HST 150 World History from 1400


The Suleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul

Suleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul

In this aerial photograph of parts of Istanbul, the great mosque of Suleyman stands out, with its many surrounding buildings - 4 universities, a hostel, library, soup kitchen for the indigent, and shops and workshops.  In the far distance, you can see the great Byzantine cathedral of Haghia Sophia whose dome and overall beauty Sinan was determined to surpass. There are still many disagreements on which is more impressive.  You might compare this photo of the mosque with that in your textbook, on pg. 768.  You can see that the perspective from which one observes such a building may in fact change its significance! Throughout this course, particularly in those periods after the invention of photography, you will see how photographs can, and often do, express the biases of the photographer.  The one on this page from the National Geographic places it in its urban context; the one in the textbook shows it almost in isolation.

We do know that Sinan required 7 years and the modern-day equivalent of $1.5 billion! to complete the entire complex. This cost covered the acquisition of materials, four huge columns from Roman sites in Lebanon and Egypt, transportation of materials, construction.  New dock facilities and new designs for ships were necessary to bring the huge Roman columns from Lebanon and Egypt across the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas to Istanbul for this project. Tens of thousands of skilled workmen participated in this huge project.  Below is a photo of an interior space in the mosque which shows the intricate detail of the stone work and carvings.

It was his military campaigns, his building projects which of course provided a great deal of employment, and his focus on effective and efficient government that made Suleyman both "Magnificent" and "Lawgiver."