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Monday, May 10, 2010


The Süleymaniye Mosque is the largest mosque in Istanbul, and one of the best-known sights there.

Suleyman commissioned the great architect Mimar Sinan to build the mosque, which was started in 1550 and finished in 1558.

The mosque itself is preceded by a monumental courtyard (avlu) on its west side. The courtyard at the Süleymaniye is of exceptional grandeur with a colonnaded peristyle with columns of marble, granite and porphyry. At the four corners of the courtyard are the 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 (serifes), which by tradition indicates that Suleiman I was the 10th Ottoman sultan.

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 sea level.

The interior of the mosque is almost a square, 59 meters in length and 58 meters in width, forming a single vast space. The dome is flanked by semi-domes, and to the north and south arches with tympana-filled windows, supported by enormous porphyry monoliths. Sinan made of a radical architectural innovation to mask the huge north-south buttresses needed to support these central piers. He incorporated the buttresses into the walls of the building, with half projecting inside and half projecting outside, and then hid the projections by building colonnaded galleries. There is a single gallery inside the structure, and a two-story gallery outside.

The interior decoration is subtle, with very restrained use of Iznik tiles. The white marble mihrab and mimbar are also simple in design, and woodwork is restrained, with simple designs in ivory and mother of pearl.

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. 

Click here to take a virtual walking tour of the Süleymaniye Mosque.