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Süleymaniye Mosque

The Süleymaniye Mosque is a grand mosque in Istanbul. It was built on the order of sultan Suleiman I (Suleiman the Magnificent) and was constructed by the great Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan. The construction work began in 1550 and the mosque was finished in 1557.

It is considered to be a kind of architectural answer to the Byzantine Hagia Sophia, commissioned by the Emperor Justinian. The Hagia Sophia, converted into a mosque under Mehmed II, served as a model to many other Ottoman mosques in Istanbul. Sinan's Sulimaniye is a more symmetrical, rationalized and light-filled interpretation of earlier Ottoman precedents, as well as the Hagia Sophia. It is possible that dialogue between Italy and Istanbul contributed to Sinan's enthusiasm for symmetrical and rational forms, as promoted by writers like Alberti.

The Suleymaniye plays on Suleyman's self-conscious representation of himself as a 'second Solomon.' It references the Dome of the Rock, which was built on the site of the Temple of Solomon, as well as Justinian's boast upon the completion of the Hagia Sophia: "Solomon, I have surpassed suleymaniye mosquethee!" The Suleymaniye, similar in magnificence to the preceding structures, asserts sultan Suleyman's historical importance. The structure is nevertheless smaller in size than its older archetype, the Hagia Sophia.

Basic features

The mosque is 59 meters in length and 58 meters in width. The main dome is 53 meters high and has a diameter of 26.5 meters. At the time it was built, the dome was the highest in the Ottoman empire when measured from its base, but still lower from the ground level and smaller in diameter than that of Hagia Sophia. The complex has four minarets, a number only allowable to mosques endowed by a sultan (princes and princesses could construct two minarets; others only one). The minarets have a total of 10 galleries indicating that Suleiman I was the 10th Ottoman sultan. Apart from the main mosque with the praying hall (cami) and courtyard (avlu), the mosque complex also includes a caravanserai or seraglio (sarayı; han), a public kitchen (imaret) which served food to the poor, a hospital (darüşşifa), four Qur'an schools (medrese), a specialized school for the learning of hadith, and a bath-house (hamam). In the garden behind the main mosque there are two mausoleums (türbe) including the tombs of sultan Suleiman I, his wife Roxelana (Haseki Hürrem), his daughter Mihrimah, his mother Dilaşub Saliha and his sister Asiye. The sultans Suleiman II, Ahmed II and Safiye (died in 1777), the daughter of Mustafa II, are also buried here. Just outside the mosque walls to the north is the tomb of architect Sinan.

The Suleymaniye Mosque was ravaged by a fire in 1660 and was restored on the command of sultan Mehmed IV by architect Fossatı. Part of the dome collapsed again during the earthquake of 1766. Subsequent repairs damaged what was left of the original decoration of Sinan (recent cleaning has shown that Sinan experimented first with blue, before turning red the dominant colour of the dome). The mosque was restored in the middle of the 19th century by the Swiss-Italian architect brothers Gaspare and Giuseppe Fossati. In a debauched attempt to restore it to its supposed original glory, they painted the dome and the semi-domes in an Ottoman baroque style. During the recent cleaning this was faithfully restored.

During World War I the courtyard was used as a weapons depot and when some of the ammunition ignited, the mosque suffered another fire. Not until 1956 was it restored again.

Today it is one of the most popular sights in Istanbul.

 

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