A Journey through Europe’s oldest mosques

From the Moorish mosques of Andalus to the Ottoman mosques of the Balkans, these centuries-old temples are part of European history. Some have been converted or adapted for other uses, and others are still active temples, but all of them bear witness to the succession of cultures and beliefs and the mixture of artistic and architectural styles. Embark with us on a journey through the oldest and most fascinating mosques in Europe.

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Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba, Spain

The construction of the Mezquita began in 785 under the rule of Abd ar-Raḥmān I. The Mosque is one of the earliest and most remarkable Islamic buildings erected in Andalus. Its most recognizable feature is its countless white and red arches sustained by 850 pillars made of jasper, onyx, marble, and granite. After the expulsion of Muslims from Spain in the 16th century, the mosque was converted into a Cathedral and its central part was remodelled to place an altar.

Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba
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Mosque of Cristo de la Luz, Spain

This small yet enchanting mosque was built in 999. It was transformed into a church in 1186 after the conquest of Toledo by Alfonso VI. A semi-circular apse was added in this process even though most of the building’s structure and appearance remained the same. It is one of the best-preserved Moorish mosques in Spain.

Mosque of Cristo de la Luz
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Dzhumaya Mosque in Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Bulgaria’s second-largest city is home to one of the oldest and largest mosques in the Balkans. It was built by Sultan Murad II in 1363 after the Ottoman conquest of the city. The building is a mix of traditional Balkan architecture with Byzantine elements. It has eight domes and its interior preserves 18th and 19th century wall paintings. It is still an active place of worship.

Dzhumaya Mosque in Plovdiv
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Çelebi Sultan Mehmed Mosque, Greece

The Çelebi Sultan Mehmed Mosque is one of the oldest surviving Ottoman religious monuments in Greece. Its construction began in 1420 in the city of Didymoteicho, close to the Greek-Turkish border. It is recognisable for its four-sided pyramid roof, made of lead-covered wood. In the 17th century, an interior wooden roof was added below the main roof. Sadly, the inner roof was consumed by a fire in 2017 while restoration works were taking place.

Çelebi Sultan Mehmed Mosque
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Emperor's Mosque, Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Emperor's Mosque was built in 1457, being the first mosque to be erected after the Ottoman conquest of Bosnia. It was dedicated to Suleyman the Magnificent. It occupies the place of an earlier wooden mosque which was destroyed right before the construction of the current building. In the 19th century, the mosque was enlarged to accommodate more worshippers. Behind the mosque is a cemetery where many prominent people of Sarajevo and historic representatives of the Sultan in the city are buried.

Emperor's Mosque
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Sultan Murad Mosque, North Macedonia

The Sultan Murad mosque was built in 1496 on the foundation of the former Monastery of Saint George in Skopje, under the auspice of Sultan Murad II. It has been burned and rebuilt many times throughout history, which has altered its original Early Ottoman-style features. The current entrance includes a four-column portico with decorated capitals. Within the mosque complex stands a clock tower whose beauty has been praised by various historical chroniclers.

Sultan Murad Mosque
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Suleymaniye Mosque, Turkey

Suleymaniye Mosque was built in 1550 on the orders of Suleiman the Magnificent. The Mosque was built in an exceptional location, on Istanbul's Third Hill, facing the astounding estuary of the Alibey and Kağıthane Rivers known as the Gold Horn. It was necessary to demolish the Topkapi Palace in order to begin construction. For over 400 years, the Suleymaniye Mosque was the largest mosque in Istanbul.

Suleymaniye Mosque
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Bajrakli Mosque, Serbia

The Bajrakli Mosque was built in Belgrade in 1575. It is the only surviving mosque of the 273 that existed in the city at the time of the Ottoman Empire. It was built as a one-storey cubic building with a single dome and a minaret. It temporarily functioned as a church during the Austrian occupation of Serbia. At the present, it is the only Muslim place of worship in Belgrade.

Bajrakli Mosque
Wikimedia Commons/Ioan Bodean

Mangalia Mosque, Romania

Mangalia mosque was built in 1575 and holds the title of Romania's oldest mosque. Its official name is Esmahan Sultan Mosque, in honour of the Ottoman princess Ismihan Sultan who was the granddaughter of Suleiman the Magnificent. It is listed as a Historical Monument and is an active place of worship.

Mangalia Mosque
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Al-Aga Mosque, Kosovo

Al-Aga is considered the oldest mosque in the entire Balkan region. It was built in 1289 before the arrival of the Ottomans. The mosque bears the name of an influential family that emigrated from Syria to the Balkans in the 11th century. It is still an active place of worship.

Al-Aga Mosque