Within the immediate vicinity of the Aqueduct of Valens are two worthwhile mosques: the ancient Kalenderhane and the enormous ?ehzade Mosque, built on the order of Süleyman the Magnificent in 1548.
The Kalenderhane Mosque was originally a Byzantine church built towards the end of the 12th century. After the conquest of Constantinople, it was granted to the Kalender Dervishes as a tekke, or lodge. The Kalender dervishes are an Islamic sect whose beliefs demand a life of endless wandering, so it’s unsurprising that they eventually abandoned their tekke. Today, it’s been converted into another of the city’s mosques, popular with students from the nearby Istanbul University.
The Kalenderhane is small, and impressive for both its marble panels and its age. Inside, the oldest known painting of Saint Francis d’Assisi was discovered in 1966. The fresco, which depicts the saint preaching to the birds, is believed to have been painted shortly after his death in 1266, and can currently be seen in the Archaeological Museum.
Near the humble Kalenderhane, we came upon the much larger ?ehzade Camii. A jaw-dropping structure, but that was a given. It’s not as though an “adequate” mosque was going to satisfy a sultan who calls himself “Magnificent”. The ?ehzade Camii (or “Prince Mosque”) was built to honor the untimely death of Süleyman’s oldest son to smallpox, and was one of Mimar Sinan’s first major constructions in Istanbul. According to a plaque outside, the master architect was unsatisfied with the result, calling it an “apprentice work”, but we think he was being too hard on himself. Unlike many of the larger mosques in the city, visitors here are allowed to wander here at will.