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[Architecture] [Ottoman Architecture]


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Having played a great role in introduction of the Turkish architecture to the world’s history of art, Mimar Sinan was born in 1490 in the village of Agirnas in Gesi, Kayseri. He joined the Ottoman army during the reign of Yavuz Sultan Selim and was trained in the hearth of janissaries. Expressing great talent and mastership in architecture, he was promoted as the architect of the sultans' construction works. He preserved his position for 50 years during the reigns of Kanuni Sultan Suleyman (1520- 1566), Selim II (1566- 1574) and Murat III (1574- 1595), and built 364 monumental buildings with his assistants and staff. He completed the Sehzade Mosque at the age of 54, Suleymaniye Mosque at 60 and Selimiye Mosque at 86, all of which are his most important works. During the reign of Kanuni, he established a guild under the title of Royal Architects. Construction works of the state were maintained by the royal architects after his death. According to Mimar Sinan, who applied all elements of architecture, the arches, domes and columns as well as being elements of construction, should bear elements of decoration to cover their functions. The inside of the square, hexagonal and octagonal planned buildings are rich and ostentatious. The proportioned elements inside buildings establish a harmonious wholeness. In the early works of Mimar Sinan, the spaces were arranged as in the Iznik, Bursa and Edirne tradition of the Early Period. He developed the plan scheme of the Mosque with Three Balconies and thus solved the problem of dome and built amazing works.

Gebze, Coban Mustafa Pasha Kulliyah

Built in 1529, the kulliyah includes a mosque, madrasah, tekye, tomb, pasha rooms, library, hostel, caravanserai, hospital and a bath. All the functional buildings are gathered around a yard. The mosque in the kulliyah is covered with a dome with a diameter of 14 meters and a height of 24 meters, ascending on the square plan. The burden of the dome is transferred to the corner walls by the arches. The final congregation place, located in front, carries the square body. The symmetry on the façade is maintained with an extension on the wall to the left with a window. On the mihrab covered with colorful marble in Memluk and Zengi style, the Kufi writing bordures and the bordures decorated with arrowheads are striking. The domed fountain in the yard with marble tank and pediments has stones that are integrated with the bars. The octagonal tomb is two floored and made out of fine cut stone. There is a window with sharp arches and cages on each side on the second floor. The inner space is covered with china reflecting the architectural characteristics of the time. The wings of the hospital consist of rows of rooms planned in U shape. Near the caravanserai with middle dome and two wings is a row of rooms and buildings with low terraces in front. The pasha rooms on the right corner of the caravanserai are functional rooms to be served immediately. These sections are integrated with the hostel with L plan. Parallel to the pasha rooms is the tekye. In the madrasah, the rooms on both sides of the classroom are connected to porticos through terraces. All rooms have an oven and window.

Piri Mehmet Pasha Kulliyah

The mosque of the kulliyah, located in Silivri, was built in 1530-1531. The kulliyah, connected with the school of Sinan, consists of a mosque with a hospice, hostel, madrasah, cookhouse, inn, primary school, fountain, bath and tombs. The mosque is covered with a central dome supported by columns in the corners on a square plan and next to the mosque is the hospice and the final congregation place in front. The half protruding part in the mihrab is covered with a semi dome. The muqarnas passages and ribbed tromps are decorated with pencil work of lotuses and palmets. In the middle of the yard with stone ground are the fountain and a rectangular hostel on the main axis. The rectangular inn of the kulliyah is important as it is covered with wood. The muvakkithane (prayer timing room) is a small building with a square plan.

Husrev Pasha Kulliyah

It was built in 1536-1537 in the name of Husrev Pasha in Aleppo. It has a mosque with a square plan and a great dome and the hospice covered with ribbed domes on both sides. The fountain and madrasah is located on the axis of the mihrab and the caravanserai, stable, bath and hostel on both sides. The architecture of the stone kulliyah is quite plain

Haseki Kulliyah

Built in the name of Hurrem Sultan, the kulliyah was established in connection with the road and is integrated with the city of Istanbul. Taking the main road as the axis, Sinan installed the buildings on two sides of the road. The mosque is located on one side and the madrasah, adjacent primary school and the entrance to the hostel on the opposite side, and the hospital (1551) is behind. Built in 1539, the mosque had single dome at the time it was first built; however, a new domed section was added in 1612 during the reign of Sultan Ahmet to extend the mosque. In Sinan’s plan, there is a dome with an octagonal rim supported with oyster tromps on a square body and there is the final congregation place with five sections in front. During the changes in 1612, the side walls of the former were destroyed, the original mihrab was eliminated and a fountain was erected in the yard. The mosque is constrained with a wall with windows on the side of the road. The madrasah resembles the examples of the Bayazid II period in planning. The plan is square shaped and has U shaped arms with terraced parts in front. China epigraphs on the gate of the classroom are now preserved in the China Kiosk at Istanbul Museum of Archeology. The primary school with portico, near the madrasah, is covered with a sloping roof. The hospital, covered with marble, has rectangular patients' rooms and receptions. The square bodies on the corners of the octagonal yard are terraced places covered with domes. The hospice, which has a rectangular plan, has an oven and dining rooms. The Haseki Turkish Bath in Sultanahmet, built in 1553, is one of the greatest baths built by Sinan. In the double bath, with a length of 75 meters, the hot rooms of the men and women are separated with a single wall. The bath consists of a dressing room, cold rooms and hot rooms. There are deep niches in the dressing room. The cold room has three consecutive domes on the cold room and the passages are maintained with arches. There is a distinguished development in the hot units and hot room. There are terraces on each corner of the octagonal plan and the corner rooms are spacious. There is a portico with five sections in front of the men’s part. The marble floor of the hot room is decorated with geometric figures of stars.

Istanbul Sehzade Kulliyah

One of the greatest works of Mimar Sinan in Istanbul, the kulliyah (1544-1548) has a mosque built in parallel to the road and is located on the main axis. The madrasah, caravanserai and hospice are built parallel to the mosque and the hostel and primary school are located on the other side of the road. The Burmalı Mescit, which is the final congregation place with 3 sections, is located on the northern side of the kulliyah. Many tombs were added to the kulliyah in following years. The mosque was built on the request of Kanuni Sultan Suleyman, after the name of the Sehzade Mehmet, who died at the age of 21. The most important application in the mosque is the four semi-domes added to the central dome. The dome, carried by arches on four grand columns, has a diameter of 19 meters and a height of 37 meters. There are exedras on the sides of the four semi-domes and one small dome on each corner. The outer walls, which support the burden of the main dome, are decorated with gradual construction. On the rim of the dome, the protruding three floored window arrangement and the gallery on the kiblah side attracts attention as well as the window with round arch. With this building, the architectural elements that had prevailed since the early period disappeared and the architecture reached a classical authenticity. The mosque has a pyramidal silhouette with vertical and horizontal lines. The vertical lines lead the eyes towards the heavens. It is the most elaborate work of Mimar Sinan. The yard, integrated with the ribbed and graved minaret with stone-in-stone elaboration under the balconies, has two-colored stonework. The pencil work, plaster, china elaboration inside and the minbar and mihrab made out of marble reflect the characteristics of the 16th century. The madrasah, located on the northeast corner of the yard, has domes sections erected around the rectangular yard with a portico. The classroom protrudes towards the yard, which also includes a fountain. The hospice consists of a mirrored vault and a domed building in the middle and two other buildings each with two domes on both sides. Near the hospice is a caravanserai with eight domes on three supports and a yard. In front of the octagonal tomb of Sehzade Mehmet is the wide portico with columns. The inside of the tomb is covered with china bearing naturalist motifs in colored glaze technique.

Uskudar Mihrimah Sultan Mosque

While the construction of the Sehzade Mosque continued, Mimar Sinan was also engaged in construction of other buildings. One of these, the mosque in Uskudar was built in 1547 on a request of Mihrimah Sultan, the daughter of Kanuni Sultan Suleyman. Located very close to the sea, the mosque has a central dome supported with three semi-domes. The final congregation place with five sections is located in front and the gates and windows are striking with their elaboration. Built under the constraints of the limited area, the mosque has a nearby madrasah, Turkish bath and a primary school.

Sinan Pasha Kulliyah

Mimar Sinan and his architects were engaged in other constructions while the Suleymaniye Kulliyah was built. One of these, the Sinan Pasha Kulliyah, built in 1555, consists of a mosque, fountain, Turkish bath and primary school. The madrasah and the yard of the mosque are integrated. Mimar Sinan here applied the plan of the Mosque with Three Balconies in Edirne. Two independent hexagonal columns are integrated with the wall columns and arches. The carrier system is kept thin, while deep niches are installed in walls. A second carrier system supports the dome. The building is made out of stone, bricks and sutures.

The hexagonal plan was also applied in Kara Ahmet Pasha Mosque in Topkapı (1558), Molla Celebi Kulliyah Mosque (1560), Babaeski Semiz Ali Pasha Mosque, Kadirga Sokullu Kulliyah Mosque (1571- 1572) and Uskudar Atik Valide Kulliyah Mosque (1582- 1583). Single dome on carrier system can be seen in Hadim İbrahim Pasha Mosque in Silivrikapi (1551), Tekirdag Rustem Pasha Kulliyah Mosque (1553), Suleymaniye Kulliyah Mosque in Damascus (1555), Diyarbakir Behram Pasha Mosque (1564- 1572), Ankara Cenabi Ahmet Pasha Mosque, Luleburgaz Sokullu Kulliyah Mosque (1563- 1570), Kasim Pasha Kulliyah in Havsa, Karapinar II. Selim Kulliyah (1569- 1570), Sinan Pasha Kulliyah in Cairo (1571), Pertev Pasha Kulliyah in Iznik (1579- 1580), Semsi Ahmet Pasha Kulliyah in Uskudar (1580), Kayseri Kursunlu Mosque (1581) and Ilgin Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque (1583- 1584).

Rustem Pasha Kulliyah

Built in 1561 in Eminonu, the kulliyah consists of a mosque, a madrasah, two inns, shops, a fountain and a Turkish bath. Built on a request of Rustem Pasha, the kulliyah is rather commercial. In the mosque, the dome is carried by eight supports, four of which are free and four embedded into walls. The walls on two sides of the entrance compose a gallery in front of the columns. The rectangular body is transformed into a square building covered with a central dome. The corners of the dome with an octagonal rim are each completed with an exedra. There is a storehouse under the mosque and the shops are located in parallel to the storehouse. The inside of the mosque is completely covered with china elaborated with naturalist style. Besides, pencil work and muqarnas can be observed in passage areas. The bath of the kulliyah is a double one. The women’s part is octagonal and has hot rooms and deep terraces in corners. The madrasah is also planned octagonal and with a yard. The corners are flattened and functional rooms are installed consecutively in the octagonal area. Colorful plaster work in the classroom and on the windows is quite attractive. The tomb of Rustem Pasha is octagonal, multi floored and covered with a dome. The china covering, window jambs in two colored marble and china girdle of the epigraph are the striking elements.

Edirne, Selimiye Kulliyah

(1569- 1575): After many architectural trials, Mimar Sinan built the Selimiye Mosque at the age of 80, where he gathered all the novelties of the Turkish architecture. Built on the request of Selim II, the mosque has the madrasahs of Dar-ul-Kurra (School of Koran) and Dar-ul-Hadis (School of Hadith) symmetrically on the kiblah side. The primary school is located on the corner of the outer yard and the market stretches along the western side. The market was built by Davut Aga, who became the chief architect during the reign of Murat III (1574-1595). Constrained by the outer walls, the kulliyah has gates on each side. It consists of a mosque with four minarets each with three balconies, a rectangular main area, and the final congregation place with five sections in front and a yard with a fountain surrounded by porticos on three sides. In the rectangular building, a gigantic dome with a diameter of 31,5 meters, which is higher than the dome of the Hagia Sofia, ascends on four independent columns, with four octagonal sections supported with columns embedded into walls. This gigantic dome is the furthest point in the dome architecture around the world. Reaching as high as 43,28 meters, the dome is covered with exedras on the corners and with a semi-dome on the protruding mihrab. There are windows with sharp arches on the dome, exedra and the rims of the semi-domes. Called as the “work of mastership” by Mimar Sinan, the mosque has distinguished inner atmosphere that drifts man to another world. This mystical air is maintained by the hugeness of the dome and the perfect covering system, as well as the china, plaster, stone and pencil work elaboration. Best examples of Iznik china can be seen on the walls of the mihrab inside and in the sultan’s gathering room on the eastern galleries. The glory of the building is improved with the pencil work of parts from the Holy Koran on the wall of the mihrab, two colored stone work on arches, Turkish carpets in naturalist style lying on the floors, wooden window and door hinges, plaster pediments on the windows in the yard and the pedestals of the minarets elaborated with figures of plants. In the china and pencil work elaboration, naturalist style with motifs of trees, flowers and fruits prevails. The mosque, with four grades seen from far away with its thin and delicate minarets, appeals to the eye with the harmony of the proportions and arrangements on the façade.

The other important works of Mimar Sinan are: Sokullu Mehmet Pasha Kulliyah in Payas, Hatay (1574), Manisa Muradiye Kulliyah (1583), Erzurum Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque (1585), Kilic Ali Pasha Mosque in Tophane (1580), Konya Selimiye Mosque, Kasimpasa Piyale Pasha Kulliyah, Eyup Zal Mahmut Pasha Kulliyah (1580), Edirnekapi Mihrimah Sultan Mosque (1565), Manisa Muradiye Mosque built on the request of Murat III besides many others. He also built water constructions and bridges as well as buildings and mosques in kulliyahs. The Uzun Kemer (Long Arch) with 700 meters of length, built in 1564; Maglova Arch, which is both functional and aesthetic; Buyukcekmece Bridge with 675 meters of length; Haramidere Bridge, Luleburgaz Bridge, Silivri Bridge, Drina Bridge in Vişegrad and Mostar Bridge in Mostar (1566).

Sultanahmet Mosque

Built during the reign of Ahmet I (1603-1617) by the Architect Sedefkar Mehmet Aga (1609-1616), the mosque has a market on the east side and the sultan's mansion on the north. Besides, a kulliyah consisting of a school, tomb, fountain, hospital, guest house and hostel was built. Surrounded by an outer yard on three sides, the mosque has a central dome supported with four semi-domes, as is the case in the Sehzade Mosque plan of Mimar Sinan. Descendant of the classical period, the mosque is raised a bit from the ground together with the yard. The stairs leading to the gates are integrated with the façade. There are 6 minarets on the two corners of the yard, two in the final congregation place, two nearby and two on the side of the mihrab. Besides the glorious silhouette it gives to the city of Istanbul, the mosque has deep elaborations inside, which is the most important feature of the mosque. 21043 pieces of china, colorful pencil work covering the ribbed columns and the domes and windows and doors elaborated with nacre transform the inner space, illuminated through 260 windows, into an amazing palace. The china of the latest bright period of Iznik, bearing more than 50 compositions of figures of flowers and trees and the turquoise china bearing parts of the Holy Koran in golden glaze are unique.


In the classical period, the kiosks and mansions were built inside palace area or near resorts. The first example of the time is in the Edirne Palace, which was later extended with additional buildings, from the time of Murat II until the reign of Sultan Suleyman III.

Used as a residence by many Ottoman sultans until the 19th century, the Edirne Palace consists of 117 bedrooms, 21 meeting rooms, 18 bathrooms, 8 small mosques, 17 great gates, 13 wards, 4 storerooms, 5 kitchens and 17 mansions, which gives an ides about the greatness of the palace. However, such greatness should be considered in terms of the area on which the palace complex was built, because none of the Ottoman palaces is too big in dimension, in contrary to the European palace architecture. Humane dimensions prevail in the buildings. Within a plain architecture, the beauty established by the proportions does not undermine the elaboration and delicacy of the furniture; on the contrary, there is a mature harmony between the architecture and the furnishing. There is a “tower-kiosk" inside the palace, which is typical in the Turkish palaces, as the Seljukian Kilicarslan Kiosk. This is a kiosk of justice. The same unit is also applied in the Topkapi Palace later.

Built in 1451, the Cihannuma Mansion is 40 meters high and has a tower-like construction covered with a cone. The palace also included many other buildings such as Kum Mansion, Hunting Kiosk, Mirrored Kiosk, Sepetciler Mansion, Terazu Mansion, Mansion of Justice, Dinner Kiosk, Nightingale Mansion and Tent Mansion, as well as squares, mosques, schools, pools and gardens. After the fire in the 19th century, only the bridges, pieces of walls of the Cihannuma Mansion, relics of a Turkish bath in the Kum Mansion, the gate with a round arch and a wreck with eight domes have remained.

When Fatih conquered Istanbul, he found not only a wreck of a city, but also a wreck of the Byzantine Palace and prompted the construction of a palace. This first palace was where today is the Istanbul University, as a kiosk inside a garden surrounded with high walls. The only source about this palace, which could not be preserved, is the painting depicting Istanbul by Matrakci Nasuh, a master of miniature in the 16th century.

Following the Old Palace, Fatih ordered construction of two kiosks on the area where was the Byzantine acropolis. One of them is the China Kiosk, located in the garden of the Istanbul Museums of Archeology today.

The most important work of the Ottoman palace architecture is no doubt the Topkapi Palace. Built between 1472 and 1478, the palace hosted many emperors from Fatih to Abdulmecit. It was gradually extended with the buildings added by every sultan until the 19th century. From this aspect, the palace resembles a collection reflecting the changes of style in Ottoman architecture and decoration.

The palace area covering 700,000 m2 is surrounded with the 1400-meter Royal Walls with 28 towers. The palace consists of wide yards on an axis and of the buildings around them.

The first gate called Bab-i Humayun (Royal Gate) leads to the first yard, and the Bab-i Selam (Men’s Gate) leads to the second yard. There is the domed garden on the left, and the Tower of Justice right behind, where the sultan would watch the meetings at the domed garden through a window with bars. The empire’s treasury was kept in the building adjacent to the tower. The royal kitchens with domes and chimneys are on the right side of the yard. The sloping road on the left side of the yard leads to the stables.

The China Kiosk, built in 1473 in the garden of the Topkapi Palace, the Treasury and Fatih Kiosk are important buildings of Fatih’s era.

The China Kiosk has four terraces opening to a hall in the middle with a dome and consists of two floors. The rooms inside are covered with domes. The façade is arranged as a portico with sharp arches. The terrace in the middle of the entrance side is covered with mosaic china outside and with turquoise hexagonal and triangular china inside.

The most important kiosks inside and around the Topkapi Palace are Sepetciler Mansion, Incili Kiosk, wooden Sofa Kiosk, Revan Kiosk, built like a cross covered with a dome around a terrace with a pool and the Baghdad Kiosk.

The palace has four yards, around which are gates, official rooms, kiosks, kitchens built by Mimar Sinan, bedrooms, mosques, treasury buildings and library. The palace was divided into three sections, which were the outer part, the inner part (enderun) and royal women’s section.

Enderun was the second important educational institute in the Ottoman Empire, following the madrasahs. The parts built in 15th and 16th century of the Women’s Section with 200 bedrooms, halls and baths, covered with domes and vaults around yards, were later amended. The rooms of the mother of the sultan, lady masters, and sons of sultans, daughters of sultans, servants, foremen and odalisques were arranged in a certain order.

The name Topkapi Palace was at first used for the coastal kiosk which had cannons, but later it was used to refer to all buildings as a whole. The elaboration in the kiosks reflects the Ottoman style. China coverings, marbles, covers of wardrobes and windows inlaid with ivory and nacre, elaboration in plaster and pencil work enhance the value of the kiosks in aesthetic and artistic terms. Hosting the royal officials and their families and many ceremonies, the palace was abandoned in 1856 when Abdulmecit moved to the Dolmabahce Palace and was opened as a museum in 1924.