To ensure the absolute stability of the foundations, upon the bed-rock of the site, three years of preparations were made, and three more years passed in the construction of these foundations. Following these fastidious preparations, the actual construction of the mosque begun. The mosque, and its attendant structures, madrasa, arms-houses, infirmaries, caravanserais, a medical school, baths, schools of tradition (Dar-ul Hadis) a hospital (Dar-us shifa), cells and shops were begun in 1550 by the Architect Sinan and completed in 1557. The architect called it a work of his training period. The truly magnificent mosque now dominates the sky-line of the city from the Galata Bridge. On its completion, it was opened to worship when the sultan and his entire court attended a vast consecration ceremony. The large outer court is entered by 11 portals. The inner court, rectangular in form, is reached through three portals, one central, the others flanking this. The central portal is dressed with fine stonework, and surmounted by an inscription containing the Islamic proclamation of faith.
Flanking the portal on both sides are three rows of cells and 12 windows. The courtyard is paved in marble, and framed by a revak covered with 28 cupolas. In the center is a rectangular fountain with an ornamented central piece. Two of the four minarets of the mosque which both have two “Sherefe”s (balconies) are situated in the two corners of the northern facade. The other two are to be found on the rear facade of the mosque; these are taller than the first pair and dressed with three balconies. The total of ten balconies was to indicate that Suleyman being the tenth Ottoman sultan. The mosque itself is almost square in plan, measuring 63×68 m. The height of the dome is 53 m. Entrance is through the central portal of the main facade, and the two side portals, which lead, respectively, to the imperial gallery and to the public nave. The central dome rests on four arches springing from four great piers; while a semidome is placed over the mihrab and the entrance portal. On either side of the main dome are five cupolas, supported on pillars set between the main piers, and resting on the arches from these piers. Thus an outstanding area was left free for congregational prayer. On the street to the left of this mosque are situated the primary school and madrasas of the complex, which are now the Library of Suleymaniye; The Medical School on the corner of the street is today used as a Dispensary, while on the opposite side of hospital is today a Military Printing Office.
The magnificence of the mosque, clearly reflected in its architecture, also prevails on the interior, in the fine portal gates, carved marble mihrab and mimber, and even in the carpets, chandeliers and bronze candlesticks. The mosque is illuminated by 138 windows which bestow a superb light upon the interior. The mihrab is decorated with blue and white Kutahya tiles and the mosque has an acoustics quality which attests to the mastery of its architect. The materials used in the building of the mosque were brought to the site from the Istanbul area, and even from the farthest part of the empire. Two of the piers originated from the city of Istanbul, one from Alexandria in Egypt and one from the ruins of Baalbeek. The tomb of the sultan, also the work of Sinan, is an appropriate edifice to the magnificence of all. The tomb, built by Sinan for the sultan on his death at the age of 71, in 1566, is octagonal, each face decorated with inscriptions and five windows, two below and three attached to the clerestory. The dome of the tomb is ornamented with a marble crested console. The tomb is surrounded by a covered gallery resting on 29 columns. The portal door is of ebony inlayed with ivory and decorated with relief work, the walls on either side of the portal with turquoise, dark blue, white, red and harmonious yellow tile panels. Within the tomb, four of the eight columns resting on marble bases are of white marble, four are pink marble. The capitals are decorated with gilded inscriptions.
The dome of the tomb is supported on these columns, and this is decorated with designs typical of the period, in which burgundy is the dominating tone. There are seven catafalques (decorated platforms on which the coffin of a famous person lies) in the tomb of Suleyman, whose own catafalque is the high structure in the center of the mausoleum.
Flanking this turbe is a second mausoleum, which belongs to the wife of the sultan, Hurrem Sultan, the famous lady who addressed the sultan in her favor with the words “I would sacrifice myself for one hair from your whiskers.” This is octagonal and presided by a rivak. The entrance portal is decorated with faience on either side.