Mimar Sinan is the most celebrated architect of the pre-modern Islamic world

Sehzade Mosque

Sinan, also called Mimar Sinan (“Architect Sinan”) was born in Turkey in 1490 and entered his father’s trade as a stone mason and carpenter. He was recruited into military service at the age of twenty-one during the reign of Sultan Selim I (r 1512-1520). During his time in service, he was trained as an engineer in the construction of military architecture, including citadels and bridges. Sinan travelled widely which gave him broad exposure to many regional styles of architecture within the empire.

When the sultan became aware of Sinan’s architectural work during his military career, he named Sinan chief court architect in 1538. A master planner and architect, Sinan gave the city of Istanbul a breathtaking appearance, overseeing the design and construction of over 470 buildings, 196 of which survived until the twenty-first century.* His three most famous works are the Şehzade Kulliyesi and the Mosque of Süleyman, both in Istanbul, and the Selim Mosque in Edirne.

Iznik tiles inside the Selimiye Mosque

The Sehzade Kulliyesi was commissioned by Sultan Süleyman II, also known as Süleyman the Magnificent (r.1520-1566) to commemorate his son Sehzade Mehmed (1520-1543 ) who had died at the age of twenty-two years. The Sehzade Complex, largely completed in 1549, comprised a mosque, mausoleums, a madrasa, an elementary school, a hospital, and a kitchen for the poor. Sinan considered the Sehzade Mosque as the best work of his apprenticeship.

The Sulemaniye Mosque, one of the largest mosques ever built in the Ottoman Empire, is considered by many scholars to be Sinan’s finest work. The Mosque and Complex, named after Suleyman the Magnificent (r.1520-1566), was inspired by the Byzantine building, Hagia Sofia, with domes, semi-domes, and corner domes, forming the symbol of Ottoman rule. The Mosque contains the mausoleums of Suleyman and his wife, a hospital, madrasas, and a kitchen for the poor. The tile decoration for the Mosque was supplied by the city of Iznik, whose pottery shops had became famous for their ceramics as well as skilled calligraphers. Many of Sinan’s buildings are remarkable for their exquisite tiled walls.

Mosque of Selim at Edirne, Turkey
Selim Mosque at Edirne, Turkey

Sinan himself considered the Mosque of Selim at Edirne, Turkey, to be his masterwork. Built for Selim II (1566-1574), the sole surviving son of Suleyman, it was completed in 1574, a few months before the sultan’s death. Its four slender minarets, standing almost 71 metres (233 feet) are the tallest minarets in the world. The Mosque of Selim forms the focal point of the Selimiye Complex which includes a madrasa.

“When Sinan died in 1588, he had developed convincing formulae for the layout of mosques and the accompanying educational and social complexes. He was celebrated as the Euclid not only of his century but of all time, as it says in the foundation document for his mausoleum, which lies near the Suleymaniye Complex.” His rules for geometrical figures and proportions “replaced all that had gone before and could in no way be surpassed. None of the later great Ottoman buildings could succeed without his inspired spatial concepts.”**


* Mimar Sinan, Archnet
Şehzade Külliyesi, Archnet
**Almut von Gladib, The Ottoman Empire, Architecture, Islam Art and Architecture, Konemann

Research by Nimira Dewji


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.