Among a plethora of mosques and churches in the endless city of Istanbul, it is almost impossible not to notice the famous Ortaköy Mosque,or as I prefer to call it: Ortaköy Camii. I first laid eyes upon this marvelous building long before I came to Istanbul. In a film, a man was wondering in the streets of Istanbul, there could not be a better scenery for this melancholic capture that the Ortaköy Camii. When I finally arrived to Ortakoy myself, I could only gaze at it in astonishment every time I happened to be in my most beloved neighborhood of Istanbul.
When the Ottoman sultan Abdülmecid ordered its construction in 1854 he could not choose a better spot than the seaside of Ortakoy, one of the most popular and beautiful districts of Istanbul. It is said that its architects were Armenian father and son Garabet Amira Balyan and Nigoğayos Balyan and it took them 2 years to complete the construction of this remarkable right before they designed the Dolmabahce palace and mosque. This particular mosque is of great importance for the city as is the first and the most representative building of baroque architecture in Istanbul.
Previously, there was a little mosque built by Mahmut Ağa,on the former site of the mosque. The little mosque built in 1721 was destroyed in 1730. The current mosque, which was erected in its place, was greatly damaged during the earthquake of 1894, and the spire of the minaret needed to be rearranged. When it was understood that the building was in danger of collapsing in 1960, ground reinforcement efforts were carried out. After the conflagration in 1984, it was completely restored and reattained its previous magnificence.
Its final restauration begin in 2013in the orders of the Directorate General for Foundations (VGM) and lasted for a whole year due to improper restoration techniques that were used during previous renewal projects.
This marvelous piece of architecture is composed of a Harim (sanctum sanctorum) and a Hünkar Kasrı (sultan’s summer palace). The Harim section is composed of a square-shaped main chamber with an edge length of 12.25m, and the middle chamber which passses through the main chamber. The ceiling of the Harim section consists of a dome construction covered with pink mosaics which seems to be a trademark of this mosque.
The mosque has two minarets with a single sherefe (minaret balcony) each, the niche is made of mosaic and white marble, and the pulpit is a marble craftsmanship covered with porphyry. The two-storey house, with its elliptical stairs at the northern entrance, is called Hunkar Kasrı. The sultan’s contribution to this camii is the several panels of calligraphy that were made by Abdülmecid I himself.
Though this camii is of a small size comparted to the camiis “on the other side of the golden horn”, it has the bizarre ability to capture your attention with even a blink of the eye and your heart especially if you enjoy wondering in the paved alleys of Ortakoy.
Extra tip: Try to catch the morning breeze in Ortakoy seaside drinking a cup of turkish coffee and staring at the camii usually covered in mist during the early morning hours or have a lunch at one of the several restaurants in the afternoon listening to the imam reading prayers from the Koran.