Great Sinan and Architecture

“I am, elder master Abdulmannan’s son, Sinan; I won the honor with service to the Ottoman’s four sultan with prayers and Allah’s help. I won the reputation on the different lands with my art and knowledge. That sultans first is the Ottoman’s sword, skys brave soldier, Arab and Persian lands conqueror and world’s most strong Sultan Selim, the son of Sultan Beyazid. Allah brighten his grave with lights from heaven’s rooms.”

Sinan, himself, told this words. He witnessed five Sultan’s sultanate and gave service to four of them. He left powerful marks on his back for Islamic and Ottoman art. Especially in time of Suleiman reign he passed all the Ottoman soils with his mosques, tombs, madrasahs, masjids, bridges and more.  If we think, during that time the Ottoman was more than 15 million kilometres. Near this, his knowledge and creative dreamland has given him great reputation. He took to ‘big master’ name from people who knew him. Modern architects still can’t find an answer to how he did Suleymaniye and Selimiye Mosques before hundreds year ago without ‘modern’ technology.

Mimar Sinan


Some documents say he was born in 1489, but some say it was 1490. We don’t have so much information about his family and life, and we still don’t know where was he born. What we have information about, is that, by Sai Mustafa Celebi who lived on the same times with him. Documents tell he came from Kayseri’s Agirnas village to Ottoman’s army. Still don’t know about his origin, sources give us different informations about him; some say his origin is Turk and some say his origin is Greek. Strongest evidence is his and his family persons name, this sources telling he is from Pecheneg Turks and his family was Christian.

His father was a carpenter, he developed this and has fallen in love with architecture. He told this himself, “I was selected with my own request to carpentry”. He learned architecture in construction works and from masters.


Sinan joined Chaldiran war in 1514, after he joined military expedition to Egypt between 1516 – 1520. After Suleiman became Sultan, he came to infantry units janissaries. He joined military expedition to Belgrad, Rhodos and Mohacs war on 1521, 1522 and 1526. He was troop commander and chief technician. He won big reputation after military expedition to Iran on 1533 with his galleys for pass Van Lake, after his rank upgraded. On the Black Bogdan military expedition, Ottoman army stopped near Prut river. Architects couldn’t build a bridge on swamp region for days. This duty has been given to Sinan and he built a strong bridge. He was appointed to be chief architect after this success.


He was chief architect from 1538, he stayed on duty for 49 year under Sultan Suleiman, Sultan II. Selim and Sultan III. Murat times. Before he became chief architect his three works was attentioned, thats are; Husreviye Kulliye – Mosque in Aleppo, Coban Mustafa Kulliye – Mosque in Gebze and Haseki Kulliye for Hurrem Sultan in Istanbul.

Sehzade Mosque

After he was be chief architect he gave three big marks, thats first is Sehzade Kulliye – Mosque (for Prince Mehmed). It was constructed between 1543-1548. Sehzade Mosque has a symmetrical plan, with the area under the central dome expanded by use of four semidomes, one on each side, in the shape of a four leaf clover. This technique was not entirely successful, as it isolated the four huge piers needed to support the central dome, and was never again repeated by Sinan. The interior of the mosque has a very simple design, without galleries. Sinan saying Sehzade Mosque is his apprenticeship work.


Second is Suleymaniye Kulliye – Mosque (for Sultan Suleyman), it was constructed between 1550-1557. Suleymaniye Mosque is almost a square, 59 meters in length and 58 meters in width, forming a single vast space. The dome is flanked by semi-domes, and to the north and south arches with tympana-filled windows, supported by enormous porphyry monoliths. Sinan decided to make a architectural innovation to mask the huge north-south buttresses needed to support these central piers. He incorporated the buttresses into the walls of the building, with half projecting inside and half projecting outside, and then hid the projections by building colonnaded galleries. There is a single gallery inside the structure, and a two-story gallery outside.

Suleymaniye Mosque

Suleymaniye’s interior decoration is subtle, with very restrained use of Iznik tiles. The white marble mihrab and mimbar are also simple in design, and woodwork is restrained, with simple designs in ivory and mother of pearl. Sinan saying Suleymaniye Mosque is his journeyman work.

Suleymaniye Mosque - Inside


Third is Selimiye Mosque (for Sultan II. Selim), it was constructed 1569-1575. Selimiye mosque received great recognitions from its clean, spare lines in the structure itself. With the monumental exteriors proclaiming the wealth and power of the Ottoman Empire, the plain symmetrical interiors reminded the sultans should always provide a humble and faithful heart in order to connect and communicate with God. To enter, it was to forget the power, determination, wealth and technical mastery of the Ottoman Empire. Lights were seeped through multitude of tiny windows, and the interchanging of the weak light and dark was interpreted as the insignificance of human.

Selimiye Mosque

Selimiye Mosque did not only amaze the public with the extravagant symmetrical exterior, it had also astonished the people with the plain symmetrical interior for it had summarized all Ottoman architectural thinking in one simple pure form. Sinan builded Selimiye when he was 86 years old and he saying Selimiye Mosque is his mastery work.


Sinan worked for many thing without his marks, he restorated old marks too which are not his art. I worked so much for Hagia Sophia. His touchs meet with Hagia Sophia in 1573. He repaired Hagia Sophia’s dome and build walls around dome. This walls moved Hagia Sophia’s dome to this area. Near this he destroyed some shops and houses, which one was constructed near historical buildings. Rumelian Castle is one of sample for this activities.
He interested with Istanbul’s all streets, sidewalks and worked about sewage systems. Probably he was first and only famous architect around world, who inspected his all works on every step.

Hagia Sophia

Telling his seal on the Buyukcekmece Bridge, how he was modest. Writing on the Sinan’s sea: “El-fakiru l-Hakir Ser Mimaranı Hassa” (Valueless and needy servant – Chief of palace private architects)


Architect Sinan died on 1588 in Istanbul. He was buried in simple tomb near Suleymaniye Mosque. His grave was opened on 1935 for some research reasons. On the restoration it was discovered that Sinan’s skull was missing from the grave. Still there are no informations about where it is.

Sinan has given direction to Ottoman and Turkish architecture. He was thought everything with details and build every marks different. Right now, I can’t stop thinking. If he could see us? I hope we learn to be different and can do a revolution in our own architectures.

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