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The New Mosque

Istanbul, Turkey
1 of 2

The Yeni Cami, meaning New Mosque; originally named the Valide Sultan Mosque (Turkish: Valide Sultan Camii) and later New Valide Sultan Mosque (Turkish: Yeni Valide Sultan Camii) after its partial reconstruction and completion between 1660 and 1665; is an Ottoman imperial mosque located in the Eminonu quarter of Istanbul, Turkey. It is situated on the Golden Horn, at the southern end of the Galata Bridge, and is one of the famous architectural landmarks of Istanbul.

Valide Sultan Mosque

The construction of the mosque began in 1597. It was ordered by Sultana Safiye, who was the wife of Sultan Murad III and later Valide Sultan (Queen Mother) of Sultan Mehmed III. She ordered the mosque in her capacity as Valide Sultan, two years after Mehmed III's ascension to the Ottoman throne in 1595, hence the original formal name "Valide Sultan Mosque".

The original architect was Davut Aga, an apprentice to the great Mimar Sinan. However, Davut Aga died in 1599 and was replaced by Dalgic Ahmed Cavus. The construction took more than half a century and was completed by another Valide Sultan, Sultana Turhan Hatice, mother of Sultan Mehmed IV.

The project was hampered by political disconnect, and its location and monetary implications created dissent in the court. The Eminonu neighborhood was the city's foremost commercial center, and home to a predominantly Jewish population. In situating the mosque there, Sultana Safiye hoped to extend the sphere of Islamic influence within the city, capitalizing on the growing discontent of local and foreign merchants caused by the growing power and influence of their Jewish counterparts, which gave the Sultan an easy justification for confiscating their property. However, the vast monetary outlay drew sharp criticism. In particular, the Janissaries resented the growing political power of the Valide Sultan, and believed the mosque to be an unnecessary expenditure. Sultana Safiye was forced to abandon the project upon Mehmed III's death in 1603. The new Sultan, Ahmed I, had no interest in pursuing the project after Sultana Safiye was relegated to the harem and the construction was abandoned.

New Valide Sultan Mosque (New Mosque)

After 1603, the partially constructed structure gradually fell into ruins; and was severely damaged during the Great Fire of Istanbul (1660) which started on 24 July 1660 and, lasting for slightly more than two days (circa 49 hours, according to the chronicles of Abdi Pasha), destroyed many neighbourhoods in the city. Later that year, the imperial architect Mustafa Aga suggested that Sultana Turhan Hatice, mother of Sultan Mehmed IV, should complete the project as a work of piety. Sultana Turhan Hatice also ordered the construction of the nearby Spice Bazaar, which forms a part of the kulliye of the New Mosque. Thus, in the last months of 1660, the construction of the mosque was resumed, while the construction of the adjacent bazaar began.

The mosque was finally completed in 1663, and inaugurated in 1665. It was renamed the "New Valide Sultan Mosque" (Yeni Valide Sultan Camii). In time, this name was informally shortened as the "New Mosque" (Yeni Cami) among the public.


The exterior of the mosque itself boasts 66 domes and semi domes in a pyramidal arrangement, as well as two minarets. The main dome measures 36 meters in height, and is supported by four flanking semi-domes. The dome plan of the New Mosque is based on the earlier Sehzade Mosque designed by Mimar Sinan, and on Sedefkar Mehmed Agha's Sultan Ahmed Mosque.

As with other imperial mosques in Istanbul, the mosque itself is preceded by a monumental courtyard (avlu) on its west side. The courtyard of the New Mosque is 39 meters on a side, bordered on its inner side by a colonnaded peristyle covered by 24 small domes. An elegant sadirvan (ablution fountain) stands in the center, but is only ornamental. The actual ritual purifications are performed with water taps on the south wall of the mosque. The facade of the mosque under the porch is decorated with Iznik tiles. Stone blocks supplied from the island of Rhodes were used in the construction of the mosque.

The interior of the mosque is square shaped and measures 41 meters on each side. The central area is defined by four large piers which are the main support for the dome. On the sides and rear of the central area are colonnades of slender marble columns connected by arches in a variety of styles. The dome is 17.5 meters in diameter and has a height of 36 meters. Like many other Ottoman imperial mosques, on the 4 corners where the dome meets the pillars holding it up, are calligraphic plates with the names of the first four khalifahs, Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali. The interior space is extended with semi-domes along the east-west axis of the building, with smaller domes above each corner of the nave and even smaller domes above the corners of the galleries.

The northeast corner of the gallery has a gilded screen, behind which members of the imperial court could attend services. This Royal Loge is connected by a long elevated passageway to a Royal Pavilion in the northeast corner of the mosque complex.

The interior of the mosque is decorated with blue, green and white Iznik tiles, which are considered somewhat inferior in quality to tiles in earlier imperial mosques. The mihrab is decorated with gilded stalactites and the minbar had a conical canopy with slender marble columns.

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lacuna, February 21st, 2014
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