Selimiye Mosque

Edirne, which was the capital city of the Ottoman Empire at some point, needed to have a mosque that will separate it from the other cities. So that, Mimar Sinan (Mimar means architect in Turkish), one of the most successful architects of that time, was assigned for the construction of the Selimiye Mosque. Mimar Sinan refers to Selimiye Mosque as “my masterpiece”, and he is not exaggerating while saying this.

Besides being one of the most important buildings of Ottoman history, Selimiye Mosque is known worldwide as well. It is, indeed, a piece of mastery, and the possibilities for someone to see a structure similar to Selimiye Mosque are quite low. In addition to its architectural properties, Selimiye Mosque is significant in terms of the decorations made from different materials. Today, Selimiye Mosque is on UNESCO’s world heritage list, since 2011.

Visiting Selimiye Mosque

Even though mosques are sacred places for Muslims, there is nothing that blocks you to visit this masterpiece if you are not a Muslim. Such that, Selimiye Mosque is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Edirne. And the visitors are not limited to tourists, Selimiye Mosque gets local visitors every day as well as tourists. If you are planning a visit to Edirne, and if you are going somewhere close to Edirne, visiting Selimiye Mosque must be on your to-do list.

Where is Selimiye Mosque located on the map of Turkey?

Edirne, the city where Selimiye mosque is, in the Marmara region of Turkey. To be more specific, Edirne is in the Thrace part of the Marmara Region. In comparison to most of the cities in Turkey, Edirne is located in Europe. While looking at the map of Turkey, you can see Edirne located in between Greece on the left side, Kırklareli and Tekirdağ on the right side of it.

How do you get to Selimiye Mosque?

Selimiye Mosque is in the center of Edirne, this means that once you get to the center of Edirne, you can easily find the Selimiye Mosque. It is only 3 minutes of walking from the center.

Getting to Edirne from İstanbul

You can get to the center of Edirne from İstanbul with just 3 hours of driving. The distance between Istanbul and Edirne is 239 kilometers. You may prefer to get to Edirne by car, or you can use the buses that take you to Edirne from Istanbul.

Getting to Edirne from Çanakkale

You can get to the center of Edirne with approximately 3 hours and 20 minutes of driving. You may prefer to get to Edirne by car or by bus.

Getting to Edirne from Greece and Bulgaria

In addition, if you are in Greece or Bulgaria, it will be very easy to get to Edirne since Edirne is located on the national border, especially if you are using the highway to get to Turkey. In other words, if you are coming to Turkey from Greece or Bulgaria by using the highway, you have the chance of visiting Edirne and Selimiye Mosque, because they will be on your way.

Visiting hours of the Selimiye Mosque

Selimiye Mosque is open to visitors every day for 24 hours. You can visit the Selimiye Mosque anytime you would like.

Dress code

Since all mosques are sacred in Islam, even though you are just visiting the Selimiye Mosque solely for touristic purposes, you should follow the dress code as a sign of respect. Additionally, you will be able to experience Islam culture firsthand.

In Islam, women need to cover their bodies starting from ankles and wrists, and should not wear clothes that define their bodily curves. But you do not have to strictly follow those rules while visiting Selimiye Mosque, just wear something modest and cover your hair with a headcover. If you do not have a headcover, you can borrow one from the entrance of the mosque. Keep in mind that you need to take off your shoes before entering the mosque.

Entrance fee

The entrance of the Selimiye Mosque is free as any other mosque.

How long to spend in the Selimiye Mosque?

Just to see all of the structures in the Selimiye Mosque will take approximately 20 minutes, but if you want to take pictures or pray for a while, this duration may extend.

History of the Selimiye Mosque

Selimiye Mosque was built by the order of Selim II. The construction of the Selimiye Mosque was started in the year 1568 with groundbreaking, according to the inscriptions written on its door. Unfortunately, Selim II. deceased before the Selimiye Mosque’s construction was fully ended in 1575.

At the time when the Selimiye Mosque decided to be built, İstanbul was the capital city of the Ottoman Empire. Indeed, there are various debates about why Edirne was chosen for the construction of this mosque when Istanbul was the capital. Still, Selim II. wanted to build this mosque to the highest point of the Edirne, and it happened as he wanted.

The construction of the Selimiye Mosque was made with the trophies from the conquest of Cyprus. Selimiye Mosque was built in the area where the former Sultan of the empire, Bayezid I. ‘s constructions’ remained. 

Selimiye Mosque has the feature of being one of the biggest and the most magnificent structures built in the Ottoman Empire.

The architecture of the Selimiye Mosque

Selimiye Mosque is located in the center of a big complex. The very flat ground on which it was built, made it possible to be noticed from a distance. Besides being the masterpiece of Mimar Sinan, Selimiye Mosque is acknowledged as the masterpiece of the whole Ottoman architecture.

Numeric values

By having a floor space of 1620 square meters, Selimiye Mosque is one of the biggest and most important mosques in Turkey. The whole complex that the mosque is built in has a floor space of 2475 square meters.

Perhaps, the most interesting part of the Selimiye Mosque is its dome. It has been said that Mimar Sinan built the dome of the Selimiye Mosque by solving an equation with 13 unknowns and in order to solve this equation, he needed another operation rather than the four operations of math. Additionally, the feature of the Selimiye Mosque having only one dome represents the oneness of God in Islam.

The Dome

The dome of the Selimiye Mosque has a diameter of 31,30 meters and is 43,20 meters long. The dome is held by 8 columns in the mosque. The columns are in a way that the inside of the Selimiye Mosque is looking as spacious as possible, and they are tied to each other with pointed arches. In between those arches are filled with stalactite, which is a form of decoration in Islamic architecture.

Dome of Selimiye Mosque
Dome of Selimiye Mosque

Columns

Two columns that are next to the altar table are hidden so professionally that one would think it is not for support, instead, they were meant to be there. In the connections of the arches and the feet in the building, Mimar Sinan did not repeat himself and instead, he created a beautiful variety of decorations while connecting those two structures. These tiny details of the architecture make Selimiye Mosque unique, and not just a building that you can see everywhere.

The pulpit(minber)

The pulpit of the Selimiye Mosque is made from marble, and the decorations on it are incredibly well designed. It contains openwork with geometrical shapes. In the pulpit pavilion, there is a tiled panel with flowers such as roses, tulips, carnations, and sunbuls, which are made with the underglaze technique.

Mahfils

The meeting spot of the sultans (hünkar mahfil) is made by expanding the other mahfils there by using the arches resting on pillars. To expand this area, arches resting on pillars were expanded as well. In the ceiling, which is under the mahfil, the Rumi engraving decorations could be observed. Those decorations are located in cartridges on the ceiling. Between those arches that are resting on pillars and the walls of the mahfil, tile art can be observed that are made with underglaze technique and has traces of naturalism.

Mihrab and Iʿtikāf

Mihrab part, which is the area that includes a cavity especially for imam that is in the qibla direction, is made from a border and a thick rope. On the left-hand side of the mihrab, there is a door that opens to the Iʿtikāf, which is the place for seclusion to pray in the mosque for a certain period. The Iʿtikāf part is located inside of the thick walls in the mihrab area. Iʿtikāf part is a relatively simple design, and the only light reaching this part is from the small window in the mihrab area.

Harim and muezzin loge

The harim part of the mosque, which is a sacred and special area that is forbidden for strangers, includes an area for the muezzin. This special area is referred to as “muezzin loge”. Muezzin loge is built above a polygon shape, and the stairs are used to get there. The wooden carved patterns on the muezzin loge are quite striking. The most striking of these ornaments are in the shape of an inverted tulip, and it seems to have been mentioned in literature. In the muezzin loge, which is in the middle part of the harim, muezzin recites the call to prayer. In the lower part of this area, there is a fountain pool.

Minarets

There are 4 minarets in the Selimiye Mosque, and they are located on the 4 corners of the mosque. The minarets sit above polygon bases, and they have cavities left in them, by using this technique, Mimar Sinan both aimed an aesthetic look and a functional element in the minarets. The minarets are 70,89 meters long. Selimiye Mosque is a first in architecture history in terms of how the minarets are located in the mosque. For the first time, the minarets are located in the corners of the outdoor dome. This feature of the Selimiye Mosque makes it extra special because it creates a strong sense of verticality in those terms.

View of Selimiye Mosque from inner Courtyard, Edirne
View of Selimiye Mosque from inner Courtyard

Şerefe parts

The “şerefe” part of the mosque, which refers to the parts in the outer side minarets that are wide enough to walk, is another uniqueness of the Selimiye Mosque. This part is mainly used by the muezzin to call prayer, and Selimiye Mosque has 3 şerefe parts in each of the minarets. This means that, in every minaret, 3 separate stairs take you to the minaret part. The stairs start from the place where the courtyard and main body intersects. Besides the feature of climbing to the şerefe part, those stairs serve to make the minarets sturdier.

Windows

The windows of the Selimiye Mosque are another point about Selimiye Mosque that is just beyond wonderful. The handwork in the windows of the Selimiye Mosque is incredible, and with multicolored glasses used in the windows, it almost feels like you are in another dimension.

Interior of the Selimiye Mosque
Interior of the Selimiye Mosque

Other architectural properties of the Selimiye Mosque

Another important architectural property of the Selimiye Mosque is its sturdiness. Instead of building the mosque to a solid base, Mimar Sinan used a kind of rail system in which the mosque would move even in the smallest action. Today, Japanese architecture that is known for being very sturdy in the presence of earthquakes, is known to be inspired by Mimar Sinan’s Selimiye Mosque masterpiece.

Besides those architectural features of the Selimiye Mosque, it contains lots of more decorations, tile art, stone ornaments, inscriptions, medallions that have the names of the divine personalities in Islam, stalactite fillings, and colored stone inlays. It can be said that there is no way for the words to describe this masterpiece.

Caligraphy at the Dome of the Selimiye Mosque
Caligraphy at the Dome of the Selimiye Mosque

Who is Selim II?

Selim II. was the 11th Ottoman Sultan and the 90th haliph of Islam. His father was Suleiman the Magnificent, and his mother was Hurrem Sultan. Selim II. was also as known as Selim the blonde or as Selim the drunk.

Selim II. took the throne when he was 42, right after his father Suleiman the Magnificent’s death. The process of taking the throne for Selim II. was quite easy since his brothers were eliminated from this statue earlier. His father Suleiman the Magnificent and his grandfather Selim I. accomplished great things, and Selim II.’s period was relatively uninspiring in comparison to what happened before him.

A portrait of Selim II

The history books today write that everything Selim II. accomplished is due to the helps he got from the statesmen at that period. Still, some events were in favor of the Ottoman Empire that cannot be overlooked in the Selim II. period. The following are some of the examples that happened in Selim II.’s period:

  • The island of Chios was conquered.
  • Expeditions were organized to Indonesia and Yemen.
  • Tunisia was conquered.
  • Cyprus was conquered.
  • Some canal projects were designed.

Selim II. was the first sultan in the Ottoman Empire that died before participating in any expeditions. Additionally, Selim II. was the first sultan in the Ottoman Empire that has died in Istanbul.

How did Selim II. take the throne?

Some events change the flow of history, and we will never know what would happen if Hurrem Sultan, Selim II.’s mother did not interfere with the processes in the Ottoman Empire. Since the sultan’s son Mustafa was older than Selim II., originally, he needed to take the throne once their father was deceased. Yet Hurrem Sultan was dedicated to making one of her sons take the throne once Suleiman the Magnificent died, she convinced Suleiman the Magnificant to execute his own son, Mustafa.

After the death of Mustafa, the only 2 options for taking the throne in the Ottoman Empire were Hurrem Sultan’s two sons, Selim II. and Bayezid. A real and great war broke out between the two brothers, who could not agree on who would take the throne. The winner of this war was Selim II. because Suleiman the Magnificent helped him through this war.

Subsequently, Bayezid has forcefully taken to Hınıs by Selim II., and after Selim II. saw that he was the one who won this war, he went back to Konya.

After this war, Suleiman the Magnificent decided to execute Bayezid just like he did to Mustafa. But Bayezid learned about this and escaped from the city to Iran Safavid State. Later, Suleiman the Magnificent demanded from the Iran administration to give him Bayezid but instead, I. Tahmasb murdered Bayezid with his bare hands and sent the dead body to Suleiman the Magnificent.

After all these events, there was no other choice but Selim II. taking the throne after Suleiman the Magnificent dies, and it was so. 

Who is Mimar Sinan?

Süleymaniye Mosque probably would not be this glorious and popular if it was not a work of Mimar Sinan. Mimar Sinan, known as “Great Sinan”, was one of the brightest architects in the world who witnessed 3 big emperor’s period of the Ottoman Empire.

Mimar Sinan was born in 1496, in Kayseri province. By the time he was 22, he went to Istanbul and learned carpentry. While he was learning carpentry in İstanbul, he also worked as an apprentice for professional civil engineers and architects. In his Baghdad expedition, he successfully designed and built 3 ships that passed the Van Lake, and after this accomplishment, he was referred to as “Haseki”. Haseki is a noble title which refers to the person who is the favorite of the sultan.

Selimiye Mosque and Mimar Sinan
Selimiye Mosque and Mimar Sinan

In the year 1538, Mimar Sinan was the head of high dervish architects, and in the year 1539 when the chief architect of that time passed away, Mimar Sinan was assigned as the chief architect of the Ottoman Empire. He remained as the chief architect of the Ottoman Empire until he died, and he witnessed the 3 most powerful periods of the Ottoman Empire, which are Suleiman the Magnificent period, Selim II.’s period, and Murat III.’s period, respectively.

Mimar Sinan, who is very good at his job, has trained himself over time by observing the architectural structures he saw during the expeditions he attended. Mimar Sinan brought significance to the architecture of the Ottoman Empire, by converging the Turkish and Ottoman Empire in one unique unit. Later, He worked as a military officer, ammunition manager, and participated in some expeditions.

Before Mimar Sinan, Ottoman architecture was always somewhere in between and could not be defined someway concrete, but after him, the architecture of the Ottoman Empire has become as a being built on solid foundations. His architectural style led the Ottoman Empire to have a style in which both western and eastern architectural features converged uniquely and passed up to the classical period in terms of architecture. The following are the numbers of structures that Mimar Sinan designed and built:

  • 84 mosques
  • 52 masjids
  • 57 madrassas
  • 7 schools 
  • 22 tombs
  • 17 public kitchens
  • 3 hospitals
  • 7 aqueducts
  • 8 bridges
  • 20 caravanserais
  • 35 palaces and mansions
  • 6 warehouses and cellars
  • 48 hammams

These structures are only registered structures. It is known that it exceeds 350 with those who are not registered.

Besides the architectural innovations he made in the Ottoman Empire, Mimar Sinan was assigned to solve the water problem of Istanbul at that point. He built waterways and tunnels by using his engineering knowledge. In terms of engineering, Mimar Sinan is known for using engineering techniques that were never heard before at that time.

Completing such an incredible work like the Süleymaniye Mosque in 7 years, could not be achieved by anyone except Mimar Sinan. Even though he made hundreds of splendiferous and charming buildings, his grave is quite simple. Mimar Sinan’s tomb is today located in the Selimiye Mosque complex, right in front of the Haliç wall. In 1982, a university was opened with his name, called “Mimar Sinan Fine Art University”.

Legends about the Selimiye Mosque

There are some legends about Selimiye Mosque, which could be also referred to as theories but since there is no evidence to prove those theories, they could not go beyond being a legend.

One of the legends is about the reverse tulip figure in the Selimiye Mosque. It has been said that the reverse tulip figure in the Selimiye Mosque is because of a man who owned a tulip garden near to the Selimiye Mosque at that time. According to this legend, the owner of the tulip garden did not want to give his land to be used in the Selimiye Mosque. After a while, he accepted to give his land with one condition: if they give a place to a tulip figure in the mosque, he will agree to give his land to them. Subsequently, Mimar Sinan granted the old man’s wish and put a tulip figure inside of the mosque, but as a symbol of the old man’s rudeness, he put the tulip reverse.

Another legend is about how Selim II. decided to build the Selimiye Mosque. Some say that Selim II. saw Prophet Mohammad in his dream, and Prophet Mohammad told Selim II. to built a mosque in the exact area that today has the Selimiye Mosque. And after this dream, Selim II. decides to build a mosque there. One more legend about the decision-making process of Selim II in terms of building the Selimiye Mosque is that Selimiye Mosque was built as an act of power demonstration right after the construction of the Church of Saint Peter.

View of Interior of the Selimiye Mosque, Edirne
View of the interior of the Selimiye Mosque

It has been said that Mimar Sinan compressed the land that he was going to use before starting the construction of the Selimiye Mosque to make it sturdier, and this is why Selimiye Mosque had no cracks and distortions over the years. Some say that Mimar Sinan put all of the materials he will use in the construction of the Selimiye Mosque to the empty base of it and waited for a certain period before starting the construction.

Facts about the Selimiye Mosque

Selimiye Mosque is a wonderful and mysterious place that remained indulgent over the years. The following are some of the facts about Selimiye Mosque that may impress you:

  • While using the stairs to climb the şerefe part of the minaret, you cannot see the other person who is climbing to the other şerefe part. In other words, the stairs in minarets were designed in a way that cannot be seen from other minarets’ stairs.
  • Scientists who found out that Selimiye Mosque was built in loose soil, wanted to use metal clamps to immobilize the minarets. Once they started the processes to make this, they saw that Mimar Sinan thought about this many years ago, and the minarets were already immobilized with metal clamps.
  • Iznik tiles that were used in the inside of the Selimiye Mosque were raveled out and taken to Russia by Russian general Mihail Skobelev, during the Ottoman-Russia war in 1877.

Further information and travel tips

If you are coming to Edirne from Istanbul, Canakkale, or Tekirdag, using the airway is not recommended, since they are close to Edirne. You can rent a car to get to Edirne, or you can use the intercity buses which will not cost you much.

Try not to make noise while you are in the mosque. Keep in mind that it is a sacred place for some people, and there might be individuals who came to the mosque to pray while you are visiting. Additionally, while taking pictures, try not to use the flashlight. Putting your phone to silent mode would be better for you.

Frequently asked questions about the Selimiye Mosque

Selimiye Mosque is a place that is worth your time and effort to visit. The following are some of the frequently asked questions about the Selimiye Mosque.

Why was the Selimiye Mosque built in Edirne?

It was an attempt by Selim II. to make Edirne more central.

Do I need to wear a hijab before entering the Selimiye Mosque?

You do not need to wear a full hijab, but you must follow the dress code.

How old is Selimiye Mosque?

Selimiye Mosque is approximately 445 years old.

What are the other attractions in Edirne?

Beyazid II.’s complex, health museum, Sükrü Pasha monument, and Balkan War Museum are some of the most popular attractions in Edirne.

Can children enter the Selimiye Mosque?

Yes, they can but you should warn them before entering to behave properly in the mosque.

İsmail Çamönü

Hi! I am Ismail. I am a digital nomad from Turkey. I lived in many cities around Turkey during my life and I am passionate about traveling. At Nomad's Guide to Turkey, I share travel tips for nomads, expats, and tourists who would like to visit Turkey.

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