The UNESCO Sites of Türkiye: Selimiye Mosque and its Social Complex


8 Minute

Türkiye's UNESCO Sites: Selimiye Mosque and its Social Complex


Selimiye Mosque, constructed in the 16th century, stands as a magnificent work of art enhancing the skyline of Edirne, the former capital of the Ottoman Empire before ─░stanbul, with the touch of a masterful architect. It is also a prime example of a “külliye”, a complex surrounding large mosques that played a significant role in Ottoman urban planning, serving various social functions. Selimiye Mosque and Complex is the "masterpiece" of Mimar Sinan, who is considered one of the greatest geniuses in the history of mankind. One of the most important cultural assets of the world, this monumental complex was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage List in 2011. Let's explore this majestic structure that has etched its elegance on the skies of Edirne.

Mimar Sinan's "Masterpiece"


The construction of Selimiye Mosque commenced in 1568 by the decree of Ottoman Emperor Selim II. Acknowledged by experts as the paramount work of Ottoman architecture, its swift completion in 1575, merely seven years after breaking ground, is astonishing considering the technological limitations of the time. Imagining the local enthusiasm at the time, witnessing the rise of the 85-meter majestic minarets designed by Mimar Sinan in their finest form, is not challenging. The two minarets with three balconies near the front door showcase Mimar Sinan's engineering prowess. Three individuals ascending these simultaneously can reach the third minaret without visual contact. Another feature of the minarets located at the four corners of the mosque is their contribution to the structural stability of the building.


Selimiye Mosque, among the world’s largest structures, encompasses an interior space of 1,620 square meters. The dome, exceeding 43 meters in height and with a diameter of over 31 meters, rests on eight colossal columns, evoking sublime admiration. Mimar Sinan's innovative design incorporated fewer half domes (only 5 of them) compared to his previous works, demonstrating extraordinary calculations in managing the architectural possibilities of the period. Mimar Sinan also meticulously calculated when designing the windows, considering that they were potential weak points in terms of load-bearing strength due to the architectural limitations of the period. Despite the necessity to keep their numbers limited, he successfully achieved an exceptionally luminous interior space in the Selimiye Mosque by incorporating numerous windows.


The mosque's interior features exquisite details in ornaments and decorative elements, with impressive marble craftsmanship showcased in the minbar, mihrab, and pencil works under the muezzin's mahfil, considered the most impressive decorations of the period. The ─░znik tiles adorned with 101 different tulip patterns contribute to the brilliance of the interior as masterpieces of their kind.

A Public Building Unique to the Ottoman Empire: “Külliye”


Selimiye Mosque, along with its surrounding buildings, forms a public complex known as "külliye. The outer courtyard, encompassing the building on three sides, hosts educational institutions of the period, including Dar al-Sibyan, Dar al-Qurra, and Dar al-Hadith madrasas, as well as Dar al-Muwaqqit and a library. The westward arasta, extending along the retaining wall, operates as a bazaar economically supporting the complex. 

Selimiye Mosque and its Social Complex, a subject challenging to encapsulate in a single article, must be experienced on-site. is one of the most important works of the Ottoman Empire and Islamic civilization. It stands as one of the Ottoman Empire's and Islamic civilization's most significant achievements, capturing the interest of experts in art, architecture, and engineering history. This magnificent structure invites visitors to witness the splendor created centuries ago, fueled by faith and genius.