Rüstem Pasha Mosque

See a hidden gem of Istanbul, an Ottoman house of prayer nearly 500 years old, with magnificent tiles, built in the middle of the market in the Fatih district.

Few foreign visitors go out of their way to see Rüstem Pasha Mosque, as it can slip easily under the radar compared to Istanbul’s many vast and dramatic sights. However, this building is well worth a visit because of its intricate beauty. The Rüstem Pasha Mosque is renowned as a fine example of decorative tiling and without a doubt it remains one of the city’s finest architectural treasures.

Rüstem Pasha Mosque is one of the great buildings designed by the legendary architect Mimar Sinan, who served under three sultans and made some of the most iconic structures in Istanbul. The mosque is named after the Grand Vizier Rüstem Pasha, who was married to one of the daughters of Süleyman the Magnificent. The mosque was built in his memory following his death in 1561.

Rüstem Pasha himself is remembered for plotting with Süleyman’s wife Roxelana to denounce the Sultan’s son Prince Mustafa, which led to the latter’s execution and the ascent to the throne of Selim “the Sot.” It’s said that this marked the beginning of the Ottoman Empire’s long decline.

Although he was one of the wealthiest men in the empire, Rüstem Pasha did not have a high enough status to rival the Sultan’s grand mosque. For this reason, the Rüstem Pasha Mosque is smaller and located where it is. It lies at the heart of the marketplace at the foot of the hill upon which the Süleymaniye Mosque stands.

Climb a narrow flight of steps to reach its open courtyard, located on a high terrace overlooking a complex of shops, including the Spice Bazaar. Once inside, admire the mainly red, white and blue tiles. The tiles are set in floral and geometric designs, and stone columns and huge arched doorways interrupt the designs splendidly.

Rüstem Pasha Mosque is in the Tahtakele neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul. The building still functions as a mosque, so you can’t visit during the five daily prayer sessions and on Friday afternoons. The calls to prayer from the loudspeakers indicate when those times have arrived.

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