Mosques to visit after the Coronavirus lets up (Chapter 4): Süleymaniye mosque, Turkey

The great mosque of Suleiman the Great - Suleymaniye mosque
Suleymaniye Mosque in the evening, Istanbul © Sergey Dzyuba | Dreamstime.com

As the situation gets more and more dire in certain countries, we begin to question the level of responsibility that some of us have in regards to the spread of Coronavirus. Certainly, this isn’t the time when a plague like this could inflict serious damage upon mankind, that is, if we follow all the necessary precautions instead of ignorantly continuing to actively socialise.

Indeed, while we take the responsibility of sitting at home, there is no better time than to continue our virtual adventures across the globe. This is the moment when we take our journey up north, towards the very places whereupon stand the most fascinating and ancient mosques of Europe !

We begin in the midst of Turkey’s exuberant and rowdy streets where the unprepared individual might be overwhelmed by the amount of stunning mosques, without even having to leave the city of Istanbul. Among these masterpieces, stands a temple with a particularly intricate and elegant design – the famed Süleymaniye mosque.

Built in 1,550 under the reign of Suleiman the magnificent, ruler of the Ottoman empire, this mosque cannot boast such long and prodigious history as some of its brethren surrounding it. Nonetheless, there is a certain glory and pride that the Suleymaniye mosque takes in being, arguably, the more architecturally impressive structure in the area.

The graceful design of the mosque was brought to life under the meticulous instruction of the imperial architect Mimar Sinan, the most renowned and talented architect of the royal court at the time.

From the exterior, the mosque readily catches the eye with its majestic light blue domes and semi-domes filling up its perimeter. At the time of its construction the main dome, which stands at 53 meters, was the tallest in the Ottoman empire (from sea level), second in diameter only to that of the Hagia Sophia.

The four splendid minarets around indicate that this mosque belonged to the Sultan, as only he was allowed four minarets when constructing a mosque. If it were erected by order of a Prince, he would be limited to only two, while the common people could have just one.

The Suleymaniye mosque was built as a vast complex which played in parallel the role of a place of prayer, a public bath house, a hospital and medical college, primary and religious school and imaret to provide food for the needy. In the Ottoman empire, such a complex around a mosque was called a külliye and almost always included all of the formerly mentioned assets.

The inner part of the mosque is even more visually impressive than the exterior structure; the mihrab is scrupulously detailed with Iznik tiling, a world-famed tile developed during the era of the Ottoman Empire.

The floor scattered with rich Egyptian and Turkish carpets and higher up – beautifully adorned domes and semi-domes with diverse Arabic calligraphies all intertwined in a vivid, spectacular mélange of shimmering cyan, green and ivory white, braided with gold and ruby red patterns.

In effect, this enchanting sight attracts the attention of numerous tourists and worshippers alike.

The overall style of the mosque seems quite modern, despite being almost 500 years old and stands out distinctively among the more traditionally designed mosques in Turkey and around the world.

If you ultimately decide that Turkey is a must-go, then do yourself the honour of not passing by this chef-d’oeuvre when visiting the Hagia Sophia or the Blue mosque, seeing as the visit of all three is necessary to begin understanding the grandeur of this culture.

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