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Selimiye Mosque

Jan, 03 || 3 Comments | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Selimiye at Night - Photo by Bulent OnizIt’s impossible to miss the Selimiye Mosque (Tur: Selimiye Camii), Edirne’s grandest and most central mosque, designed by the great Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan, between 1568 and 1574. The mosque, dominating the skyline of the city, was built on a slightly higher hill than its surroundings.

Undoubtedly, the Selimiye Mosque is an outstanding work of art.

The mosque was commissioned by Sultan Selim II, son of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, and was built by the most famous Ottoman architect; Mimar Sinan. Unfortunately, Selim II, who started the construction of Selimiye, couldn’t see the opening of this monumental building, as he passed away before the completion.

Selimiye Mosque was considered by Mimar Sinan himself to be his masterpiece and is one of the highest achievements of Islamic architecture.

The massive and impressive interior- Photo by Dick OssemanIn this mosque Mimar Sinan employed an octagonal supporting system that is created through eight pillars incised in a square shell of walls. The dome of the building, which hangs high over main hall, encloses a huge space which gives the place an expansive atmosphere, had the largest diameter, 31.2 mt, of all domes in the world for several centuries. The four semi domes at the corners of the square behind the arches that spring from the pillars, are massive intermediary sections and supports between the huge encompassing 31.2m dome with spherical profile and the walls.

Surrounded by four tall minarets which are the 2nd highest minarets in whole world (1st , given the diameter of only 3.8m), the beauty of the mosque resulting from the conformity of geometric shapes engulfed in each other was the culmination of Mimar Sinan’s lifelong search for a unified interior space.

Selimiye in 10K TLThe mosque was depicted on the backside of the old Turkish 10,000 lira banknotes between the years 1982 and 1995.

To best appreciate the mosque, you should enter from the west gate, as its architect Mimar Sinan intended, rather than through the terrace park and the arasta, row of shops, to the south.

The mosque, together with its külliye, was included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2011.


A comparison between the Domes of Hagia Sophia and Selimiye

The great dome and multiplicity of windows- Photo by Bulent OnizThe dome of Hagia Sophia lost its round shape due to several maintenance sessions it has undergone. In laser readings carried out between 1990 and 1993, the diameter of the dome of Hagia Sophia was measured as 31.8 meters between gallery moldings on north-south axis and 30.8 meters between gallery moldings on east-west axis.

In the measurements made in Selimiye by Prof. Dr. Doğan Kuban with theodolite, dome width was found as 31.7 meters on north-south axis and 31.2 meters on east-west axis. On the other hand, the dome of Selimiye is 20-30 cm taller than Hagia Sophia, which has a flatter profile. However, dome height is bigger in Hagia Sophia. The height of the dome in Hagia Sophia is 55.60 meters, while it is 43.2 meters in Selimiye.

Chains at the gates of the Mosque

Chains at the gates - Photo by Yunus CaglarThere are  chains at some gates of mosque which are adjusted at height of an average human . It is said that, Mimar Sinan particulary made those chains with the approval of Sultan Selim II: In order to enter the mosque, one should bow for the magnificence of the mosque and for the respect of Ottoman Empire`s  most talented architect.


Selimiye Mosque from his creator Mimar Sinan

Mimar Sinan - Photo by Dick Osseman“Four minarets of the mosque, sat each side of the dome. I did every one with three balconiess. There are three ladder systems in two minarets, those who do not see each other. The first stairs reach to the first balcony, second stairs reach to first two balconies, third stairs reach the three baconies.

Üç Şerefeli Mosque was the largest mosque in Edirne before my mosque. The minaret of that mosque looked pompous; very thick. In the minarets of the mosque of Sultan Selim, gentle and elegant, but also that there are three paths, and three different paths of doing this in such a thin and gentle minaret is quite difficult, as wise can understand”


Selimiye Mosque Legends

-          It is said that, Sultan Selim II saw the prophet Hz.Muhammed in his dream and Hz.Muhammed told Selim where to build the mosque.

-          The upside down tulip in the mosque:  Under one of the marble legs of the fountain inside the Mosque, the motif of an upside down tulip, really catches the eye. According to legend, the land where the mosque would be built was once a tulip garden. However, the owner of this tulip garden was stubborn and did not want to sell her property. In the end, after a series of negotiations, she sold the area on one condition that the mosque would be decorated with the motif of a tulip. Mimar Sinan put the tulip motif upside down on one of the marble legs, inside. The tulip motif represents that this site was once a tulip garden, and its being upside down represents the owner’s stubbornness.

-          Before building the mosque, Mimar Sinan placed all the rocks and equipments to the construction area of this building. Tons of stones on the ground waited for two years in the construction land. Builders used ‘ground sit’ is an event that is called. Sinan pre-compressing the Selimiye floor, ensured the floor with this way. Thus ground subsidence, cracks and shifts that will occur after the end of the business had been avoided.

-          The mosque has 999 windows in total, which according to its architect Mimar Sinan, symbolize the perfectness of God. The windows of Selimiye Mosque has 5 levels, representing the 5 Pillars of Islam.

-          The total 12 balconies of the mosque represent the 12th sultan (king): Sultan Selim. A total of 6 different stairways for 3 balconies in two minarets resemle the ‘6 Pillars of Faith’.

-          Two of four minarets, which all have width of only 3.8m diameters, have three different stairways which don’t see each other for each balconies. It is said that Germans used the same architecture methodology, but on the ‘giant’ sphere in German Parliament Building.

-          In order to build such a giant dome, it is said that Mimar Sinan had to solve an equation with 13 indeterminates.

-          A group of architects using modern technologies in a research stated that Selimiye Mosque was build on a floppy ground so the building, particularly the minarets, should be solidified with metal clamps. After the official authorization, when the architects digged the ground of one minaret, they faced huge metal clamps already supporting the minarets, which was already foreseen centuries ago, by this great architect.

-          A group of Japanese architects, geophysicists, civil engineers visited Selimiye Mosque and made some research on the building between 1950 and 1960. They saw that, in order to avoid earthquakes the huge minarets were built with a twisting system, a safety preacution to earthquakes taken almost 500 years go.

-          One of the architects of Taj Mahal, Isa Muhammed Efendi is the trainee of Mimar Sinan. Mimar Sinan was frequently credited with a key role in the architectural designs.


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  1. cinthia says:

    liked this information a lot, thank you very much for that.

  2. Sidney Cherry says:

    Hi, nice article. I really like it!

  3. Habib says:

    Some really good posts on this web site, thanks for contribution.

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