Süleymaniye Mosque

sights / Religious

Lonely Planet review

The Süleymaniye crowns one of the seven hills dominating the Golden Horn and provides a magnificent landmark for the entire city. It was commissioned by the greatest, richest and most powerful of the Ottoman sultans, Süleyman the Magnificent (r 1520–66), and was the fourth imperial mosque built in İstanbul.

Although it's not the largest of the Ottoman mosques, the recently restored Süleymaniye is certainly the grandest. It was designed by Mimar Sinan, the most famous and talented of all imperial architects. Although Sinan described the smaller Selimiye Camii in Edirne as his best work, he chose to be buried here in the Süleymaniye complex, probably knowing that this would be the building by which he would be best remembered. His tomb is just outside the mosque's walled garden in the northern corner.

Inside, the mosque is breathtaking in its size and pleasing in its simplicity. There's little decoration except for some fineİznik tiles in the mihrab (niche indicating the direction of Mecca); gorgeous stained-glass windows done by one İbrahim the Drunkard; and four massive columns, one from Baalbek, one from Alexandria and two from Byzantine palaces in İstanbul.

The külliye (mosque complex) of the Süleymaniye, which is outside the walled garden, is particularly elaborate, with the full complement of public services: soup kitchen, hostel, hospital, medrese, hamam etc. Today the soup kitchen, with its charming garden courtyard, houses the Darüzziyafe Restaurant, a lovely place to enjoy a cup of tea. Lale Bahçesi, located in a sunken courtyard next to Darüzziyafe, is a popular hang-out for uni students, who come here to chat, drink çay and indulge in nargilehs. The former medrese now houses a library and a raft of simple eateries serving fasulye and pilav (beans and rice).

Near the southeast wall of the mosque is its cemetery, home to the tombs of Süleymanand Roxelana. The tilework in both is superb.