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Rustem Pasha Mosque Istanbul History and Architecture

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During the mid-sixteenth century, Ottomans inherited from Byzantium the right to rule over the city of Istanbul. While the town was of prime importance as a cultural and religious centre of the Christian period, it rose to the heights of being the centre for the cultural and Muslim religious practices, during the Ottoman era.The Sultan Mehmet (the 2nd) had invited many artisans of repute to build and repair the damaged buildings of the Islamic period.

Under the Ottoman rule, the job was entrusted to the chief architect Sinan to complete the construction of the Rustum Pasha Mosque, built in 1561 at Hasircilar Carsisi, also called Straw-mat weavers market in Eminonu, Istanbul (Ottoman Period).

The Grand Wazir, Russum Pasha who had ordered this mosque to be constructed, was Mihrimah ‘s uncle, Suleiman ‘s royal daughter, the magnificent. After the mosque was built, the damage was caused to it, due to fire in the year 1666 and during an earthquake in 1776. However, the repairs after that restored the mosque to its original shape ( Rustem Pasha Mosque).

The mosque is located at the bay of Istanbul called “Helic-i-Darsaadat” in Arabic and “golden Horn” as per the name given by the westerners to it. The golden light of the sun setting on the bay waters has given this name to the Helic., which has made the mosque as an architectural gem of the Istanbul.

Rustem Pasha Mosque Istanbul History and Architecture

As the architecture and importance of this mosque are of prime importance for the entire world and particularly for the Muslim population, the following pages of this essay will give a detailed description of these characteristics.

History Istanbul and Rustem Pasha Mosque

Istanbul is located at a certain strategic point in world geography that connects Europe with Asia. Therefore, various cultures and religions have survived here, sometimes in isolation and often in a combined form. Istanbul, as we know today, was founded by the Roman Empire. Following this, while Byzantium period was responsible for the rise of Christianity in the region, Ottoman period saw the revival of Islamic culture and heritage in the collapsed city of Istanbul during mid-sixteenth century (history).

The historical attractions of Istanbul include the trio of Topkapi Palace, St. Sophia Museum, Blue Mosque and Rustem Pasha Mosque etc (history).

Rustem Pasha lived from 1500 to 1561. While being a Bosnian Muslim by birth, he became the son-in-law of Sultan Suleiman, the magnificent, of Istanbul and thus Pasha was the grand Wazir of Sultan. Although Rustem Pasha was a very competent man, He is responsible for plotting with the wife of Sultan, the well-known lady called Roxelena, to denounce the son of Suleiman, Prince Mustafa. The latter was the heir apparent to the throne of Sultanate. The plot resulted in the beheading of prince Mustafa upon the orders of Sultan Suleiman. This was followed by the succession of Roxelena’s son, Prince Salim to the throne. However, Salim was an incompetent man, being interested mainly in drinking and debauchery. As every wife of the Sultan Suleiman had the dream of being called the “Valde Sultan”, the queen-mother, Roxelena also cherished this dream and Salim was Crowned after the death of Sultan. However, his rule was the reason for the fall of the Ottoman Empire, as it began to decline during his period (Rustem Pasha Mosque).

While being one of the wealthiest men in the Ottoman Empire, Rustem selected the site for building the mosque, in the market, rather at the grand palace. Rustem Pasha chose the architect, Mimar Sinan for building this mosque, which took around two to three years from 1561 to 1563 (Rustem Pasha Mosque).

 Rustem Pasha Mosque Architecture

  • Exterior

The mosque being in the weaver’s market next to the “golden horn”, it was constructed at the place of a Byzantine church that was converted into a mosque by Haki Halil Aga, during the fifteenth century. This was the third building to have been constructed by the famous architect, Mimar Sinan at the request of grand Vazir, Rustem Pasha. The construction of this mosque followed the development of Rustem Pasha Madrasa in 1550 and a similarly titled mosque built at Tekirdag in 1553 (Rustem Pasa Mosque notes…para1).

While the Qabila wall has an inscription saying that the mosque was built, upon the orders of grand Vazir, Rustem Pasha, By great architect, Mimar Sinan in 1561; there is a cemetery on its western side. The mosque is an octagonal structure, having a rectangular prayer hall with two wings. The mosque is built along the northeast axis on an elevated substructure plateau, in the market complex. The main cover of the mosque is a central dome, which goes up to a cylindrical drum. As the northeastern elevation has a five-dome patio adjacent to it, there is another exterior porch with a pitched roof, alongside. There are four staircases encased in similar vestibules, to enable the visitor for accessing the elevated plateau of the mosque. While the main entrance of the mosque is located at the middle of the northeastern elevation of the mosque, there is a cylindrical minaret that emerges from the western corner of the prayer hall ( Rustem Pasa Mosque notes…para2).

The market complex has an elevated substructure on which the mosque is built, thus giving it the look of a building that has come upon the second storey of the complex. The prayer hall measures approximately 26.8 by 19.6 meters. A qibla wall runs along the length of the prayer hall. A central dome that rises to a height of around 23 meters covers the room, and the diameter of this dome is 15 meters. The structure being octagonal, there are eight pillars placed at the corners of the octagon, which support the base. While four such posts have partially gone inside the walls, other four stand freely, as semi-circular arches tie them. Similarly, four semi-domes are placed on the diagonals of the prayer hall. While the mihrab is covered with a muqarnas semi-dome, the base of the minaret is buried into the western corner of the prayer hall ( Rustem Pasa Mosque notes…para3).

  • Interiors

The famous part of the mosque is its interiors that have been laid by costly Iznik tiles. Large quantities of such tiles have been set inside the mosque with various floral and geometrical designs that cover the facade of the porch as well as the walls of Mihrab and Minbar. These tiles can be seen all around the outer porch and the columns of the mosque. As these tiles have demonstrated the use of rich red colour, which was the favourite of Iznik period, during 1550 to 1620; such generous use of these tiles cannot be seen on any other structure in Istanbul (interior, Rustem Pasha Mosque).

Given below are some of the floral and other designs that have been used for the interior decoration of walls and columns inside the Rustem Pasha Mosque.

walls and columns inside the Rustem Pasha Mosque

Around 2300 pieces of such Iznik (Nicea) tiles have been used to decorate the interiors of the mosque. This gives the rich look of abundant colours and vivid design with floral patterns, immediately after the visitor enters the mosque (Istanbul).

While the mosque has a double porch, the first one is the normal type of the porch that consists of five domed bays, and then a low-slung penthouse roof projects out from this porch, while its outer edge is resting on the columns. There are galleries, on the northern and southern sides, which are supported by pillars that have small columns of marble, in-between. The costly tiles can be seen on the porch facades as well, and the tile design in the galleries is entirely different from the other portions (A journey through history).

Light comes through the twenty-four apertures that are provided on the central dome of the mosque, while there are a series of rectangular openings on the walls of the first and second floor. Also, there are some covered grill openings within the main arches of the mosque (Notes, para3-4).

Certain red and white stones give the shape to the arches of the central dome, while such rocks can also be seen on the pointed arch, which is above the wooden door of the main entrance. We can also indicate geometrical and floral designed wooden coloured reliefs that decorate the roofs and terraces of the side wings. There are medallions, carrying Arabic inscriptions, well placed between the arches of the external portico as well as on the squinches (Notes, para 4).

While the restoration work was carried out aggressively after the damage to the mosque during fire and earthquake, in 1660 and 1776 respectively, some major repairs were done by the religious foundation looking after the mosque, during 1960-61, when the Baroque Frescoes were removed from the surface of four semi-domes on the sides of the octagon.

The latest restoration work at Rustem Pasha Mosque was carried out during 1964 and 1965, which made it to function as a mosque and monument.


As Rustem Pasha was appointed the grand Vazir of the conqueror Suleiman on the behest of His wife and concubine, Roxelena, Rustem had to support her in her plot to get the heir prince Mustafa killed on the orders of the Sultan. However, as this led to a succession of the throne to the son of Roxelena, prince Salim, it also marked the beginning of the downfall of the Ottoman Empire in Istanbul. Prince Salim could never govern effectively as he was more interested in wine and women.

Although Rustem Pasha was one of the wealthiest men in the Ottoman Empire, he did not have sufficient funds to build a mosque on his own. Hence, he had to arrange funds for the same and call for different artisans to finish the job, within reasonably lesser cost. However, the credit for building such a mosque goes to his architect Sinan, who had made two structures for him before starting the mosque project at Istanbul. All still admire this perfect example of grand architecture.

The most important aspect of the mosque is the lavish use of Iznik tiles, totalling to almost 2500 pieces, on the interiors of the mosque as well as the porch facades. The tile laying design has been one of the best of those times, having varied floral and geographical patterns. Although the Rustem Pasha Mosque in Istanbul is a small one, it is famous all over the world for the tiles inlay work carried out inside the mosque.

Rustem Pasha initially built the mosque for the affirmation of Islamic faith in Istanbul and for the Muslims to offer prayers. However, the recent renovation and declaration of the mosque as a heritage monument has made it more of a tourist spot.

In-Text Citation References;
  • “A journey through history”, available at: http://www.meandertravel.com/istanbultours/istanbul_tours.php?details=rustempasamosque&m=1&md=sc1(accessed on 15th June 2009)
  • “History”, available at: http://www.turizm.net/cities/istanbul/index1.html, (accessed on 16th Jun 2009)
  • “Interior—Rustem Pasha Mosque”, available at: http://www.reference.com/browse/R%C3%BCstem+Pasha+Mosque?jss=1 (accessed on 16th June 2009)
  • “Istanbul” available at: http://www.greatistanbul.com/rustem_pasa_mosque.htm(accessed on 16th Jun 2009)
  • “Ottoman Period”, available at: http://www.bigglook.com/biggtraveleng/history/ottomanper.asp (accessed on 16thJune2009)
  • “Rustem Pasha Mosque”, available at: http://www.turkeytravelplanner.com/go/Istanbul/Sights/GoldenHorn/rustempasa.html(accessed on 16th June 2009)
  • “Rustem Pasa Mosque –Notes”, available at: http://www.archnet.org/library/sites/one-site.jsp?site_id=2996 (accessed on 15th June 2009)
Sources used;
  • “Istanbul Magazine”: http://www.istanbulmagazine.com/rustempasa.php
  • “A journey through history”, available at: http://www.meandertravel.com/istanbultours/istanbul_tours.php?details=rustempasamosque&m=1&md=sc1
  • “History”, available at: http://www.turizm.net/cities/istanbul/index1.html
  • “Interior—Rustem Pasha Mosque”, available at: http://www.reference.com/browse/R%C3%BCstem+Pasha+Mosque?jss=1
  • “Istanbul” available at: http://www.greatistanbul.com/rustem_pasa_mosque.htm
  • “Ottoman Period”, available at: http://www.bigglook.com/biggtraveleng/history/ottomanper.asp
  • Istanbul Mosques, http://www.pbase.com/dosseman/rustem http://www.turkeytravelplanner.com/go/Istanbul/Sights/GoldenHorn/rustempasa.htm

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