Nuruosmaniye Mosque

Nuruosmaniye Camii

/ By Josh

Cost: Free

Great for: Architecture, Mosques, Baroque, Grand Bazaar

Right outside of the Grand Bazaar, Nuruosmaniye Mosque is one of the city’s most beautiful mosques and one of the most overlooked attractions in Istanbul. While beautiful in its own right Nuruosmaniye Mosque ushered in a new era of Ottoman architecture, one that would prove to be the last before the collapse of Ottoman power.

Nuruosmaniye Mosque Istanbul
View of the mosque with the many chimneys of the soup kitchens and school rooms in front.

Why Visit?

The pale blue carpets and bright white marble, combined with accents of black and gold, make for an incredibly striking atmosphere that you won’t find in any other classic mosque. The mosque is quite tall compared to its width which allows for more windows than most of the mosques that came before it, making for an unusually bright interior. This brightness is the inspiration for the name Nuruosmaniye, meaning “The Light of Osman.” While the mosque was named for Osman III, it was actually commissioned by Mahmud I in 1748.  When Mahmud I died before the completion of the mosque his successor Osman III decided to name it after himself.

Nuruosmaniye Mosque Istanbul

Nuruosmaniye marked the beginning of a totally new era in Ottoman architecture, one that would prove to be the final architectural age before the eventual collapse of the empire. The style was heavily influenced by the Baroque (and later Rococo) styles of Europe. These European styles were blended with Ottoman and other Islamic traditions to create something truly unique. This adoption of European styles also reflected the general tendency of the Ottoman rulers to look Westward rather than Eastward for inspiration regarding the arts and sciences.

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Unlike previously built mosques, Nuruosmaniye is built with a simple footprint of a square topped by a single high dome. The stripping away of the supporting semi domes make Nuruosmaniye appear incredibly tall rather than vast like the Blue Mosque.  This style of elaborately decorated, simple designed mosques would go on to be a hallmark of the Ottoman-Baroque style.

Nuruosmaniye Mosque

Nuruosmaniye Mosque

The most unique aspect of this mosque is its strangely shaped courtyard. Nearly all great mosques built before this point had a large courtyard with a fountain in the middle where prayers could be recited outdoors. Nuruosmaniye mosque is one of the only Ottoman-Baroque mosques built with a courtyard. However, what makes this one even more unique is that the courtyard is shaped like a horseshoe, something that doesn’t fit well with the Islamic ideal of worshippers praying in perfectly uniform rows. Because of the smaller footprint of the mosque itself, the courtyard was also forced to be narrower which, with the high walls and deep portico, results in a rather dark, cramped-feeling space.

Nuruosmaniye Mosque

Perhaps the most beautiful aspect of this unique mosque is the incredibly intricate stone work. Where in previous generations there may have been a simple arch, now every joint has a complex jigsaw of angles, curves, and tones.

Nuruosmaniye Mosque Istanbul
Intricate stonework adorns one of the many doorways.

Nuruosmaniye Mosque Istanbul

How To Get There

walking/public transit/taxi

Nuruosmaniye is right next to one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions, the Grand Bazaar, so it’s rather easy to find (as long as you don’t get too lost in the Grand Bazaar). As you enter the Grand Bazaar from the Çemberlitaş tram stop, the massive mosque will be impossible to miss.

Where To Stay

As Nuruosmaniye Mosque is set right in the heart of touristic Istanbul you can take your pick and stay anywhere you like.

Have any tips or info to add? Spot any mistakes? We’d love to hear about it.