Istanbul’s Blue Mosque undergoes largest restoration ever
The four-century-old Sultanahmet Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, on Istanbul’s historic peninsula, is slated to undergo a major restoration starting from next week, Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak has said.
“May God grant us the privilege to see the finalization of this project that we are starting 400 years after,” Kaynak said on July 6 at the signing ceremony of the restoration work, an effort sponsored by forestry products company Starwood Orman Ürünleri AŞ.
He thanked Mehmet Yıldız, the founder of the company, while calling on others to contribute to restoration projects of other historic works.
“Muslims coming to Istanbul visit this mosque at least once to worship, and our foreign guests visit it to see the pinnacle of our civilization,” Kaynak said.
As part of the restoration, which officials name as the biggest, the mosque that stands just across the historic Hagia Sofia will have its facade and interior renewed along with its courtyard and minarets.
As part of the restoration, the mosque’s top layer made out of graphite will be dismantled and renewed.
Throughout the mosque, its facade will be cleaned, its interior and exterior stones and marble coatings will be rasped, along with strengthening and renovation, minarets’ restoration, and the iznik tiles’ conservation will also be done. Existing pen work on wood and plaster surfaces will be rasped, while unique pen works will be cleaned and improved. Plaster work will be strengthened. Floor layers inside the mosque will be repaired, as well as the inner court’s marble floorings and artisan woodwork (kündekari) within the mosque will undergo extensive conservation.
In addition, reinforcing work will be done if found necessary.
“Witnessing the restoration of this monument is what every bureaucrat would wish for,” said the head of the Directorate General of Foundations, Adnan Ertem, at the ceremony, adding that the mosque would not be close to prayer or visits during the restoration work, which is expected to last for four years.
“We are planning to do our work step by step,” he said.
The directorate has renewed some 4,500 historic artifacts in the past 15 years, Kaynak said, noting that the efforts will extend to other countries, especially to the Balkans.
The directorate is not focused on Islamic arts but the heritage of other religions, he stressed.
The Sultanahmet Mosque was built during 1609 and 1617 upon Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I’s order by architect Sedefkâr Mehmed Ağa.
It is called the ‘’Blue Mosque” mainly by Europeans for its interior covered in green and blue iznik tiles as well as its half domes and central dome adorned intricately and predominantly with blue artisanal pen work.
Ertem said the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne will also undergo restoration projects beginning next year.