Erdogan inaugurates mosque in Istanbul's Taksim Square
"Taksim Mosque now occupies a prominent place among the symbols of Istanbul," Erdogan said after performing Friday prayers at the site.
The opening was met with enthusiasm, with several thousand people praying outside in the square because the mosque filled so quickly, an AFP correspondent said.
"There are too many people and not enough mosques. God bless those who made this happen," said Abuzer Koc, who had a Turkish flag draped across his shoulders and had come to take part in the inaugural prayer.
Some 4,000 people will be able to pray inside the mosque, which combines Ottoman style with contemporary features.
Thousands of people gathered for the first friday prayer of the new Taksim mosque in Istanbul. pic.twitter.com/bmu6y1xudF— Ali Özkök (@Ozkok_A) May 28, 2021
The mosque's construction is the fulfillment of a 30-year dream.
When Erdogan served as Istanbul mayor in the 1990s, he lamented the absence of a mosque in Taksim Square, noting that the only visible religious site was an Orthodox church in an area not too far away.
"There wasn't even a prayer room and the faithful had to make do with praying on newspapers on the ground," Erdogan said on Friday.
The mosque was initially intended to be inaugurated during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
But Erdogan, who pays strict attention to dates for events, finally opted to open the mosque on the day when anti-government protests started in 2013.
The square was the centre of the demonstrations known as the "Gezi movement", which grew into a nationwide wave of protests against the government that left eight protesters and a police officer dead.
The opening also comes a day before the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Ottomans.
Erdogan said during the inauguration that he saw the Taksim Mosque as "a gift to celebrate the 568th anniversary of Istanbul's conquest".
A substantially larger mosque at the top of Istanbul's Camlica hill opened in 2019 which can accommodate up to 60,000 worshippers.
The mosque is visible from almost any point of the city, like the Ottoman sultans who built places of worship that would survive them.
Erdogan will commemorate Constantinople's conquest on Saturday at Camlica Mosque.