The Suleymaniye Mosque was built in the 16th century, when the Ottoman Empire was at the height of its power. Dedicated to Suleiman the Magnificent, the most famous sultan in Turkish history, the mosque is the largest mosque in Istanbul.
Built by Mimar Sinan, the most prolific architect in Ottoman history, the mosque houses the tombs of Sultan Suleiman and his famous wife, Hurrem Sultan (Roxelana). In this article, you can find information about the history, architecture and opening hours of the Suleymaniye Mosque.
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History of Suleymaniye Mosque
The history of Suleymaniye Mosque dates back to the 1550s. The mosque was built at a time when the Ottoman aristocracy equipped Istanbul with mosques, palaces and fountains.
The Ottomans captured Istanbul in 1453. Constantinople, which was one of the most important cities of Christianity in the past, met with a different architectural style when it came under Ottoman rule.
The Ottomans added iconic structures to the city, including the Bayezid Mosque, Fatih Mosque and Yavuz Selim Mosque. However, Sultan Suleiman’s reign was more productive than any of his predecessors.
Sultan Suleiman discovered the genius of Mimar Sinan, who carried out the construction works of the army, and appointed him as the imperial architect. Mimar Sinan first proved his skills by building the Sehzade Mosque.
Sehzade Mosque was built for Sultan Suleiman’s heir, who died at an early age due to smallpox. One of the jewels of Ottoman architecture, the plan of this mosque inspired future mosques such as the Blue Mosque.
Satisfied with the Sehzade Mosque, the sultan commissioned Mimar Sinan to build the largest mosque complex in Ottoman history. The Suleymaniye Mosque would rise in the heart of historical Istanbul and would become a social center, not just a mosque.
Thus, the Suleymaniye Mosque was built as a giant public center in the very heart of 16th century Istanbul. In addition to the mosque, there were many structures in the complex such as a Turkish bath, hospital, soup kitchen and madrasah (school).
Although the Blue Mosque, which was built 70 years after Suleymaniye, is famous, it is not such a complex. Since the Sultanahmet district was the core of the city, there was no space to build a complex large enough to compete with Suleymaniye in that area.
Interior of Suleymaniye Mosque
Although the interior of the Suleymaniye Mosque is imposing with its dimensions, it is surprisingly plain. One of the biggest reasons for this is that the Ottoman “Classical Period” architecture did not have the baroque reliefs of the later “Modern Period” architecture.
The most important ornamental element in the early Ottoman architecture was the Iznik Tiles with blue, turquoise and pale red colors. In addition to this, pencil works with geometric shapes and flower motifs also had an important place. And finally, there would be plates decorated with Islamic calligraphy on the walls.
If you examine the photos of Suleymaniye Mosque in the article, you can see the interior decoration that attracts attention with its elegance and simplicity. The Mosque is considered to be the pinnacle of Classical Ottoman Architecture, which started in Bursa in the 14th century, developed in Edirne and reached its peak in Istanbul.
As a footnote, Mimar Sinan, the most important actor of the Classical period, built his last work, the Selimiye Mosque, in Edirne. Selimiye Mosque was the pinnacle of the mastery of the architect that developed in the Sehzade and Suleymaniye Mosques.
Mimar Sinan built magnificent mosques in Istanbul not only for sultans, but also for mothers and daughters of sultans and high-level bureaucrats. Examples of these are Haseki Sultan Mosque, Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, Rustem Pasha Mosque and Kilic Ali Pasha Mosque.
As an Istanbulite, I find the Suleymaniye Mosque more attractive than the Blue Mosque. One reason for this may be my admiration for Mimar Sinan. Because Sinan was an architect who blended an architectural tradition from Rome and Byzantium with Turkish style and kept the city’s unique style alive until today.
Suleymaniye Mosque Opening Hours 2022
Suleymaniye Mosque opening hours are between 09:00 in the morning and 17:00 in the evening. Like all mosques in Istanbul, it is closed during prayer times. The best time to visit the mosque is between 09:00 in the morning and 11:30 in the afternoon.
The Mosque would be open between these specific hours, regardless of summer or winter. However, after 11:30, it is possible to come across the noon prayer in some periods of the year. In this case, you can wander around the neighborhood a bit and come back when the mosque reopens.
I don’t think it will be a problem for you if the mosque is temporarily closed because you can spend time in the courtyard of the mosque taking wonderful photos. Or you can visit the tombs of Sultan Suleiman and Hurrem Sultan decorated with colorful tiles.
However, you can find out exactly what hours it may be closed from the prayer times on the official page of religious affairs. When looking at the prayer time schedule, keep in mind that the mosque will be closed before the adhan (call to prayer) is called.
Mosques such as the Blue Mosque and Suleymaniye, which are frequently visited by tourists, are closed and cleaned one hour before the prayer and are prepared for those who will come to worship. For example, if the noon prayer (Dhuhr) is displayed as 13:00, the mosque may be closed between 12:00 and 13:30.
It should also be noted that there is no entrance fee for the Suleymaniye Mosque. Entry to all mosques in Istanbul is free. Whether you are going to pray or just to see it, you do not pay to enter mosques.
Things to Do Around the Mosque
Things to do around Suleymaniye Mosque include visiting local restaurants, shopping at local markets, and relaxing in a Turkish bath. Since the mosque is in the middle of the historical districts of Istanbul, there are many places to visit in the vicinity.
1. Local Restaurants
Eating at local restaurants is one of the must-do things in Istanbul. Suleymaniye district stands out with its Turkish style stewed bean restaurants. Kuru Fasulye (Stewed Beans) consists of white beans and various vegetables in tomato sauce.
You can see these small local restaurants lined up on the road right next to the mosque. The most famous among them is the “Erzincanlı Ali Baba” restaurant. In this restaurant, you can find many flavors from Turkish cuisine besides stewed bean.
You can find many articles about food in Istanbul on this site. However, the article on local restaurants in Istanbul specifically includes such restaurants. If you need tips, you can read this article.
2. Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar is within walking distance of the mosque. If you walk from the Suleymaniye Mosque to the Grand Bazaar on Fuat Pasha Street, you will see many local shops on the way.
Many oriental souvenirs are sold at very cheap prices in these shops. Also, when you get closer to the Grand Bazaar, you will see a local market located on Chadircilar Caddesi. Clothes can be bought at very cheap prices in this local market.
On the other hand, you can also visit Uzun Carsi Street, which stretches between the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar. There are hundreds of cheap shopping places in Uzun Carsi Caddesi (Street of Long Market) and the streets surrounding it. However, it may be confusing for those who visit Istanbul for the first time.
Shopping in Istanbul is a very detailed subject and I can recommend you an article with all the details about cheap shopping. Shopping places in Istanbul includes many shopping streets both in the Historic Peninsula and around Taksim Square.
3. Suleymaniye Hamami
Suleymaniye Hamami is one of the buildings in the mosque complex. You can relax after your daily tour program at Suleymaniye Hammam, the most famous Turkish bath in the Old City. It should also be noted that the hamam is among the oldest baths in Istanbul.
The most important feature that distinguishes Suleymaniye Hamami from other Turkish baths in Istanbul is that it allows couples to be in the same section. On the other hand, in other traditional baths, the men’s and women’s sections are separate.
4. Sehzade Mosque
The architectural techniques used in the Sehzade Mosque were a milestone for Ottoman imperial architecture. For this reason, the plan of this mosque, which is a masterpiece of Mimar Sinan, inspired many later Turkish mosques.
Sehzade (Shahzadeh) was the name given to the heirs of the sultans during the Ottoman Empire. When Sehzade Mehmed, son of Sultan Suleyman, died unexpectedly from illness during the peak years of the empire, a magnificent mosque was built in his memory.
According to some historians, the Sehzade Mosque was originally planned as Sultan Suleyman’s own mosque. However, when the sultan attributed this mosque to his son, Mimar Sinan had to push his limits and do better in Suleymaniye Mosque.
While you are in this district, I strongly recommend you to see this mosque. The reliefs on the minarets of the mosque and the perfect proportion of the interior are worth seeing. Sehzade Mosque is also adjacent to the Valens Aqueduct, a 4th-century Roman structure.
The Suleymaniye Mosque is just one of dozens of Ottoman-era mosques in Istanbul. However, the mosque holds a special place as it is attributed to the most famous Ottoman sultan. It should also be noted that it is the largest historical mosque in Istanbul.
The Ottoman Empire ruled in Istanbul for 500 years. It is possible to observe the architectural change that the empire went through in the different mosques it built during these centuries.
For more information on this subject, I also recommend the 25 best mosques in Istanbul. In this article you can find general information about the most famous mosques in the city.
Written by Serhat Engul