Unusual minarets of Istanbul

Before skyscrapers began to spring up in the modern districts of Istanbul, the defining feature of the skyline was the mosques with their domes and minarets. Most tourists know the classic image of the muezzin giving the call to prayer on the balcony of the minaret, and the effect of several muezzins calling out at once is an electrifying experience. But few people question how minarets developed and why Muslims use them for this call to prayer. Before the advent of electricity and microphones, minarets were a way for the muezzin to best allow his voice to carry across the neighborhood. Five times a day, he would climb the mosque’s minaret to recite the call to prayer, called ezan in Turkish. The ezan is a distillation of the Muslim faith into simple sentences, proclaiming that there is no god but Allah, and Mohammad is his messenger. However, there is no mention of minarets in the Koran. The first example was built 74 years after the Prophet Muhammad’s death in the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus. Scholars have several theories about the origin of the minaret, ranging from lighthouses to Mesopotamian ziggurats and church steeples. Wherever minarets come from, Istanbul is the perfect place to discover their great variety, as more than 3,000 mosques from different styles and eras can be found throughout the city.

As might be expected from a city that was taken from the Christian Byzantines, Istanbul’s first minaret was in fact the spire of a church. Located in Karaköy, the building, called Arap Camii (Arab Mosque), was converted from a Byzantine church during the Arab siege of the city in 717-718. The Western crusaders turned it back into a Catholic Church during their occupation in the 13th century. The building finally settled again as a mosque after the Ottoman conquest in 1453. The Ottoman siege of 1453 lasted almost two months in April and May 1453, and Sultan Mehmet II and his men could not do without a mosque in their camp outside the city walls. Fatih Sultan Mehmet mosque was built in the area now called Zeytinburnu, making this the oldest Ottoman minaret within the limits of modern-day Istanbul. The building is a modest structure, indicating the Ottomans’ intention of entering the city as soon as possible. We can assume that the first ezan after the Ottoman conquest in 1453, meaning the first inside the city walls, was called from the Hagia Sophia. This was the first place that Sultan Mehmet II visited on entering through the Topkapı gate, and he immediately ordered the church be converted into a mosque. To save time, the Ottomans built the first minaret of the Hagia Sophia from brick rather than stone. Later, Sultan Bayezit II and Sultan Selim II ordered the other three minarets. The differences in style between these minarets are still obvious today. Imperial grande


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