Nearly 500 years old, this secret treasure of spectacular tiles lies hidden in the middle of the Fatih district market.
Istanbul offers so many grand and awe-inspiring sights that sometimes some of the smaller beauties can be a little forgotten. Not many foreigners visit the Rüstem Pascha Mosque, but the ornate design of its wonderful decorative tiling makes it a hidden prize.
The famed architect Mimar Sinan, who served under three sultans and is responsible for some of the city's most well-known buildings, designed the mosque. It was called after the Grand Vizier Rüstem Pascha, who married one of the daughters of Suleiman the Magnificent. The Grand Vizier was immortalised by the naming of this mosque after he died in 1561.
Rüstem Pascha's main historical claim to fame is for scheming with the Sultan's wife, Roxelana, to attack Prince Mustafa's character. This lead to Mustafa's execution, and his replacement by Selim “the Sot”. Many historians argue that this series of events marks the beginning of the slow, but steady, decline of the Ottoman Empire.
The Rüstem Pascha Mosque is located in the market, at the bottom of the hill which hosts the Suleymaniye Mosque, built by Sultan Suleymaniye – a reflection of the strict hierarchy in the imperial system, with the Sultan above all else.
Follow a set of narrow steps up to the open courtyard on an elevated terrace with a view over the buzzing Spice Bazaar. Entering the mosque, the marvellous beauty of the tiles is revealed, in red, white and blue. The tiles are arranged in pleasing geometric patterns, and also in designs of different flowers. The interspersing of design with the soaring doorways and stone columns adds to the impressive effect.
The mosque is found on the Tahtakele neighbourhood in the Old City. It remains open as a place of prayer, and is therefore closed to visitors during the five daily prayer times, and also on Friday afternoons. These times are made clear by the loudspeaker calls to the faithful.