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Suleymaniye Mosque Istanbul

Suleymaniye Mosque Istanbul

Visiting Suleymaniye Mosque

This 16th century mosque and complex is one of Istanbul’s largest and most beautiful. For visitors to  Istanbul this is on the top 10 list of things to see whilst there and certainly since the 2010 renovations have been completed. The mosque sits on the Third Hill of  Istanbul and can be seen from many kilometres away.

The Construction by Mimar Sinan

Mimar Sinan (1490-1588), the greatest of Ottoman architects, designed and began
 the construction in 1550 and the mosque took seven years to build with the remainder of the complex taking a further year and is regarded as Sinan’s masterpiece in Istanbul. Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent commissioned the construction in celebration of his 13th year as the Ottoman ruler and was so impressed with the works that on the grand opening day he gave the honour of unlocking the doors to Sinan.

Design of the Suleymaniye Mosque

The exterior is a mass of domes and semi-domes and the minarets are said to have symbolised Süleyman’s status; four of them signified he was the 4th Ottoman sultan to be based in Istanbul and the 10 minaret balconies (şerefes) indicate he was the 10th sultan established in the Empire. At one time the nearby street Tiryaki Çarşışı (Market of the Addicts) sold opium along with tea and coffee and wrestling matches were held every week at the front of the mosque. The huge domed interior has walls decorated with excellent Iznik tiles and the wooden shutters adorning the windows are inlaid with mother of pearl as is the preacher’s seat (kürsü).
The mihrab and mimber are made from Proconnesian marble that was quarried from Marmara Island and the design of the modern looking stained glass was by Sarhoş Ibrahim (Ibrahim the Drunkard).
The calligraphy is by Ahmed Karahisari (1468-1556) and other works of his are in the Piyale Paşa Mosque and Hasan Çelebi, his pupil, continued his work after he went blind.


There are four columns supporting the dome that are said to represent the four caliphs, one of which is from the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus , another from Egypt and two from other ancient sites in Istanbul.

Sites to Visit close to Suleymaniye Mosque

The Mosque Complex & Tombs

The Süleymaniye has many surviving structures and this is one of the reasons for its popularity. There is a caravanserai and a series of medreses, a hamam, and a hospital. Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent
and his wife Roxelana (Haseki Hurrem Sultan who was originally from the Ukraine) have their tombs in the garden, although Süleyman is buried alongside Sultans Süleyman II and Ahmed II; their building has more Iznik tiles than the mosque and Roxelana’s tomb is next to her husband’s and is as equally adorned in Iznik tiles.
There is another building here with a dome that looks like a tomb that is actually the dar-ül kurra, a school where students would learn to read and recite the Koran.

The Medreses

On three sides of the mosque were the various medreses which actually formed the foundation of the Istanbul University and the reason why the area remained extremely upmarket until the 17th century. The dar-ül hadis (educational centre) was designed as a row of cells with a lecture theatre (dershane) above them rather than in the usual square. The preparatory school (mülazim) was created on five levels down the hillside in the space under the Salis (Third) and Rabi (Fourth) medreses and was restored in 2009. The Salis and Rabi medreses are exact copies of the Evvel (First) and Sani (Second) medreses that can be found on the far side of the mosque and each of these taught one of the orthodox schools of Islamic law.
The Suleymaniye Library is now housed in the Evvel and Sani medreses.

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