Süleymaniye Mosque (Süleymaniye Camii)
Modelled after Rome, and inherited from Byzantine Constantinople, Istanbul is known as the City of Seven Hills. Süleymaniye Mosque was built on the third hill and is the second largest mosque in the city. (Less than a 10 minute walk from the Grand Bazaar).
Sultan Süleyman, 1520-1566, was the 10th Sultan and the longest reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. He was known as Süleyman the Magnificent and also Süleyman the Lawmaker. He personally led 13 military campaigns, which was the highest number of military campaigns and spent the most time away from the Empire (on these campaigns). After his return from the victory in Hungary, and already serving 30 years on the throne, Sultan Süleyman decided to construct a mosque that was unique and unlike any other.
Built in the years 1550-1557 by the famous chief Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan, Süleymaniye Mosque was the fourth imperial mosque in Istanbul. Just like most imperial mosques of the period, the complex had adjacent structures to serve both religious and cultural needs, making it more than just a place of worship. Apart from the praying hall and courtyard, the complex included buildings for a hospital, primary school, bath houses (hamam), four Koran schools and a public kitchen to feed the poor. Also in the garden are two mausoleums including the tombs of Sultan Süleyman, with his wife and daughter.
Mimar Sinan incorporated the four buttresses into the walls of the building, attempting the same open and airy feeling of Hagia Sophia. The interior is decorated with Iznik tiles, marble, granite columns, window shutters inlaid with ivory and mother-of-pearl and colorful stained-glass windows. A beautiful patterned carpet covers the floor and low chandeliers hang from above that once held hundred of oil lamps.
I highly recommend not just visiting the inside of the mosque but walking the grounds too. And in the courtyard of the mosque, you can find two mausoleums that hold Suleyman, his wife and daughter.
If you work up an appetite while you’re here, be sure to walk across the street and enjoy a local favorite – kuru fasulye! It’s a cheap, hearty, tomato-based white bean stew that everyone is sure to enjoy.
Also to note, there is a Turkish historical fiction television series called Magnificent Century (Muhteşem Yüzyıl) based on the life of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent.
Keep in mind when visiting a (working) mosque to be respectful.
When to visit:
Unless you are coming to pray, avoid visiting a mosque during prayer time. Prayer occurs five times a day, and every day the time slightly changes as the days grow longer or shorter. Check ahead and be sure to avoid visiting within 30 minutes after the call to prayer and from noon to late afternoon on Friday.
What to wear:
For both men and women the following is preferred. Tops should have sleeves at least elbow-length or longer and shoulders must be covered. Pants, skirts or dresses should end at least below the knees. Women will need to wear a headscarf to cover their hair. If you don’t have a scarf on hand, a scarf will be provided to you upon entering. Before you enter the mosque you will need to remove your shoes (bags are provided for carrying, since you will exit through a different door).
How to act:
Speak quietly, move slowly and be respectful of worshippers. If you take photos don’t use the flash and avoid taking photos of worshippers.
Also to note, the entrance to mosques are free.