Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul — the Ottoman Heritage by Mimar Sinan
Istanbul’s Suleymaniye Mosque is one of the most famous sites in the Turkish city. It is Istanbul’s largest mosque and sits on one of the city’s legendary seven hills. Tourists descend on the Suleymaniye Mosque during their trips to the gateway city for its incredible architecture, history, and significance to all religions in the area.
Unfortunately, Istanbul’s Blue Mosque is more well-known amongst tourists. The Blue Mosque’s popularity is a drawback for the Suleymaniye Mosque as fewer tourists are inclined to visit. Their loss is your gain as the Suleymaniye Mosque is a tremendous tourist site that shouldn’t be missed. If you are searching for a famous landmark that has fewer visitors, then be sure to explore the Suleymaniye Mosque to avoid large crowds. While many travel TV shows, books and blogs will recommend the Blue Mosque, the Suleymaniye Mosque offers just as much, if not more on a day out in Istanbul.
The history of the Suleymaniye Mosque
The mosque was commissioned by Sultan Suleyman I. Known as “The Magnificent”, Suleyman I was the richest of all Ottoman sultans during the time period. Suleyman I’s imperial architect Mimar Sinan designed the mosque. It is said that Sinan was the empire’s best and brightest architect.
Building began on the mosque in 1550 with work taking place over the course of seven years until it was finished in 1557. Although the build began in 1550, works started well before that year on the “The Magnificent’s” mosque. Moreover, works continued after the mosque was dedicated in 1557. Over 3,500 workers were a part of the mosque’s construction during the seven years-plus that it took to build.
The Suleymaniye Mosque was the fourth imperial mosque in Istanbul. The mosque has four minarets with 10 ornate serefes. Only imperial mosques could have four minarets. It is claimed that these represent Suleyman being the fourth Osmanli sultan to rule over the city. He was also the 10th sultan following the creation of the Ottman empire. The Suleymaniye Mosque was built for more than just worship. It contains a prayer hall, courtyard, four Koran schools, a hospital, bath houses, an inn for travelers, and a kitchen that prepared food for the poor regardless of religion.
In 1660, the mosque was nearly destroyed by fire. Sultan Mehmed IV ordered the restoration of the mosque. An earthquake in 1766 caused the mosque’s dome to collapse. Renovations restored the dome in the 1800s. Another fire destroyed much of the mosque during World War I. The entire complex was used for the war effort with weapons and ammunition being kept on site. Since 1956, the Suleymaniye Mosque has undergone restorations to bring it up to its current look. In 2010, the mosque’s most recent restoration was completed and it was reopened to the public. It is now the largest mosque in Istanbul.
Visiting the Suleymaniye Mosque
The easiest way to visit the Suleymaniye Mosque is to walk down the “Alley of the Addicts”. The famous street sounds dangerous due to its name, but rest assured it isn’t. Its real name is Prof Sıddık Sami Onar Caddesi and it leads you to the gorgeous mosque. The street is lined with tea houses which, at one time, gave the street its nickname due to selling cannabis.
Upon entering the mosque through the wall that surrounds it, you will find a beautifully manicured garden. The courtyard is at the front of the mosque where you can enter. Inside, the mosque is 59 meters long by 58 meters wide. Its ornate dome rises 53 meters into the air and has a diameter of 26.4 meters. The decoration inside the mosque is minimal but that doesn’t take away from the breath-taking views you see. One of the most apparent aspects of the Suleymaniye Mosque’s interior is the 200 stained-glass windows that let in colored light.
Today, the public kitchen that was built in the mosque is a restaurant. There is also a cafe on site. One of the best aspects of the Suleymaniye Mosque is the peace and quiet tourists can find. On hot summer Istanbul days, enjoying the mosque’s peace and quiet can be a great way to spend the day.
Two of the most historically significant aspects of the Suleymaniye Mosque are the mausoleums behind the building itself. The mausoleums are the burial places for Sultan Suleyman and wife Roxelana, also known as Haseki Hurrem. In addition, the mausoleums hold the Sultan’s daughter Mihrimah, mother Dilasub Saliha, and sister Asiye. The tomb of the architecture that designed the Suleymaniye Mosque, Mimar Sinan, is also located on site. However, his tomb is currently not available to visit.
What are the Suleymaniye Mosque’s opening hours?
The mosque is best visited outside of pray times. It opens on Fridays for visitors at 2:00 PM. Friday is the Muslim holyday. Visitors can explore the mosque from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM Saturday through Thursday, but tourists should not tour the mosque during pray times as this is a sacred part of the day. You should avoid visiting the mosque within 30 minutes following the call to prayer.
There is no fee to enter the mosque, but donations are welcome to help with the maintenance of the site. The museum located on site is easy to view on your own. If you want a tour of the Suleymaniye Mosque to learn about its history, it is best to hire a guide.
What is located near the Suleymaniye Mosque?
You will be able to find other great tourist attractions near the Suleymaniye Mosque. Sites that you should miss include the Grand Bazaar, Rustem Pasha Mosque, Spice Bazaar, and New Mosque. You can also reach the Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque from the Suleymaniye Mosque in a short time. The sites are reachable by walking.
Outside of the mosque complex you will find an extensive range of Ottoman timber houses. These houses are worth seeing and snapping selfies in front of. Many of the ancient homes are being restored to their former glories.