Iconic Blue Mosque goes through extensive restoration
The mosque, officially called Sultanahmet Mosque but nicknamed the Blue Mosque for its blue-tinted tiles, was built by architect Sedefkar Mehmet Aga upon the order of Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I and opened to worship in 1617. It was built across from Hagia Sophia Museum, which served as a church at that time.
The comprehensive restoration of the mosque started in July 6, 2017 with the sponsorship of a Turkish businessman, Mehmet Yıldız.
Mürsel Sarı, a local official at the Turkish Directorate of Foundations, told Anadolu Agency that the restoration involved installing 43-meter-tall steel piers from the ground to the dome.
The work was scheduled to still allow worship, Sarı said.
“Because it is a very important work, we should not disrupt worship, and it was necessary to carry out the restoration without hampering the influx of visitors,” he said.
The mosque, an inseparable part of the city’s spectacular silhouette - attracts tourists with its ethereal exterior of 21,043 tiles arranged in more than 50 designs. The tiles, produced in İznik and Kütahya workshops in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, create the overall perception of a blue hue because that is the dominating palette in the patterns.
“Because the dominating tone of the tiles and pencil works on the inner walls are blue, foreigners called this place ‘Blue Mosque’,” Sarı said.
As part of the restoration, experts scour and restore hand drawings on the inner wall of the main dome – 43 meters up from the ground
The 400-year-old gates of the mosque were preserved in a workshop established in the courtyard of the mosque.
The trim works and pencil works on the mosque’s inner walls and domes also are receiving a detailed and meticulous restoration.
Amid the flurry of work, worshipers continue to perform their daily prayers in the mosque. The edifice continues to host around 30,000 tourists every day.
Sarı said the project could take more time and money than originally projected.
“In the beginning of the restoration, we forecasted that it would be completed in four years. It is our target to complete it in four years, but this process can be extended when we encounter unexpected situations,” Sarı said.
Sarı stated that the cost of the construction was initially estimated to cost 35,000,000 Turkish Liras ($5,800,000), but this figure is expected to increase to around 60,000,000 liras ($10,000,000) by the end of the project.