Built near the walls of the old city entrance and standing on one of the highest hills of Istanbul, this mosque in Edirnekapi is the second mosque in Istanbul built for Mihrimah Sultan. Commissioned by her father, Süleyman the Magnificent (1520-1566), it was designed and built by Sinan and completed between 1562-1565.
The Mihrimah Sultan Mosque is part of a complex, situated on a platform above its site, which includes a madrasa, a mausoleum, baths, and stores. The site is accessed via stairs leading to the courtyard through the portico. Its courtyard measures about fifty-seven by twenty-one and a half meters, and is surrounded on three sides by a portico that is one bay deep. Each bay has its own dome, for a total of thirty-six. Eleven student cells are found behind the eastern portico and nine are located behind the western portico; however, because of the site constraints, no student accommodation was built behind the northern portico. In this configuration, the madrasa functions as an enclosure, and classroom activities are shifted to the mosque.
A marble fountain, whose roof is carried over sixteen double columns, is placed in the center of the courtyard; the south end of the courtyard is framed by the portico of the mosque. Surmounted by seven domes, each six meters in diameter, the portico of the mosque contains larger bays than the enclosure portico. These seven domes are carried by eight columns on the north, and rest on octagonal drums.
Just behind the portico, the dominating single dome of the mosque rises thirty-five meters above the ground. Spanning twenty meters, the dome is carried over an almost skeletal system composed of four "elephant feet" (massive piers) and the arches between them. These polygonal piers, mostly projected on the façade for creation of a more spacious interior, rise to the level of the drum and increase the total mass available to support the load of the dome. An innovative design, this addition of these structural piers allows for a shift from purely load-bearing to thinner, heavily fenestrated walls. Thus, all four tympana feature three rows of windows with seven arched windows at the bottom, five arched and two circular windows in the middle, and three arched and two circular windows at the top. The dome itself also features twenty-four windows, greatly increasing the quantity of natural light within the interior; the total number of windows in the prayer hall is close to two hundred.
Along the east-west axis, the mosque has side bays, each of which are topped by three domes. Measuring six meters in diameter, these domes sit on columns with carved stalactite capitals. The height of these side bays is almost half that of the central space, and they include three rows of windows, the same number found in the large tympana of the main dome. The mosque has a slim minaret with a single balcony constructed of stone that corresponds to the western bay of the portico.
The luminous interior of the mosque features a marble mihrab with muqarnas carvings; the minbar, also of marble, stands to the west of the mihrab niche. Chasings, restored in the last renovations, and stained-glass windows add to the interior ornamentation. The mosque was partially damaged in several earthquakes, including in 1648, 1690, 1714 (when its domes were destroyed), and in 1894, after which it was temporarily closed. The Mihrimah Sultan mosque was most recently restored in 1956 and 1957.
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