Süleymaniye - The Mosque of Suleiman The Magnificent

The history of the most magnificent mosque ever built!
Kashyap Vyas

This Mosque was built on the order of Sultan Suleiman, who was nicknamed “The Magnificent.” The imperial architect Mimar Sinan built it.

The Süleymaniye Mosque is also one of the most important cultural heritage buildings in Turkey. It is the largest in the city of Istanbul and also boasts of one of the best-known panoramas in the city.


The history of the Suleymaniye Mosque

Suleiman I (Suleiman the Magnificent) was an incomparable Sultan of the most imposing era of the Ottoman Empire. Westerners know Suleiman as Suleiman the Magnificent.

The Sultan, who ruled the Ottoman Empire for more than 40 years, amended the Ottoman laws in order to be an example to the world. For that reason, he is known as the “Kanuni-Legislator” in our history.

The sultan, who emerged triumphant from all the wars in the East and the West, ordered the imperial architect Mimar Sinan to build a mosque that took his own name. He sent a letter to the leaders of the friend and enemy states, in which, he informed them about the construction of an unparalleled mosque for himself.

This news pleased the friendly countries while the rival countries of the Ottoman Empire received the news with envy.

Mimar Sinan, who had infinite economic opportunities to fulfill the construction of this mosque in the period in which the Ottoman Empire went through its most splendid time, began to work without losing time.

The first foundation of the mosque was laid on a hill, which put its stamp on the silhouette of the city when seen from the Golden Horn. The mosque, which would defy the centuries on a steep hill, waited a long time for its foundation to be placed to reinforce the building.

The Iranian Shah Tahmasp I bargained for the halt on the construction of the mosque and sent a great treasure. His goal was to bother Sultan Soliman with his wealth.

Sultan Suleiman, who received the Shah's letter, handed over the treasure to Mimar Sinan. Mimar said that the reason for the stop was not poverty, but that they expected the foundation to be laid.

The treasure sent by the Shah was buried and was added to the mortar of one of the four minarets.

The feat of Mimar Sinan, the architect

Süleymaniye Mosque
Source: Moonik/Wikimedia Commons

This mineral minaret today continues to attract the interest of visitors. However, the construction of the Suleymaniye Mosque annoyed the Pope a lot.

He was upset by the construction of a mosque that would surpass the glory of the Hagia Sophia. He even ordered Michelangelo to build the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican.

Paradise keys began to be sold throughout the Catholic world for this basilica to be built.

However, Mimar Sinan opened the mosque in 1557, completing it in seven years. A long time was waiting for the completion of St. Peter's Basilica, but it was completed in 1626.

Sultan Suleiman, at the opening ceremony of the mosque, gave Mimar Sinan the honor of opening this wonderful work of art. Mimar Sinan, who complied with this order with respect, opened the door of this great mosque with a golden key and with applause and prayers.

He did not abstain from any expense during the construction of the mosque. The artisans from four corners of the empire arrived in Istanbul.

Mimar Sinan proved in Süleymaniye, what he described as a work of an apprentice, the race to compete with the central dome of the Hagia Sophia that was his goal since childhood. He spent his time of mastery in Selimiye.

The Süleymaniye Mosque can be entered through three different doors located in its three parts. The fountain courtyard of the mosque greets visitors.

Portico columns surround the four corners of the patio. The fountain in the center of the courtyard (şadırvan - used by the water supply for ablutions of drinking water and rituals to several people at the same time) stands out with its wonderful features.

After the abdesto (religious ablution practiced by Muslims and before their habitual prayers, washing the face, hands, and feet three times in a row), one enters the main building of the mosque through the monumental gate. The epitaph above the entrance is adorned with the names of the sultans who ascended the throne to Sultan Suleiman, who was the tenth Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.

The smoke and the ink

Süleymaniye Mosque Interiors
Source: Mstyslav Chernov/Wikimedia Commons

In the center of the mosque, we are greeted by walls full of wonderful ornaments, tiles, and scriptures. Under the dome rises an expanded dome with two half domes to the sky. The lamps, which are hung from the dome to the bottom, and ostrich eggs found among the lamps are the works of the unparalleled intelligence of Mimar Sinan.

The smoke caused by the lighting of the lamps accumulated in a room found just above the entrance with the flow of air is a genius discovery of the great master. The fumes, accumulated in the walls of this room, were cleaned a few times and they turned into ink.

Süleymaniye Mosque prayer
Source: İhsan Deniz Kılıçoğlu/Wikimedia Commons

The ink was placed in the barrels on the necks of the camels of the Regiment of Sürre, which brought various gifts and support to Arabia in the period of pilgrimage. When he returned, he became a pilgrim in a sense and then copies were written of the Koran with these inks.


As in other imperial mosques in Istanbul, the Suleymaniye Mosque is designed as a complex with adjoining structures. The complex was formed of the mosque, hospital, primary school, Turkish bath, caravanserai, four Koranic schools (madraza), a school specialized in learning the hadith, a public kitchen which served food to all the poor and a medical school.

In the courtyard behind the main part of the mosque, there are two mausoleums where Suleiman the Magnificent and his wife Hurrem and their daughter Mihrimah are buried. In the walls of the mosque on the outside to the north is the tomb of Mimar Sinan.

We commemorate Sultan Suleyman and Mimar Sinan who gave a wonderful work to humanity with respect and glory.

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