Istanbul's Majestic Süleymaniye Mosque: A Stunning Ottoman Marvel

Süleymaniye Mosque

Süleymaniye Mosque

Perched atop one of Istanbul's seven hills, the Süleymaniye Mosque commands the Golden Horn, serving as an iconic landmark for the entire city. While not the largest Ottoman mosque, its grandeur and beauty are unparalleled. Unique in its preservation, many original buildings within its külliye (mosque complex) have been thoughtfully repurposed.

Süleyman I, known as 'the Magnificent,' commissioned the Süleymaniye, the fourth imperial mosque in Istanbul. Its four minarets with ten beautiful şerefes (balconies) symbolize Süleyman's position as the fourth sultan to rule the city and the tenth sultan after the empire's establishment. The renowned Mimar Sinan, an esteemed imperial architect, designed the mosque and its surroundings, with construction taking place between 1550 and 1557.

Stepping inside, visitors are awestruck by its sheer size and elegant simplicity. Sinan ingeniously incorporated buttresses into the walls, creating a 'transparent' and airy ambiance, reminiscent of Aya Sofya. The dome, almost as large as the one crowning the Byzantine basilica, adds to the mosque's splendor.

Adorned with exquisite İznik tiles, the mihrab indicates the direction of Mecca, while the interior features window shutters inlaid with mother-of-pearl, stunning stained-glass windows, painted muqarnas (honeycomb corbels), a mesmerizing persimmon-colored floor carpet, and finely crafted calligraphic pendentives and medallions.

Süleyman envisioned a comprehensive külliye, including an imaret (soup kitchen), medrese (seminary), hamam (bathhouse), darüşşifa (hospital), and tabhane (inn for traveling dervishes). Today, the imaret and tabhane are located on the northwest edge of the mosque, accessible from Professor Sıddık Sami Onar Caddesi, formerly known as Tiryaki Çarşışı (Market of the Addicts). Formerly housing three medreses and a primary school, these buildings now house the Süleymaniye Library and popular bean restaurants that were once opium teahouses (reflecting the street's former name). The darüşşifa stands at the corner of Professor Sıddık Sami Onar Caddesi and Şifahane Sokak.

Just outside the mosque's walled garden lies Sinan's tomb, alongside a disused medrese building. The still-functioning Süleymaniye Hamamı is situated on the eastern side of the mosque.

To the right (southeast) of the main entrance lies the cemetery, where Süleyman and his wife, Haseki Hürrem Sultan (Roxelana), rest in octagonal tombs. Superb tile work surrounds the entrances, and ivory-inlaid panels grace Süleyman's tomb.

The streets surrounding the mosque boast an extensive concentration of Ottoman timber houses, many undergoing restoration as part of an urban regeneration project.

The Süleymaniye Mosque stands as a testament to Ottoman architectural brilliance and remains a must-visit marvel in Istanbul's captivating landscape.

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