The Fatih Mosque, perhaps the oldest sultan mosque in Istanbul, if it hadn’t been almost completely destroyed by a major earthquake in 1766. It was intended as the Muslim response to the Christian Hagia Sophia.
The original construction began in 1462 during the reign of Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror, who had the Fatih Mosque (Fatih Camii) built as a memorial to himself. It was erected on the ruins of the second largest church in the city, the Church of the Holy Apostles, which served as the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarch during the first years after the Ottoman conquest. In order to start construction of the Fatih Mosque, the seat of the Patriarch was moved to the Pammakaristos Church (now Fethiye Mosque) and the Church of the Holy Apostles was torn down. It was located on the fourth hill of the city, which was the imperial necropolis at Byzantine times.
Until the construction of the Süleymaniye Mosque in the 16th century, the Fatih Mosque was the largest prayer house in the city. With numerous charitable buildings, several medrese, primary schools, a soup kitchen, a caravanserai, dervish lodgings, a dervish monastery, a library, a hospital and a bathing complex, it had the largest building complex. Today, the hospice, the caravanserai and the soup kitchen no longer exist. However, the hospital, library and several Qur’an schools that are considered to be the birthplace of Istanbul University have been preserved.
The three porticoes of the courtyard, the main portal of the prayer hall and the prayer niche of the mosque survived the severe earthquake. It was repaired and rebuilt in 1771, giving it its current appearance.
The Fatih Mosque, which is rarely visited by tourists, and the surrounding complex are still the center of Fatih district, one of the most religious districts of Istanbul. The mausoleum of Fatih Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror and his wife Gülbahar, which is also open to visitors, is situated in the courtyard of the mosque.
Photo: Aydin Sertbas