POINTS OF INTEREST
Perched on a hilltop opposite Istanbul University, Süleymaniye Camii is perhaps the most magnificent mosque in Istanbul and is considered one of the architect Sinan's masterpieces. The architectural thrill of the mosque, which was built between 1550 and 1557, is the enormous dome, the highest of any Ottoman mosque. Supported by four square columns and arches, as well as exterior walls with smaller domes on either side, the soaring space gives the impression that it's held up principally by divine cooperation. Sinan was guided by a philosophy of simplicity in designing this mosque and, except for around the mihrab (prayer niche), there is little in the way of tile work—though the extremely intricate stained-glass windows and Baroque decorations painted on the domes (added later) more than make up for that. Thanks to a multimillion-dollar restoration project completed in late 2010, the Süleymaniye can now be seen in its full glory. The tomb of Sinan is just outside the walls, on the northern corner, while those of his patron, Süleyman the Magnificent, and the sultan's wife, Roxelana, are housed in the cemetery adjacent to the mosque. The külliye, or mosque complex, still includes a hospital, library, hammam, several schools, and other charitable institutions that mosques traditionally operate, so take a stroll around the beautiful grounds—and don't miss the wonderful views of the Golden Horn.