The Suleymaniye Mosque, often referred to as the Mosque of Suleyman the Magnificent, is located in the Beyazit area of Istanbul atop the third of the seven hills of Istanbul. This is an active mosque and the largest in the city. There is no charge for entrance, but donations are encouraged, and very much appreciated. Please see our Blue Mosque page for guidance to non Muslims visiting a mosque.
As is common with all great mosques, there is an outer courtyard that leads on to an inner courtyard. There is a minaret in each of the corners, two 56 meters high each with two balconies, and two even taller at 74 meters, with each of these taller minarets having three balconies. All balcony's have their own internal stairway. The inner courtyard has a portico of small columns and domes surrounding it. In the centre is located a fountain for ablutions.
The mosque is best approached via its main entrance on Sifahane Sokak to best appreciate the work of its architect Mimar Sinan. Apart from the main mosque with its prayer hall, the complex also includes a caravanserai or quarters where guests can stay, an imaret or soup kitchen, a darussifa or hospital, a medrese or Quran School, and a hamam, which is a bath house. To the rear of the main mosque is the garden that contains the mausoleums of Sultan Suleman I, his wife Roxelana, and other family members.
The mosque has three entrances, two from the outer courtyard, and one from the inner courtyard. Carpets cover the floor and 138 windows combined with chandeliers light the space.
The central dome is 26.5 meters in diameter and 53 meters high. The dome is supported on four pillars known as “elephant feet”. This mosque is less ornate than some but the simple decor only seems to add to its grandeur. The tiles and the intricate paintwork have been fully restored and are in very good condition. The Suleymaniye Mosque does not suffer the same crowds as Hagia Sophia or the Blue Mosque, and many prefer the gentler more intimate atmosphere.
The mosque was designed in the style of a Byzantine basilica. Construction commenced in 1550 and took seven years to complete. Unfortunately the mosque had to undergo a period of restoration after severe damage by fire in 1660. During this restoration some of the original Byzantine features were lost in favour of a more Baroque style. During the 19th century further restorations were carried out, but further damage occurred during World War I due to a fire in a munitions store on the site. A long delay meant that further restoration was not completed until 1956.