Suleymaniye mosque, or better known as the mosque of Suleyman the Magnificent, was built in the 16th century by the great Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan for Sultan Suleyman the Magnificient, also known as the Legislator. It stands on a hilltop (3rd hill) dominating the Golden Horn and contributing to the skyline of Istanbul. The mosque is the largest mosque of Istanbul.
The mosque was ordered by the sultan Suleyman, and architect Sinan built it in 7 years, between 1550-1557 AD. Like all big and important mosques of that period, also this mosque was built as a complex including a hospital, library, madrasa, kitchen and hospice for the poor, hamam, and shops. It's one of the best examples of Ottoman Islamic architecture in Istanbul.
The mosque is less ornate respect to the other mosques of the time, but its simple decorations gives another athmosphere to this masterpiece. As in all great mosques, it has an outer courtyard and the inner courtyard with four minarets in the corners. Two of these minarets are taller (74 meters - 242 feet) than the other two (56 meters - 184 feet) and these have 3 balconies on each meanwhile shorter ones have two balconies on each. This symbolizes Suleyman as the fourth sultan after the Conquest of Constantinople and the tenth sultan from the beginning of the Ottoman Empire. All of these balconies (called as "serefe") have separate stairways inside. The inner courtyard (or late-comers courtyard) is surrounded by a portico of small columns and domes to protect people from the sun or rain depending on the season, and it has a fountain for the ablutions in the middle (which is dry today).
There are 3 entrances to inside of the mosque, one being from the inner courtyard on the axis of the mosque and other two being on the sides of the outer courtyard. Inside, the floor is covered with carpets. The chandeliers are low and dim so it gives you an idea of the time when it was lit with candles,and there are 138 windows. The marble Mihrab is directly ahead of you, meanwhile the Minbar is on the right of mihrab and the sultans' lodge is on the left corner. Above, you'll notice the great dome which has a diameter of 27 meters (88 feet) and a height of 53 meters (173 feet). There are massive arches and four large columns lifting the main dome and smaller half domes thus creating a large space. Indoors, there are simple but beautiful decorations such as floral designs, geometrical patters, and calligraphy from the Koran. The acoustics of the hall is incredibly sharp.
In the outer courtyard to the southeast, there is an old cemetary where important people were buried once upon a time. Sultan Süleyman, his wife Hürrem, and architect Sinan have their own mausoleums within the compound as well.
Today Suleyman's mosque is one of the most popular sights in Istanbul. Normally tourists enter the mosque from the inner courtyard and after taking the shoes off. Camera and flash is allowed in the mosque.
Important note: The Suleyman's mosque is closed for restorations since 2008, and most probabily it will be re-opened in 2010.
Süleymaniye - Istanbul
Phone: +90 212 5140139
Open daily except prayer times
Hope to see you soon in Istanbul.