Construction Challenges

Time Period: 1558 (Construction Complete)

Map of 7 HIlls of Istanbul

Third Hill (Circled in Red)

In 1550 Sinan officially began the construction of the mosque on a hill in Istanbul known as Third Hill. During construction, one of the most difficult challenges that Sinan faced was trying to construct support systems for the massive dome in the center of the mosque.

Suleymaniye Columns

Suleymaniye Columns

To address the issue, Sinan constructed the interior with four columns on the sides of the mosque to support the dome (1). These columns held both a structural and metaphorical significance. The stone from the columns was shipped from a town called Baalbek, originally believed to be the site of the palace of King Solomon. Because of Suleiman’s desire to aggrandize himself and become “the second Solomon,” Sinan used these pillars (which supported the weight of the dome) to metaphorically represent Suleiman the Magnificent supporting the Ottoman Empire (2).

Suleymaniye Interior

Buttress System

In addition to the pillars, during construction, Sinan incorporated the buttresses that supported the dome into the walls of the building. By doing this “Sinan created a radical architectural innovation” (2). By building the buttresses into the walls, he freed the side walls of the mosque and allowed them to instead contain multiple windows. The effect of this created an interior that was dominated by natural light. In fact, when Orhan Pamuk visits the mosque in his memoir Istanbul: Memories and the City, he states “the beauty I see in Süleymaniye Mosque is in its lines, in the elegant spaces beneath the dome, in the opening out of its side domes, in the proportion of the walls and empty spaces” (3). Through this description, Pamuk emphasizes that the buttresses “beneath the dome” allow natural light to enter and illuminate the mosque. Ultimately, by constructing systems that physically and metaphorically support the dome, Sinan created an architecturally grand and visually vibrant interior.

1) "Süleymaniye Complex." European Capital of Culture. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2016.

2) Tschanz, David. "Suleimaniye Mosque: Masterpiece of Ottoman Religious Design." Academia.edu. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2016.

3) Pamuk, Orhan, and Maureen Freely. Istanbul: Memories and the City. New York: Knopf, 2005. Print.