Dr. Gesink's Image Gallery Page 7



Istanbul (Nancy Falk, 2003). 


Hagia Sophia (Nancy Falk, 2003): The Byzantine emperor Justinian built the Basilica of Hagia Sophia between 532 and 537.  When the Ottomans conquered Constantinople in 1453, they followed their usual practice of co-opting existing religious sites by turning them into mosques.  Westerners commonly view this as a kind of sacrilege, but the reality is more complicated.  By turning the site into a mosque, the Ottomans both recognized the sacred nature of the site for Christians and adopted it for themselves.  Today, the Hagia Sophia is a museum (commonly called the Ayasophia).

Until the sixteenth century, the Hagia Sophia was the largest domed structure in the world, 62 meters tall, with a dome of 33 meters in diameter.  Two side domes and four massive columns supported the dome.   This architectural feat of Christianity presented a challenge to Ottoman architect Sinan Pasha, who resolved to build a mosque with a larger dome.  An example of one of his mosque domes, shown from the interior, is below.

Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Mosque (Aga Khan MIT Visual Archives).  Built by Sinan Pasha in 1572.



Sultan Ahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque):  Built in 1609-1616 by the architect Mehmet.  This mosque echoes the typical Ottoman style popularized by Sinan Pasha.  Note the massive stone domes surrounded by half domes, gray exterior, and pencil-like minarets.  The many windows give the interior a sense of airy lightness, a deliberate improvement upon the heavy dark interior of the Hagia Sophia.


Iznik tiles from the Sultan Ahmet Mosque: Ottoman mosques frequently have tiled interiors.  In the sixteenth century, tile-makers in the town of Iznik developed a unique pigment: red.  Until then, no one had been able to produce a true red for ceramic paints—blues and greens were easiest to make, reds hardest.  For about a century, Iznik tile-makers produced gorgeous tiles like the ones in the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, but then…the recipe for the dye was lost.  The dye was not produced again until modern times.



Topkapi Palace: The unique architectural style of the Ottomans is evident in places other than mosques, of course.  See the links on my on-line resources page for web pages on Ottoman houses and palaces.  This picture is from the Topkapi Palace, the home of Ottoman sultans from Mehmet the Conqueror to Abdulmecid I (1839-1860).


© 2003 Indira Falk Gesink

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