Suleymaniye Mosque

Suleymaniye Mosque

Suleymaniye Mosque. Religious Monument Upon initial inspection, two impressive features stand out regarding Ottoman ancient monuments: the site’s selection and perfect cohesion of the whole structure. Whether situated on elevated terrain or not, the chosen location consistently provides expansive vistas, offering a picturesque view of the sky beyond. The mosque’s overall design is grandiose and awe-inspiring. All the details of the Suleymaniye monument, although ornamented, contribute to a consistently simple and unique overall effect.

Of all the masterpieces imbued with the genius of architect Sinan and his pupils, Suleymaniye Mosque best meets the fundamental conditions of Ottoman architecture. Perched atop a hill that towers over the Kantarcılar district, positioned between the Ministry of War and the Office of the Sheikhulislam, the Suleymaniye Mosque soars skywards unobstructed. From its expansive courtyard, one can survey Europe and Asia in a single breathtaking vista, taking in the two seas that caress Istanbul, and even the gorgeous Princes Isles. Furthermore, in the hazy clarity of the horizon, the enormous Bithynian Olympus emerges against a clear sky, serving as a constant witness to the legacy of the birthplace of ancient Ottoman power.

Faced with this picturesque sight, only dignified ideas come to mind. Founded in the year 964 of the Hegira (equivalent to 1556 of the Christian era), Suleyman the Magnificent the Lawgiver established the Suleymaniye Mosque, also known as “the Great” and “the Magnificent”. The interior court or square of the mosque is accompanied by four minarets, a number chosen by the founder to represent himself as the fourth Ottoman sovereign since the conquest of Constantinople. The text aims to provide factual and concise information, avoiding flowery language or cultural biases. Similarly, the number of balconies on the minarets indicate that he was the tenth sultan since Osman Ghazi, the founder of his dynasty.

The minarets on either side of the facade have two balconies each, and the other two at the opposite end of the square, on either side of the porch, have three balconies each. Thus, the four minarets contain ten balconies, all adorned with corbelling in stalactites. Three stunning doors, each topped with an ogee arch, provide access to the frontage and two other courtyard sides. The door openings are made up of flattened curves. The cloister surrounding the courtyard has twenty-four arcades, all supported by the same number of columns. The pair closest to the facade door are made of porphyry.

The remaining columns feature twelve pink granite and ten white marble. All of the columns are of the crystallized order. Their capitals are white marble, and the stalactites’ edges are generously gilded. Twenty-four domes can be seen on top of the cloister gallery. They are adorned with painted ornaments and flowers on a base. The largest dome, positioned in the middle of the portico in front of the entrance to the nave, is embellished with pendentives made of white marble stalactites with gilded crystallization edges. The doorway to the nave is a niche decorated with stalactites made of gilded white marble, incorporating a design of pure magnificence and an aspect of genuine monumentality.

The wording of the titles is free, factual, and not subject to interpretation, supporting clear and objective language throughout that is free of bias, figurative language, and ornamentation. The dimensions are significant, with two additional, smaller niches situated on either side, halfway between the entrance to the nave and the courtyard wall.

The porch windows feature rectangular bays adorned with ogee arches that are richly ornamented with glazed tiles. The tiles boast a royal blue base on which stunning Arabic letters are intricately interwoven, forming pure white sacred verses from the Quran. Informal expressions and jargon have been eliminated in favour of precision and grammatical accuracy, provided in alignment with British English spelling and style conventions.

A plain fountain, in the shape of a parallelogram with four upright sides and topped by a zinc roof, is located in the centre of the square. Its adornment, restrained yet graceful, comprises of a metal grille painted in emerald green and an ornamental lattice of geometric rosettes. Above it, there is a frieze of white marble carved with broad leaves, which have slightly aqua-marine tinged hearts.

The courtyard is paved entirely with huge flagstones of white marble, except for the passage that allows entry, through the porch, inside the mosque. In front of the main door, there is a monolithic flagstone made of the most luxurious porphyry and with a diameter of around two meters. If we are to believe a popular legend associated with this flagstone, it signifies a tragic event and played a bloody role during the Suleymaniye courtyard’s construction. Suleyman the Magnificent personally selected a sample of valuable porphyry to enhance the area in front of the mihrab inside the mosque, indicating the direction of Mecca where worshippers prostrate themselves.

He provided detailed instructions on the size and finish to a skilled artisan who was aware of the stone’s destination. The Christian craftsman believed he was performing a righteous act by carving a cross onto the flagstone, with the expectation that upon seeing this symbol, all Muslims would convert spontaneously. It is likely that he did not consider, or was unaware of the Islamic religion’s absolute prohibition on places designated for the worship of any images. The porphyry flagstone became unsuitable for the mosque’s ornamentation since a cross had been carved on it.

Suleyman the Magnificent, infuriated at the sight of his efforts being rendered useless, reportedly flew into a violent rage. He issued a death sentence for the workman and demanded immediate execution, with the sovereign presiding over the act from a throne brought to the courtyard. The sculptor witnessed the beheading in his presence. To commemorate the disobedience and subsequent punishment, they chiselled two symbols into the marble block where the sultan’s throne was positioned and where the head of the victim had fallen. These engravings, which vaguely depict a throne’s outline and a head’s shape, remain visible today. Regarding the porphyry flagstone, it was inverted to avoid complete waste and then placed at the main entrance to the nave.

Unbeknownst to those responsible, the cross on the underside of the stone means that anyone who walks over it is inadvertently treading on the cross. Thus, it serves a function that opposes the proselytising aims of the sculptor who initially created it.

Nothing hinders us from believing in this legend, which possesses all the attributes typical of truth, for it is understood that leniency was not a favored trait of Suleyman the Magnificent the Lawgiver. Furthermore, during that era, tolerance and mercy were not any better practiced in the West compared to the East. Francis I, known for his contributions to the arts and literature, ordered the public execution of philosopher and scholar Etienne Dolet, while Charles V participated in the “acts of faith” of the Spanish Inquisition.

The Islamic religion has never had an organisation akin to the Holy Office. However, upon crossing the renowned porphyry flagstone, one enters the nave, where the grand and expansive dome’s lofty structure decorated with clear shades of blue, white, and gold provokes in us an intense admiration. These three hues serve as the basis of the entire decorative composition of the establishment, spanning both its interior and exterior in the form of paintings, sculptures, precious marbles, and tiles.

Throughout, the white and blue hues prevail, with white being particularly prominent. A handful of pink granite and porphyry columns or insets, as well as a few blood-red lines, add a touch of freshness to the illumination without disrupting the overall harmony. The stalactites’ gildings are dignified and unobtrusive, contributing to the serenity of the space.

The immense ceiling is upheld by four colossal vertical pillars. Surrounding the periphery are smaller columns that support the lateral galleries and the initial landing, which includes ladies’ boxes and extends in a square shape around the central area. Three circular galleries encircle the central rotunda. During Ramadan nights and other holy days, dazzling lights engulf the balustrades that encircle them, illuminating the intricate details of stars, flowers, foliage, and scrollwork with flame. The first gallery is accessible via two staircases conveniently located near the entrance.

The two upper galleries, the highest of which is at the same level as the central great cupola, are reached by wooden ladders situated on the roof outside the dome. In the final gallery, an intriguing acoustical phenomenon occurs: all noises originating from within are amplified and even hushed whispers spoken in the nave or aisles can be clearly discerned here.

Another interesting aspect worth mentioning, which could serve as a model for architects, is the system of tunnels dug into the ground and lined with solid masonry. These tunnels lead from inside the mosque to external tanks, which supply water to all parts of the Suleymaniye Mosque. The renowned architect of this mosque, Great Architect Sinan, ingeniously incorporated this system in order to maintain a consistent and comfortable temperature inside the nave. Wooden trap doors located throughout the central floor of the nave provide airflow from underground tunnels into the mosque, maintaining warm temperatures in winter and cool temperatures in summer.

The inscriptions adorning the Suleymaniye Mosque. were crafted by renowned calligrapher Hasan Celebi, whose final resting place is beside his master in Sutluce, not far from the Danube. The mihrab is decorated with impressive calligraphic ornamentation including large rosettes of glazed tiles featuring white letters against a royal blue background.

Framed by borders of foliage executed in turquoise blue, these embellish both sides of the mihrab. The mihrab itself, which is made of white marble, is cazved in stalactites that are gilded with gold. Similarly, the pulpit to its left is also fashioned from white marble and contains only four marble plates. The gate and base consist of single slabs, measuring eight metres in length and height. These are also the dimensions of the niche housing the mihrab. The imperial loge, positioned to the right, is also white and supported by porphyry columns with capitals in the crystallized order, fashioned from gilded white marble. There are two lavishly ornamented fountains intended for ablutions.

The wooden door of this gallery is adorned with intricately carved geometric rosettes, consistent with the rest of the building’s woodwork. Notably, a kürsü or pulpit near the imperial gallery is an excellent example of fine walnut craftsmanship, featuring delicate openwork and bold carving. On the opposite side of the nave, the balcony of the muezzin is located.

Simpler yet still considered exquisite is the crystallized order of the library located behind the muezzin’s balcony on the lower sides. Simpler yet still considered exquisite is the crystallized order of the library located behind the muezzin’s balcony on the lower sides. The library is separated from the nave by a stunning brass screen ornamented with rococo designs. This screen was repaired in the past by Mustafa Pasha, grand vizier of Sultan Mahmud I’s reign, and was more recently renovated by Ahmed Vefik Efendi.

After leaving the nave, you will see external galleries with superimposed orders. The lower order is crystallized and has ogival arcades that alternate between broad and high arches and low and narrow ones. The upper order is planar and features a row of narrow and high regular arcades. Technical term abbreviations will be explained when first introduced and biased language will be avoided throughout the text. The structure will be logical, balanced, and objective with precise vocabulary and grammatical accuracy. Consistency in formatting features and citation style will also be maintained. On the side of the mosque facing towards Mecca, there are rose bush-planted cemeteries that house multiple magnificent tombs, including the one belonging to the mosque’s generous patron.

The architect of Suleymaniye Mosque does not appear among these great figures. Instead, Great Architect Sinan constructed a pleasing and unassuming mausoleum for himself, situated nearby where two streets intersect. It can be found between the mosque’s outer precinct and the Office of the Sheikhulislam, which was once the headquarters of the Janissaries.

It is known that this eminent artist belonged to a formidable militia. This militia had initially contributed to the zenith of Türkiye’s military power. However, due to its ongoing mutinies and its cruel oppression of the sovereigns and their subjects, its disbandment became vital for the progress of the empire. Throughout his lengthy and illustrious life, Great Architect Sinan consistently received the pay and pension allotted to the haseki corps of Janissaries.

This conflicted and undisciplined group was violently disbanded by order of Sultan Mahmud II and their memory eradicated, leaving no trace or symbol of their repugnant legacy. Even the stone turbans that marked the graves of these perpetually stigmatized militiamen were destroyed. In one notable instance, Great Architect Sinan‘s tomb was treated with respect.

Therefore, due to the sovereign’s exceptional indulgence, one can still witness the magnificent Ottoman architecture of the grandmaster standing over the white marble slab, adorned with the typical turban of the haseki corps. The Suleymaniye Mosque has various dependencies, such as a dedicated college to study the oral traditions of the Prophet, four advanced schools (medreses), a preparatory college for science, a medical school, a primary school, a kitchen and hospice for students, a notable public bath, and a renowned institution for the mentally ill.

The historian Peçevi reports that, based on the records of the construction director, the building’s expenses totalled 896,883 florins, equivalent to 53,782,900 aspers at the time, with some of it being valued at a gurush. According to Mr Belin, during Suleyman the Magnificent‘s reign, a gurush was worth so many piastres and 27 paras in Mecidiye currency.