legend, Mehmed Aga substituted six minarets for the single golden minaret, and pretended that he misunderstood the order. The story, ringing of the apocryphal, had Sultan Ahmet so impressed with the totality of the edifice that he rewarded the architect rather than punish him.

The building has a square based, and is topped by a dome 23.5 meters (77 feet) in diameter and 43 meters (140 feet) height, compared to the Hagia Sophia that supports a dome 31 meters (102 feet) in diameter and 56 meters (180 feet) height. Thus the sultan had received neither his golden minaret, nor a dome larger than that of the Hagia Sophia. In its interior four colossal columns 5 meters (16.3 feet) in diameter provide the brunt of the upward thrust holding up the building. The building features 260 windows that allow sunlight to stream in and illuminate the interior. The appellation, “Blue Mosque,” derives from the magnificent cobalt blue ceramic Iznik tiles that cover the interior walls.

I took the photo from the top of the 1500-year old Galata Tower perched on a hilltop across the Golden Horn (Haliç), and at the same time that I shot the image of the Hagia Sophia that I submitted to TrekEarth a few days ago. A troubling development is the Fine Arts Commission of the Municipality that allowed the erection of modern buildings of dubious architectural design — office buildings in the foreground — that mar the view. In the Sea of Marmara and in the vicinity of Istanbul is an archipelago of nine islands, several of them inhabited, the one seen in this photo — Yassiada (Flat Island) — just behind the Blue Mosque is not inhabited.

In a part of the world where a seismic fault runs through the Sea of Marmara, just south of the Istanbul, the building has been rocked by numberless earthquakes, and has survived them all (notwithstanding one earthquake just 20 years of the completion of the building that caused the dome to collapse and a new dome having to be built to replace it). The building even survived the catastrophic earthquake in 1999 when close to 18,000 people perished within a circle of 80 km radius. I was visiting Istanbul and staying in Taksim, when the last major eartquake struck, and I remember running out on a balcony (foolish thing to do), to see if any of the minarets of the Hagia Sophia or the Blue Mosque had toppled. They had not!

I used a 70-210 Nikkor lens, extended to full length and steadied on the balustrades, and subsequently cropped the image to the aspect ratio of the golden ratio, or 1:1.618, and created a simple mat around it. The signature at the bottom is in the ‘DaVinci font’ forward (there is also a ‘DaVinci font backward, the way Leonardo personally wrote).

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Additional Photos by Bulent Atalay (batalay) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6809 W: 476 N: 12169] (41257)
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