Sunday, November 23, 2014

New Mosque - Istanbul / Turkey

New Mosque - Istanbul
New Mosque - Istanbul
The New Mosque (Turkish: Yeni Camii) is located in the Fatih district, in the Eminönü neighborhood and is conveniently located next to the Spice Bazaar. Don’t be fooled by the name. The New Mosque wasn’t completed until the mid-17th century. Commissioned by Safiye Sultan, the mosque was built between 1597-1665.

The sixty-eight year construction was due to the controversy surrounding the mosque. At the time, a predominantly Jewish population inhabited the Eminönü neighbourhood. Safiye Sultan hoped that by placing the mosque there it would expand the Islamic influence within the city. The increasing political power of the Valide Sultan and the enormous expenses needed to erect the New Mosque caused much discontent amongst the Janissaries and Safiye Sultan was forced to abandon the project.

The incomplete structure fell into ruins and was largely destroyed by a fire in 1660. In that same year, Valide Turhan Hadice decided to complete the project as a work of piety. Construction was finally completed in 1663 and the mosque was opened in 1665.

The exterior of the mosque is comprised of sixty-six domes in a pyramidal design and two minarets. The main dome is 36 metres in height. Along the South wall of the mosque there are water taps for those wishing to perform ritual purifications.

New Mosque - Istanbul
New Mosque - Istanbul
The main entrance to the mosque’s courtyard is on its West side. Avian enthusiasts might enjoy feeding the countless pigeons flying and milling about the steps leading to the mosque’s courtyard. Men and women in covered chairs sell bird feed, which is the pigeons’ incentive to stick around.

On a nice day, sit on the stairs outside the courtyard, but know that you run the risk of being the recipient of pigeon droppings. From the steps, you can watch other tourists, Turks, and hawkers mill about. You’ll find the usual snack vendors, plus a few selling flags, light-up toys, and other trinkets. There’s also a nice view of Galata Tower to the North.

The inner courtyard is similar to the Blue Mosque’s, but smaller. The perimeter consists of 26 painted domes, with elegant red and white designs. There is a charming sadirvan in the centre where men may cleanse themselves before entering the mosque.

In its calm atmosphere, visitors will be able to sit and appreciate the stunning interior without feeling rushed. Beautiful stained glass windows let light flood into the mosque. Innumerable İznik tiles that depict stars, suns, flowers, and every imaginable shape adorn the New Mosque’s walls, domes, arches, and pillars. The countless patterns in red, blue, green, and white unify to create a cohesive masterpiece.

The central dome rises 36 metres from the floor and has a diameter of 17.5 metres. On the corners where the pillars meet the dome are four elaborate calligraphic plates with the names of the first four khalifahs.


  • Women must cover their hair and shoulders and both men and women must cover their bare legs.

Bayezid II Mosque

The Bayezid Mosque Istanbul - Turkey
The Bayezid Mosque
The Bayezid Mosque was commissioned by its namesake, Sultan Bayezid II. It was the second imperial mosque complex to be built after the conquest in 1453. (The first was the Fatih Mosque and Complex.) Little is known about the architect, but the mosque’s polished style mimics earlier Ottoman as well as western architectural techniques. The surrounding complex dates from 1501 to 1506. Imperial architect, Mimar Sinan, made repairs in 1573-1574.

The Bayezid Mosque Istanbul - Turkey
The Bayezid Mosque
The mosque itself is about 40 meters square and the dome is 17 meters in diameter. The structure is built entirely from cut stone and marble brought from nearby Byzantine ruins. The tombs of Sultan Bayezid II, his daughter Selçuk Hatun, and Grand Vizier Koca Mustafa Resid Pasha can be found in a small garden behind the mosque.


  • Before entering the mosque, women must cover their shoulders, arms, and heads.
  • Both men and women must cover their legs entirely.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Chora Museum - Istanbul / Turkey

kariye chora istanbul turkey
The Chora Church - Istanbul
The Chora Museum (Turkish: Kariye Müzesi), located in the present day Fatih district, is widely considered to be one of the most stunning surviving examples of a Byzantine church. Its remarkable mosaics and frescoes are unparalleled. It's difficult to imagine the time and creativity it took to complete such overwhelming beauty. Although it's a little out of the way, you won’t regret visiting this gem.

The Chora Church was originally part of a monastery complex outside the walls of Istanbul. The church's full name, literally translated, was the Church of the Holy Saviour in the Country. The original church was built in the early 5th century outside Istanbul’s 4th century city walls. Later, Theodosius II built new walls and the church became a part of the city’s defences. 

The majority of the current church dates from 1077-1081 AD, when the church was rebuilt as an inscribed cross by Maria Dukaina, the mother-in-law of Alexius I Comnenus. After a partial collapse in the 12th century, the church was rebuilt by Alexius’ third son, Isaac Comnenus. However, the church as it stands today wasn't completed until two centuries later.

Mosaic of the Virgin Mother with child
Mosaic of the Virgin Mother with child
Many of the ornate mosaics and frescos that we see today were created between 1315 and 1321 ADVirgin Mary was considered the holy protector of Istanbul, she is repeatedly portrayed throughout the museum. There are fascinating and detailed scenes of the Virgin Mary’s conception, infancy, and life not found in Scripture. The museum’s most important mosaic is The Dormition of the Virgin’ (Koimesis) and can be found in the Naos.
by unknown artists. They're some of the finest examples of the Palaeologan Renaissance. As the

In the portrayal of the Resurrection (Anastasis), it shows a literal and detailed account of what awaits those in the afterlife. Christ has broken down the gates of hell and is pulling Adam and Eve from their tombs. He is surrounded by John the Baptist, David, Solomon, and righteous kings. It is a truly powerful and haunting fresco.

Mosaic of Christ Pantocrator
Mosaic of Christ Pantocrator
During the conquest of Istanbul in 1453, the Icon of the Theotokos Hodegetria, believed to be the protector of the city, was brought to the church to aid the Byzantines against the Ottoman attack. It did them little good and was lost in the siege. Around fifty years after the fall, Atik Ali Paşa (Grand Vizier of Sultan Bayezid II) had Chora Church converted into a mosque (Kariye Camii). Unfortunately, few signs of the former mosque remain today. A modest mihrab can be found in the Naos.

As iconic images are forbidden in Islam, the mosaics and frescoes were covered with plaster and whitewash (which consequently helped to preserve them). The building has been open to the public as a museum since its restoration in 1948, sponsored by the Byzantine Institute of America and the Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantine Studies.

If you want a detailed explanation of the frescoes and mosaics, it s worth it to get the audio guide for 5 TL, as the are no signs explaining history and depictions in the museum.

Admission:15 TL
Free with 5-Day Museum Card
Audioguide 5 TL
Hours:Summer (April 15 - September 30) 09 00 -19.00
Winter (October 1 - April 14) 09:00 - 17.00
Closed on Wednesdays