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April 7, 2009

the Blue Mosque

Visiting the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul--popularly known as the Blue Mosque--Barack Obama reportedly said, "I am very impressed spiritually. This is one of the most important instances in my life." He probably didn't have much time there, but I know the feeling. I've visited several times, during two three-week family visits to Turkey. On both visits, we stayed within blocks of the Blue Mosque, which is one of the masterpieces of Ottoman Architecture. It stands opposite the great Byzantine Basilica, Hagia Sofia, which was the largest and most influential Christian church in the world for a millenium. With its vast dome, the Blue Mosque competes with Hagia Sofia but also complements it. It is serenely classical: transparent, regular, symmetrical, and calm. It's not by the preeminent genius of Ottoman architecture, Mimar Sinan, but by a somewhat later architect named Sedefkar Mehmet Aga. I suppose it is less original and bold than a Sinan mosque, but it represents a confident stage in the development of this serene style, which combines Roman engineering, Byzantine design (massive domes over square interiors), and Islamic abstraction and decoration.

I might actually choose the Blue Mosque as my single favorite building. My experiences there were probably more aesthetic than spiritual, but the distinction is elusive. (When my little kid was 7, she and I built a little version of an Ottoman mosque in cardboard.)

April 7, 2009 10:17 AM | category: none


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