The Rustem Pasha Mosque is based in Eminonu, near the Golden Horn. It is one of the most important structures of Istanbul but it isn’t as popular as the other imperial mosques. The Rustem Pasha Mosque is one of the first examples built to an octagonal plan by an imperial Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan during the 1560’s. The mosque is small but it is planned very proportional. The most important part is that the interior is designed with the most exquisite Iznik tiles. In fact, you can even see the tiles from the exterior walls of the mosque.
These exquisite tiles carry a lot of the famous red colour that was a matter of envy during that century. The colour red was extremely difficult to produce. Once in the mosque, you can find that these tiles carry floral and geometric patterns, the main colours are red and blue.
WHO IS RUSTEM PASHA
Rustem Pasha was a Croatian by birth, born in the town of Skradin. His fate changed when he was taken by the ottoman soldiers to be trained and educated as a future civil and military leader. Rustem Pasha was the son in law, husband of Princess Mihrimah and a grand vizier of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. He is among the richest men in the most powerful empire during the 16th century.
Rustem was not a handsome guy but because of his fine work and intelligence, he gained the trust of Sultan Suleiman and gained Princess Mihrimah’s hand in marriage with the support of the legendary Roxelana (Hurrem Sultan). He is also known in history for having plotted with Roxelana in order to denounce Prince Mustafa. They did in fact succeed and had Mustafa beheaded which allowed Prince Selim II, Roxelana’s son to take the throne after his father Sultan Suleiman. This would be the beginning of the fall of the great Ottoman Empire.
Although Rustem Pasha was among the most wealthiest men in Europe and the Ottoman Empire it wasn’t his place to build a mosque that would have competed or even challenged the power of the Sultan. That is why he selected a place in the middle of the market, under the shadow of Sultan Suleiman’s remarkable mosque, the Suleymaniye. Instead of size to show his wealth and glory he focused on artistic refinement, which explains the remarkable work of the tiles in the mosque.
THE STORY OF HOW HE BECAME GRAND VIZIER: LICE
This is the famous story about how lice actually made the Diyarbakir governor Rustem Pasha a grand vizier. Sultan Suleiman the magnificent wishes to marry his daughter Princess Mihrimah with Rustem Pasha. His rivals who cannot stand him gaining more power by marrying the lovely Princess Mihrimah put out a rumour saying that Rustem Pasha has the leper. According to the medical belief at the time, people with leper could not carry lice at the same time. Sultan Suleiman, which was furious when he heard the rumours sent the head physician to Diyarbakir immediately. The physician examined Rustem Pasha and found lice on his clothes. The head physician then sends out word to the palace telling the good news. And this is the story how Rustem Pasha and Princess Mihrimah was able to wed.