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The neo-Baroque Teşvikiye Mosque was originally commissioned in 1794 by Sultan Selim III, but most of the current mosque is owed to Sultan Abdülmecid I who commissioned it in 1854. During this time, several other well-known structures, including the Ortaköy Mosque and the Dolmabahçe Palace, were being built or renovated in styles imported from Europe.
The front of the mosque, with its huge white columns, constructed during a renovation later in the 19th century, gives it its unique appearance.
In his book Istanbul, the novelist Orhan Pamuk talks about being taken to the mosque by his family’s maid, Esma Hanım. ‘At Teşvikiye Mosque we found a crowd of 20 or 30 people – mostly owners of the small shops in the back streets or maids, cooks and janitors who worked for the rich families of Nişantaşı; as they gathered on the carpets, they looked less like a congregation of worshippers than a group of friends who had gathered to exchange notes. As they waited for the prayer time, they gossiped with each other in whispers. As I wandered amongst them during prayers, running off to the far corners of the mosque to play my games, none of them stopped to scold me; instead they smiled at me in the same sweet way most adults smiled at me when I was a young child. Religion may have been the province of the poor, but now I saw that – contrary to the caricatures in newspapers and my republican household – religious people were harmless.’
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