In order to get a better understanding of Sinan's own architectural
achievements, we must dwell a little on the architectural developments that
preceded the them. Sinan's greatest contribution lies in the innovations he
brought to the architecture of the dome. In the Islamic world, domes were not
used to cover the whole area of buildings, except in the case of some tombs,
rather they of served to enhance buildings. Ottoman architecture, from its very
first beginnings, had been an architecture of the dome. The Ottomans a virtually
identified their mosques with domes, trying out every possible variant of the
form. The role of Saint Sophia in this preference cannot be denied. The function
of the dome was moreover not limited to covering a given area, it became a key
element of the whole bearing system.
Single, multiple, pluri-based or multi-functional inverted T -shaped domed
mosques and their neighbouring domed tombs, departing from the old kumbet form,
were already a typical Ottoman trait at the time when Bursa was the first
capital to the empire (1326), together with domed medreses (theological
schools), and domed hamams.
The Bursa style continued for some time after the city of Edirne became the
second capital in 1368, but the Uc serefeli Mosque, built in Edirne by Murad
II in 1447, played a pioneering role, proposing a kind of plan which was to be
amply developed later. Innovative aspects like the hexagonal structure
supporting its dome, its porticoed courtyard and its four minarets, do indeed
give the mosque a character not typical orthe period.
After the conquest of Istanbul (1453), the Saint Sophia Basilica, which was
much admired by the Ottomans, became a constant focus of interest for Turkish
architects, who almost idolised it. The Fatih (Conqueror) Kullliye (a complex of
religious and other accompanying buildings) was completed in 1471 under the
reign of Mehmet II. With its sixteen medreses, its location and composition, the
monumental complex put a Turkish stamp on the city. A semidome was added to the
main dome of the original Fatih Mosque, probably under the influence of Saint
Sophia, which brought the concept into the Ottoman architectural discourse. The
old Fatih Mosque was still standing in Sinan's time. It was to be destroyed by
the 1776 earthquake. Also interesting is the Beyazid II Kulliye in Edirne
(1488), with its pendentive supported 20 m wide single dome and especially the
hexagonal shape and general composition of its hospital. The interior space of
the mosque is dominated by the single dome. The side walls are laced with window
openings and the system bearing the dome is almost unnoticeable. This
anticipates the Edirnekapi Mihrimah Mosque, Sinan was to build some 80 years
later. With its double semidome, the Beyazid II Mosque in Istanbul (1506) is an
improved version of the old Fatih Mosque. The influence of Saint Sophi may
also be felt here, but must not be considered simple copies.
Such are the stepping stones of the 250 year old history of Ottoman
architecture inherited by Sinan. The works mentioned above show that Ottoman
architecture had already developed its identity by the time Sinan appeared.
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.