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13 Most Popular Islamic Places to Visit in Turkey

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Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

A. Briefly describe the site visited? (Date, artists or architects if known)

Constantine the Great built the Hagia Sophia in the 4th century. The original building was destroyed, and today is the 6th century reconstructed by Emperor Justinian I. It was built as a church, later became a mosque, and has been turned to a museum in Istanbul. Two Professors from the University of Constantinople, Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles designed the church.

 

B. What does this monument (art work) tell us about the history, the culture, the political situation (or times) of the day?

The monument is of considerable significance to the Byzantine and Ottoman empires. Justinian’s Basilica is regarded as the culmination of the Late Antiquity’s best architectural designs and is a masterpiece of the Byzantine Empire (Hayes). The mosaics and marbles used in the building are representative of the various religions that had governed it. The changes that took place by various religions are reflective of the changing political situation of Turkey.

 

C. Does this site or object reflect a particular political or religious ideology? Does it convey power?

Mosaics from different religions have been uncovered in the building. Many collections were covered by plaster since Muslims disliked representational forms of architecture. There is a lot of Islamic calligraphy all over the dome. The Christian mosaics that have been uncovered show Christian scenes. The tiles leave an impact on the visitor due to their details and excellent artistry.

 

D. How would you describe the architecture and decoration of (or within) this site? Is it representational or non-representational? How is space defined?  

The building has a diameter of over 30 meters. It has a square format and a massive dome with spaces through which light streams in. Minarets and buttresses are present as well. Muslims prefer non-representational forms of architecture, and so many mosaics were destroyed (Mosaic Art Source Blog). The remaining ones are depictive of religious and royal pictures, such as where Justinian and Constantine are accompanying virgin Mary.

 

E. What is your response to the site?

Looking at the museum was a breath-taking experience for me. I was captivated by the mosaics. The thing that had the most impact on me was how Christianity and Islam had come together under one roof in a world where religious extremism is rampant.

 

 

 Basilica Cisterns

 Basilica Cisterns Most Popular Islamic Places to Visit in Turkey

 A. Briefly describe the site visited? (Date, artists or architects if known)

Justinian built it in 532. It is named Basilica Cisterns because it is located on an ancient Basilica, and is also known as Yerebatan Sarayi. The primary purpose of constructing the building was to supply water for the Byzantine Palace. It has 336 columns, most of which are Corinthian or Doric style (Atlas Obscura).

 

B. What does this monument (art work) tell us about the history, the culture, the political situation (or times) of the day?

The building is located near the Byzantine Palace. It was built to overcome any water shortages for the people living in the palace. To some degree, this tells us of how the rulers ensured that they lived a comfortable and luxurious life.

 

C. Does this site or object reflect a particular political or religious ideology? Does it convey power?

There are two heads of medusa placed on the base of two columns. They are placed sideways and were thought to ward off evil. This is representative of the Christians of that period. The brick columns and the building’s capacity to manage a hundred tons of water are impressive.

 

D. How would you describe the architecture and decoration of (or within) this site? Is it representational or non-representational? How is space defined?  

Space is defined by the many columns that line it. The tourists walk on the catwalks amidst the columns. It also has a brick-domed ceiling. The place is empty except for some water in the middle. The site does not have much art. The medusa heads are representational.

 

E. What is your response to the site?

The cistern was very calm and peaceful compared to the weather and commotion outside. The music played, along with the light effects on the columns, made the place very enchanted. Moreover, walking on the brick catwalks amidst the columns, and staring at the medusa heads, I was left to ponder the fineness of the sculptures and the artistry of the workers.

 

Rustem Pasha Mosque

Rustem Pasha Mosque

A. Briefly describe the site visited? (Date, artists or architects if known)

The mosque is located near the Golden Horn and was built by Mimar Sinan. It was built in the 16th century under Rustam, a minister to the Sultan at that time, to rival the mosque built by the Sultan. It is one of the most beautiful mosques of the Ottoman period. It was constructed above the shops, and gains from the shops were invested in the mosque.

 

B. What does this monument (the art work) tell us about the time (or times) history, society, political situation?

The mosque has one of the most beautiful architectural wonders of the Ottoman Empire. The Iznik tiles covering the mosque are brightly colored red, blue, and white with floral patterns and motifs. The chandeliers also add to the beauty of the mosque. The art of the mosque was supposed to beat the grandeur of the mosque constructed by the Sultan and represents the jealousy that was present between the Sultan and the minister (or water). The fact that it has one minaret, whereas the Sultan’s mosques have two, is reflective of the social differences that existed since only the Sultan was allowed to build two towers.

 

C. Does this site or object reflect a particular political or religious ideology? Does it convey power?

The mosque is representative of Islamic ideology. Tourists are asked to take off their shoes and cover their knees before entering the mosque- an Islamic tradition. The tiles were costly and still hold much value today. The Wazeer appointed artisans to create unique ceramic tiles (Whatsonwhen). The mosque reflects the massive amounts of money that were spent to decorate it and the political battle that was going on between the Wazeer and the Sultan.

 

D. How would you describe the architecture and decoration of (or within) this site? Is it representational or non-representational? How is space defined?  

The architecture and art do not contain any representation of figures. The artwork on the Iznik tiles is mainly non-representational. The tiles have the Sultan’s insignia of the round flower, tulips, and geometric swirls (Whatsonwhen). The mosque is famous for its octagonal-based single doom. The mosque has one minaret and four smaller domes as well, along with one central dome.

 

E. What is your response to the site?

The Iznik tiles covering the walls, columns, raised platform, and the mihrab (i.e., wall niche) of the mosque were breath-taking. I was impressed at the money that had been invested in this mosque, just to beat a political leader.

 

 Suleymaniye Mosque

 Suleymaniye Mosque

 A. Briefly describe the site visited? (Date, artists or architects if known)

This is the largest mosque in Istanbul. It was constructed by Sultan Süleyman between 1550 and 1557 by Sinan and overlooked the Golden Horn. It was built during the times of the Ottoman Empire. It was built on the likes of the Hagia Sophia and was meant to represent the history and culture of the city.

 

B. What does this monument (art work) tell us about the time’s (or times’) history, culture, political situation?

A brass grill, present on the right side of the entrance, is characteristic of 18th-century craftsmanship. The mosque has tombs of the Sultan and his favorite wife, reflecting the rampant polygamy in Muslim history. The mihrab, or the prayer niche, has glass-stained Windows of Turkish motifs, and the walls of the Quranic verses are written on the mosque walls. The religious art shows that it was the period of the Ottoman Empire.

 

C. Does this site or object reflect a particular political or religious ideology? Does it convey power?

The mosque contains many Islamic elements. There is a prayer niche that points to the Mecca, and a pulpit, or member, that is characteristic of Islamic mosques. The domes and the four minarets of the mosque convey power. The mosque is enormous; the three-story door, the pool, fountain, and the marble-covered courtyard give off an aura of regality and grandeur.

 

D. How would you describe the architecture and decoration of (or within) this site? Is it representational or non-representational? How is space defined?  

The decoration is non-representational. Quranic verses are engraved on the walls, and the niche and pulpit are carved and crafted. A baroque painting was added to the mosque in the mid of the twentieth century. The building has minarets and a central dome supported by two semi-domes. The complex also has a cemetery containing graves of the Sultan and his favorite wife, along with the architect, Sinan. Outbuildings are surrounding the mosque as well. It still has its original medrese, soup kitchen, and a still-functioning Hamam (Maxwell 55).

 

E. What is your response to the site?

The white marble and the light streaming from the stained-glass windows mesmerize the visitors. The mosque was perhaps one of the structures that were truly depictive of the Ottoman Empire’s grandeur and left me to marvel at the beauty of the mosque.

 

 Grand Bazaar

Grand bazaar Most Popular Islamic Places to Visit in Turkey

 A. Briefly describe the site visited? (Date, artists or architects if known)

The Bazaar is 650 years old and is a vaulted labyrinth of four thousand shops (Gray 214). The Bazaar was constructed in 1461 and had four main gates. It also has two bedestens, along with 58 covered streets. One of the bedestens was built by the Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror; the Bazaar was extended during the period of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.

 

B. What does this monument (the art work) tell us about the history , culture, the political situation (or times) of the time?

The painted designs of the Bazaar have a touch of the Ottoman art. An Ottoman town was not complete without its bedesten, and Mehmet the Conqueror ordered the construction of a vast market in the heart of the city. No other Ottoman town had a bedesten as big as this one (Taylor 112).

 

C. Does this site or object reflect a particular political or religious ideology? Does it convey power?

The Bazaar was made and extended during the times of Muslim emperors. Although the buildings that have been renovated have European touch to it, the Bazaar has Ottoman influences. The Bazaar does not convey power. However, it is a vast market, and one can get anything from it.

 

D. How would you describe the architecture and decoration of (or within) this site? Is it representational or non-representational? How is space defined?  

The shops have neon lights, and they are often grouped according to the type of goods that they are selling. The decoration varies from shop to shop, and so both types of decoration are present. Space is divided into shops, restaurants, boutiques, etc.

 

E. What is your response to the site?

The Bazaar was a fun experience. Bartering with the shopkeepers and exploring the hans and the shops, making it the right shopping place. Everything was available, from pottery to jewelry and Turkish carpets. It is the right place for people who love to shop.

 

Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art

Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art

A. Briefly describe the site visited? (Date, artists or architects if known)

The museum is located in the Selimiye Mosque on the Hippodrome and is present in the Palace of Ibrahim Pasha (French 109). The palace was built Ibrahim Pasha, who was the Wazeer of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. It houses objects from Ottoman(14th to 20th centuries), Seljuk (11th to 13th centuries), and earlier periods starting in the 8th century (Brosnahan). 

 

B. What does this monument (the art work) tell us about the history , culture, political situation (or times) of the time?

The museum is as assimilated artifacts of the Muslim civilizations that resided in Turkey. The objects from various periods are representative of the changing political factions. The artifacts also show the culture of these people. Turkish carpets, along with Quranic calligraphy, are flaunted by the museum. It also has a nomadic tent and an Ottoman parlor (Brosnahan).

 

C. Does this site or object reflect a particular political or religious ideology? Does it convey power?

The site does reflect the Muslim ideology. The museum has objects from the holy city of Mecca from the Ottoman period. It also has panels of calligraphy and various other reconstructions and artifacts that are taken from Islamic history. The display of objects and the life-size versions of nomadic tents, mosque doors, etc. do instill awe.

 

D. How would you describe the architecture and decoration of (or within) this site? Is it representational or non-representational? How is space defined?  

The museum illustrates religious art. Muslim religious art is mostly non-representational. The museum is divided into various rooms and like a room for grease wrestling.

 

E. What is your response to the site?

The museum has a collection of some of the most beautiful pieces of weaponry from the Ottoman period. The artifacts that were on display, like glassware and manuscripts, were impressive. However, the old calligraphic engravings of the Ottoman period were among the unique features of the museum.

 

Hippodrome

Hippodrome Most Popular Islamic Places to Visit in Turkey

 A. Briefly describe the site visited? (Date, artists or architects if known)

The Hippodrome is an ancient Roman arena, overlooked by the Blue Mosque. It accommodated up to 100,000 spectators. The thousand-meter track that went around the park was used for chariot races. Football matches were also played here. It was initially built in the 3rd century, and little remains today (Mandeville 37).

 

B. What does this monument (art work) tell us about the history, the culture, the political situation (or times) of the day?

The arena has artifacts from different periods of history. For example, the Column of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus was built before the 1200s. The Serpent Column was built in the 5th century BC from the melted-down shields of the Persians. The Egyptian Obelisk was made in the 15th century during the time of the Pharaoh Thutmose III (Mandeville 37). The hieroglyphs are typical of Egyptian culture.

 

C. Does this site or object reflect a particular political or religious ideology? Does it convey power?

The site does not promote any particular political or religious ideology because many civilizations have influenced it over the past. The Hippodrome does convey power. Maxwell observes, “Armies used to declare their victories with obligatory drunken pillage and plunder in the Hippodrome” (49).

 

D. How would you describe the architecture and decoration of (or within) this site? Is it representational or non-representational? How is space defined?  

The architecture is representational. The three-headed serpent sculpture and the hieroglyphs are reflective of the non-abstract art and architecture of the place. The place is divided into the German fountain, Egyptian Obelisk, Serpents Column, and the Walled Obelisk.

 

E. What is your response to the site?

It was thrilling to be in a place that had remained the heart of sports and the arena where victorious armies used to march and celebrate their victory.

 

 Fall of Constantinople

Fall of Constantinople

 A. Briefly describe the site visited? (Date, artists or architects if known)

It took place in 1453 (Wheeler, 159). The Fall encompasses the Fortresses on the Bosphorus, i.e., the Fortress of Asia (Anadolu Hisari) and the Fortress of Europe (Rumaili Hisari). The Galata tower overlooks Constantinople. The Turkish Military Museum (Askeri Muzu) has many artifacts from the siege of Constantinople. One can also see the city walls of Constantinople. The Fatih Mosque holds the tomb of the conqueror, Sultan Mehmet II. The Fortress (Yedikule Hisari) also tower over Istanbul (TravBuddy).

 

B. What does this monument (the art work) tell us about the time (or times) history, society, political situation?

The Fall started after the Fourth Crusade and was followed by many radical changes, one of which was that the name of Constantinople was changed to Istanbul. The Ottoman Empire began its reign after the Fall. This led to the destruction of many mosaics in the cathedral of Hagia Sophia. The city has seen both the Ottoman and Byzantine rule and represents them both.

 

C. Does this site or object reflect a particular political or religious ideology? Does it convey power?

The Fall was a turning point in the history of Istanbul. It marked the start of the Ottoman empire- a switch from Christendom to the world of Islam. The Hagia Sophia is the oldest site to have weathered the trials of time and has borne the effects of both the Ottoman and the Byzantine rule.

 

D. How would you describe the architecture and decoration of (or within) this site? Is it representational or non-representational? How is space defined?  

The architecture is both representational and non-representational. There are all sorts of drawing and architecture all over the city. Space is divided by seas and land into four main areas. Constantinople was surrounded by city walls, the remains of which stand today.

 

E. What is your response to the site?

The incident in history conveys excellent power. The siege was witnessed by the people in the tower of Galata. Any Fall or attack has a powerful impact on the people who live there. A foreign ruler rules upon them. The effect of the Fall would have been far-reaching since an Empire with a completely different religion came to power.

 

 Topkapi Palace – Second Court

Topkapi Palace Second Court

 A. Briefly describe the site visited? (Date, artists or architects if known)

The Middle Gate, or the Gate of Salutation or Bab-ül-Salaam, leads to the Second Court (Levine 110). The gate was constructed by Mehmed II and later renovated by Murad III in the later part of the 16th century. The second court has the palace buildings.

 

B. What does this monument (art work) tell us about the time’s (or times’) history, culture, political situation?

The kitchens tell us that the court was used to provide food (Hughes 411). The primary purpose of the court was for administration. Therefore, we know that the Sultan had a separate court for palace buildings; however, social inequality prevailed since not everyone was allowed in it.

 

C. Does this site or object reflect a particular political or religious ideology? Does it convey power?

The court was mostly used for administrative functions, and only representatives of the Janissaries on paydays were permitted inside. Moreover, it is thought that in ceremonies, there was pin-drop silence in the court. The entrance gate is significant and is a sign of grandeur that marks all Muslim buildings in the area.

 

D. How would you describe the architecture and decoration of (or within) this site? Is it representational or non-representational? How is space defined?  

The architecture is non-representational. The court is surrounded by halls with porticoes and has not changed much since the 16th century. The left side of the court has Barracks of the Halberdiers with Tresses and the Stable Court. The right side has the Imperial Kitchens. The cabinet used to hold its sessions in a section on the left. The Justice Tower rises beyond the palace buildings.

 

E. What is your response to the site?

The court is representative of the class inequality that existed. When the Sultan used to be around, people had to stand in reverence of the Sultan and to cross their hands at the back. The silence in state ceremonies is also a sign of tyranny. The site was an eye-opener to me and provided an insight into the living conditions of the ordinary.

 

 Topkapi Palace – Third Court

 Topkapi Palace Third Court

 A. Briefly describe the site visited? (Date, artists or architects if known)

Bab’us Sa’ade (Gate of the White Eunuchs) leads towards the third court. This area was called the Enderun and housed the Sultan and his family. The barracks of the Akagalar guarded the gate.

 

B. What does this monument (the art work) tell us about the history , culture, the political situation (or times) of the time?

A chamber behind the gate was the place where the Sultan met the members of the Divan or any other ambassadors. The treasury has one of the finest collections of jewels and even has the famous Topkapı Dagger. The Dagger was made for Nadir Shah but was never given to him due to his assassination. The monument also has a list of Sultans who came and passed, their birth and sultanate dates. The sacred relics are representative of the reverence of the people towards Islam.

 

C. Does this site or object reflect a particular political or religious ideology? Does it convey power?

The site represents the Sultans and their way of living. It also sheds light on their residences, kitchens, administration, and library. It coveys power to a certain degree; that it was the residence of the famous Sultans of the history.

 

D. How would you describe the architecture and decoration of (or within) this site? Is it representational or non-representational? How is space defined?  

The decoration is primarily non-representational. The site has two main structures. One of the structures is the Throne Room or the Audience Hall, and the second structure is the barracks of the Enderun and the Privy Treasury (Johnstone 1154). Towards the center, there is also a library.

 

E. What is your response to the site?

The site was enlightening in terms of the level of security that the Sultans had. The mosques that the Sultans invested in were grander than their residences. I was particularly amazed at being in the vicinity of some of the most beautiful jewels and sacred relics of all time.

 

 Topkapi Palace – Harem

 Topkapi Palace Harem Most Popular Islamic Places to Visit in Turkey

 A. Briefly describe the site visited? (Date, artists or architects if known)

The Harem quarters housed the Sultans and his extended families. Some of the rooms are thought to have been constructed by the famous Ottoman architect, Sinan. Outsiders were not allowed into the quarters. Sultans were presented with combines from the most beautiful maidens. Almost five hundred people used to live in the Harem, most of whom were women, eunuchs, and children.

 

B. What does this monument (the art work) tell us about the history , culture, political situation (or times) of the time?

The Harems are depictive of the rivalry and gossip that encompasses a political household. The power remained in the hands of the Sultan’s mother. Moreover, the large number of maidens that lived in the Harem shows the culture of the Sultans and how some of them eventually became their wives.

 

C. Does this site or object reflect a particular political or religious ideology? Does it convey power?

The site reflects the rivalry and wealth that is characteristic of a political household. The Harem became a hub for power-play and intrigue (IstanbulStay). The Topkapi Palace is typical of Turkish palaces.

 

D. How would you describe the architecture and decoration of (or within) this site? Is it representational or non-representational? How is space defined?  

The architecture is non-representational. The Harem has about four hundred rooms that are spread around small inner courts. Of these, only twenty are open for the public to see. The Harem has sixty spaces of differing sizes.

 

E. What is your response to the site?

I was particularly struck by the luxury with which the Sultans lived. Moreover, there was no empress. The Sultan could marry as many maidens that he liked, but did not give them their due rights. While visiting the enclosure of the Harem, I was lost in thought about the life that the people, who were not ranked high socially like eunuchs and maiden girls of the past, lived.

 

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

 A. Briefly describe the site visited? (Date, artists or architects if known)

It is also known as the Sultanahmet Mosque (McCannon 216). The mosque covers the skyline of the city. The mosque was built when Sultan Ahmet I expressed a desire for a place of worship that was better than the Hagia Sophia. It is near the Hagia Sophia, and it took seven years to construct the building after the initiation of construction in 1609. Mehmet Aga was the architect of the mosque. It is so-called because of the blue tiles that line its interior.

 

B. What does this monument (the art work) tell us about the history , culture, political situation (or times) of the time?

The mosque was built as a place of worship that surpassed the Hagia Sophia. During the prayer timings, the mosque is shut down for non-Muslims. The Sultan was only 19 years old when he had expressed a wish for the mosque. This shows that people were devoted to their religion.

 

C. Does this site or object reflect a particular political or religious ideology? Does it convey power?

The mosque is representative of Muslim ideals. Prayers are held five times a day to eulogize Allah. The large ceramic tiles and the grandeur of the mosque, along with its domineering towers, leave an impression on the visitor.

 

D. How would you describe the architecture and decoration of (or within) this site? Is it representational or non-representational? How is space defined?  

The building is quite huge. The architecture is non-representational. There are 260 windows in the mosque, including 20,000 blue tiles showing flowers, trees, and abstract patterns. There is a central dome, through which a cascade of multiple mini-domes spills down (Conley 77). The building also has six minarets (Sacred Destinations).

 

E. What is your response to the site?

The site is characteristic of Turkish mosques. The Muslims allow non-Muslims into the mosque. However, they have to observe individual acts. They have to take off their shoes and are required to be wearing a dress that is not vulgar. Women are expected to cover their heads in the mosque.

 

 Dohlmabache Palace

 Dohlmabache Palace

 A. Briefly describe the site visited? (Date, artists or architects if known)

Dohlmabache means the “filled garden” in English. The palace was constructed between 1843 and 1856 by Karabet and Nikogos Balian. It has 285 rooms, 42 ballrooms, six balconies, and 6 Turkish baths. It was built by Sultan Abdulmecit when the Ottoman Empire was collapsing. The palace accentuates the wealth and affluence of the Sultans.

 

B. What does this monument (the art work) tell us about the history , culture, political situation (or times) of the time?

The palace is representative of the Sultans’ splendor and the wealth they accumulated over time. The Sultans lived in luxury, and the castle is an attestation to that. The Empire was disintegrating at the time the palace was built.

 

C. Does this site or object reflect a particular political or religious ideology? Does it convey power?

Kamal Ataturk spent the last days of his life over there, and so the palace is of great value to the Turks (Campbell 121). The castle is also very exquisite in terms of the architecture and the design, and so conveys a lot of power. The palace was home to the Muslim sultans and their families, and thus represents Muslim culture.

 

D. How would you describe the architecture and decoration of (or within) this site? Is it representational or non-representational? How is space defined?  

The architecture is non-representational. However, with time, paintings of fires and village girls have been added to the Secretariat’s rooms. As mentioned above, the palace has hundreds of rooms. There is a staircase that is made up of Baccarat crystals and mahogany.

 

E. What is your response to the site?

The palace was mesmerizing. The height of luxury and the most beautiful of ornaments, chandeliers, and rugs had been used to adorn it. The crystal chandelier weighed 4.5 tons. Luxurious furniture was present in all the rooms and epitomized the comfort that the Sultans lived in.

 

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