The complex is located in Süleymaniye, the neighbourhood of Eminönü named after it. It was built by Sultan Süleyman, the Magnificent in 1557 and designed by Architect Sinan. The Süleymaniye Complex represented the second and most important stage in an architectural tradition which began with the Fatih Complex, namely a symmetrical grouping and use of geometric shaping among the layout of the complex buildings. Of unprecedented size and architectural design, the Süleymaniye Complex includes a mosque, medresse, hospital, lunatic asylum, infirmary tombs, a hamam, a market and a primary school.
The Süleymaniye Mosque is an awesome work of art, dating from a time when the Ottoman state was at its most splendid. Grandeur symbolised the period. The mosques, which were the most important feature of the silhouette of Ýstanbul, were not just places of worship. The complexes and neighbourhoods which surrounded them made them into focus of social and cultural life, an institution which characterised city life.
The Süleymaniye Mosque and Complex incorporate the art and genius of Architect Sinan, the greatness and strenght of the Ottomans and the beauty and elegance of Ýstanbul.
During the construction of the nosque, one of the largest building supply sheds in the history of architecture was realised. The supplies were brought from all corners of the Empire. The columns found in some ancient ruins were detached, brought to Ýstanbul and used in the interior of the mosque.
The mosque is surrounded by an outer courtyard with the kiblah, or direction to Mecca, being on one side along with an enclosed cemetery containing graves and a mausoleum; the opposite side of the kiblah contains an inner courtyard.
The marble-covered inner courtyard is entered through a magnificent three-storey door the likes of which are seen in no other mosque in Ýstanbul. The courtyard contains a pool and water-jet fountain. Again unlike other mosques, the four minarets stand in the four corners of the courtyard. The proportion exhibited by the minarets and the domes is a product of genius.
The domes rise from the ground to a height of 50 meters, and the minarets located where the courtyard meets the walls of the mosque have three galleries and are 76 meters high. The minarets located at the side of the courtyard with the entrance have two galleries and are 56 meters high. This proportion is the key to the perfection of the mosque's silhouette.
The mosque has a main dome supported by two half-domes. Due to the design of the domes, the acoustics within the mosque are exceptionally clear. The air circulation within the mosque is also exceptional and the space above the entrance is illuminated by 4000 candles. Soot obtained from the candles is one of the raw materials in the making of ink used for callgraphy.
The marble pulpit and mosque niche are works of art in the field of engraving and carving. The carved lectern of the preacher, window and doors of wood inlaid with mother-of-pearl, stained glass windows and other decorative features of mosques have a low profile; the emphasis in the interior of the mosque is on decorative through calligraphy.
The medresse of complex is found to the east and west of the mosque along the walls of the inner courtyard. To the west is the Evvel Medresse, Sani Medresse, Primary School, Medical West; the Rabi Medresse and Salis Medresse are located to the east. The Darülhadis Medresse intersect. It is a single hamam for men only and was restored in 1980 after being used as a store room for a period.
The clinic, hospital, mental asylum and infirmary are located in the northwest of the complex parallel to the kiblah. The soup kitchen of the complex the Darüzziyafe, functions today as a restaurant serving classical Turkish cuisine.
The kiblah side of the mosque has a covered cemetery with a great number of graves, the tombs of Süleyman, the Magnificent and his wife Hürrem Sultan and a room for the keeper of the tombs.
In the tomb belonging to Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent are the remains of Sultan Ahmed II, his wife Rabia Sultan, daughters Mihrimah Sultan and Asiye Sultan, and Sultan Süleyman II and his mother Saliha Dilaþub Sultan.