The Süleymaniye Mosque
Monday, June 24
An hour or so of Bazaar exploring was enough for Jenn and I, and we decided to explore elsewhere for the next little while. We exited the Bazaar through a narrow and obscure little gate on its northwestern side. We then walked down an open-air market street jam-packed with all manner of low-cost modern clothing (e.g. jeans and the like), then through a mini book Bazaar, and then finally into an area of large, shady trees next to a large mosque.
We had wandered to the edge of Beyazit Square. Known as the Forum Tauri during Byzantine times, it now is a prominent space in Old Istanbul. The most prominent edifice along the square immediately drew our attention: the main entrance gate of Istanbul University. An imposing yet elegant structure.
Quiet residential courtyard
We chose to skirt the walls of the university, walking along its perimeter for some distance. The street here was peaceful and quiet, in contrast to the hustle and bustle of the Grand Bazaar and surrounding markets. We weren't headed anywhere in particular - just wandering around in a rough circle, making sure we didn't get too far away from our rendezvous-point with the others.
Approaching largest mosque
As we rounded the far end of the university, another mosque gradually came into view. This one was quite large - it seemed as big and as impressive as the Blue Mosque that we had visited in the morning. In the hot and still mid-day sun, it stood very quiet. There was nearly no one about.
We had enough time before meeting up with the others, so we headed over to explore a bit. We learned that it was the Süleymaniye Mosque - one of Istanbul's most important mosques, and in fact, its largest mosque. It was over 450 years old, being built between 1550-1557.
The mosque had beautiful grounds surrounding it, and it was indeed large and impressive. Its general exterior dimensions and general architecture was quite similar to the Blue Mosque, the primary difference being the slightly different arrangements of the subsidiary domes around the main dome.
After going through the now-familiar procedure of removing shoes and covering up, we entered the quiet interior of the mosque. Here, the Süleymaniye Mosque revealed its real splendor. It was lighter in feel than the Blue Mosque, with large areas of white between the artwork. There was no tilework here, unlike the Blue Mosque; instead, the lower walls were finished in a fine pinkish marble. The artwork above, I thought, was more impressive than that of the Blue Mosque. Applied more sparingly but with bolder and crisper colors, and with (in my opinion) an extreme amount of perfect symmetrical detail in the patterns and calligraphy. Very beautiful and impressive.
Forecourt, Süleymaniye Mosque
Interior, Süleymaniye Mosque
Interior Ceiling, Süleymaniye Mosque
Detail, Süleymaniye Mosque
Interior Detail, Süleymaniye Mosque
After spending a few minutes in silent reverie, taking in the artistic wonder of the interior of the domes, we returned to the forecourt - itself a masterpiece of architecture. There I decided to take a closer look at the central ablution fountain that seems to be at the center of all large forecourted mosques. Interestingly, when I got up to the cube-like structure, I could see through the grated windows that the interior was a bit like a big foamy shower: jets of water sprayed down from nozzles in the ceiling, and the floor contained several inches of foamy, soapy-looking water. I was quite curious as to what was going on here - was this some sort of cleaning cycle, or was the fountain always like this?
Graveyard, Süleymaniye Mosque
We then again wandered about the mosque's pretty grounds. On the northern side, we stood on a low wall and got a nice view over domed roofs towards the Golden Horn, New Istanbul, and the Bosphorus.
After that, we began heading back to our rendez-vous point with the others back in the Grand Bazaar, meeting up with them at gate #2 at around noon.