After the Blue Mosque’s foundations were laid, it took seven years, five months and six days to complete the construction of this monumental work of art, which had a magnificent inauguration. Before the ceremony, an Otağ-ı Hümayun (the Sultan’s Imperial Tent) was erected in the inner-courtyard of the mosque. The sources trace this auspicuous day to June 4, 1026 of the Hijri calendar which corresponds to June 9, 1617 according to the Gregorian calendar. Celebrations took place in this historical square which was previously known as Atmeydanı (the Hippodrome), and which was subsequently referred to as Sultanahmet Meydanı (the Blue Mosque Square).
Sheep were sacrificed during the opening ceremony while state dignitaries encircled the young emperor, Ahmed I. Although the Grandvizier Halil Pasha was present, Hacı Mustafa Agha, the chief eunuch of the imperial harem, was the most prominent person. He had contributed to this work of art from its inception to its completion, and his contributions had commenced even before the groundbreaking ceremony. Ascertaning the location of the mosque and its complex was of prime importance. Therefore, as pointed out by the archive documents, Hacı Mustafa Agha had an important role in the expropriation of some surrounding locations. Hacı Mustafa Agha, who was notable during the reign of Sultan Mehmed III, Ahmed I’s father, played an important role in the developments occurring after the Sultan’s untimely death. He was also influential in the assasination of Sultan Mustafa and the throning of Osman II (1622). This influential personality is mentioned in glowing terms in the history of Nâ’îma and Hasanbeyzade.
Sultan Ahmed I’s children, Prince Mustafa, Mehmed, Murad, Bayezid, Süleyman and Kasım, were also present at the opening ceremony. The court chronicler of the period, Nâ’îma, notes the following:
When it was time to lock the dome of the mosque, which had been under construction for seven years at At Meydanı (the Hippodrome), the throne of the Sultan and tents were installed around the mosque on March 4. All the viziers, scholars and bureaucrats were invited to attend a feast. Afterwards, they left for the palace (Topkapı Palace) and subsequently appeared before the Sultan in their kaftans. The Grand Vizier Halil Pasha and other viziers were the first to congratulate the Sultan in his tent. Shaykh al-Islam Esad Efendi, other scholars and shaykhs stepped into the tent and kissed the Sultan’s sleeve. Approximately one thousand people were dressed in kaftans and wool. Bearing quilted turbans on their heads, both of the Sultan’s sons stood on his right side.
Üsküdarî Aziz Mahmud Hüdayî from the Jalwatiyya tariqa (Sufi order), in addition to the sheikh of the Grand Vizier Halil Pasha, were probably the most prominent among the intellectuals, tariqa leaders and professors of the period.
The opening ceremony of this flawless work of art was effected as planned. Honouring prominent persons on this great occassion who were to be found at the center of state, Ahmed I did not forget Mecca and Medina. These hold a sacred place in the hearts of Muslims, although they were far from the center. In this sense, the Sultan did not neglect to honour the administrators of these two places, the Makkan amirs and the Sharif of Mecca, by sending assorted gifts. Today, lists of these persons and their gifts are preserved and classified according to their names, in the Archive of the Topkapı Palace Museum.1 This list includes the following names:
Gifts Sent to Meca
Two golden-buttoned khilats (robes of honour) woven with golden and silver threads and a heavy silk fabric covered with sable, and a plain khilat for the Meccan Emir Sayyid Idris and the brother of Hasan b. Abu Numay who was one of the Sharifs of Mecca who passed away in October 1601, and one khilat each for Sayyid Abdullah, Abdulmun’im, Adnan, Hayrullah, Murtaza, Judullah, Barakat Abdulharis and Mansur. Idris Bin Hasan, who was elected as the amir of Mecca, was obliged to share the Emirate with his brother and rival, Sayyid Muhsin b. Husayn, and his brother Zayn al-Abidin according to a family decision which was legalized through the issuance of a menşur2 which was sent by the Sultan to him in July 1604. They were also both sent khilats.
The Sultan endowed golden-threaded khilats to Sayyid Abu Talib’s children, (Sayyid Hasan, Ali and Affan), Sayyid Abdulhamid’s son Muhammed, Abu Numay’s grandsons Sayyid Rashid and Sayyid Ibrahim; Omar and Ali, Sayyid Rashid’s two sons and Sayyid Numay’s four grandsons. Thus, all family members serving the Emirate were remembered and honoured. In addition, secondary family members from the Seyyid and Sharif of Mecca were also endowed with khilats.
It is not possible to allocate sufficient space for the long and detailed list of approximately one hundred consignees and their presents. This list covers sheikhs, ulama and sulaha. Descriptions included in these lists are of importance as sources and are of paticular value to historians.
Consignments Sent to Medina
The last part of the archive documents lists the presents sent to authorities and respected personalities in Medina on the occasion of the Blue Mosque’s opening ceremony. The list is as follows:
The mosque was completed with the help of Allah. The Sultan endowed all high state officials, notables, ulama, sayyids- particularly sayyids and sharifs in Mecca and Medina- sheikhs with kaftans, gifts and gold. This chronicle includes the names of kaftans, wool and gifts sent to the notables of Medina.
The consignees primarily included the Qadi of Medina as well as all of the Sulaha, Sheikhs, and ulama of Medina. The number of these amount to approximately 100. Furthermore, the state sent 200 gold coins to schools in Medina, 30 gold coins to be shared among the muazzins (callers to prayer) and professors, and 170 gold coins to be shared among the poor of Medina (July 1617).
As a part of the expenditures incurred on the occasion of the opening ceremony, golden-threaded khilats, woolen dresses and pure gold coins were generously distributed in Istanbul. This demonstration of respect and generosity makes one imagine that even camels were probably not forgotten.
1 TSMA, no. D.5118/1.
2 A type of imperial edict.