The beginning of the Ottoman Empire was in 1299, and it grew steadily,
putting an end to the Byzantine Empire in 1453 and reaching its maximum size by
the end of the 16th century.
The Empire included a diversity of cultures, which were preserved locally, while
its general character remained eastern and Ottoman. After its conquest, Istanbul
became the artistic and cultural centre of the empire, diffusing its influence
across its different provinces in proportion to the relations it maintained with
Eastern influences, especially those that accompanied artists brought back
from the campaigns waged in the East by Sultan Selim I and his successor
Suleyman the Magnificent -called Kanuni (Law-Giver) by his own people -were
integrated into the vast and mature Ottoman culture, as had previously been the
case with Byzantine architecture. The most brilliant period of Ottoman
civilisation existed throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, during which the
most famous names produced the highest achievements in the fields of science,
administration and art. This was due in great part to the empire's economic
power, but also to a well organised and stable administration, the reign of
justice and fairness, as well as a rational world view.
In Sinan's time, the Islamic institution of the vakif or waqf, a kind of
pious charitable foundation, was highly developed. It is through the
establishment of such foundations and in a spirit of charity that sultans and
members of their families, including their mothers, wives, daughters and
sons-in-law, as well as viziers (ministers), and pashas (generals) have
contributed many public works with other rich individuals following their
example. We can say that practically all architectural works of that time were
achieved through vakifs, but it was still the State which provided the revenues
of the donors. Indeed many important State resources were entrusted to prominent
people through the institution of the "mulk". And this made it
possible for viziers such as Rustem Pasha and Sokollu Mehmet Pasha and princesses of the
Imperial Harem, such as Hurrem Sultan and Mihrimah Sultan (placed after a
woman's name the word Sultan means Princess), to order numerous vakif projects.
The reign of Kanuni Sultan Suleyman was a most active period in terms of
public works, and Sinan was most lucky to act as chief architect at a time when
resources were so abundant. The vakif system not only permitted the erection of
such works, it also ensured their maintenance, which made it possible for them
to survive until this day. Maintenance resources were provided through the
revenues of shops, commercial buildings and kervansarays (hostels for merchants
and travellers), hamams (public baths), bedestens (high-vaulted bazaars selling
precious products) or mills, all built next to the donated monument. The
administration of these revenues was entrusted to the vakifs. The establishment
of vakifs was always encouraged, and many facilities were provided for that
purpose. The founder of the vakif could specify how it was to be used through
its administrative statutes or vakfiye. Such freedom of choice brought a
significant plurality to Ottoman social and cultural life. As for other works
which were directly undertaken by the State, they consisted of military establishments, roads and bridges, as well as palaces or similar buildings.
Ottoman Sultans of the 16th century acted not only as protectors of the arts but
were also directly involved in their administration, establishing workshops
specialised in every kind of craft. Artists and artisans of the Palace (the
Ehl-i Hiref), ranging from painters to calligraphers, from carpenters to
jewellers, were trained in these establishments, where they were then able to
contribute to the art of the Empire in an atmosphere of harmony. The wages
earned by these artists were higher than those of civil servants working at the
Palace. This explains why architectural works were built with such care.
Above text and pictures are from the book titled "Turkish Art and Architecture in Anatolia and Mimar Sinan".
You can purchase "Turkish Art and Architecture in Anatolia and Mimar Sinan" book and other Turkey related books from Explore Turkey Bookstore.