Arab Mosque, which is still noticeable with its rather high square shaped tower with shaped cone among concrete blocks in the urban texture of Galata is Istanbul’s sole gothic church surviving from the pre-conquest period.
The Catholics (Latins), opting for capturing Constantinopolis instead of Jerusalem in the Fourth Crusade, had a church they dedicated to Saint Paul and next to it, a monastery affiliated with Dominican Order built in Galata in early 1200s. This monastery and church, which drew the interest of Popes as well, is known with the addition of the name “Saint Dominic” which is the founder of the order: Saint Paul and Saint Dominic. In 1475, Mehmet the Conqueror had the church converted to a mosque adding to its foundation complex. Twenty years later, after a portion of the Andalusian Arabs expelled from Spain were settled in the neighboring areas, the mosque got to be known as the Arab Mosque. Another reason why the mosque is attributed to Arabs is that the old bell tower which was converted to a minaret is reminiscent of the original minaret of the famed Emeviye Mosque built in Damascus in 714.
Saliha Sultan, the mother of Mehmed III and Mahmut I and the daughter of Mahmud II, Adile Sultan, had the mosque repaired in different periods, adding elements like the sultan’s hall, fountain and a shadırvan. Especially after the repair commissioned by Saliha Sultan, the interior of the mosque has changed highly with the baroque wooden designs of the halls and mihrab leading to a theatrical appearance.
As a result of the comprehensive repair from 1913 to 1919, the building has gone through another main change. The yard wall comes down; the mosque is re-built in a larger form. An “Arabesque” final community area was added. While the gravestones of more than one hundred Latin nobles staying under the floor were moved to museums, the “Mesleme’s Trial Place”, “Arap Baba Merkad” and several tombs alleged to belong to the companions of prophet Mohammed stresses the Arabic identity further. Although the building has become İslamitized (Ottomanized), a careful eye can notice certain architectural elements documenting the gothic past of the building at least to some extent.