Perhaps the most beautiful mosque in any Istanbul images is the Suleymaniye Mosque. It was also built by the greatest of the Ottoman Empire architects, Mimar Sinan. It is the second largest in the city after the Blue Mosque with its striking six minarets, and is one of the most recognizable sights in Istanbul. Suleiman the Magnificent ordered it to be built to rival the nearby Hagia Sophia, and it is set prominently on a hill. Suleiman also fancied himself a rival to King Solomon, and he wanted the mosque to crown the city like Solomon’s Temple on the Mount in Jerusalem. The resulting structure certainly fulfilled this mission, and this is the most magnificent of all the mosques of Turkey. It was built in only seven years beginning in 1550, and is the largest and most complex masterpiece of Ottoman architecture. Sinan was Suleiman’s State Architect, and he built a number of mosques in Turkey as well as others in Istanbul. A beautiful baroque-style mosque (completed in 1855) sits in the grounds of the Dolmabahace Palace overlooking the banks of the Bosphorus.
The most important of the mosques of Turkey is in Konya—the Old Mosque, dating to 1155. The oldest of the Turkish mosques is the Ulu Cami (Great Mosque), which dates back to the seventh century not long after the life of the Prophet Muhammed. It is located in the central Anatolia city of Diyarbakir. As with most cities, there are numerous Turkish mosques here.
The capital city of Ankara boasts a minimum of twentyTurkish mosques that have architectural significance, and that played an important role in the city’s history. Additionally, there are many mescits (smaller mosques) throughout the city. The architect Sinan built the largest Ottoman mosque in Ankara, the Yeni Cenab Ahmet Mosque. It was built in the sixteenth century and boasts a white marble pulpit (mimber) and prayer niche (mihrap), with an exterior or purplish red porphyry stone.
The early mosques of Turkey are of the basilica shape. Later, the Ottomans introduced the dome shape that is most familiar to visitors, and established the tradition that mosques be complexes containing medreses (schools), libraries, and hospitals. These institutions of learning and healing served the dual Islamic beliefs in the value of education as well as charity. When you do your shopping in traditional bazaars, you are apt to discover that they are actually on the grounds of mosques in Turkey and the proceeds help to support the schools, libraries, and hospitals as well as provide funds for upkeep of the mosque itself.
Mosques in Turkey are not the only houses of worship in the country. As the crossroads of culture between Europe and Asia, the Anatolian Peninsula has also been of religious significance to people of the Jewish and Christian faiths, and throughout most of its history the ruling powers have generally been welcoming and tolerant of other faiths. The Apostle Paul was born in Tarsus, and while he was exiled in Patmos, Greece, St. John wrote of the Seven Churches in his book of Revelations. Important synagogues are located in most cities, including Istanbul, Izmir, Adana, Canakkale, and Bursa. The most important and one of the oldest is the Ahrida. Another important synagogue is in Bursa, which has had a vibrant Jewish community for centuries and was a center for the Sephardic Jews of Spain in the fourteenth century.