The Selimiye Mosque (Turkish: Selimiye Camii) is an Ottoman mosque in the city of Edirne, Turkey. The mosque was commissioned by Sultan Selim II and was built by architect Mimar Sinan between 1569 and 1575. It was considered by Sinan to be his masterpiece and is one of the highest achievements of Islamic architecture.
This grand mosque stands at the center of a külliye (complex of a hospital, school, library and/or baths around a mosque) which comprises a medrese (Islamic academy teaches both Islamic and scientific lessons), a dar-ül hadis (Al-Hadith school), a timekeeper's room and an arasta (row of shops). In this mosque Sinan employed an octagonal supporting system that is created through eight pillars incised in a square shell of walls.
The four semi domes at the corners of the square behind the arches that spring from the pillars, are intermediary sections between the huge encompassing dome (31.25m diameter with spherical profile) and the walls. At the Bulgarian siege of Edirne in 1913, the dome of the mosque was hit by Bulgarian artillery. Owing to the dome's extremely sturdy construction, the mosque survived the assault with only minor damage. On Atatürk's order, it has not been restored since then, to serve as a warning for future generations.
Some damage can be seen on the image of the dome above, at and near the dark red calligraph to the immediate left of the central blue area. The mosque was depicted on the reverse of the Turkish 10,000 lira banknotes of 1982-1995. The mosque, together with its külliye, was included on UNESCO's World Heritage List in 2011.
Selimiye Mosque was built at the peak of Ottoman military and cultural power. As the empire started to grow, the emperor had found an immediate urge to centralize the city. Sinan was asked to help to construct the Selimiye Mosque, making the mosque distinctive and served the purpose of centralizing the city.
Like all other Ottoman mosques in the earlier periods, the Selimiye Mosque had a multitude of little domes and half domes. However, the limit in building Selimiye was to viewing the mosque as a single unit from inside or outside rather than separate masses. Sinan believed that building a single dome would be the only resolution to achieve this.
Hence, he ambitiously decided to replace the busy confused domes in the center with an enormous one. The author of Other Colors, Orhan Pamuk mentioned that he saw a connection between the wish of the central dome and the centralizing political and economic changes made by the empire, but the idea was later objected by another book written by Sinan’s friend, Sai, claiming that Sinan had taken his inspiration from Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia.
The interior of the mosque received great recognitions from its clean, spare lines in the structure itself. With the monumental exteriors proclaiming the wealth and power of the Ottoman Empire, the plain symmetrical interiors reminded the sultans should always provide a humble and faithful heart in order to connect and communicate with God. To enter, it was to forget the power, determination, wealth and technical mastery of the Ottoman Empire.
Lights were seeped through multitude of tiny windows, and the interchanging of the weak light and dark was interpreted as the insignificance of human. The Selimiye did not only amazed the public with the extravagant symmetrical exterior, it had also astonished the people with the plain symmetrical interior for it had summarized all Ottoman architectural thinking in one simple pure form.