The Suleymaniye crowns one of the seven hills dominating the Golden Horn and provides a magnificent landmark for the entire city. It was commissioned by the greatest, richest and most powerful of the Ottoman sultans, Suleyman the Magnificent (r 1520–66), and was the fourth imperial mosque built in ?stanbul.
The Suleymaniye Mosque was built on the order of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent and constructed by the great Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan. The construction work began in 1550 and the mosque was finished in 1557.
The mosque is modeled in part on the style of a Byzantine basilica, particularly the Hagia Sophia, which was perhaps a conscious move on the part of the sultan to create a continuity and a symbolic connection with the city’s past.
The Suleymaniye Mosque was ravaged by a fire in 1660 and was restored on the command of sultan Mehmed IV by architect Fossat?. The restoration, however, changed the mosque into a more baroque style, damaging the great work severely.
The mosque was restored to its original glory during the 19th century but during World War I the courtyard was used as a weapons depot and when some of the ammunition ignited, the mosque suffered another fire. Not until 1956 was it restored again. Today, the Suleymaniye Mosque is one of the most popular sights in Istanbul.
Suleymaniye Mosque Floor Plans
What to See
Although it’s not the largest of the Ottoman mosques, the recently restored Süleymaniye is certainly the grandest. The mosque is 59 meters in length and 58 meters in width. The main dome is 53 meters high and has a diameter of 27.25 meters. Inside, the mosque is breathtaking in its size and pleasing in its simplicity.
Apart from the main mosque with the prayer hall (cami) and courtyard (avlu), the mosque complex also includes a caravanserai or seraglio (saray?; han), a public kitchen (imaret) which served food to the poor, a hospital (darü??ifa), a Qur’an school (medrese) and a bath-house (hamam).
In the garden behind the main mosque there are two mausoleums (türbe) including the Tombs of Sultan Suleyman I, his wife Roxelana (Haseki Hürrem), his daughter Mihrimah, his mother Dila?ub Saliha and his sister Asiye. Suleiman’s tomb features a system of layered domes copied from the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.
The sultans Suleiman II, Ahmed II and Safiye (died in 1777), the daughter of Mustafa II, are also buried here. Just outside the mosque walls to the north is the humble tomb of Sinan, designed by the occupant himself.
Mosque complex of the Suleymaniye, which is outside the walled garden, is particularly elaborate, with the full complement of public services: soup kitchen, hostel, hospital, medrese, hamam etc. Today the soup kitchen, with its charming garden courtyard, houses the Darüzziyafe Restaurant, a lovely place to enjoy a cup of tea. Lale Bahçesi, located in a sunken courtyard next to Darüzziyafe, is a popular hang-out for uni students, who come here to chat, drink çay and indulge in nargilehs. The former medrese now houses a library and a raft of simple eateries serving beans and rice.
Near the southeast wall of the mosque is its cemetery, home to the tombs of Suleyman and Roxelana. The tilework in both is superb.