4.614 | Fall 2002 | Undergraduate

Religious Architecture and Islamic Cultures

Lecture Notes

17. Classical Ottoman Architecture: The Age of Sinan

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Koca Sinan (1499?-1588): The greatest Ottoman architect, he served as chief architect or the Architect of Dar-Usaadet (the Abode of Felicity) for 50 years (1538-88). He built or supervised a total of 316 structures in Istanbul alone. He greatly influenced the development of Ottoman architecture and produced its most celebrated masterpieces.

The Kulliye: From the Arabic kull (the whole), it was used in Ottoman times to designate the religious, social, and charitable complexes. Kulliyes were built by sultans, their wives, and their high officials. A great kulliye normally comprises a congregational mosque, one or more madrasas, a soup kitchen (imaret), a hospital (dar al-shifa), a school for kids (mektab), a bath, fountains, and possibly the mausoleum of the founder and his family.


The Church of Hagia Sofia (Ayasofia)

(532-37). The edifice that most affected the Ottoman architects and patrons as an object of admiration and probably imitation. Sinan is reported to have felt relieved only when he completed his dome of the Selimiye Mosque at Edirne which equalled the width of Ayasofia’s dome.

Central Dome Mosques Based on Four Supports with Two or More Half-Domes

(1550-57). The largest Ottoman half-domed mosque, it sits on the top of the sixth hill that dominates the city and cascades down in a pyramidical arrangement of its domes, half-domes, counterweights, and butresses. The mosque forms the center of a kulliye with a dar al-hadith, four madrasas, an imaret, a tabkhane, a mektab, a medical school (tibb medrese), bath, fountain, and the mausolea of the founder, his wife, and Sinan himself (in a corner).

Central Dome Mosques Based on Eight Supports

(1569-74). The masterpiece of Sinan, it has a radially symmetrical plan with the four minarets acting as end points, and a huge, central dome rising above eight counterweights. The kulliye had only two madrasas behind the mosque.

Central Dome Mosques Based on Six Supports

(1572). Heavily indebted to the Üç Serefeli mosque at Edirne, the hexagonal plan of the dome’s supports completely covers the interior space. The dome is butressed by four half-domes on the hexagon’s angular sides.

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Fall 2002
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