Sultan Ahmet Mosque is popularly known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior. The blue of the paintwork was not the color of the decorations originally, they were painted blue during later restorations.
The mosque was built from 1609 to 1616, during the rule of Ahmet I. Its Külliye contains a tomb of the founder, a madrasah and a hospice and is still being used as a mosque.
After the unfavorable result of the war with Persia, sultan Ahmet I decided to build a big mosque in Istanbul to calm God. The mosque had to be built on the site of the palace of the Byzantine emperors, in front of the basilica Ayasofya, which at that time was the most important mosque in Istanbul, a site of a big symbolic meaning. Big parts of the south side of the mosque rest on the foundation of the old Grand Palace
Sultan Ahmet Mosque has one main dome, six minarets, and eight secondary domes. The design incorporates some Byzantine elements of the neighboring Hagia Sophia with traditional Islamic architecture and is considered to be the last great mosque of the classical period. The architect, Sedefkâr Mehmed Ağa, synthesized the ideas of his master Sinan, aiming for overwhelming size, majesty and splendour.
At its lower levels and at every pier, the interior of the mosque is lined with more than 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles, made at Iznik in more than 50 different tulip designs. The tiles at lower levels are traditional in design, while at gallery level their design becomes flamboyant with depiction of flowers, fruit and cypresses. More than 20,000 tiles were made under the supervision of the Iznik master potter Kasap Haci and Baris Efendi from Avanos in Cappadocia.
The mosque is open daily from 9 am until 1 hour before sunset. It is closed half an hour before until half an hour after prayer time. On Fridays it is closed an hour before until an hour after the noon prayer. Visitors have to observe the mosque etiquette (take off their shoes, wear decent clothes and women have to cover the head).