SİNAN’S İSTANBUL: RUSTEM PASHA MOSQUEOne of the great geniuses of not only the Ottoman history but world history as well, Mimar Sinan (Sinan the Architect) completed his last work almost five-hundred years ago, and yet the traces he left in İstanbul are still very much alive. However, not all of these traces are as visible as his most famous work, the Süleymaniye Mosque. Rising just beside the Hasırcılar Bazaar in Eminönü, the unique Rustem Pasha Mosque, which is one of the masterpieces of Mimar Sinan, almost proves that beauty is not always explicit, and sometimes one has to remove couple of veils to reach it.
The mosque, commissioned by the grand vizier of Suleyman the Magnificent, Rustem Pasha, was opened in 1563. Upon Rustem Pasha’s death as the construction continued, his wife Mihrimah Sultan, who was also the only daughter of Sultan Suleyman, personally took care of the construction.
The first thing that calls for attention about Rustem Pasha mosque is its relationship with its surrounding. Located in Tahtakale, one of the busiest commerce areas in İstanbul, the mosque is separated from the crowd, noise and rush in a sudden yet graceful manner. Due to its vaulted groundwork under which warehouses and shops are situated, when looked up from the street level, Rustem Pasha Mosque seems more majestic than it actually is, alluding to Rustem Pasha’s public persona.
The authentic magnificence of the mosque, however, reveals itself when confronted with the tiles, covering almost all of the interior walls, including that of mihrab and minbar. The intense use of tiles, which is regarded as the pinnacle of Ottoman tile-making, could be seen in none of the mosques that Mimar Sinan had designed. In his famous book Sehayatname (travel book), the 16th-centruy great Ottoman traveler and author Evliya Çelebi writes about Rustem Pasha Mosque: "It is a vaulted, luminous mosque near Tahtakale, entirely covered with Chinese tiles. It cannot be described with words." This marvelous work of Sinan awaits its visitors, who are eager to witness the indescribable, after four-and-a-half centuries later.