Aya Sofya Tombs

Tomb in Sultanahmet & Around

Image by Salvator Barki Getty Images

Part of the Aya Sofya complex but entered via Babıhümayun Caddesi, these tombs are the final resting places of five 16th- and 17th-century sultans – Mehmet III, Selim II, Murat III, İbrahim I and Mustafa I – most of whom are buried with members of their families. The ornate interior decoration in the tombs features the very best Ottoman tile work, calligraphy and decorative paintwork.

Mehmet III's tomb dates from 1608 and Murat III's from 1599; both are adorned with particularly beautiful İznik tiles. Next to Murat's tomb is that of his five children, who died in a plague epidemic; this was designed by Sinan and has simple but beautiful painted decoration.

Selim II's tomb, which was designed by Sinan and built in 1577, is particularly poignant, as it houses the graves of five of his sons, murdered on the same night in December 1574 to ensure the peaceful succession of the oldest, Murat III. It also houses the graves of 19 of Murat's sons, murdered in January 1595 to ensure Mehmet III's succession. They were the last of the royal princes to be murdered by their siblings – after this, the younger brothers of succeeding sultans were confined to the kafes (cage) in Topkapı Palace instead.

The fifth tomb is Aya Sofya's original baptistry, converted to a mausoleum for sultans İbrahim I and Mustafa I during the 17th century.