The Suleymaniye Mosque is the largest masjid in Istanbul and regarded as its most important. It was built on the order of Sulayman the Magnificent by the great architect Sinan, both are buried within the complex. Construction work began in 1550 CE and was finished in 1558 CE.
- Like the city’s other imperial mosques, the Suleymaniye mosque was not only a place of worship, but also a charitable foundation, or kulliye. The mosque is surrounded by its former hospital, soup kitchen, schools, caravanserai (resting place for travellers) and bath house. This complex provided a welfare system which fed over 1,000 of the city’s poor – Muslims, Christians and Jews alike – every day. The size of the millstone in its courtyard gives an idea of the amount of grain that was needed to feed everyone.
- In the garden behind the main mosque there are two mausoleums including the tombs of Sultan Sulayman I, his wife Roxelana, his daughter Mihrimah, his mother Dilaşub Saliha and his sister Asiye. The sultans Sulayman II and Ahmed II, are also buried here.
- Just outside the mosque walls, to the north is the tomb of Sinan, considered the greatest architect of the classical period of Ottoman architecture. Sinan died aged 98, having built 131 mosques and 200 other buildings. He was born a Christian and later converted to Islam.
- To the south of the mosque is a madressa housing a library containing 110,000 manuscripts. The main courtyard entrance contained the rooms of the mosque astronomer who determined the times of prayer.
- The Süleymaniye Mosque 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.