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Sedefhar Mehmet Ağa (about 1540 - 1617) is recorded as the Ottoman architect of the Sultan Ahmed Mosquemarker (the "Blue Mosque") in Istanbulmarker. According to the biographer Cafer Effendi, he was believed to be Albanian, born about 1540.
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, considered as the culmination of the career of Sedefhar Mehmet Ağa
Mehmet came to Istanbul in 1563 (possibly to join the janissary corps). After six years as a cadet (acemioğlan) he began the study of music. During a period of twenty years he specialized with inlay in mother-of-pearl, giving him the surname Sedefiâr (worker in mother-of-pearl). Later he also switched to architecture. He became a pupil of architect Sinan, Turkey's most celebrated architect, becoming his first assistant in charge of the office in the absence of Sinan.

In January 1586 he was appointed to complete the Muradiye Mosque in Manisa, a construction started by his master Sinan. He gave a Koran box to sultan Murat III (possibly on the advice of Sinan) and was appointed Gate Keeper (Kapıcı). When Sinan died in 1588, Mehmet Ağa, his first assistant was not appointed as his successor, but instead the Grand Vizier appointed Davut Ağa, the Master of the Waterways, as the royal architect.

When in 1591 Mehmet Ağa gave the sultan a richly decorated quiver, he was promoted to Chief Bailiff (muhzirbaṣı). In the same year he even became lieutenant-governor (mütesellin) of Diyarbakırmarker and Inspector of Works. During the following years he visited Arabia, Egypt and Macedonia. In 1597 he was appointed Master of the Waterways by sultan Mehmed III.He was also given the commission for the building of a walnut throne, inlaid with nacre and tortoise shell, for Ahmed I, which can be seen in the Topkapı Palacemarker.

After Davut's execution in 1599, he was succeeded as royal architect by Dalgiç Ahmet Ağa. In 1606 Mehmet Ağa was finally named chief imperial architect to the Ottoman court, succeeding Dalgiç Ahmet Ağa, builder of the large tomb of Mehmed III in the garden of Hagia Sophiamarker.

From 1609 until 1616 he worked exclusively on the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, called the Blue Mosque because of the colour of its tile work. The design of the mosque was based on the Hagia Sophiamarker (Church of Holy Wisdom), the masterpiece of Byzantine architecture built in the 6th century, and on the work of his master, Sinan. The design of the mosque is perfectly symmetrical, with a great central dome buttressed by four semi-domes and surrounded by a number of smaller exedrae.

Mehmet Ağa had a book on architecture theory written for him by Cafer Efendi. In this book he explained his methods of work and the architectural training of the period.

Mehmet Ağa died in 1617 at about the same time as his sultan.

By way of his works he left a decided mark on Istanbul. The square on which the Sultan Ahmed Mosque is situated became known as Sultanahmetmarker. This mosque can be considered as the culmination of his career. Mehmet Ağa, who was the last student of Sinan, had completed his mission by adding his brighter, colorful architectural style to that of his master teacher. This mosque is the last great mosque of the classical period of Ottoman architecture.

See also


  1. Mehmet Aga in Encyclopaedia Britannica online, ( LINK)
  • Goodwin G., "A History of Ottoman Architecture"; Thames & Hudson Ltd., London, reprinted 2003; ISBN 0-500-27429-0

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