The largest and most capacious mosque in Turkey has stood for more than 450 years, survived 89 earthquakes and kept its appearance unchanged. The unique structure is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul was built using the most advanced technology of the time, many technical problems were solved by unconventional, but very effective methods, such as foundations filled with water. It made the building invulnerable to soil vibrations. To visit the mosque of Sultan Suleiman attracts tourists from all over the world, regardless of religion.
Description of the Sulaimaniye Mosque
It is a whole complex and occupies an area equal to a block. The area of the complex is 4.5 thousand meters, the highest point is 74 meters. The mosque was created according to the drawings of architect Sinan. He sought to convey lightness and grace, the loftiness of thought and the power of love.
The best view of the complex opens from the bay, when approaching the buildings take on a thoroughness and heaviness. It was named in honor of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, by whose order the construction was begun. The tombs of the sultan and his wife Roksolana, as well as their daughters and two other sultans are kept in the tombs of the sacred structure.
The territory of the complex can be considered almost an autonomous city. On it are:
Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul is active, so the entrance for tourists is only possible between services.
History and Architecture of the Sulaimaniye Mosque
The austere, refined look gives away the Turkish style. The brevity of the image is combined with restrained luxury, which gives the ancient building a special aura of strength and stability. From afar one can see the slender minarets and the main dome, perfect in its proportion. The complex takes on a magical appearance when darkness falls, when the lights are turned on.
Construction of the mosque began by order of Sultan Suleiman in 1550. The prototype was the temple of St. Sophia, in the process of creating the project the original plan was expanded, supplemented by new elements, becoming a large complex.
It took seven years to complete the construction, which was considered a very long time. The Sultan was constantly pushing the construction, but at the same time demanded to achieve perfect quality. There is a legend that at the base of one of the minarets are immured precious stones, which with a hint of lack of funds for the construction of the minaret sent the Sultan one of the neighboring rulers. At the ceremonial opening of the mosque gates, the architect said that it would stand forever. So far his words have been confirmed through the ages. None of the earthquakes that occurred during its construction affected its magnificent walls and minarets.
The Sulaimaniye Mosque is built amidst a vast garden. There are 11 entrances to the courtyard, in the center there is the main fountain for ritual ablutions, along the southern wall there are many small fountains. The front courtyard is decorated with a colonnade of 24 elements. Souvenir shops are open along the perimeter.
The main task was to build a mosque that would impress the imagination and glorify the greatness of Sultan Suleiman. Architect Sinan was able to achieve an amazing effect. Thanks to the carefully planned windows, of which there are 168, 32 of which are located in the central dome, everyone who enters receives a generous flood of light. The impression is reinforced by the circular lights suspended on chains. The abundance of light and air creates a sense of elevated thoughts, takes away from earthly problems, and sets up for spiritual purification.
The many elements in this complex are symbolic. The 4 minarets indicate that since the capture of Constantinople Suleiman became the 4th Sultan. The number of balconies on the minarets is also not accidental. They indicate that he was the 10th ruler of the Ottoman Empire.
The interiors are based on sketches by Hasan Chelebi. The author of the frescoes was the ingenious master Ibrahim, nicknamed “The Intoxicated One”.
The tablets are engraved with fragments of holy texts from the Koran and the names of prominent religious figures. Amazing acoustic properties of the room were achieved with the help of special resonators placed in the thickness of the walls. The stained glass windows date back to the 16th century. The walls are decorated with geometric and floral designs, the paintings are very restrained, but are true masterpieces.
The height of the large minarets reaches 74 m, the small ones are 56 m high. The main dome is 50 m high with a diameter of 26. The architect’s dream has come true, and his creation is truly worth a century. Unfortunately, what the elements couldn’t do, the fire did. In 1660, most of the interior decoration was destroyed, the restoration was ordered by Sultan Mehmet IV, the original appearance was changed in the direction of the European Baroque.
The historic appearance was restored in the 19th century, and the last restoration was begun in 2010 and is still underway in some of the rooms.
The Tombs of Suleiman and Roksolana
There are legends about this loving couple that tell not only about the power of love, but also about mutual respect. The biography of the Sultan’s beloved wife over the centuries has become surrounded by speculation and it is very difficult to separate it from the truth. The extant portraits of the woman are also very controversial. It is known that Roksolana, or Hürrem, was very dear to Suleiman, she had a rather adamant character, often violated the basic rules of conduct accepted in the country for women, appeared with an open face.
Sultan wrote poems to her and advised her in making important decisions of state. In an unprecedented case, the ruler bound himself by the bonds of marriage to a former concubine, giving her official status. For 40 years, she was a support for her husband. Educated, intelligent and strong-willed, she was interested in domestic and foreign politics, and was known and respected in Europe. A special title, Haseki, was introduced for her, giving her the right to conduct political correspondence, receive ambassadors, and be present at state events and negotiations. The period of Suleiman’s reign is called the Magnificent Age.
A special pavilion was built for Suleiman in the mosque, where he spent his time praying without hiding from the eyes of his subjects. He also stayed by their side after their death.
In the backyard of the mosque are two luxurious tombs. The Sultan and his beloved wife Hürrem are laid to rest there. The tombs are true works of art, inside the dome of the sultan’s turban is painted with frescoes in black, dark red and gold colors, traditional for that time. Much later, the colors of the traditional mosque paintings were changed to bluish and brown, more tranquil and unexpressive.
There, in the backyard, is the amazingly beautiful cemetery of the Süleymaniye Mosque. Important statesmen of the empire are buried there. The tombstones are made of white stone, fragments of sacred texts are carved, the surface is decorated with ornaments and carvings.
Where is it and how to get to the Sulaimaniye Mosque
To visit this architectural monument you have to go to the old district of Vefa. You can get there by cab or by public transport. In any case, it should be noted that cars and buses are prohibited near the mosque. The last few dozen meters must be walked. Minarets serve as a great landmark, visible from anywhere in the city and get lost, keeping the direction of them, almost impossible.
During namaz the entrance to the mosque for tourists is closed, so it is better to plan your visit in the time intervals between 9.00 and 12.30 and 14-15.45. Tourist brochures indicate opening hours from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., but if you do not want to spend 1.5-2 hours at the entrance waiting for permission to look around, it is better to stick to the recommended time frame. There is no charge to enter and see the shrine.
Mosque on the map of Istanbul
Süleymaniye Mosque is the second most important mosque in Turkey, but the first in tourist popularity. Some are enticed by the romantic story of a ruling couple, where the woman had equal rights with her husband and sincerely loved her spouse. Others are interested in the historical events and facts of the building’s construction. In any case, the Süleymaniye Mosque has already stood for almost 5 centuries without losing its beauty and grandeur, and is still worthy of the admiration of posterity.