The most impressive of the mosques which form the famous Istanbul silhouette is the mosque of Suleymaniye. The well-proportioned and neat esthetics of its exterior and interior charm the beholder. The Suleymaniye mosque is an architectural masterpiece. The 16th century was in every way a period of progress for the Ottoman Empire. Of the 36 Ottoman sultans, the longest reigning was Suleyman, called the “Law-maker,” for 47years. This famous sultan assigned the task of building a mosque in his name to the great architect Koca Sinan. A genius in the world of architecture, Sinan completed the mosque and the large complex surrounding it during the years 1550-1557. Architect Sinan’s mastery of Turkish art in the classical era, which he himself founded, is evident in this construction.
Within the large complex around the courtyard of the mosque are schools, a library, a Turkish bath, a kitchen, an inn, a hospital, and various shops. In order to appreciate the exterior appearance of the mosque, one must observe it from afar. It can be seen in all its glory from the GalataTower, or from the Galata shores of the Golden Horn.
A great dome covers the mosque area. There are four minarets. The surroundings of the main entrance are enclosed by an arcade made up of three courtyards, in the center of which is a fountain. The spaciousness, wholeness, and measure of the interior strengthens the feeling of majesty. The main dome is 53 m. high, held up by four large “elephant feet”. All elements of the area are in absolute harmony. The building is also perfectly balanced from the point of view of physics. Over the years earthquakes that have shaken Istanbul have never left a crack here. The interior of the dome is baroque, in the style of past centuries.
The most impressive place of the mosque is the stain glass on the walls of the mihrab (niche indicating the direction of Mecca) with its original 16th century Turkish decorative motifs in beautiful colors. Surrounding the extremely simple mevlid balcony and the marble mihrab niche beside the mimbar (pulpit) are decorative tiles. The sultan’s box is located to the left of the mihrab. The walls are decorated with prayers from the Koran, They represent a lovely example of the art of Turkish calligraphy. Balconies for women are located at the entrance and front sides. To the right of the entrance is a bronze caged section, a beautiful example of 18th century Turkish metal work.
In the back courtyard of the mosque are the grand tombs of Sultan Suleyman and his beloved wife Roksana. In the surrounding area are tombs of important people from various centuries. At the far end of the Suleymaniye complex lies a very small, plain grave. This is the tomb of the great Architect Sinan, who lived in fame and honor for 99 years, serving as the empire’s top architect for 50 years. Koca Sinan was an industrious and productive architect; in his long life he completed more than 400 masterpieces. He is the founder and the most important producer of classical Turkish architecture. Students taught by him went on to produce works of art in other Islamic countries.
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