Great for: Architecture, Mimar Sinan, Mosques, Bus Station Aficionados
Originally built in 1548 on the banks of the Bosphorus in Üsküdar on the Asian side of Istanbul, Mihrimah Sultan Mosque is a grand piece of religious architecture and a dominant figure in this historic neighborhood.
While the building itself is beautiful there is an interesting backstory to go with it. The mosque gets its name from the princess Mihrimah, daughter of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Mihrimah is Farsi (Persian) for ‘the sun and the moon.’ When she came of age there were two men in particular who wished to marry her. One was Mimar Sinan, the great architect of the Ottoman Empire and designer of the greatest buildings of the entire Ottoman period. The other was Rüstem Paşa, the Grand Vizier under Sultan Suleyman. While Sinan is said to have loved her very much, Mihrimah was given in marriage to Rüstem Paşa, possibly because Sinan was long married by this point and rather old.
Being the favourite daughter of the sultan and wife of the Grand Vizier it’s no surprise that some time later a mosque (or two) should be commissioned in honour of Mihrimah and the task of overseeing this project came to court architect Sinan, who had lost her to Rüstem Paşa.
Some stories say that Sinan designed the mosque to look like Mihrimah with her hair let down but as Mihrimah Sultan Mosque is exceptionally square, this is either an extreme exaggeration or tells us something about the unfortunate shape of the princess’s head.
From the front, the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque is unusually bland, consisting of a cube sitting on a plain, broad roof lead. The building is actually best viewed from the side or behind where you can see the greater overall intricacy of the building. The best spot is behind the mosque in one of the cafes in the Ottoman nostalgia buildings. The interior is quite lovely. The domes and semi-domes are beautifully painted and there are a number of fine stained-glass windows.
While the mosque is certainly beautiful, the awkward height, forest of light poles, buses, and ugly apartment buildings surrounding it make it a fairly un-photogenic mosque. In other words, these pictures don’t do the building justice.
When this mosque was completed in 1548 it sat near the water’s edge in what would have been a much more peaceful place. Today, where once was sea, there is now an ugly bus station and a chaotic intersection. However, the square and coastline have recently been renovated and are much more attractive than they had been in the past.
The fountain just below the mosque was built by Sultan Ahmet III in 1729 in an Ottoman-Rococo style. The fountain was also originally right next to the water but was dismantled and moved a little ways inland to make way for the coastal road.
How To Get There
Mihrimah Sultan Mosque is right beside the Üsküdar Marmaray station and only 300 metres from the ferry terminal making it very easy to get to and find from virtually anywhere in the city.
If you are coming from Kadıköy you can either take the yellow Dolmuş or the 12 bus from the waterfront bus station.
Where To Stay
While there are a handful of hotels in central Üsküdar they tend to be on the lower end. If this isn’t what you’re looking for, a short ride across the Bosporus by ferry or Marmaray underground metro will get you to all sorts of neighbourhoods with luxury options or the filthiest hovels you could ask for!
Have any tips or info to add? Spot any mistakes? We’d love to hear about it.