Sultanahmet Square

SULTANAHMET SQUARE

The Hippodrome, known as the Atmeydanı (horse arena) during the Ottoman era, served as an athletic ground in Byzantine times. It was also used for horse and carriage races, always for the honour of the Emperor. After Sultan Ahmet the First (1609-1616) had the mosque built in his name, this historical ground was named after him, Sultanahmet.
The main section of this park is the place which used to be called At Meydanı (the Horse Arena). This section covers a large area in front of the Blue Mosque. The Alman Çeşmesi (the German Fountain), Dikilitaş, the Burma Sütun (the Twisted Pillar,) and the Örme Sütun (the Woven Pillar) are all included in this section. This is the actual Sultanahmet Park. Byzantine people would organize horse and war carriage contests in this area. The area that is between the Hagia Sophia Mosque and the Blue Mosque was converted to a park during the Republican Era. The Turkish bathhouse of Hagia Sophia and the Tomb of Sultan Ahmet the First are also within this section. The old courthouse near the Hagia Sophia Mosque burnt down in 1933. This area was later reorganized and turned into an green area and a park. The area between the courthouse as it is today, the Firuz Ağa Mosque, and the Divanyolu was also opened during the Republican Era and turned into a park. As a result, Sultanahmet Park consists of four main sections:
1- At Meydanı (Sultanahmet Park)
2- Hagia Sophia Park
3- The Old Courthouse Park
4 -The Courthouse Park

THE HISTORICAL PENINSULA OF THE 1200’S

1. Milion
2. Augustaion
3. Justinian‘s Senate
4. Hagia Sophia
5. Hospital of Sampson
6. Hagia Eirene
7. Magnaura
8. Chalke
9. St. John in Diippion
10. Zeuxippos
11. Candidates
12. Stables
13. Scholai
14. Sakelle
15. Exkoubita
16. St. Apostles
17. Oaton / Trullos
18. Mamboury A-
Imperial Corridors
19. Antiochos Palace
20. Carceres
21. Delphax / Tribunal
22. Consistorium
23. Palaia Charage
24. Scholai
25. Mamboury B
26. Chapel of St. Christina
27. Bath near St. Christina
28. Church of Lord
29. Hippodrome
30. 19 Akkubita
31. Onopous - Chrysocheir
32. Augusteus
33. Mamboury Da - Imperial corridors
34. Octagon – Imperial Apartments
35. St. Stephen
36. Courtyard of Daphne
37. Mother of God (Theotokos)
38. St. Trinity
39. Cross Church
40. Imperial Corridors
41. Covered Hippodrome
42. Mosaic Peristyle
43. Margarites (Pearl)
44. Bedchamber at Karianos
45. Apsed Hall / Karianos
46. Archangel Michael
47. Kentenarion
48. Justinianos
49. Apsis
50. St. John near Sigma
51. Sigma-Triconch
52. Eros
53. Nea Ekklesia
54. Mesokepion
55. Tzykanisterion
56. Treasury
57. Oikonomeion
58. Phiale of the Greens
59. Bath
60. Lausiakos
61. Gallery of 40 Martyrs
62. Theotokos Chapel
63. 64. Pyramidal residences
65. Aetos
66. St. John the Theologian
67. Wall of Nicephorus Phocas
68. Kainourgion
69. St. Paul
70. Pentakoubikoulon
71. Mouchroutas
72. St Anne‘s
73. Mousikos
74. Empress’ Wardrobe
75. Eunuch’s Chamber
76. Kamilas
77. St. Barbara
78. Porphyra
79. Chrysotriklinos
80. Pharos
81. St. Demetrios
82. Theotokos of the Pharos
83. St. Elijah
84. Bath of Basil
85. Boukoleon Palace
86. Imperial apartments
87. Basilica Cistern
88. Chalkoprateia
89. Mese
90. Binbirdirek Cistern

The Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque, one of the most famous monuments of the Turkish and Islamic world, is the only mosque built with six minarets. The area where it is located also includes many important works built in earlier periods of İstanbul. The mosque silhouette has become the symbol of the city of İstanbul. The original name of this mosque is I. Sultan Ahmet Mosque, but it is also known as the “Blue Mosque” owing to the glazed tiles decorating its interior   The mosque, built between the years 1609 and 1616, was located in a large scale complex which included  social and cultural structures such as a bazaar, a bath, a cookhouse, a hospital, schools, a caravansasaray.  Unfortunately, these have not been preserved. The architect of the mosque was Mimar Mehmet Ağa. The architect of the mosque was an apprentice of Koca Sinan, the great architect of Turkish classical architecture, and he applied a plan formerly used by his master but on a greater scale. He decorated the interior side of the mosque painstakingly, like a jeweler. The actual entrance to the Blue Mosque is at the side of the Roman era Hippodrome. The interior courtyard is surrounded by an outer courtyard. These and the main structure are situated on a platform. When you enter through one of the three entrance doors, you will notice the painting, glazed tiles and stained glass that supplement the outer view. The interior  is  one large space which rises above four large pillars which support broad and sharp arches. The interior of the mosque is embellished with over 20,000 marvelous pieces of glazed İznik tiles. The upper sides of the glazed tiles and interior sides of all domes are embellished by ornate painting. The pulpit, decorated with marvelous carving, is near the altar past the main entrance. On the other side, the lodge of the sultans can be seen in the form of a balcony. The dome, with a diameter of 23,5 m and a height of 43 meters,  is illuminated by 260 windows . The single domed tomb of Sultan Ahmet, who ordered the building of the mosque, and the madrasah are to the south of the mosque towards Hagia Sophia.. It is said that there are 16 minaret symbols (şerefe) on the six minarets of the mosque because Sultan Ahmet was the 16th sultan of the Ottoman Empire. The minarets are another example of the Turkish style. Spiral stairs lead to the minaret symbols. The  domes and the minarets are coated with lead. The crescents on their tips are made of copper coated with gold.

Vakıf Carpet Museum (Museums section P.39)

The Hagia Sophia Museum

Sultanahmet Square, Eminönü
Tel: (0212) 522 17 50-528 45 00
Everyday except Monday 09.30-16.30
Hagia Sophia is a masterpiece  with a synthesis of the Occident and the Orient,  a unique example of architectural applications, and  is considered to be the one and only example in this respect.  It is among the most important monuments have survived to today, now belonging to the history of architecture.  Hagia Sophia was used as  a church for 916 years and as a mosque for 481 years. It has been a museum since 1935. Byzantine historians claimed that the first Hagia Sophia was built during the reign of Emperor Constantinus the 1st (324-337). This structure, which had  the plan of a basilica and a wooden roof, burnt down during a rebellion. No remains of the structure have survived up to now. Emperor Theodosius the 2nd had the building reconstructed for the second time and reopened it in 415. This structure, which also had the plan of a basilica, burnt down in 532 during the Nika rebellion. Some remains from this structure were uncovered during the excavations carried out in 1936. These are footboards, pillars, crests and other  architectural items. Emperor Justinianus (527-565) wished to construct a church larger than Hagia Sophia and had Isiodoroos from Miletos and Anthemios from Tralles build the Hagia Sophia that we see today.  The construction of Hagia Sophia was started on the 23rd of December 532 and was completed on the 27th of December 537. It consists of two lateral rooms, apse, and outer and interior narthexes. The interior room dimension is 100 x 70 m and is covered with a dome with a height of 55 m and a diameter of 30.31 m. 
The mosaics of Hagia Sophia as well as its architecture are of great importance. The oldest mosaics are those that are decorated with golden geometrical and flower figures in the lateral rooms and interior narthexes. The figured mosaics were made in the 9th and 12th centuries. These can be seen above the Emperor's Gate, on the apse, on the exit door, and on the upper floor gallery. Hagia Sophia experienced many restorations during the Turkish era, which started with the conquest of İstanbul. The surroundings of the altar include the most beautiful examples of the Turkish art of glazed tiles and calligraphy. There are sheets on which Ottoman Sultan wrote and that are placed on the side walls of the altar. Sultan’s tombs, the fountain of Sultan I. Mahmud, the school, the soup kitchen, the library, the prayer platform of Sultan Abdülmecid, and the prayer hours calculation room are the examples of the Turkish era in Hagia Sophia and they constitute the most beautiful examples of the classical Ottoman tomb tradition in terms of their architecture, glazed tiles and interior design.

The Milion Stone
The Mil ion Stone, marking the beginning of the road to Europe, used to be considered as the center of the world during the Byzantine era. The city was the center of the world and this point was the center of the center. All geographical distances were calculated in accordance with this point. Its name comes from the unit of length, the  “mile”. The pillar, as we can see it now, is a part of the first monument.

Firuz Ağa Mosque
This small mosque, located on the Atmeydanı in Sultanahmet was commissoned by Firuz Ağa, the head treasurer of II. Bayezid in 1491. With its dome set on an octagonal rim, it shows the typical Bursa style. The arcade has four pillars and three arches, as well as connecting stairs. The spectacular entrance through the outer courtyard opens directly on the tram line today.

The Theodosius Obelisk
The two obelisks were erected in front of the Karnak temple in Luxor by the Pharaoh of Egypt, Tutmosis the 3rd in 1490 B.C. for the victories Egypt won in Mesopotamia. The obelisks were made of pink granite of a rare quality. A Roman emperor whose identity is not precisely known, brought an obelisk weighing many tons  to Constantinople in the 4th century. The obelisk, which lay on one side of the Hippodrome for years, was erected with difficulties in 390 by one of the governors of the city, Proclus, during the reign  of Theodosius the 1st. The artwork, which has always been considered to be “enchanted,” is the oldest  in İstanbul. The obelisk stands on 4 bronze blocks on a Roman pedestal decorated with embossed figures.

The Serpent Column
This is one of the oldest pieces of art in İstanbul. The heads of 3 snakes entwined with each other formed the feet of a cauldron. The thirty-one Greek cities that defeated the Persians in the 5th century B.C. melted the bronze trophies they acquired and constructed this artwork of unique quality. The Snake Pillar, which is eight meters long, was originally erected in the Temple of Apollo in Delphi. It was brought by Emperor  Constantine in 324. It was erected in the middle of the Hippodrome. One piece of the snake heads which were lost in the 17th century is exhibited in the Museum of Archaeology in İstanbul.

The Masonry Obelisk
The imitation obelisk, which is built with carved stones, is situated on the southern side of the Hippodrome. The date of its construction is not precisely known. It is commemorated with the name of Emperor Constantine Porfiregeneteus who had the obelisk repaired in the 10th century. The bronze sheets which used to cover it were stolen by the Crusaders.

The German Fountain
The octagonal domed fountain at the entrance to the Hippodrome was the gift of the German Emperor, Wilhelm the 2nd, to the Sultan and to İstanbul. It was built in Germany and installed in İstanbul in 1898. The fountain  was built in the Neo-Byzantine style and decorated with golden mosaics inside.

Haseki Hürrem Turkish Bath
Turkish baths have an important place in Ottoman architecture. The Haseki Hürrem Turkish was ordered by Haseki Hurrem Sultan.  Of Russian origin, she was the consort of Kanuni Sultan Süleyman.  The hammam was built by Mimar Sinan and was the biggest Turkish bath of İstanbul. There are entrances for men and women on the opposite sides of the rectangular Turkish bath. This type of Turkish bath, known as the “Double Turkish Bath,” was built in compliance with Islamic law to serve women and men separately. Haseki Hürrem Turkish Bath was  restored in 1980 and opened as an exhibition room for the Festival of İstanbul. Carpets are exhibited and sold here today.

HASEKİ HÜRREM SULTAN
Haseki Hurrem Sultan was the wife of the Ottoman Sultan, Kanuni Sultan Süleyman, who ruled between 1520 and 1566. Hürrem Sultan's origin was Russian and her actual name was Roxelanne. She was introduced to the Ottoman Palace due to her beauty when she was young and in a short time she attracted the attention of the sultan with her feminity, intelligence and skills. Hürrem Sultan plotted many schemes as she acquired the trust and love of Suleyman, and she affected the Ottoman Empire negatively in the 16th century. She had Gülbahar Hatun, the first wife of Suleyman, and the crown prince Mustafa strangled. Hürrem Sultan who also had power over the government of the state, died at the age of fifty-two without being able to see her sons become sultan.

Binbirdirek Cistern

Binbirdirek Cistern (The Cistern of a thousand and   one Pillars)
Binbirdirek Mah. İmran Öktem Sk. Sultanahmet Square Tel : (0212) 518 10 01 Every day 09.00-20.00
Binbirdirek cistern, the second biggest water reservoir of İstanbul was built in the 4th century. Senator Philoxenus built his palace on the Hippodrome and built this cistern in order to meet the water needs of the palace. The German voyager R. Lubenau, who visited İstanbul in the 16th century, reported that there were thread workers working in the cistern. However, there are also others that claim that the cistern contained water in the 18th century. As there had not been water in the cistern for a long time, it was used by thread workerss as a workshop in the 19th century. Some of the arches were pierced and openings that let light inside were opened. Binbirdirek Cistern is surrounded with a thick wall and its dimensions are 64, by 56 by 40 m. The brackets, each of which has 16 lines of 14 pillars with a space of 3.75 m  between are joined with arches. The pillars and heads were designed for this cistern and they were not collected from other structures. The arches on the heads are joined with opposite stretchers. Only the round holes on them can be seen today. The name of the cistern in the Turkish era may have come from the words “a thousand and one” which represented multiplicity.  However, some people claim that these words may apply also  to the overlapped pillar bodies. The lower sections of the pillars are buried in the ground to about 5 meters. The total height of the brackets is 12.5 meters. The eighteen holes on the left side of the entrance of the cistern were filled in at somem point in time. 

The Basilica Cistern
Yerebatan Cad. Sultanahmet Tel : (0212) 522 12 59  Everyday: 09.00 - 17.30

This is the biggest and most spectacular cistern in the city. The cistern's entrance is in the small building to the west of Hagia Sophia. The ceiling of the cistern, which looks like a forest of pillars, is covered with bricks and crosswise arches. It was named the Basilica Cistern because of a basilica which used to be in the vicinity. It was built during the reign of Justinanus the 1st (527-565)  to provide water to the palaces in the vicinity. The pillars are decorated with some plain and Corinthian-style pillar heads. There are 336 pillars in 12 rows of 28 pillars, and their dimensions are 170 x 70 meters.  The level of water changed in accordance with the changes in the seasons. Water was distributed outside through pipes on different levels on the eastern wall. The marks left by different levels of water can be seen on the pillars. The floor was cleaned during the big restoration of 1984, unearthing from one meter of mud the original floor of bricks and marble blocks with the figure of Medusa's head.

Sokollu Mehmet Paşa Mosque
This mosque, which holds priceless riches of the Muslim world, was built in 1571 by Mimar Sinan.  It was dedicated to Esmihan Sultan, the daughter of Selim the 2nd and the wife of Sokullu Mehmet Paşa, the grand vizier of the Ottoman Empire. The interior of the mosque is decorated with glazed İznik tiles. The building grounds include several additional religious units and the courtyard of the mosque is surrounded by madrasahs. These buildings are used as Quran classes today. The front section of the mosque includes the lodge and past this section is the Uzbek Mevlevi Lodge. The back of the mosque used to hold an Ottoman cemetery, which is under protection today.

 The mosque, which has a capacity of 700 people, has never been damaged by any natural disasters, fires, etc. since it was built and it has always been open to religious services throughout its history. The glazed tiles inside the mosque were applied on the pulpit cone, the section that goes from the altar to the ceiling, window facades and the triangular pendantives supporting the dome in a way which has not been seen in any other mosque. The glazed İznik tiles inside the madrasah in the lodge also have unique properties.

The Republic Education Museum
Sultanahmet Endüstri Meslek Lisesi, Tarihi Kılıçhane Binası, Sultanahmet
Tel : (0212) 516 06 88  Everyday except Sun.10.00-17.30
This is the school where sword smiths were trained and the swords of the Ottoman Empire were made. A sword making workshop was established in 1454 after the conquest of İstanbul upon the order of Gedik Ahmet Paşa, one of the viziers of Fatih Sultan Mehmet. The Grand Vizier Yeğen Mehmet Paşa turned the building into a sewing workshop during the reign of I. Mahmut (1730-1754). The sword making workshop was established again during the reign of III. Selim (1789-1807) and survived until 1868. The workshop was closed down when a School of Industry was opened in this building and surrounding buildings upon the order of Mithat Paşa.  The blackboard on which Atatürk first wrote the Turkish letters, pictures relating to the period before the Republic, school identification books, diplomas from various periods, ration books, registry books, documents relating to schools, newspaper clippings, medals and education media are exhibited in this museum.

IT WAS BUILT WITH PIECES OF THE HACERÜ'L ESVED
“Hacerü'l Esved” is a piece of stone from the Kaaba in Mecca. This is believed by some  to be the first temple on earth and is considered to be holy by Muslims. Pieces of 'Hacerü'l Esved' were put above the entrance door, on the middle section of the altar, on the entrance door of the pulpit, and under the pulpit dome. The only places in the world where pieces of the Hacerü'l Esved' are present outside Mecca is this building and the tomb of Kanuni Sultan Süleyman Han in the Süleymaniye Mosque.

The Tomb of Hagia Efemia
The building in which the bones of the saint of tailors, Hagia Efemia, are kept in a chest (Hagia Euphemia Martyrion) has a square structure outside while it is round inside. Frescos of the 13th and 14th centuries depicting the death of Efemia are in the courtyard of the Courthouse today.

Acemağa- Lala Hayrettin Mosque
(Khalkopetria Church) This building, which is one of the oldest churches of İstanbul, is a basilica belonging to the early Hellenistic period. It is believed that pieces of a  belt and other garments belonging to Mary are inside the church, built in 454 A.C. Later, it was turned into a mosque and this name was given to it.
İbrahim Paşa Palace (Museum of Turkish Islamic Artworks) (Museum section. P.39)