You’re sitting on the ferry which will take you from the Asian to the European side of mega-city Istanbul. The sun is shining and you’re enjoying the great view over the metropolis.
You can see modern-age skyscrapers right next to buildings and minarets, so old that they have seen the rise and fall of many empires. And as the ferry is crossing the mighty current which is the Bosphorus, your eyes glaze open that beautiful ottoman-style mosque which sits on top of the third out of the seven hills of Istanbul. It’s the second biggest house of prayer in Istanbul and it is said to be the most beautiful of all of them – which can’t be denied once seen with your own two eyes.
So you’re making your way through the streets of Eminönü and the Süleymaniye neighborhood. You’re breasting the hill and suddenly finding yourself in a beautiful and silent area without cars. You totally understand why Sultan Suleiman I., who is named “The Magnificent“ or “Kanuni” (Lawmaker) chose this exact place to build his mosque.
For the construction he engaged the most important architect of this time, Sinan “The Great”, who designed it as a work which belongs to his assistant architect period. He told the Sultan, that the mosque shall stay upright as long as the world will exist.
On your way into the mosque’s magnificent garden you’re passing its large frontcourt and the kitchen which once helped to feed those in need and is now full of sidewalk-restaurants. There are grave-buildings of the Sultan and his family (Türbe), schools, a hospital, a shelter (Caravanserai) and a bathhouse (Hamam) and you’re feeling like you’re in a small city of its own.
After gazing the beautiful garden in amazement you’re entering the inner courtyard, surrounded by minarets of which there are four because Suleiman was the fourth sultan after the capture of Constantinople. You’re also looking at ten galleries as he was the tenth sultan of the ottoman empire and noticing the 24 columns and 28 small domes in the roof of the mosque. In the middle of the courtyard there’s an awesome fountain (Sadirvan). It’s really a breathtaking view and you can’t help but stand there a while and just look at it.
After enjoying this unique atmosphere on the outside of the mosque you are curious of what awaits you inside. You’re making your way to the inside and there it is – a huge square hall, half the size of a soccer field and with a round dome above your head which at its peak is 47 meters high – the equivalent of a 15 storey building and which diameter is 27 meters. You’re facing 138 windows which brightly lighten the whole room. As you take a closer look at the light-constructions you notice they hold ostrich eggs. These eggs were cooked with herbs and spices to keep away spiders with their scent. You have to take your time to enjoy the view over the whole place and to imagine what it was like when Sultan Suleiman came this very place to make his prayers.
Once you’re hearing the muezzin’s voice you notice that there’s a distinctive acoustic feature about this hall. The secret to this lies in the 64 pottery vessels – each of them 5 meters in diameter – which are scattered all across the big dome.
After you recovered your breath from the magical aura you were lost in you’re leaving the mosque into the garden. To the northwest there’s a terrace from which there’s a terrific view over the Golden Horn and the Galata Bridge. Standing there, you have no difficulty imagining how it must have looked like in 1557, when the mosque was finally finished after 7 hard years of construction.
You’re feeling like you’re dreaming, but then you realize: This is not a dream, it’s reality, right here in Istanbul!
Photo Credits: Mattia Panciroli