This spectacular Ottoman imperial mosque ordered by the powerful sultan, Süleyman the Magnificent, is described to be the grandest of mosques in Istanbul. A must see attraction!
On the third of the seven hills, that dominates the Golden Horn of Istanbul you find the Süleymaniye Mosque. It stands out as a magnificent landmark over the entire city, and is described as a must see attraction. The word of mouth through the popular Tripadvisor tells us that many visitors prefer this attraction to Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque. Although it is not the largest of the Ottoman mosques, it is described as ‘the grandest and most beautiful mosque in Istanbul’. It is also less crowded, which makes for an enjoyable experience, set in a rather spectacular environment. It is the ideal place to reflect, leaving you with a new energy in order to continue with the rest of your holiday in this bustling city.
The genius architect
The founder of this pearl in Istanbul is no other than the greatest, richest and most powerful of the Ottoman sultans, Süleyman the Magnificent. He was the 10th and longest-reigning sultan of the Ottoman Empire, from 1520 to his death in 1566. The sultan will be known to the world for all eternity as a brilliant military strategist and a praised legislator. He raised the Ottoman Empire to new heights from his seat in old Constantinople during the 16th century.
This grand building was designed by Mimar Sinan, the most talented and famous of all imperial architects. The construction began in 1550 and took eight years to complete. The expanse of the building inside is breathtaking. The Sultan and his genius architect undoubtedly succeeded in their attempt to rival the spaciousness of the Hagia Sofia. They did so by hiding the massive buttresses that support the dome into the walls. Although the mosque is not as large as the 'Ayasofya', the Süleymaniye exceeds in feelings of light and openness.
The mosque complex was quite copious, offering a lot of public services, including a hamam, soup kitchen, hospital, hostel, a medical school, primary school and theological colleges. The hamam is open to the public. The soup kitchen, with its cosy garden courtyard now houses a restaurant serving Ottoman cuisine. This is also a lovely place to enjoy your cup of tea whilst relaxing after hours of sightseeing and impressions.
You can visit the beautiful tombs of Süleyman and his sultana Roxelana in the garden behind the mosque. The tomb of Mimar Sinan is also found nearby, just outside the walled garden in the northern corner. He was buried there by his own choice, maybe because he knew that this would be the building which he would be best remembered by.
The mosque through history
The Süleymaniye was damaged by fire in 1660, but was the restored by Sultan Mehmed IV. Parts of the dome collapsed again because of an earthquake in 1766. Subsequent repairs unfortunately damaged what was left of the original Sinan decorations. Recent investigation has however shown that the architect first experimented with blue before deciding on red as the dominate colour of the dome.
During the First World War, the courtyard of Sülemaniye was used as a weapons depot. When some of the ammunition ignited, the mosque suffered from fire damage once again. It was not fully restored again until 1956. Now the beautiful and ornate building is yet again one of the highlights of Istanbul.
The Radisson Blu Hotel, Istanbul Pera makes a perfect base for visiting the mosque. It is situated a thirty minute walk from the complex, or alternatively less than ten minutes by car. It is however recommended to take a stroll there, and at the same time discover more of Istanbul. With all the historic buildings throughout the city you will never be tired of walking around. Enjoy exploring the ancient buildings and culture in this beautiful and exotic city.
Which Istanbul sights do you recommend?