A tower, two mosques and a love story

Galata Tower

On the 21 March, I climbed the Galata Tower to see if a 470 year old Istanbul love story was true.

The 16th Century story involves Ottoman Architect, Mimar Sinan and Mihrimah Sultan – the daughter of the famous, Sultan Suleiman and Hurrem Sultana.

When Mihrimah was 17 two men wished to marry her: Sinan and the governor of Diyarbakır, Rustem Pasa. The Sultan chose the younger Rustem Pasha, but Sinan’s love for Miramah did not die on her wedding day in 1539. Sinan’s love for Mihrimah is said to be reflected in two of Istanbul’s finest mosques.

Sinan was commissioned to design the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque near the Bosphorus in Uskadar in 1548. Take a look at the design and it mimics the silhouette of a woman in a skirt. Later, after Rustem Pasa died, Sinan designed a new mosque without palace approval. He built the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque on the highest hill of Istanbul in Edirnekapi (1565), near the old city walls in the West.

‘Mihrimah’ in Persian means the ‘sun and moon’ and so the love story says that Sinan designed the Uskadar mosque with less windows to symbolise the moon. The Edirnekapi mosque has many windows to symbolise the sun. The Edirnekapi mosque also has one minaret to symbolize Sinan’s loneliness and longing for one woman.

The love story suggests that on 21 March (Spring Equinox and Mihrimah’s birthday), the sun will set over the single minaret in Edirnekapi and the moon will rise over the mosque in Uskadar.

Is this story real or just an urban legend? You can see both mosques from the Galata Tower. For hopeless romantics, the story is just a great excuse to climb the medieval tower during a springtime sunset.

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