Üsküdar has numerous stylish and attractive structures. However, the Şemsi Pasha Mosque, also known as “Asparagus” Mosque that stands on the coast in Üsküdar making people wonder in spite of its small size was designed by the famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan attributing Grand Vizier Şemsi Ahmet Pasha, an officer in the court of Ottoman Sultan Suleiman I.
The construction of the mosque is dated back to 1580 when Sinan the Architect was around 90 years old. Although it may be considered strange, the period of his life from 1560 (when Sinan was 70) to his death in 1588 (when he was 98) is considered as his “Master Stage”. According to the inscription over the mosque portal, the construction completed in 1581 and then opened for worship later on.
Şemsi Pasha Mosque is quite a little in terms of size in comparison to other works of Sinan. However, it’s not the size that makes this mosque special, but the location and architecture do. It is set against the water throughout the shore line of Üsküdar district. Another feature which makes the location special is that the mosque is located in an area where northern winds and southern winds ogle at each other.
Architecturally, it was designed in classical Ottoman style, and consists of a small square mosque, a madrasah, a dershane (lecture room), and the tomb of the pasha. A single minaret with a single balcony rises above the mosque portico which was rebuilt during the 1940 restorations. There is a central point of water discharge between the mosque and madrasah. This unique feature can only be seen in Şemsi Pasha Mosque among the works of Sinan. The mosque also has a library where you can find encyclopedias, dictionaries, reference book, science, art and literature periodicals and newspapers. Except reference books all the library materials can be borrowed by the members of the library.
There is an amazing story behind the construction of this amazing piece of art also known as Asparagus Mosque, by Sinan the architect. According to the story, Şemsi Pasha and Sokullu Mehmet Pasha were in a competition with each other for political reasons. One day, Sokullu Mehmet Pasha and Şemsi Pasha were having a conversation, Şemsi Pasha said “Sir, they told me that you had Architect Sinan construct an admirable mosque (Selimiye Mosque). However, they also told me that doves defecate on the roof of your mosque”. Thereupon, Sokullu Mehmet Pasha responds “Sir, construct such a special mosque that doves can’t defecate on it, if you can”. After that conversation, Şemsi Pasha felt disturbed and wanted to find out a way to show Sokullu Mehmet Pasha who is the boss. Therefore, he asked Architect Sinan if he had known a place where a bird can’t fly in the sky so that the mosque which would be constructed in his name can’t be defecated by birds. Sinan replied “I know a place where northern and southern winds ogle at each other, and that makes it impossible for a bird to fly in the sky”. Şemsi Pasha jubilated and gave time to Sinan for the construction of the mosque. Consequently, the political competition between Sokullu Mehmet Pasha and Şemsi Ahmet Pasha resulted in a spectacular work because no birds have ever settled on the garden of Şemsi Pasha Mosque for about 430 years.