The Bebek Mosque is located on the banks of the Bosphorus in the historic Bebek quarter. Formerly a Byzantine village, the quarter gets its Turkish name from Bebek Çelebi, the head of the infantry regiment that was stationed there in the months leading up to the conquest of Constantinople in 1453. A preferred location for the construction of royal kiosks and gardens in the 16th century, Bebek was filled with coastal palaces and summer mansions of the aristocracy in the 18th century. The institution of ferry service between the historic core and Bebek in mid 19th century transformed from a seasonal residence into a permanent community of well-to-do Istanbul residents.
The Bebek Mosque was built in 1913 by the Ministry of Waqfs to replace an older mosque that was built by Nevsehirli Damat Ibrahim Pasa, the grandvizier of Ahmed III. Completed in 1725-26, the old mosque stood adjoining the coastal palace of Hümayunabad and had a royal lodge for the Sultan. The palace was torn down in 1846, and the current mosque stands next to a public park, and a small ferry station, that occupy the palatial site today.
Unlike the old mosque, which was built on the second floor of a primary school, the new mosque consists only of a prayer hall. Designed by Architect Kemalettin Bey, who was then the head architect at the Ministry, the mosque is an example of the First Nationalist Period in Turkish Architecture, spearheaded by Kemaleddin and Vedat (Tek) Beys. The style, formulated by the First Turkish graduates of the School of Fine Arts in Istanbul in the early 20th century, draws upon the formal and decorative vocabulary of early Ottoman works in Bursa, which were analyzed in detail for the publication of a pioneering volume on Ottoman Architecture to be presented in the Vienna Exposition of 1873. (1)
The mosque is built entirely of cut stone and consists of a domed prayer hall and a three-bay portico to the northwest. An inscriptive plaque in gold letters crowns the portico entrance. Upon entering, side bays of the portico have raised floors outlined with marble balustrades. A set of stairs on the left side lead up to a wooden balcony used only by women. The portico was encased in 1991 to allow for use during winter. Inside, the prayer hall is square in plan and is covered with a single dome raised on a tall circular drum. The dome is carried on eight pointed arches that rest on eight octagonal piers embedded halfway into the walls. Joined together to form an octagonal belt, the arches allow the transition from the circular drum to the square base, and exedras roofed with semi-domes complete the four corners of the square. The mihrab is set in a stalactite niche encased in a tall, carved frame, in axis with the entrance, and a wooden minbar stands to its right. Well-lit through windows at the ground, clerestory and dome level, the interior of the mosque is painted with traditional tile motifs in pale shades of red and blue.
The simplicity of structure in this small, well-proportioned mosque is enhanced with subtle details on the exterior that animate its otherwise plain appearance. The eight piers supporting the dome are extended on the exterior as mini turrets flanking the circular drum. Pilasters separating the windows on the drum reveal neo-classical influences. The cornice line is stepped at the base of each turret; the semi-domes of the exedras complete the roof composition at the four corners. A single minaret, with a tall square base and multi-faceted shaft, adjoins the western corner of the mosque.
(1) See Launay, Marie de. 1873. L'Architecture Ottomane. (Ouvrage autorisé par iradé impérial et publié sous le patronage de son excellence Edhem Pacha pour l'exposition universelle de 1873 à Vienne.) Constantinople.
Dünden Bugüne Istanbul Ansiklopedisi. 1993. Istanbul: Türkiye Ekonomik ve Toplumsal Tarih Vakfi. Vol 2, 113-116.
ÖZ, Tahsin. Istanbul Camileri. 1987. Türk Tarih Kurumu Basimevi: Ankara. Vol. 2, 10-11.
Yildirim, Yavuz. 1981. Mimar Kemalettin ve Birinci Ulusal Mimarlik Dönemi. ODTÜ Mimarlik Fakültesi Basim Isligi: Ankara, 104-113.