Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey, was the capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires. The Bosphorus straits divides the city into a part that sits on the European continent, and a larger part on the continent of Asia. The militarily and economically strategic position of the city, on the western portion of the Silk Road, and on the shipping route between the Aegean and Black Seas, has kept it cosmopolitan and prosperous since its foundation 660 BCE, when it was called Byzantium. In 330 it became Constantinople, the capital of the Roman Empire, named for Emperor Constantine the Great. The Ottomans conquered the city in 1453/857 AH and renamed the city Istanbul. It served as their capital until Ankara became the capital of the modern nation of Turkey.
Piyale Pasa Camii, The Piyale Pasa Mosque, was commissioned by the grand admiral of the time, Mehmet Piyale Pasa (1553-1577) in the time of Selim II (1566-1574). It was built as a part of a larger complex with a dervish lodge, a madrasa, a bathhouse, and a tomb. Most of the buildings disappeared over time, but the mosque and the tomb remained intact. The complex was constructed on the site of a former dockyard, the site of a planned canal project supported by Piyale Pasa. Discarded after his death, the canal project was intended to enhance civic life in the area.
Unlike Sinan's other mosques, where the spatial and structural composition develop around a single central dome, the Piyale Pasa Mosque is a six-domed structure in which the identical domes are arranged in two rows of three. The prayer hall measures about thirty and a half meters by twenty meters, with additional bays on both ends of the domed bays. The six domes, each approximately nine meters in diameter, are carried by two tapered granite piers in the center of the prayer hall. They rest on the qibla and along the sides of the entrance walls. Pendentives enable the transition from the round dome to the rectilinear walls. The use of these piers in the central space could have resulted in a loss of spatial integrity, but the slenderness of the piers balances their placement. This same slenderness appears in the slim walls, which are buttressed along the qibla. The tapering buttresses along the qibla wall support the lateral thrust of the domes. However, the wall thickness increases dramatically opposite the mihrab, in the middle of the entrance wall where the minaret stands.
The two entrances of the mosque are placed on either side of the minaret, and both entrances have two windows on their sides. This symmetrical approach works well on both the exterior and the interior, given the three-bay structure of the mosque, which embodies a strong middle axis and two identical wings. The muezzin's platform, located just behind the minaret wall, has a better placement than is usually found in single-domed structures. This platform is supported by pointed arches that rest on six slender columns. The sequential layout of the muezzin's platform and the minaret strengthens the emphasis on the qibla axis. However, the exterior expression is in turn weakened by the unusual location of the minaret and unresolved issues of proportion. The northeastern and northwestern corners of the entrance wall are articulated with rectangular stair shafts which lead to the side platforms as well as the upper porticos. Another exceptional aspect of the Piyale Pasa Mosque is the double-story porticos, which consist of cross vaults carried by rectangular columns at the base with galleries above. Ninety marble columns carried the gallery roof; today, most of these columns, along with the roof, have disappeared.
The mosque's fenestration pattern of four rows of different aperture sizes is also unlike that present in Sinan's other works. The walls of the mosque are made of cut stone and rough stone, while the domes and vaults are brick. The minbar is marble. Remarkable blue Iznik tiles with white inscriptions, crafted by Cerkez Hasan Çelebi, encircle the prayer hall between the second and third rows of windows. The inscription under the copper-covered crown of the minaret dates the restoration of the minaret to the end of the eighteen century.
The unusual design approach found in this mosques prompts two different conclusions: it may one of Sinan's more experimental designs, or it could have been designed by another architect, possibly working under Sinan's supervision. As the mosque is not mentioned in memoir's of Sinan's work, evidence points to the latter.
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