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The Suleymaniye Mosque, built on the order of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, by the architectural genius Mimar Sinan. The construction work began in 1550 and the mosque was finished in 1558.
This vast religious complex blended Islamic and Byzantine architectural elements. It combines tall, slender minarets with large domed buildings supported by half domes in the style of the Byzantine church Hagia Sophia.
The design of the Suleymaniye also plays on Suleyman’s self-conscious representation of himself as a ‘second Solomon.’ It references the Dome of the Rock, which was built on the site of the Temple of Solomon, as well as Justinian’s boast upon the completion of the Hagia Sophia: “Solomon, I have surpassed thee!”
The Suleymaniye, similar in magnificence to the preceding structures, asserts Suleyman’s historical importance. The structure is nevertheless smaller in size than its older archetype, the Hagia Sophia.
The Suleymaniye was ravaged by a fire in 1660 and was restored by Sultan Mehmed IV. Part of the dome collapsed again during the earthquake of 1766. Subsequent repairs damaged what was left of the original decoration of Sinan (recent cleaning has shown that Sinan experimented first with blue, before turning red the dominant color of the dome).
During World War I the courtyard was used as a weapons depot, and when some of the ammunition ignited, the mosque suffered another fire. Not until 1956 was it fully restored again.