Meet the mosques

Mosques of Istanbul
by Henry Matthews

This new guide to the Islamic architecture of Istanbul neatly fills a gap in the literature on the subject, and will slip comfortably into the interested tourist’s day bag as well.

Until now, if you were serious about touring the city’s Ottoman mosques and getting beyond the briefest of info provided on site, or the dubious apocryphal stories of local guides, you needed to take Gülru Necipoğlu’s heavyweight ‘The Age of Sinan’ with you, and that only covered the classical period.

Henry Mathews literally takes the reader on a tour of the city’s major Islamic monuments, explaining the historical and personal contexts behind the design of each and providing tasteful explanation of what makes them work the way they do. The onus is on the sense of space and personality of each building, making for a more accessible read than many of the more scholarly publications on the subject. Indeed, the slightly unwieldy title gives a good indication of its intended audience. “Mosques of Istanbul, including the mosques of Bursa and Edirne,” could conceivably be replaced with “Mosques of the Ottoman capitals” for a more initiated readership.

The mosques are broken down into sensible categories – pre-conquest, converted churches, classical period, late classical, baroque, and late nineteenth-century – by which they are also grouped on the accompanying map.

Thankfully, the walking itineraries take the practicalities of exploring modern Istanbul into account and are arranged mostly by geography rather than style or period, though history dictates that there is a connection. They will sometimes lead the reader to some less than idyllic thoroughfares, however, so be prepared to be a little creative in your wanderings if you want to keep the sense of serenity such sites induce intact along the way.

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