Most travelers to Istanbul will make a bee line to photograph the blue hues of the hand-painted tiles that give the Blue Mosque its name. Though, for many locals one of the more intriguing mosques to visit is Fatih Mosque, located atop the highest hill of the city.
Fatih Mosque is worth a visit for many reasons. Christendom’s Church of the Holy Apostles once stood here for 11 centuries during the reign of the Byzantines. Commissioned in the fourth century by Constantine the Great and reconstructed by Emperor Justinian 200 years later, the revered basilica housed the sarcophagi of the emperors and their consorts, alongside the relics of saints Andrew, Luke, Timothy, John Chrysostom and Gregory the Theologian.
The Church of the Holy Apostles was second only in size and importance to Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya). Whilst the latter is now the top tourist attraction in the city, the Church of the Holy Apostles succumbed to invasions by the Crusaders and Ottomans.
When Fatih Sultan Mehmet II (otherwise known as, Fatih the Conqueror) successfully invaded Constantinople in 1453 he ordered the demolition of the dilapidated church to make way for the first Imperial mosque to be built under Ottoman rule.
The first Fatih Mosque was completed in 1463, however, an earthquake in 1766 saw the mosque virtually destroyed. For this reason today’s structure dates back to 1771 and features elements of the legendary Imperial Ottoman architectural style fused with elegant Baroque designs of the 18th century. One of the finest examples of the latter can be seen in Fatih the Conqueror’s türbe (tomb), located in the grounds of the mosque.
Visits to the mosque are best combined with the neighborhood's weekly Wednesday street market.