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The largest and most imposing mosque in Istanbul, the city of domes and minarets, is the Suleymaniye. The aesthetic supremacy of its interior and exterior and its perfect proportions have been captivating the visitors for centuries. The Suleymaniye Mosque is an architectural masterpiece. The 16th century was the golden age of the Ottoman Empire. Suleyman the Magnificent, the longest reigning among the thirty-six Ottoman sultans, ruled for 47 years in this century. The great sultan entrusted the construction of the mosque to bear his name to Sinan, the grand master of architecture. Sinan completed the mosque and the large complex surrounding it between 1550-1557. The mosque was one of many demonstrations of the genius of Sinan, the father of classical Turkish architecture.


The complex surrounding the mosque was composed of schools, a library, baths, public kitchens, caravanserai, a hospital and shops. The beauty of the exterior of the mosque is best appreciated from a distance. This imperial edifice can be seen in all its magnificence from the Galata Tower or the Galata side of the Golden Horn. A huge dome covers the main chamber of the mosque, which has four minarets. The main entrance to the mosque is from an inner courtyard that is surrounded by porticoes and has an ablution fountain in the center. The spaciousness, unity and exquisite decorations add to the imposing view of the interior. The 53 m high central dome with a diameter of 26.50 m rests on four pillars called elephant-feet. All the architectural elements of the interior are in perfect harmony with one another. The static balance of the structure is faultless too.


Numerous earthquakes that have shaken Istanbul over the centuries have not caused a single crack in the building. The baroque decorations of the inside of the dome were made in the 19th century. The handmade carpet with a mihrap design covering the floor was placed here in the 1950's. The most attractive features of the interior are the extremely colorful, 16th century original stained glass windows with Turkish motifs in the wall of the mihrap. A very simple balcony for the chanters is situated next to the minber, and the mihrap niche made of marble is decorated with tiles. The sultan's lodge is to the left of the mihrab. Verses from the Koran are inscribed on the walls in some of the supreme examples of the Turkish art of calligraphy. Over the entrance and on the sides, there are galleries reserved for women. The brass grill partition to the right of the entrance is a masterpiece of 18th century Turkish metalwork.


Tomb of Suleyman the Magnificent

In the rear courtyard there are the tombs of Suleyman and his beloved wife Roxelane, as well as graves of other prominent people. A small and extremely modest grave is located at one corner of the complex. This is the tomb of the great architect Sinan, who lived to be ninety-nine years old and was for 50 years the extremely esteemed and respected chief architect of the empire. Sinan was a diligent and productive architect who left over four hundred works behind him. He is the most important figure in classical Turkish architecture, of which he was the originator. His apprentices created masterpieces not only in the empire, but also in other Islamic countries.


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