The Suleiman Mosque is a jewel of the architecture of humanity. It is one of the largest mosques in Istanbul, which is also a reflection of the history of Turkey. In it, art and history come together to give rise to an incredible space.
The Suleiman Mosque: an example of power
Throughout history, great rulers—be they kings, emperors, or sultans— have wanted to leave their mark on the cities they ruled. Hence, today we can enjoy places as impressive as this mosque.
Well, the good work of the master builders who hired them, the materials and the sense of ownership of the towns have allowed these great constructions to survive the passage of time. This is precisely what we find with the Suleiman Mosque in Istanbul, one of those magical places that Turkey has to offer the visitor.
Its name comes from its promoter, Sultan Solimán I, who was an art lover and known as “The Legislator”, for having created an example law code for the world of his time. He was also called Solimán “The Magnificent”, because of the greatness of the empire and his military power.
Suleiman wanted to build a mosque that would demonstrate his power to his subjects and enemies. To this end, he sent missives to various parts of the world informing of the magnificent construction that he was carrying out. This was something that, they say, caused the envy of several of his enemies, including the Pope.
By 1557, the mosque was ready and its inauguration was cause for celebration. There was a special ceremony in which the Sultan Suleiman and the architect Sinan opened its doors for all the people to see. Since then, it is one of the largest and most beautiful buildings in all of Turkey.
To raise this work, Solimán commissioned the project to the architect Minar Sinan. It was the year 1550 and, by then, the closest and most special model to use was the Church of Santa Sofía.
Thus, Minar Sinan took the concept of this church, which was Christian at the time, and introduced the characteristic symmetry of the Suleiman Mosque. This symmetry has served to reveal the influence that Alberti’s architecture had even in the East.
The architect also introduced references to the legendary, mythical and symbolic Temple of Solomon; he did so by creating a dome reminiscent of the Dome of the Rock at Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem. This was a fact that was intended to link the sultan with King Solomon.
To make it stand out more, it was located on a hill, on the site that had been occupied by the old Eski Saray palace. Thus, everyone could see it from afar.
Also it was supplemented with four minarets, an amount that reflects that the mosque was promoted by the sultan, the only one who could put that number of minarets, since the princes and princesses could only put two. In them there are ten galleries, which shows that Suleiman I belonged to the tenth Ottoman dynasty.
On the outside, in addition to its impressive minarets and its colorful dome, highlights a blue patio surrounded by several columns made of marble, granite and porphyry. On the other hand, inside the decoration is subtle and an almost perfect square can be seen. From its interior, the dome is flanked by six semi-domes.
The Mosque complex
The proposed complex occupied an area of about 70,000 square meters and functioned as a religious and cultural complex where, in addition to the mosque, there was a primary school, Koranic schools, a medical college, a school teaching Muhammad, and a public kitchen where food was given to the poor.
Besides, as part of the complex a beautiful garden was created that later functioned as a mausoleum. It is there that Soliman I is buried with his wife and daughter, Ahmed II, who rebuilt the mosque after the fire of 1660. Mustafa II’s daughter, Safiye, also rests there, and on the walls outside, are the remains of the architect Minar Sinan.
With all that, the Suleiman Mosque was the largest in Istanbul until 2019. At that time, it was superseded by the Çamlıca Grand Mosque, an impressive colossus that emerged after a contest promoted by the Turkish government.