Hegira 982 / AD 1574
Architect: Koca Mimar Sinan Ağa, with later additions by the architect, Davud Ağa.
Sultan Selim II (AH 974–82 / AD 1566–74).
The Selimiye Mosque was built by the great Ottoman architect, Sinan, in an area called Kavak Meydanı or Sarıbayır. Considered as his masterpiece it is one of the most important buildings in the history of world architecture both for its design and its monumentality. The mosque, together with the two madrasas on its southeast and southwest, is located within a courtyard measuring 190 m x 130 m. The row of shops (arasta) and recitation school (darülkurra) to the west of the courtyard were added to the complex by the architect Davud Ağa in the reign of Sultan Murad III (r. 982–1003 / 1574–95).
The mosque consists of a rectangular, nearly square prayer hall and, on the north side, a courtyard with porticoes. There are three entrances to the courtyard: north, east and west. In the centre of the courtyard is a 12-sided fountain. Two of the bays of the portico for latecomers have panelled vaults, while the rest are covered with domes. Each corner of the prayer hall features a minaret nearly 71 m high with three balconies. The balconies of the minarets on the northeast and northwest corners are accessed by three separate staircases.
The main feature which makes the Selimiye Mosque such a major work of architecture is the roof of the prayer hall. The monumental dome, 31.28 m in diameter, is carried on eight 12-sided pillars. The dome rises to 42.25 m in height. The zone of transition is made up of enormous squinches. The east and west pillars are supported by two buttresses each, concealed outside by the porticoes and galleries. Inside, the spaces between the walls and the pillars are adorned with galleries. In the Selimiye Mosque, Sinan abandoned the half-domes and secondary domed spaces he had used in his other buildings with centralised plans (with the exception of the half-dome covering the space with the mihrab); he thus solved the problem of the unity of the interior space. In the centre of the prayer hall is a loge for chanters (muezzin mahfili) with a fountain underneath it; the sultan's loge is in the southeast corner.
The main outer walls of the building are covered with ashlar, while elements like the main portal, the mihrab, and the minbar are covered with marble.
The walls of the domed space for the mihrab, the walls of the sultan's loge, the tympana of the windows and the spandrels of the women's gallery are decorated with underglaze-painted Iznik tiles. One section of the tiles in the sultan's loge was torn down during the Ottoman-Russian war of AH 1293 / AD 1877–8 and taken to Moscow. In the muezzin mahfili and the dome, the decoration consists of painted floral designs. These were restored in 1982–4. The minbar, with its rich geometric decoration, and the mihrab, which features a multi-sided niche covered with a muqarnas conch, are among the finest examples of Ottoman marble carving.
The Selimiye Mosque underwent restoration in 1954–71 and continues to function as a place of worship today. The madrasa to the southeast of the mosque is used as the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art of Edirne, while the school for traditions of the Prophet (darülhadis) to the southwest, is no longer in use.
The great Ottoman architect Sinan considered the Selimiye complex he built in Edirne for the Sultan Selim II as the masterpiece of his usta (master) period. The complex contains a mosque and two madrasas with a darülkurra (recitation school) and an arasta (row of shops) added later. The dome of the mosque is 31.28 m in diameter and 42.25 m in height, rising on eight piers. The mosque is one of the most important buildings not only of Turkish architecture but also in the history of world architecture.
The inscription on the west entrance to the courtyard indicates that construction of the mosque began in AH 976 / AD 1568 and finished in AH 982 / AD 1574. According to information passed on by the renowned Ottoman traveller Evliya çelebi, the mosque was officially opened on 12 Sha'ban 982 / 27 November 1574, but Sultan Selim II did not witness it, as he died on 17 Rajab 981 / 1 November 1574. The construction of the madrasa and darülhadis at the southeast and southwest corners was completed before the rest of the mosque, in AH 980 / AD 1573. The arasta and darülkurra are thought to have been built at the behest of Sultan Murad III by the head-architect Davud Ağa.
Kuban, D., Sinan'ın Sanatı ve Selimiye [The Art of Sinan and Selimiye], Istanbul, 1998.
Kuran, A., Mimar Sinan, Istanbul, 1986.
ünal, R. H., “Selimiye Camii [The Selimiye Mosque]”, Edirne, Ankara, 1993, pp.86–101.
Şakir Çakmak "Selimiye Mosque" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018. 2018. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;tr;Mon01;23;en
Prepared by: Şakir ÇakmakŞakir Çakmak
Dr Şakir Çakmak is an assistant professor in the Department of Archaeology and Art History of the Faculty of Letters, Ege University, Izmir. Born in Sarayköy, Turkey, in 1964, he graduated from that department in 1986. He started working as a research assistant in the same department in 1988. He completed his MA in 1991 with a thesis entitled “Turkish Monuments in Denizli Province (Mosques)” and his Ph.D. with the thesis “Portals in the Early Ottoman Period (1300–1500)” in 1999.
Translation by: Barry WoodBarry Wood
Barry Wood is Curator (Islamic Gallery Project) in the Asian Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He studied history of art at Johns Hopkins University and history of Islamic art and architecture at Harvard University, from where he obtained his Ph.D. in 2002. He has taught at Harvard, Eastern Mediterranean University, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the Courtauld Institute of Art. He has also worked at the Harvard University Art Museums and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. He has published on topics ranging from Persian manuscripts to the history of exhibitions., İnci Türkoğluİnci Türkoğlu
İnci Türkoğlu has been working as a tourist guide and freelance consultant in tourism and publishing since 1993. She was born in Alaşehir, Turkey, in 1967. She graduated from the English Department of Bornova Anatolian High School in 1985 and lived in the USA for a year as an exchange student. She graduated from the Department of Electronic Engineering of the Faculty of Architecture and Engineering, Dokuz Eylül University, Izmir, and the professional tourist guide courses of the Ministry of Tourism in 1991. She worked as an engineer for a while. She graduated from the Department of Art History, Faculty of Letters, Ege University, Izmir, in 1997 with an undergraduate thesis entitled “Byzantine House Architecture in Western Anatolia”. She completed her Master's at the Byzantine Art branch of the same department in 2001 with a thesis entitled “Synagogue Architecture in Turkey from Antiquity to the Present”. She has published on art history and tourism.
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: TR 36
Islamic Dynasties / Period
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