Sultanahmet Square is located in the historical center of Istanbul and is visited by millions of tourists every year.It is here that the world famous mosques – Sultanahmet and Hagia Sophia, obelisks and columns of the Byzantine era are located. Against the background of the blue sky and bright greenery, they have a particularly solemn and majestic appearance.
The history of the square
Most of the modern Sultanahmet Square is located on the territory of the ancient Hippodrome . The stadium was built in 203 AD. e., and in the IV century it was extensively reconstructed. The length of the new building was 450 m, width – about 120 m. Gladiator fights, chariot races and other mass events were held at the Hippodrome. It could accommodate about 100,000 people at a time.
Interesting fact! During the reign of Emperor Justinian, a riot took place at the Hippodrome. As a result, about 35,000 people died. This uprising was the largest in the history of Byzantium and Constantinople.
The hippodrome remained an important place for the Byzantines for many centuries. However, in the 15th century, Constantinople was captured by the Turks, who began to hold fairs, street performances and even protests there. Gradually, the Hippodrome was dismantled for the construction of mosques and a new residential area. Part of the territory was left undeveloped. She became a new public space in the Turkish capital.
So the history of the ancient Hippodrome ended, but the history of Sultanahmet Square began.
Sultanahmet square attractions
Sultanahmet Square is an amazing place. Contemporaries can see here the architectural heritage of Byzantium, Ancient Egypt and Greece, Germany of the 19th century.
The Sultanahmet Mosque is one of the pearls of world architecture. It was built in 1616 during the reign of Ahmed I of . According to legend, it was a gesture of despair. The Sultan was disastrously unlucky in military campaigns, Turkey’s authority on the world stage was undermined. Ahmed I decided to build a luxurious mosque in order to win the pleasure of Allah and improve his situation.
Interesting fact! Before Ahmed I, mosques were built using the funds that were obtained during military campaigns. But due to constant defeats, the Sultan had to significantly empty his own treasures.
The Sultanahmet Mosque is unusual in that it has not four traditional minarets, but six. Ahmed I turned a blind eye to the architect’s mistake, and now Istanbul is adorned with this stunning structure.
A few facts to understand its greatness and scope:
- the size of the central hall of the mosque – 53 x 51 m;
- dome height – 43 m, diameter – 23.5 m, it rests on columns with a diameter of 5 m;
- the mosque is decorated with a huge number of various floral patterns, there are 50 variations of tulips alone;
- during the day, the interior spaces are illuminated through 260 windows;
- the inner courtyard of the mosque occupies the same area as itself.
Due to the more than 20,000 blue tiles that were used for interior decoration, the building received a second name – “Blue Mosque” .
Hagia Sophia Mosque
For more than a thousand years, Hagia Sophia in Sultanahmet Square was an Orthodox cathedral. Now it is a mosque.
The dome system makes the building recognizable. The central dome has a diameter of 31 m and is 51 m behind the floor. 40 arched windows are cut through it, the light from which makes the massive structure graceful and visually light.
The main attraction of the mosque is the ancient mosaics on the walls. Most of them were laid in the 6th century under the Emperor Justinian. Until the 16th century, new works were added to the mosaic cycle. Mosaics that have survived to this day can be seen in the main arch of the mosque, naves, gallery, narthex.
Obelisk of Theodosius
The ancient Egyptian obelisk has been preserved in Sultanahmet Square since the times of the Byzantine Hippodrome. It was installed there in 390 at the behest of Emperor Theodosius the Great.
The obelisk is made in the form of a monolith, which narrows as the height increases and eventually ends with a tetrahedral pyramid. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs are inscribed on the sides of the obelisk, and in its upper part Thutmose III is depicted with the sun god Amun-Ra . These letters are striking in their accuracy and elaboration.
The obelisk in Sultanahmet Square is made of pink granite. Its original height was about 38 m, and its weight was 543 tons. Now, together with the base, the height of the structure is 25 m. According to legend, the obelisk broke during the initial installation at the Hippodrome. It was erected anew, but in a truncated version.
The pedestal deserves special attention. It is a two-tiered granite monolith covered with reliefs on all sides. Here Theodosius himself is depicted, who awards the participants in the chariot ride. He holds a wreath in his hands, next to him are children, officials, and royal guards. Also, two dedicatory inscriptions are engraved on the pedestal.
The snake column in Sultanahmet Square does not amaze the imagination with its original appearance, but it is a unique historical artifact. The bronze column is a part of the sacrificial tripod, which was made from the weapons of the soldiers defeated under Plataea.
Interesting fact! Once the tripod was decorated with three snake heads, but at the beginning of the 18th century, the structure was partially destroyed. One of the heads survived and now serves as an exhibit at the Istanbul Archaeological Museum.
The German Fountain is a gift from the German Empire to the Ottoman State. M. Shpitta worked on the project of the building.
The fountain was made in Germany, and transported to Istanbul later, in parts. Collected exactly where it stands now. The grand opening of the fountain was timed to coincide with the birthday of Wilhelm II – January 27, 1901.
The exterior of the building is interesting. The fountain is made in the form of an octagonal gazebo with water flowing down seven walls. Its roof rests on 8 columns, and inside the ceiling is decorated with gold mosaics and monograms.
Experienced tourists are advised to come to Sultanahmet Square around 9 am. At this time, it is not crowded there and you can take your time to see all the sights.