The Blue Mosque or Sultan Ahmet Camii is certainly the most famous Islamic monument of Istanbul It is an imposing structure built between 1609 and 1616 on the order of Sultan Ahmet I (1603-1617) by the architect Mehmet Aga, a student of the great architect Mimar Sinan. Facing the Ayasofya, it was meant as a tribute to the superiority of Islam. The Sultan Ahmet Camii is indeed a triumph of harmony, proportions and elegance. The visual experience of grandeur that Aya Sofya has on the interior, is here on the exterior. The six minarets of the mosque nearly caused a major row, as it was unholy to rival the six minarets of the mosque at Mecca. Sultan Ahmet I solved this issue by donating an extra minaret to Mecca. At the inside of the mosque four massive elephant foot pillars of five meters in diameter support the dome that is less ambitious than Aya Sofya's. The blue Iznik tiles with which the inside is decorated are responsible for the nickname Blue Mosque. On the northwest side of the precinct wall there is also the tomb of Sultan Ahmet I (Sultan Ahmet Türbesi) and of his wife and sons Sultan Osman II and Sultan Murat IV. An interesting detail, in Sultan Ahmet's life the number 14 was of particular importance: he came to throne at the age of 14, he reigned for 14 years, and he was the 14th sultan of the Ottoman Empire.
Here are the photos of the Blue Mosque, click on the thumbnails to see greater pictures
On the north-west corner of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque complex is the large square türbe (tomb) of Sultan Ahmed I. The interior of the Sultan Ahmet Türbesi is, like the Mosque, decorated with Iznik tiles. Buried here are Ahmet I, his wife Kösem and three of his sons Murat IV, Osman II and Prince Beyazit. Prince Beyazit, was murdered by his brother the terrible Murat IV. The tragedy inspired the French playwriter Jean Racine for his drama Bajazet. Now murderer and victim share the same türbe.
The famous Ottoman traveler and writer Evliya Çelebi tells us that the other son Osman II, who was completely mad and unfit to rule, was put to death at Yediküle, the Castle of the Seven Towers, by compression of his testicles, a manner of execution reserved to Ottoman Emperors. As for Ahmet's wife Valide Kösem Sultan, she was strangled to death in the Harem. This made an end to a period of 50 years, during which she dominated the Harem during the reigns of her husband, Ahmed I and her two sons, Murat IV and Ibrahim (later named the mad), and of that of her grandson, Mehmet. Originally Kösem was named Anastasia and was the daughter of a Greek priest of the Aegean island of Tinos.
On the very spot where now the Blue Mosque or Sultan Ahmet Camii stands, used to be the palaces of the Byzantine Emperors. The Great Palace extended over a vast terraced site stretching from the Hippodrome to the Sea of Marmara. Actually, most of the Sultanahmet neighborhood, including the Mosque, is built on top of the Great Palace. Some 6th century mosaics have been excavated in 1935 and were cleaned and remounted. The result is spectacular and is on display in the Büyük Saray Mozaik Müzesi (Great Palace Mosaic Museum), just behind the Blue Mosque.