Süleymaniye Mosque, Turkey
The Süleymaniye Mosque is located in Istanbul, Turkey, where it is still, to this day, the largest mosque in the city. Sultan Süleyman, also known as Süleyman the Magnificent, commissioned the moss in 1550. It was a massive undertaking, however, and was not completed until 1558.
Obviously, the Süleymaniye Mosque would not exist today if it hadn’t been for Süleyman the Magnificent, as he was referred to in the East. Süleyman, who was born in 1494, was the tenth Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. He also has the distinction of having held his position longer than any other Sultan, taking on the role in 1520 and continuing in it until his death in 1566.
Süleyman played many roles in his time as Sultan. He personally led the military through several important battles, introduced and passed new laws, wrote poetry, and invested in the culture of the Ottoman Empire by being at the helm of its “Golden Age.”
While the Süleymaniye Mosque is perhaps his best known architectural project, it is important to note that Süleyman was responsible for many other architectural developments during his long reign.
The driving force behind his architectural ventures and behind most of his projects in general was to make Constantinople the epicenter of the Islamic world. In addition to the Süleymaniye Mosque, he was also responsible for ordering other mosques, bridges, palaces, and more.
Time and time again, Süleyman would go back to the same, trusted architect: Mimar Sinan. Altogether, Sinan would be responsible for creating over 300 structures in the Ottoman Empire, though the Süleymaniye Mosque remains one of his most celebrated.
Mimar Sinan was a renowned architect. In fact, he was the chief architect and civil engineer not just for Süleyman but also for two other sultans, Selim II and Murad III. He was the chief architect behind the Süleyman Mosque, many other important structures, and even a series of schools for young children.
Sinan served as a military engineer until he was appointed as “chief royal architect,” a title which he held for fifty years. His hard work and commitment to advancements in architecture have earned him comparisons to the great Michelangelo, as well as the distinction of being considered the classical Ottoman’s Empire’s greatest and most accomplished architect.
Even after his long life and his impressive body of architectural work, his name and style would live on for many years in the form of prolific architects whom he had trained. Among these was the renowned Sedefkar Mehmed Agha, who designed the celebrated Sultan Ahmed Mosque.
Design and Appearance
The Süleymaniye Mosque is an impressive and unique combination of both Islamic and Byzantine architectural styles. Many of its design features, such as its domes and minarets, are reminiscent of Byzantine churches, particularly the Hagia Sophia.
The Mosque features a very large courtyard. While courtyards were common for Imperial style mosques, the Süleymaniye’s is particularly grandiose. It features several columns crafted from marble, granite, and other fine materials.
The courtyard is also home to four minarets with ten galleries. The four minarets signify that the Süleymaniye Mosque was endowed by the sultan, while the ten galleries are representative of Süleyman’s position as tenth sultan.
One of the most notable and easily distinguished features of the Mosque is its main dome, which is surrounded by smaller domes, as well as a series of arches.
The arches contain decorative windows and are supported by buttresses partially hidden within the structure’s walls and further covered by galleries. This “hiding” of the buttresses was a first for Imperial architecture, and is one of the most unique features of the Mosque.
While one would assume that a Mosque with such a massive courtyard and such intricate designs would be very strongly decorated inside, the opposite is actually true. Compared to the Mosque’s exterior and to other Mosques built within the period, the Süleymaniye Mosque’s interior is actually quite bland.
There is some Iznik tile work, however, as well as a few ivory designs. Mother of Pearl designs can also be seen, though they are understated.
Even the Mosque’s mimbar, usually a prime spot for decoration, is very softly designed.
The dome of the Süleymaniye Mosque is 53 meters high, making it the tallest dome in the Ottoman Empire at the time of its construction.
Inside, the mosque is 59 meters long by 58 meters wide.
Original Surrounding Structures
Imperial mosques in Istanbul were almost always designed as part of a complex, and the Süleymaniye Mosque is no exception. Its original complex featured a hospital, a public kitchen, a school for young children, a medical college, a hadith school where students studied Muhammad’s teachings, public baths, Qur’an schools, and a rest stop of sorts for weary travelers.
Those who visit the Mosque today can take in the surrounding structures that still remain. Some of these structures include the rest stop, the public kitchen, the hospital, and the public baths.
There are also two mausoleums onsite. Those entombed within the mausoleums include Süleyman, his wife, his daughter, his mother, and his sister, as well as Süleyman II, Ahmed II, Safiye, and, fittingly, Mimar Sinan.
Damage and Restoration
Unfortunately, the beautiful Süleymaniye Mosque has been subjected to extreme damage several times since it was built. The first damages occurred when a fire hit the mosque in 1660. Fortunately, Sultan Mehmed IV had the Mosque restored to its original condition.
Sadly, the Mosque was again damaged in 1766 by an earthquake. Though restorations were made, some of the Mosque’s original design features were lost in the efforts.
Another fire damaged the mosque again sometime between 1914 and 1918, and the Mosque stayed damaged until it was finally restored yet again in 1956.
The fact that the Süleymaniye Mosque has managed to rise (quite literally) from the ashes time and time again proves that this is an important structure and not one to soon be forgotten.
Google Earth Direct Link of Süleymaniye Mosque, Turkey. (opens in new window)