Islamic Art and Architecture: Unit 2 Muslim places of worship and devotion

2.8 The Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey (1550–7)

In this section we will learn about a third regional style of mosque architecture: the central domed mosque. This style is characterised by its imposing central dome that seems to be floating over smaller domes and semi-domes. The architectonic formation of the prayer-hall is further identified by flying buttresses, pencil-like minarets, and a courtyard with repetitive domed units. This mosque style became the dominant style in modern-day Turkey and also in the regions that were under Ottoman hegemony between the fifteenth and twentieth centuries (including parts of the Arab Middle East and Eastern Europe). Most Ottoman mosques form part of larger complexes that includes additional social and religious functions such as madrasas, soup kitchens and hospices. Some mosque complexes also house the mausoleums of one or more members of the mosque founder’s family.

The Suleymaniye Complex is one of the masterpieces of Ottoman mosque architecture. It was built between 1550 and 1557 by the famous architect Sinan who served as the Chief Architect of the Ottoman court between 1539 and 1588. To view the Suleymaniye mosque complex and listen to an excellent description visit the guided virtual tour provided by the Saudi Aramco World magazine.

Personal activity: Similarities and differences

If you have not already done so, read pp. 546–56 of Hattstein and Delius now, and note the similarities and differences between the mosques discussed. Do you think that the Ottomans were merely copying the great church of Hagia Sophia (Istanbul, 532–7)? If you want to, post your thoughts on your Blog.