Comparing Islamic and Arabic Architecture

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Comparing Islamic and Arabic Architecture

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The Hagia Sophia church and the Suleymaniye mosque are separated by a thousand years but are tied together eternally. One representing the achievement of the Christian-Byzantine empire and the other representing the ability of the Islamic-Ottoman empire and its architect Sinan. Two empires that had very little in common other than their architecture and region. In earlier history the Dome of the Rock represented the Islamic empire's attempt to rival the newly defeated Byzantine empire and its architectural achievements such as the Holy Sepulchre. As history often repeats itself, with similar political motives the Suleymaniye mosque became the Ottoman's answer to the Byzantine's great achievement in their area- the Hagia Sophia. The result is that one finds in the Suleymaniye mosque the inspiration of the Hagia Sophia as well as the distinctive Islamic qualities that Sinan brought to it.

The Hagia Sophia, the Suleymaniye, and Sinan

By most accounts the Hagia Sophia was first built between 532 and 537 by Isodorus of Miletus and Anthemis of Tralles for the Emperor Justinian during the Byzantine Empire's control over the region and its capital Constantinopole.The present Hagia Sophia is the result of six building periods, the first two being the periods in which its basic structure was formed. A thousand years after the Hagia Sophia was first constructed, when Constantinopole became Istanbul and the Ottomans gained control, Sinan designed the Suleymaniye Complex for the Sultan Suleyman the Lawgiver. The socioreligious complex, called a kulliye, was built over seven years between 1550-57 with the mosque being the focus of the complex. Sinan, who created over 400 w...

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...e designers achieved this formally particularly with the use of lighting by having shafts of light placed rhythmically at different heights. This was not Sinan1s intention in designing the Suleymaniye Complex. The description of the entry into the complex found in "Sinan: An Interpretation" by Hans G. Egli reflects clarity rather than mystery: "Twenty steps through the dark passage, the well-lit expanse of the mosque unfolds: the space is felt as unified upon entry and all parts are clearly seen and understood"(p34).

Despite the many similarities between the Hagia Sophia and the Suleymaniye both have their separate places in architectural history. By taking the accomplishments of the church and fusing them with the well established Islamic architectural traditions the Suleymaniye Mosque went beyond being a product of inspiration and became an inspiration itself.
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