Istanbul has a number of monuments and places for foreign and domestic tourists. But mostly famous places like Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Grand Bazaar are seen as must-see places on the historical Istanbul Peninsula. But if you want to find lesser-known spots, you need to walk about old Istanbul's narrow and steep streets.
One of Istanbul's hidden treasures is located in the Kadırga district, which is a neighborhood close to Sultanahmet. The Sokullu Mehmed Pasha Mosque and its social complex have been standing there for four centuries. It was built by Sinan the Architect in the name of the Ottoman Empire's famous grand vizier Sokollu Mehmed Pasha. Sinan the Architect was the most famous and skillful architect in Ottoman history. This feature is enough to speak about the mosque.
It is said that Sokollu Mehmet Pasha's wife, Sultan İsmihan Hatun, who was the daughter of Selim II, subsidized the construction of the mosque and its social complex as a gift for her husband. Let's begin with who Sokullu Mehmed Pasha and İsmihan Hatun are, before speaking of the mosque's architectural properties.
A piece of the sacred black stone, brought from the Kaaba, installed in marble.
Sokollu Mehmed Pasha was grand vizier of the Ottoman Empire between June 28, 1565 and Oct. 11, 1579, but he had served in several administrative offices for about 35 years. He saw the reign of three different Ottoman sultans in the heyday of the empire. Starting from Suleiman I, the Magnificent, he became the right arm of Selim II, the Blond, and Murad III. Considering that he came from a modest Serbian shepherd family, his success could be seen.
The Ottoman Empire took non-Muslim boys from the Balkans, based on a system called "devşirme," namely "collecting" boys to raise for the empire. According to this system, boys aged 10-12 were taken from their families, converted to Islam and sent to military or administrative schools in Istanbul where they were educated to serve the state in different positions.
Sokollu Mehmed was one of these devsirme boys. He was first sent to military school. After that training, he went to the palace school, "Enderun." He received a high quality education, so much so that he spoke, apart from Serbian and Turkish, Arabic, Persian, Italian and Latin. This bright man worked as a statesman until his death.
In 1562, he married Selim the Blond's daughter, Murad III's sister İsmihan Sultan. She was a very philanthropic woman. She granted various charity works and buildings. Across the Ottoman Empire, various structures were built on her behalf. The Sokollu Mehmed Pasha Mosque is one of them.
Other sources say that the mosque and other buildings around it was given to İsmihan Sultan as a gift by Sokollu Mehmed Pasha. If we look around places ruled by the Ottoman Empire we could see a number of buildings named for Sokollu Mehmed Pasha. But the thing that makes the mosque very precious is four stone pieces that are placed inside it.
These stone pieces came from the holiest place for Muslims, the Kaaba. In one corner of the Kaaba, there is a stone known as the Black Stone, (in Arabic, al-Hajar al-Aswad). It is believed that it descended from heaven. Four little pieces from it are in the mosque's different points. People who do not have the opportunity to visit the holy place and the stone have come to the mosque for centuries.
When the mosque was built it had various buildings like shops, a kitchen, a caravanserai (a large lodge), a madrasa and houses. But, unfortunately, only the madrasa remains and is still active today.
As we said, the mosque is one of the Istanbul's hidden treasures that are only revealed by going into its side streets. Unlike the crowded Sultanahmet area, the Sokollu Mehmed Pasha Mosque presents a beautiful place to see, not only because of its silent and tranquil environment but also for its architectural features.