Tuesday, August 16, 2011

holy map on a tile in Istanbul

A crude miniature map of the holy city of Mecca appears on a single tile on the exterior of the Rüstem Pasa Mosque in Istanbul, camouflaged among the jumble of blue-and-white glazed tiles that decorate the front of the building. Click on the picture to see it bigger.

At the center of the map is the black, cube-shaped Kaaba building, the most important structure in the entire pilgrimage city of Mecca because it is believed to have been built by Abraham and his son Ishmael. Surrounding the Kaaba on the map are six tall minarets, a feature that clearly identified the mosque surrounding the Kaaba since it was the only one in the world with that many minarets - that is, until the Ottomans finished building the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul in 1616 and surrounded it with six minarets as well. To distinguish the mosque of the Kaaba as still being the most important in the world, the Ottoman sultan sent his architect to Mecca the same year to construct a seventh minaret around the Kaaba, which means that this tiled map of the holy city likely dates to before the completion of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in 1616. 

Rüstem Pasa Mosque, Hasircilar Çarsisi, Istanbul, Turkey.

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