The Laleli Mosque, also known as the Tulip Mosque, is a baroque-designed Ottoman imperial mosque located on Ordu Street in the Laleli neighbourhood of the Fatih district. The mosque and its outbuildings are actually parts of the Laleli Complex. The Laleli Mosque was named after a holy person, “Laleli Baba”, who was a colloquially beloved person. Indeed, Sultan Mustafa the 3rd, who ruled the empire between the years 1757 and 1774, had a strong liking for Laleli Baba. For this reason, the mosque was named as Laleli Mosque upon the Sultan’s order. Nowadays, the mausoleum of Laleli Baba is approximately 200 meters from the Laleli Mosque in terms of beeline. Over time, the neighbourhood where Laleli Mosque stands was named as the Laleli neighbourhood.
Sultan Mustafa the 3rd commissioned architect Kara Ahmed Agha, the court architect of the Ottoman Empire during that time, for the construction of the Laleli Mosque and its complex. Kara Ahmed Agha started the construction in 1760. However, the construction of the Laleli Mosque was completed by architect Mehmet Tahir Agha in 1764. The Laleli Complex was composed of the Laleli Mosque, an almshouse, a bazaar, a large number of shops, numerous water-fountains, a public fountain, a mausoleum, a madrasah, a little ottoman town caravansary and lastly a disorderly house. The primary structure of Laleli Complex is the Laleli Mosque and it is one of the best-known examples of baroque-designed mosques in the history of Ottoman Architecture along with the Nuruosmaniye Mosque and Tophane Nusretiye Mosque. However, unlike the Nuruosmaniye Mosque, the Laleli Mosque and its complex have a more important as well as a major position in the History of Turkish Art, because it contains some rudiments and overtones of classical Turkish Architecture. Some outbuildings of the Laleli Complex, including shops and the roof of the Laleli Mosque burnt down as a result of a conflagration which broke out in 1782. In order to relieve the damage caused from the conflagration of the year 1782, the Laleli Mosque and its outbuildings were renovated twice in 1783 and then in 1846.
Architecture of the Mosque
Baroque style was taken as a basis of the architecture of the Laleli Mosque. Still, the architecture team of five persons frequently changed their minds on design during the construction period. For this reason, the Laleli Mosque does not fit in with the baroque-style one hundred percent. Outer courts and inner courts are connected with each other by means of a marble staircase. The outer court is encircled with fourteen porched columns. These columns are made up of marble and are covered up with eighteen domes. The inner court houses the ablution fountain which is geometrically octagonal, domed and fringed. The ablution fountain contains eight marble columns that supports the dome within itself. The narthex of the mosque is domed. These domes are arranged in a way so that the main dome is supported by six accessory half-domes. The main dome is 12.5 meters in diameter and 24.5 meters in terms of height. The Mihrab and mimbar are both made up of marble, the wooden ambo contains a mother of pearl inlaid, and three layers of windows occupy the walls of the Laleli Mosque in every aspect. The windows of the lower layer of the mosque are geometrically rectangle with marbled arches on the top. The leaded windows of the upper two layers are oval-shaped at the top. Each half-dome contains two windows which are slightly smaller than others in size and oval-shaped at the top. Originally, the Laleli Mosque was built containing a single minaret. After six years from the completion of construction, a second minaret was attached to the mosque. The Laleli Mosque was restored many times throughout its history. As a result of the heavy traffic jam of its neighbouring street, Ordu Street, the marbles of the Laleli Mosque tarnished. Therefore, the Laleli Mosque underwent its last renovation between the years 2006 and 2007.The darkened marbles of the mosque were scrubbed and the damaged ones were repaired. Thus, the Laleli Mosque regained its beauty.
Almshouse and Public Soup-Kitchen
The almshouse and public soup-kitchen of the the Laleli Complex is located at the northwestern corner of the courtyard of the Laleli Mosque. The inner-court of the public soup-kitchen was created in a square-like shape and consists of a bakery, a kitchen, a dining hall, a storeroom and many shelters for employees.
Bazaar and Shops
The bazaar is located under the courtyard of the mosque. The bazaar is connected to the outer court of the mosque with two gateways. One of these two gateways is located at the northeastern part of the outer court, under the side staircase of the court, while the other one is located in front of the western court gateway. The western court gateway connects the courtyard of the mosque to the bazaar, which houses six shops, with a passageway. During the roadwork for the extension of Ordu Street between the years 1957 and 1958, some vaulted shops arranged in a line were constructed. Some shops at the north disappeared over time and replaced with apartment buildings. However, two vaulted shops on the left side of the courtyard gateway, located at the southeastern side of the courtyard, as well as seven vaulted shops on the right side of the same courtyard gateway, still exist today.
Water Fountains and Public Fountains
The Laleli Complex contains five water fountains within itself. Three of those five water fountains were built during the original construction period of the complex while the remaining two were built in 1804 as outbuildings.
The only public fountain of the Laleli Complex is located on Ordu Street and it stands next to the courtyard gate of the Laleli Mosque. The public fountain is designed as a five-aspect structure that has an expansive character from inside to outside. Moreover, it is covered up with a wide and fringed dome.
The Mausoleum of the Laleli Complex is in a separate yard which is located at the western side of the Laleli Mosque. The mausoleum contains six cists within itself. These six cists do not just belong to Sultan Mustafa the 3rd and Sultan Selim the 3rd, but also belong to Sultan Mustafa’s children Şehzade Sultan, Şerife Havva Sultan, Fatma Sultan and Beyhan Sultan.
The Madrasah of the Laleli Complex was founded in 1760 and it consists of nine rooms and a classroom. The building was wrecked during the earthquake of 1894 and then burnt down during a fire in 1911. Therefore, the madrasah couldn’t reach the present day. After the fire in 1911, apartment buildings for homeless people were constructed over the ruins of the madrasah in 1922. Moreover, a library was constructed over the madrasah’s ruins. Presently, a hotel has been built over the apartment buildings.
The Caravansary is located on Fethibey Street at the northern side of the Laleli Mosque. This caravansary is prevalently known as Taş Han since the caravansary’s street-front aspect is made up of cut stone. Literally, the name “Taş” means stone. Unlike the front-street aspect, the other aspects of the caravansary are made up of stones and bricks arranged in a braid-like packing. The caravansary contains three yards and two floors within itself. Currently, the caravansary is being used as a bazaar.
The Disorderly house is another building that is included in the Laleli Complex. This structure is located at the northern side of the Laleli Mosque and it was built adjacent to the wall of the outer court of the mosque. The disorderly house is composed of an open court at forepart as well as a cavetto vault covered building at the back side. A gate located at the back side of the vaulted building provides a passageway between the courtyard of the Laleli Mosque and the forecourt of the vaulted building.