A Peaceful Oasis in a City of Chaos – The Mosque of Süleyman the Magnificent

From the Architectural Bucket List Series

posted by Allison Stoos

After years of architecture and landscape architecture history classes, I’ve developed quite a must-see architectural bucket list. This past spring I was fortunate to travel to Turkey and Greece to cross off several sites, including my Number 1. In a series of blog posts, I will highlight my experiences at some of these top sites as well as a few that hadn’t been on my list before but should be on yours.

Also from this series:
» Topkapi Palace, Istanbul – A Paper Come to Life
My No. 1 - Hagia Sophia

I hadn’t really considered this mosque a must-see until, well, I saw it.

To really understand the peace this architectural landmark gave me, I must set the scene of a very confusing day. We started by walking through Istanbul's Grand Bazaar, which to a girl who doesn’t like shopping or crowds, is a very uncomfortable experience. With hundreds of shop owners yelling at us to check out their cheaply made souvenirs and bath towels, we wove and wove through the masses until finally we were streets away – and lost. No longer amongst tourists but groups of Muslim women eyeing deals on clothes and young men carrying huge bags and carpets on their backs. We’d go one direction up a very steep hill only to turn us to another road, this time filled with light shops instead of fashion. Without cell service for google maps and a scene too chaotic to stop and ask for directions, we continued wandering through the crowds until we came upon a lush green courtyard that was surrounded by white marble walls. 

Unlike the crowded and intensely tiled Blue Mosque, master architect Sinan designed The Mosque of Süleyman the Magnificent to be peaceful and restrained. Subtle designs of Iznik tiles contrast against the simple forms of white marble. Simple touches of ivory and mother of pearl bring elegance to the woodwork. Best of all, I had time here. Time to take in the softness of the carpet and the coolness of the marble on my bare feet. Time to sketch and realize how inaccurately my black pen captured the contrasting materials. Time to watch kids run around the back while their fathers prayed. And well, time to enjoy how magnificent it all is.