I’ll be honest. I’d never heard of the Mosque of Rustem Pasa until I went to Istanbul. I had no idea what I was missing. Before we begin, let’s take a quick look at the beauty that awaits us:
Wow. Breathtaking, isn’t it?
This mosque was built by the Mimar Sinan, architect to Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent and his successors. What Sinan did that was so groundbreaking was to use Hagia Sophia (built as a church in the 6th century in Istanbul, became a mosque in the 15th cent, now a museum) as a model for creating a dome that appears to float above the interior and fill it with light. He was so successful that most mosques built after that very closely copy Sinan’s concept. It’s unusual to find a mosque in a small town that isn’t clearly modeled on his mosques.
The Mosque of Rustem Pasa (ROOS-tem PASH-a) was built for Rustem Pasa (go figure) who was Suleyman’s Grand Vizier and was married to Suleyman’s daughter. Rustem Pasa had died by the time the mosque was begun, but before his death, he successfully plotted with Roxelana, Suleyman’s wife, to cause the death of Suleyman’s favorite son. Suleyman had his son Mustafa strangled in 1553. Yes, strangled.
There’s a lot to say about this photo, but first take a look:
This photo shows several elements that are present in mosques, no matter where you are. The mihrab (MEEH-ruhb), the niche on the wall that the man is facing, shows the direction of Mecca and the direction in which people should pray. (The direction of Mecca is called the “qibla ” (KEE-bluh), and the wall that the mihrab is on is called the “qibla wall.”) In many of the mosques that we went to the mihrab was quite plain, but here, it’s covered in fabulous tile like the rest of the mosque. To the right of the mihrab stands the minbar (the stairs leading up to a small covered platform or chair) from where the imam (EE-mahm) delivers sermons (think pulpit in the Christian tradition). The mosque lamps, which used to be oil lamps, are electric lights today, and while they aren’t necessarily in all mosques, they are common. And beautiful. Somehow all of the wires leading down to them and the rods between them don’t detract from the interior program of the mosque decoration, but add to it, become a part of it. Above the mihrab, you can see Arabic writing, which is pervasive in mosque decoration. I was particularly fond of the rug in this mosque, which is decorated with what could either be individual prayer rugs or colonnades (rows of columns).
Here’s a close-up of the mihrab. The top of the niche is decorated with muqarnas (moo-KAHR-nuss), which is usually described as a stalactite-type formation made of stucco, wood, or stone.
The next photo is from the outside of the building in the portico. Isn’t it amazing? So unlike anything else in the mosque:
The tiles covering the mosque are the famous Iznik tiles, made in Iznik, southeast of Istanbul, near Bursa. Apparently the red tiles were more difficult to produce and are quite unusual. You can see the above panel past the grill-covered window in the photo below. And check out the Arabic writing over the window:
More photos of the interior:
You can really see the light coming in through the windows at the bottom of the dome in this one:
And my favorite, from the portico outside, a random jumble of tiles:
Finally, a tile showing the Kaaba at Mecca. We saw these tiles in several mosques. My understanding is that their purpose is to remind Muslims of their obligation to go on the Hajj (pilgrimage) once in their lives if they’re able. I can’t help wondering if these tiles have additional meanings:
And there you have it — the Mosque of Rustem Pasa in a nutshell. Imagine yourself there, barefoot on the soft plush rug, surrounded by all of that beauty. So inspiring and calming at the same time.Time for a cup of tea.
For more about the area around the mosque, see Quest for the Rustem Pasa Mosque.