Look out for the tomb of Mimar Sinan, Istanbul’s Michelangelo and the architect of this mosque: he is buried near the Sultan in a cemetery just to the north, across a street named Mimar Sinan Caddesi in his honour.
Süleymaniye Camii was built on the orders of Sultan Süleyman from 1550 to 1558: he was known as The Magnificent, and his mosque is no less impressive. It is an exceptionally grand religious complex.
Most striking on first sight of the exterior is the distinctive profile of its enormous dome, 53 metres high and 27.5 metres in diameter, and at its construction the highest dome in the Ottoman Empire. In front of the mosque is an imperial courtyard surrounded by four minarets, which was an honour allowed only to sultan-endowed mosques (princes and princesses were permitted just two, and other mosques only had a single minaret). The columns of its peristyle colonnade are made of granite, marble and porphyry.
The mosque itself is a grandiose statement: the Sultan styled himself as a ‘second Solomon,’ referencing in the mosque’s design the Dome of the Rock which was built on the site of Solomon’s tomb, and recalling Justinian’s boast on completing the Hagia Sophia - ‘Solomon, I have surpassed thee!’ Nonetheless, the interior is quietly elegant. It makes restrained use of Istanbul’s characteristic İznik tiles, which find much more elaborate expression in Rüstem Pasha Mosque and elsewhere; its minbar and mihrab are of plain white marble, and the woodwork is subtly decorated with inlaid ivory and pearl.
Originally the mosque formed part of a vast complex including a hospital, public baths, a primary school and public kitchen or imaret; many of these structures are still in existence today, the imaret having become a well-regarded restaurant and the hospital a printing factory. The tomb of the Sultan himself can be found in the garden behind the mosque.
Join the fastest growing community of professional tour guides.
Use our easy to integrate toolset to include Tours & Attractions in your customer journey.