The Suleymaniye is the largest square based semidomed mosque (3100 m2) to
have been designed by Sinan. The two semidomes are situated in the direction of
the mihrab (niche indicating the direction of Mecca), a plan we see in Saint
Sophia and later in the Beyazid Mosque ( 1506). Sinan had a very strong desire
to surpass Saint Sophia, which was very much admired by the Turks. It may have
been at the sultan's request that he opted for a plan similar to that of Saint
sophia. However, if the two buildings are indeed similar in terms of their
general plan, the Suleymaniye is superior to Saint Sophia in terms of proportions, space and the rationality of the bearing system, as well as both its
interior, and exterior perception. The differences between the two religions in
their approach to space has also had its impact on the building.
The transition between the central and lateral naves is provided by two small
and one large arch. The same rhythm can be noticed on the lateral facade and
the cupolas covering the lateral naves. In the flanks, the arches supporting
the dome end in a series of graded steps. The arches is filled with a partition
wall pierced with windows. At a lower level, the lateral naves are covered by a:
rhythmic succession of large and small cupolas. sinan claims he was the first t
implement such a design. With all these gradations, the mass of the mosqu
takes on pyramidal external proportions.
On the sides, two-storeyed eaved porticoes are situated between the dome
supporting piers that gradually descend to the ground. This new solution, first
implemented in the Sehzade Mosque, is repeated in its two-storeyed version of the
Suleymaniye and the Selimiye mosques. Such external porticoes or gallerie
met with great success, and would continue to be used in large mosques afte
sinan. Water taps for ritual washing were installed below the porticoes at th
basement level. The mihrab facade on the other hand does not exhibit the
same level of achievement, appearing as a mere buttressed retaining wall. As,
for the minarets, they are situated at each of the four corners of the
courtyard. The two nearest to the mosque are 76 m. high and decked with three
balconies, while the two on the other side of the courtyard are 56 m. high and
have two balconies. The main portal of the courtyard is very high and furnished
with three rows of windows, giving a palatial appearance to the facade, an
effect. which Sinan did not try to achieve in his later works.
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.