When we looked at the panoramic view of the Old City from our rooftop in Galata, it was the giant form of the Suleymaniye Mosque which dominated the skyscape. And when we visited the Suleymaniye Hamam we caught glimpses of its minarets but did not visit, something I now wanted to remedy.
It was the same renowned sixteenth century architect, Mimar Sinan, who designed not only the mosque but the whole complex of hospitals, schools, tombs and hamam. He designed and supervised the construction of nearly 500 buildings, including almost 100 mosques and his influence on subsequent architects was immense. The Suleymaniye Mosque was his biggest project in Istanbul.
The surrounding buildings, now shops, and the outside view of the mosque were already impressive, but I was particularly captivated by the harmony of the huge internal courtyard. The huge square domed interior was magnificent of course and more restrained than in the Byzantine Hagia Sophia or the later Blue Mosque. But then again I was drawn by the beauty of the more intimate mausoleums containing the tombs of Suleyman I and his favourite wife Hürrem Sultan (a fascinating woman who rose from concubine to first wife and active in state affairs as well as running the sultan’s household and, from the evidence of a poem he wrote to her, clearly much loved by the sultan). It was in her mausoleum I spotted and photographed the kittens.