The crowning achievement of starchitect Mimar Sinan, the Süleymaniye is the Ottoman riposte to the Byzantine showpiece of the Hagia Sophia. Unlike early Christian builders, Sinan was interested in making an impact externally, locating the mosque on the Old City’s highest hill and designing a series of smaller domes cascading off the central structure and supporting its weight. But like the Hagia Sophia, whose footprint it roughly follows, it is the interior that really matters. Its sense of the space and the elegant lightness with which the vast span and size of the dome is supported are an amazing architectural and engineering feat, an expression of power and technological sophistication at once subtle and awesome. The scene is all the more vivid following a thorough four-year renovation, which was completed in late 2010. More than any other individual in its history, Sinan has left his physical mark on the city as author of a vast number of buildings (477 throughout Turkey) and is the enduring symbol of the glory of the reign of Süleyman the Magnificent. Born of Christian parents in 1490, he was taken into imperial service as a child, working as a military engineer before becoming Ottoman Chief Architect in 1538. He designed up until his 99th birthday, and is buried in a simple tomb near Süleyman himself in the expansive Süleymaniye grounds.
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