The Üç Serefeli Mosque, named after its unusual minaret with three balconies (serefe), was built between 1437 and 1447 (841-851 A.H.) by Murad II. Damaged in the 1752 earthquake, the mosque was repaired in 1763 by order of Mahmud III. A major restoration took place in 1930, with additional work on frescoes in 1999. The Koranic School (mekteb) and the soup kitchen (imaret) of the larger complex no longer exist while the madrasa (medrese) -called Saatli or Timekeeper's- and the dar'ül hadis have survived in heavily restored condition.
The mosque is composed of an oblong prayer hall preceded by an open court. Accessed through portals to the northwest, northeast and southwest, and the court is surrounded by an arcade on three sides with the mosque portico on the fourth. An ablution fountain occupies the center of the court, slightly north of the transverse axis defined by the portals. The portico, raised to the height of the prayer hall, allows the visual reading, on the exterior, of a larger prayer hall than court while the former covers approximately two thirds the area of the latter. The northeast bay of the portico, covered with a trough vault, illustrates the original structure of the portico roof that was rebuilt with domes following collapse in the 1752 earthquake.
Entering the prayer hall through the central doorway, we walk under a dome measuring 24 meters in diameter. It rests on heavy arches that fall onto four piers embedded in the exterior walls and two large hexagonal piers at the center, left and right. The transition to dome occurs with a thin belt of triangles that merge with decorative consoles in between arches, with dome buttressed providing additional support on the exterior. Twelve windows pierced into the drum illuminate the area under dome, which houses the mihrab on axis with the doorway. The mihrab area is decorated with painted patterns of interlocking wheels and stars and the windowpanes reflect the wood carving of the period.
Beyond the two hexagonal piers, the prayer hall extends on either side with rectangular spaces accessed privately through doors from the court and -on the southwest side- from the street. They are roofed with two domes each. The triangular poché between the hexagonal drum of the central dome and the twin domes of the side bays are crossed with small tripartite vaults ornamented with stalactites on the inside and crowned with turrets on the outside. All domes are covered with lead on the exterior. The mosque has four minarets of different heights located at the four corners of the open court. The tallest, on the southern corner, is 67 meters in height and is decorated with a zigzag pattern in red and white stone. It is an early example of the use of separate staircases to access the different balconies. Its upper shaft and three balconies, like those of the other minarets, were rebuilt in a less ornate fashion than the original muqarnas work after having collapsed in the 1752 earthquake. The west, north and east minarets are designed, respectively, with spiral (burmali or yivli), fluted and diamond patterns and have single balconies except for the northwest minaret with two balconies.
The structure is built of limestone with marble used for columns, capitals, mihrab, minber, window frames and the seven portals . Red stone is used to frame entryways and -in alteration with white stone- on the voussoirs of the courtyard and portal arches. The courtyard is further adorned with frescoes inside gallery domes, original designs that were repaired in the 18th century as well as baroque additions.
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