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Great Sinan

Mimar Koca Sinan, the "Great Architect Sinan", was born in Anatolia in a small town called Ağırnas near the city of Kayseri, Turkey in 1489. He was conscripted as a soldier into the Ottoman royal house by the Devşirme System in 1512. After he completed his primary education as a cadet(acemioğlan), he joined Belgrade(1521), Rhodes(1522), Mohacs(1526), Germany(1529), Iraq(1534), Corfu and Apulia(1537), Moldovia(1538) campaigns. During all these campaigns, he found an opportunity to identify many structures and he proved that he is able to be trained as an engineer and architecht. In 1538, he became the head of a whole Crops of Court Architects (Hassa Mimarlar Ocağı) and Sinan's career continiued during fifty years. Sinan died in Istanbul, Turkey in 1588.

During his career Sinan built hundreds of buildings including mosques, palaces, harems, chapels, tombs, schools, almshouses, madrassahs, caravan serais, granaries, fountains, aqueducts and hospitals. Of this diverse group of works, his mosques have been most influential.






The early years( till the mid-1550s) : apprenticeship period

During these years he continued the traditional pattern of Ottoman architecture; but he gradually began exploring other possibilities, because, during his military career, he had had the opportunity to study the architectural monuments in the conquered cities of Europe and the Middle East.

His first attempt to build an important monument was the Hüsrev Pasha mosque and its double medresse in Aleppo, Syria. It was built in the winter of 1536-1537 between two army campaigns for his commander-in-chief and the governor of Aleppo. It was built in haste and this is demonstrated in the coarseness of execution and the crude decoration.

His first major commission as the royal architect was the construction of a modest Haseki Hürrem complex for Roxelana (Hürem Sultan), the wife of the sultan, Süleyman the Magnificent. He had to follow the plans drawn by his predecessors. Sinan retained the traditional arrangement of the available space without any innovations. Nevertheless it was already better built than the Aleppo mosque and it shows a certain elegance. However, it has suffered from many restorations.

In 1541, he started the construction of the mausoleum (türbe) of the Grand Admiral Hayreddin Barbarossa. It stands on the shore of Beşiktaş on the European part of Istanbul, at the site where his fleet used to assemble. Oddly enough, the admiral is not buried there, but in his türbe next to the Iskele mosque. This mausoleum has been severely neglected since then.

Mihrimah Sultana, the only daughter of Süleyman and wife of the Grand Vizier Rüstem Pasha gave Sinan the commission to build a mosque with medrese (college), an imaret (soup kitchen) and a sibyan mekteb (Qur'an school) in Üsküdar. The imaret no longer exists. This Iskele Mosque (or Jetty mosque) already shows several hallmarks of Sinan's mature style : a spacious, high-vaulted basement, slender minarets, single-domed baldacchino, flanked by three semi-domes ending in three exedrae and a broad double portico. The construction was finished in 1548. The construction of a double portico was not a first in Ottoman architecture, but it set a trend for country mosques and mosques of viziers in particular. Rüstem Pasha and Mihrimah required them later in their three mosques in Istanbul and in the Rüstem Pasha Mosque in Tekirdağ. The inner portico traditionally have stalactite capitals while the outer portico has capitals with chevron patterns (baklava).

When sultan Süleyman the Magnificent returned from another Balkan campaign, he received news that his heir to the throne ?ehzade Mehmet had died at the age of twenty-two. In November 1543, not long after Sinan had started the construction of the Iskele Mosque, the sultan ordered Sinan to build a new major mosque with an adjoining complex in memory of his favourite son. This Şehzade Mosque would become larger and more ambitious than his previous ones. Architectural historians consider this mosque as Sinan's first masterpiece. Obsessed by the concept of a large central dome, Sinan turned to the plans of mosques such as the Fatih Pasha Mosque in Diyarbakır or the Piri Pasha Mosque in Hasköy. He must have visited both mosques during his Persian campaign. Sinan built a mosque with a central dome, this time with four equal half-domes. This superstructure is supported by four massive, but still elegant free-standing, octagonal, fluted piers and four piers incorporated in each lateral wall. In the corners, above roof level, four turrets serve as stabilizing anchors. This coherent concept already is markedly different from the additive plans of traditional Ottoman architecture. Sedefhar Mehmet Ağa would later copy the concept of fluted piers in his Sultan Ahmed Mosque in an attempt to lighten their appearance. Sinan, however, rejected this solution in his next mosques.





The period from the mid-1550s to 1570: qualification stage

By 1550 sultan Süleyman the Magnificent was at the height of his powers. Having built a mosque for his son, he felt it was time to construct his own imperial mosque, an enduring monument larger than all the others, to be built on a gently sloping hillside dominating the Golden Horn. Money was no problem, since he had accumulated treasure from the booty of his campaigns in Europe and the Middle East. He gave the order to his royal architect Sinan to build a mosque, the Süleymaniye, surrounded by a külliye consisting of four colleges, a soup kitchen, a hospital, an asylum, a Turkish bath, a caravanserai and a hospice for travellers (tabhane).
Suleymaniye mosque link..

Sinan, now heading a powerful department with a great number of assistants, finished this formidable task in seven years. Before Süleymaniye, no mosques had been built with half cubic rooves. He got the idea of half cubic roof design from the Hagia Sophia. Through this monumental achievement, Sinan emerged from the anonymity of his predecessors. Sinan must have known the ideas of the Renaissance architect Leone Battista Alberti (who in turn had studied De architectura by the Roman architect and engineer Vitruvius), since he too was concerned in building the ideal church, reflecting harmony through the perfection of geometry in architecture; but, contrary to his Western counterparts, Sinan was more interested in simplification than in enrichment. He tried to achieve the largest volume under a single central dome. The dome is based on the circle, the perfect geometrical figure representing, in an abstract way, a perfect God. Sinan used subtle geometric relationships, using multiples of two when calculating the ratios and the proportions of his buildings. However, in a later stage, he also used divisions of three or ratios of two to three when working out the width and the proportions of domes, such as the Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Mosque at Kadırga.

While he was fully occupied with the construction of the Süleymaniye, Sinan (or better the subordinates of his office under his supervision) drew the plans and gave definite instructions for many other constructions. However, it is highly improbable that he supervised the construction of any of the provincial assignments .

Sinan built a mosque and a funeral monument (türbe)for the Grand Vizier Ibrahim Pasha at Silivrikapı (Istanbul) in 1551.
Ibrahim Pasha Mosque link..

The next Grand Vizier Rüstem Pasha gave Sinan several more commissions. In 1550 Sinan built a large inn (cervaserai) in the Galata district of Istanbul. About ten years later another inn in Edirne, and between 1544 and 1561 the Tas inn at Erzurum. He designed a caravanserai in Eregli and an octagonal madrasah in Istanbul.

Between 1553 and 1555, Sinan built a mosque at Beşiktaş, a smaller version of the 3 Serefeli mosque at Edirne, for the Grand Admiral Sinan Pasha. This proves again that Sinan had thoroughly studied the work of other architects, especially as he was responsible for the upkeep of these buildings. He copied the old form, pondered over the weaknesses in the construction and tried to solve this with his own solution. In 1554 Sinan used the form of the Sinan Pasha mosque again for the construction of the mosque for the next Grand Vizier Kara Ahmed Pasha in Istanbul, his first hexagonal mosque. By applying this hexagonal form, Sinan could reduce the side domes to half-domes and set them in the corners at an angle of 45 degrees. Clearly, Sinan must have appreciated this form, since he repeated it later in mosques such as the Sokollu Mehmed Pasha Mosque at Kadırga and the Atık Valide Mosque at Uskudar.

In 1556 Sinan built the Haseki Hürrem Turkish bath, replacing the antique Baths of Zeuxippus still standing close to the Hagia Sophia. This would become one of the most beautiful hamams he ever constructed.

In 1559 he built the Cafer Agha madrasah below the forecourt of the Hagia Sophia. In the same year he began the construction of a small mosque for İskender Pasha at Kanlica, besides the Bosphorus. This was one of the many minor and routine commissions the office of Sinan received over the years.

In 1561, when Rüstem Pasha died, Sinan began the construction of the Rüstem Pasha Mosque, as a memorial supervised by his widow Mihrimah Sultana.
Rüstem Pasha Mosque

It is situated just below the Süleymaniye. This time the central form is octagonal, modelled on the monastery church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus, with four small semi-domes set in the corners. In the same year, Sinan built a funeral monument (türbe) for Rüstem Pasha in the garden of the Şehzade Mosque, decorated with the finest tiles Iznik could produce. Mihrimah Sultana, having doubled her wealth after the death of her husband, now wanted a mosque of her own. Sinan built for her the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque at Edirnekapı (Edirne Gate), on the highest of the seven hills of Istanbul.
Mihrimah Sultan Mosque link..

He raised the mosque on a vaulted platform, accentuating its hilltop site. There was some speculation concerning the dates, until recently , but now it is generally accepted to be between 1562 and 1565. Sinan, concerned with grandeur, built a mosque on one of his most imaginative designs, using new support systems and lateral spaces to increase the area available for windows. He built a central dome 37 m high and 20 m wide, supported by pendentives, on a square base with two lateral galleries, each with three cupolas. At each corner of this square stands a gigantic pier, connected with immense arches each with 15 large windows and four circular ones, illuminating the interior with light. The style of this revolutionary building was as close to the Gothic style as Ottoman structure permits.

Between 1560 and 1566 Sinan built a mosque in Istanbul for Zal Mahmut Pasha on a hillside beyond Ayvansaray.
Sinan certainly developed the plans and partly supervised the construction, but he let his capable assistants to do the minor areas.

Sinan and his most able assistants were about to begin his masterpiece, the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne. At the exterior, the mosque rises high, with its east wall pierced by four tiers of windows. This gives the mosque an aspect of a palace or even a block of apartments. Inside, there are three broad galleries making the interior look compact. The heaviness of this structure makes the dome look unexpectedly lofty. These galleries look like a preliminary try-out for the galleries of the Selimiye Mosque.
Selimiye Mosque





The period from 1570 to his death: master stage

In this late stage of his life, Sinan tried to create unified and sublimely elegant interiors. To achieve this, he eliminated all the unnecessary subsidiary spaces beyond the supporting piers of the central dome. This can be seen in the Sokollu Mehmet Paşa mosque in Istanbul (1571-1572)
Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Mosque link..

and in the Selimiye mosque in Edirne. In other buildings of his final period, Sinan experimented with spatial and mural treatments that were new in classical Ottoman architecture.

Selimiye Mosque was built by Sinan in 1575 in Edirne, Turkey.According to his autobiography “Tezkiretü’l Bünyan”, his masterpiece is the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne. Breaking free of the handicaps of traditional Ottoman architecture, this mosque marks the peak of Sinan's work and of all classical Ottoman architecture. While it was being built, the architect's saying "You can never build a dome larger than the dome of Hagia Sophia and particularly as Muslims" was his main motivation. When it was completed, Sinan claimed that it had the largest dome in the world, leaving Hagia Sophia behind. In fact, the dome height from the ground level was lower and the diameter barely larger (0.5 meters, approximately 2 feet) than the millennium-older Hagia Sophia. However, measured from its base the dome of Selimiye is higher. Sinan was more than 80 years old when the building was finished. In this mosque he finally realized his aim of creating the optimum, completely unified, domed interior : a triumph of space that dominates the interior. This time he used an octagonal central dome (31.28 m wide and 42 m high), supported by eight elephantine piers of marble and granite. These supports lack any capitals but have squinches or consoles at their summit, leading to the optical effect that the arches seem to grow integrally out of the piers. By placing the lateral galleries far away, he increased the three-dimensional effect. The many windows in the screen walls illuminate the interior with light. The buttressing semi-domes are set in the four corners of the square under the dome. The weight and the internal tensions are hidden, producing an airy and elegant effect rarely seen under a central dome. The four minarets (83 m high) at the corners of the prayer hall are the tallest in the Muslim world, accentuating the vertical posture of this mosque that already dominates the city.

Great Sinan link..




Copyright © 2008 Istanbul Design Center / İstanbul Tasarım Merkezi