Thursday, September 18, 2014

Rüstem Paşa Mosque and Tahtakale

Built in 1561 for Rustem Paşa, son in law and grand vizier of Suleyman the Magnificent, the Rustem Pasa Mosque is one of the Mimar Sinan's most widely admired small mosques, and is adorned with wonderful collection of Iznik tiles.  It stands right in the heart of Tahtkale, the tight knit network of market streets that sprawls to the south-west of the Spice Market.  This is a great place to while away a few hours, shopping  for the sort of items desired by locals rather than tourists.

Rustem Paşa from Eminönü

It is easier to spot the Rustem Pasa Mosque from the water that when you are closer to it because it's almost completely buried amid the chaos of surrounding Tahtakale. Unlike most of his mosques Sinan decided to build this one on a raised platform, which mien that you actually approach it form underneath, making its exquisite perfection all the more of a surprise when you finally pop up in front of it. 

Rustem Paşa from Galata Bridge.

Entrance to Rustem Paşa from the Tahtakale street.

The mosque was probably paid by Rustem Pasa's widow Mihrimah, the daughter of the famous Roxelana, in memory of her recently deceased husband. Although it has only one minaret seem relatively insignificant in a city where at least two minarets are de rigueur, this mosque is renowned for its wonderful galleried interior with tiles covering everything from the walls to the mirharb and mimer. Particularly beautiful are the designs of tulips and carnations which make delightful use of the slightly raised coral -red glaze for which Iznik tiles were framed.

Entrance to Rustem Paşa from Mahkeme Sk street.



The mosque was built on a high terrace over a complex of vaulted shops, whose rents were intended to financially support the mosque complex. Narrow, twisting interior flights of steps in the corners give access to a spacious courtyard. The mosque has a double porch with five domed bays, from which projects a deep and low roof supported by a row of columns.

Façade of the porch.

Although the Iznik tiles that line the walls inside are especially beautiful, even the exterior is encased in tiles that you will be able to appreciate if you arrive at a time when the mosque is closed.

Tile depicting the Kaaba in Mecca. 

Façade of the porch.

Cealing chandelier outside of the mosque.


As is the case of Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, the inscription is lacking over the entry of the Rüstem Paşa Mosque. The octagonal fountain of the mosque is placed in a courtyard located on the street. An archway surrounds the high-walled courtyard of the mosque in three directions.

Side entrance for tourists.


The interior

The Rüstem Pasha Mosque is famous for its large quantities of exquisite İznik tiles, set in a very wide variety of beautiful floral and geometric designs, which cover not only the façade of the porch but also the mihrab, minbar, walls, columns and on the façade of the porch outside. These tiles exhibit the early use of a tomato-red color that would become characteristic of İznik pottery. Some of the tiles, particularly those in a large panel under the portico to the left main entrance, are decorated with sage green and dark manganese purple that are characteristic of the earlier 'Damascus ware' coloring scheme. No other mosque in Istanbul makes such a lavish use of these tiles.

Mihrab and Minbar.

The plan of the building is basically that of an octagon inscribed in a rectangle. The main dome rests on four semi-domes; not on the axes but in the diagonals of the building. The arches of the dome spring from four octagonal pillars— two on the north, two on the south— and from piers projecting from the east and west walls. To the north and south are galleries supported by pillars and by small marble columns between them.

Arches of the dome and small marble columns.

Presently, the location of the mosque is in the middle of a congested area. It was built on the former site of Hacı Halil Mescid with a size of 40 meters by 40 meters square. The ceiling of the mosque contains a central dome, the diameter of which is 15.50 meters and is surrounded by full and half-domes that provide support to the central dome.


Central dome.

Rüstem Paşa Mosque suffered damage in a fire in 1660. After the big earthquake of Istanbul in 1776, both the minaret and the dome of the mosque came to the ground.  It was renovated in the reign of the Mustafa II. (1664 –1703), but, during the renovation, the ruined dome and minaret fell short of the reality of the structure of Sinan the Architect.


Right side gallery.

İznik tiles were commonly used in the interior design of the mosque that was situated on the silhouette of the historical peninsula.  They have caused visitors to transform a minor image into a great artwork

 Right side gallery.

Marbel Archades.

Main chandelier.

Tile inscrptions from the Quoran.

Women's gallery.

Ceiling of women's gallery.


İnscritions from the Quoran.


Iznik Tiles

Turkey has a long history of tile-making dating back to c. 7000 BC, but the most valued of all its tiles were those produced in the small town of Iznik in the 16th century after the conquest of Tabiz in 1514 resulted in the resettlement there of many highly skilled Persian tile makers.

It was in Iznik that ceramicists firs worked out how to make the rare and valuable coral-red gel called Armenian bole that was so useful for depicting tulips and carnations, but by the 17th Century the torch was already passing to Kuthya.

İznik tiles from Rüstem Paşa İnterior Mosque.

Carnetion  Iznik Tiles

İznik tiles from Rüstem Paşa İnterior Mosque.

İznik tiles from Rüstem Paşa İnterior Mosque.

İznik tiles from Rüstem Paşa İnterior Mosque.

İznik tiles from Rüstem Paşa Exterior Mosque.

İznik tiles from Rüstem Paşa Exterior Mosque.

I hope you enjoyed the views!

Soreya Reyes

Twitter:  @street_photos_


  1. Great pictures and information. This is one of my favorite mosques in Istanbul! Can't wait for the next trek!

  2. Thanks Alexandra. I am not sure of next trek but I hope we are together!