Ottoman Architecture’s Classical Period Button for link to Chinese version of this page

The Classic Age of Ottoman Architecture was a time of beautiful mosques, palaces, and fortresses could be said to stretch from the completion of the Üç Şerefeli mosque in Edirne (in 1447) to the completion of the Blue Mosque (the Sultanahmet Camii) in Istanbul in 1616. For for about 170 years the Ottoman Sultans commissioned a variety of structures from several architects, Important architects include Atik Sinan, Mimar Sinan, and Sinan’s student, Mehmet Ağa. The most famous architect was Mimar Sinan (who lived from about 1489-1588).

Three cities contain most of the classical Ottoman markets, mosques, and palaces: Istanbul, Edirne, and Bursa. Others can be found in Iznik, Konya, and scattered around the cities that were under the Ottoman Empire’s dominion in the 16th century. Many of the structures built during this period were damaged or destroyed by fires, wars, and earthquakes, but some have survived, and some were reconstructed or restored with faithfulness to the original designs. Most domestic architecture of this era was constructed of wood, and has since been destroyed by fire, flood, or war.

Üç Şerefeli Camii in Edirne is begun in 1438, completed in 1447. The architect is unknown.
Burmah Minare
Two of the minarets for Üç Şerefeli Mosque in Edirne. The one with the spiral stonework is called the Burmah Minare. Dome in Court of Uc Serefeli
This is a dome ceiling in the court of Üç Şerefeli Mosque in Edirne. The paintings were restored between 1748 and 1754, and as can be seen in the upper right, they have been partially restored much more recently. The designs may resemble the original designs from the 1440s, when the mosque was originally constructed.

The Rumeli Hisar fortress on the Bosphorus is constructed in 1452.

The Palace of Topkapi is built by 1465, but it was a site for constant additions and rebuilding for about three hundred years thereafter.

Fatih Camii in Istanbul is completed in 1470. Atik Sinan is the architect. The current Fatih Camii was rebuilt in 1771 after an earthquake destroyed Atik Sinan’s mosque.

Bayezid II Camii (the Beyazit Complex) in Edirne is completed in 1488. Hayreddin is the architect (or perhaps Yakub Shah bin Sultan Shah was the architect, authoritative sources do not all agree).

Bayezid II Camii

Bayezid II Camii

Bayezid II Camii

Bayezid II Camii

The Beyazid II Camii in Edirne (1488), includes a large surviving complex of buildings, built at the same time as the mosque, that have been used as schools, baths, a medical school, and a hospital for persons with mental illnesses. The image above contained the kitchen and bakery for the complex.

The Beyazit Camii in Amasya is completed in 1486.

Beyazit Camii in Istanbul is constructed between 1501-6. Architect was a nephew of Atik Sinan, but Mimar Sinan made repairs and renovations in 1574.

Fatih Pasha Cami in Diyarbakir is constructed from 1518-20

Hüsrev Pasha Camii is constructed in Aleppo in 1536

Shazadeh Camii in Istanbul completed in 1548. Mimar Sinan is the architect.

Süleymaniye Camii in Istanbul is completed in 1558. Architect is Mimar Sinan.

Suleiman's Mosque seen from Galata Tower
The Süleymaniye Camii in Istanbul (1558), as seen from Galata Tower. The larger image is a large panorama showing several of the Ottoman mosques in old Istanbul. The Mihrimah is constructed in Istanbul between 1562 and 1565. Mimar Sinan is the architect.
Selimiye Camii in Konya is completed in 1567.

Selimiye Camii in Edirne is opened in 1575. Mimar Sinan is the architect.Selimiye Mosque in Edirne
The Selimiye Camii in Edirne, Mimar Sinan’s greatest masterpiece (1575)

Selimiye  Camii

Selimiye Mosque in Edirne
The Selimiye Camii in Edirne, here in this space Baha’u’llah came to pray when he lived in the neighborhood between December of 1863 and July of 1868.

Selimiye Mosque in Edirne
The interior dome in the Selimiye Camii in Edirne.

Sultanahmet Camii (the Blue Mosque) in Istanbul is completed in 1616. Sedefkâr Mehmet Ağa is the architect.
The Blue Mosque in Istanbul

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul

The Mosques (Camii) of this era were built as complexes, with tombs (Türbe), schools (madrassas), hospitals, courtyards with fountains, supported living facilities for persons with disabilities or mental illnesses, public markets, minarets, and libraries sometimes attached or located close to the mosque. The dominant features are domes and arches, with tiles, calligraphy, paintings, stained glass, lamps, and carpets enriching the decorated interiors. There were some exchanges of ideas between the Renaissance architecture taking hold in Europe at this time and the Ottoman aesthetic.
The mosques were actually complexes that included schools, hospitals, markets, and other public places. This page from a book represents the arts (especially calligraphy) and scholarship associated with the mosques. This work was displayed in 2015 at the museum in the old school area of the Selimiye Camii complex in Edirne.

The Sultans who were the patrons of this era include:

Mehmed II (ruled 1444-1446, and 1451-1481)
Bayed II (ruled 1481-1512),
Selim I (ruled 1512-1520),
Suleiman I (ruled 1520-1566),
Selim II (ruled 1566-1574),
Murad III (ruled 1574-1595),

The Ottoman Empire was at its peak of power during the administrations of these six sultans, and this was also a time of flourishing architecture. Two later Sultans, Mehmed III (ruled 1595-1603) and Ahmed I (ruled 1603-1617) saw the beginning of the stagnation and eventual decline of the Ottoman Empire, which finally collapsed in 1922.

Links about Ottoman Architecture:
  1. Gülru Necipoğlu’s Creation of a National Genius essay about Sinan (pdf)
  2. Lecture notes on Classical Ottoman Architecture
  3. Shirine Hamadeh’s article Ottoman Expressions of Early Modernity and the "Inevitable" Question of Westernization (pdf)
  4. The Archnet’s timeline of Ottoman Architecture
  5. Ottoman Palace Architecture in the Topkapi Palace
  6. A pdf report on Muslim Architecture under Ottoman Patronage (1326-1924).
Vasco da Gama, Francisco Pizarro
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