Sinan (b. 1490–d. 1588) served as the Chief Imperial Architect of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century for fifty years during the reign of three sultans: Süleyman (d. 1566), Selim II (r. d. 1574), and Murat III (d. 1595). The majority of his career coincided with the golden age of the Ottomans under Sultan Süleyman the Lawgiver’s rule. Heading the Corps of the Royal Architects (hassa mimarları) for almost fifty years, he oversaw building and infrastructure activities in major Ottoman cities of Istanbul, Edirne, and Iznik as well as other smaller provinces. Under the patronage of the sultan, his family, and many upper-class Ottoman bureaucrats, Sinan built and renovated mosque complexes, single mosques, schools, bazaars, caravanserais, public baths, public kitchens, palaces, hospitals, fountains, bridges, aqueducts, and tombs. He was celebrated as the “divine maestro” of his time. Attracting visitors, architects, and İresearchers from all around the world, his large-scale mosques such as the Süleymaniye Complex in Istanbul and the Selimiye in Edirne have been iconic landmarks in the city silhouettes for centuries. Sinan himself became a national hero in modern Turkey. Sinan had a lifelong interest in the ancient Byzantine monument, the Hagia Sophia and its all-encompassing yet fragile dome, which he had to renovate at one stage. Despite their completely different ritual programs, he emulated Hagia Sophia with subtle variations in many of his projects, aspiring to build large-scale domes uniting with the spaces underneath them within structures of sound stability. Sinan is also the first Ottoman architect who left memoirs for future generations through which he desired to be remembered with well-wishes. He was buried at the tomb he allocated for himself within the site of the Süleymaniye Complex. Comparable with European Renaissance artists and architects, he is the most famous architect in the history of Islamic art and architecture. Studies and publications on Architect Sinan are too numerous to be all listed here. The selected works are based on their depth of scholarly engagement with architectural historiography and the width of their educational audience.
All overviews of Ottoman architecture engage with the life and work of Architect Sinan in one way or another due to his dominant role in its formation and development. Aslanapa 1988 is representative of several scholarly works written in Turkish during the 20th century. Kuban 2010 illustrates that more and more significant works written in Turkish are being translated into English and reaching a wider audience. Freely 2011 follows the example of Goodwin 1987 by providing a biography of Architect Sinan in addition to a survey of Ottoman architecture. İnalcık and Quataert 1997 provides valuable yet brief information on the context that shaped Sinan’s architecture.
Aslanapa, Oktay. Osmanlı Devri Mimarisi. Istanbul: İnkılap, 1988.
A survey of Ottoman monumental architecture written by the art historian Aslanapa in Turkish. It is structured in chronological order following the reigns of the successive sultans. Chapter titles feature the names of the Ottoman sultans except for the long chapter devoted solely to Architect Sinan and his buildings.
Freely, John. A History of Ottoman Architecture. Southampton, UK: WIT Press, 2011.
A richly illustrated descriptive analysis of Ottoman monuments in three major capitals of the empire: Edirne, Bursa, and Istanbul. A brief historical account of the Ottoman Empire is followed by chronologically ordered illustrations and informative descriptions of the buildings and decorations along with a biography of Architect Sinan.
Goodwin, Godfrey. A History of Ottoman Architecture. London: Thames & Hudson, 1987.
First published in 1971, Goodwin’s monograph is still one of the most comprehensive and influential surveys of Ottoman architecture written in the English language. It includes buildings located in central and peripheral regions of the empire while attempting to feature a diverse range of functions including mosques, palaces, public baths, kitchens, bridges, caravanserais, bazaars, fountains, tombs, and vernacular houses. The book devotes two substantial chapters on Architect Sinan’s architectural intentions and biography.
İnalcık, Halil, and Donald Quataert, eds. An Economic and Social History of the Ottoman Empire. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
A key sourcebook to probe the structure and functioning of the multiethnic and multireligious Ottoman society; briefly puts works of Ottoman architects and Sinan in perspective.
Kostof, Spiro. A History of Architecture: Settings and Rituals. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.
Originally published in 1985, in his influential textbook accessible to architects, architecture students, and a general audience alike, Kostof features Sinan as contemporaneous with Renaissance artists and architects who had a revivalist attitude toward Antiquity in the 16th-century Mediterranean context.
Kuban, Doğan. Ottoman Architecture. Translated by Adair Mill. Woodbridge, UK: ACC Art Books, 2010.
As the most comprehensive survey on Ottoman architecture published in English, the book covers Ottoman building facilities extending from the Balkans, Egypt, Istanbul, and Anatolia to Mecca and Medina. Translation of late architectural historian Doğan Kuban’s informative scholarly analyses is accompanied by a rich number of quality illustrations. Sinan’s buildings occupy a large portion of the book.
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