grand tradition of Ottoman architecture, established in the 16th
century, was derived from two main sources. One was the rather complex
development of new architectural forms that occurred all over Anatolia,
especially at Manisa, Iznik, Bursa, and Selçuk in the 14th and early
15th centuries. In addition to the usual mosques, mausoleums, and
madrasahs, a number of buildings called tekke s were constructed
to house dervishes (members of mystical fraternities) and other
holy men who lived communally. The tekke (or zeviye) was often joined
to a mosque or mausoleum. The entire complex was then called a külliye.
All these buildings continued to develop the domed, central-plan
structure, constructed by the Seljuqs in Anatolia. The other source
of Ottoman architecture is Christian art. The Byzantine tradition,
especially as embodied in Hagia Sophia, became a major source of
inspiration. Byzantine influence appears in such features as stone
and brick used together or in the use of pendentive dome construction.
Also artistically influential were the contacts that the early Ottomans
had with Italy. Thus, in several mosques at Bursa, Tur., there are
stylistic parallels in the designs of the exterior facade and of
windows, gates, and roofs to features found in Italian architecture.
A distinctive feature of Ottoman architecture is that it drew from
both Islamic and European artistic traditions and was, therefore,
a part of both.
The apogee of Ottoman architecture was achieved in the great series
of külliyes and mosques that still dominate the Istanbul skyline:
the Fatih külliye (146370), the Bayezid Mosque (after 1491), the
Selim Mosque (1522), the Sehzade külliye (1548), and the Süleyman
külliye (after 1550). The Sehzade and Süleyman külliyes were built
by Sinan, the greatest Ottoman architect, whose masterpiece is the
Selim Mosque at Edirne, Tur. (156975). All of these buildings exhibit
total clarity and logic in both plan and elevation; every part has
been considered in relation to the whole, and each architectural
element has acquired a hierarchic function in the total composition.
Whatever is unnecessary has been eliminated. This simplicity of
design in the late 15th and 16th centuries has often been attributed
to the fact that Sinan and many Ottoman architects were first trained
as military engineers. Everything in these buildings was subordinated
to an imposing central dome. A sort of cascade of descending half
domes, vaults, and ascending buttresses leads the eye up and down
the building's exterior. Minarets, slender and numerous, frame the
exterior composition, while the open space of the surrounding courts
prevents the building from being swallowed by the surrounding city.
These masterpieces of Ottoman architecture seem to be the final
perfection of two great traditions: a stylistic and aesthetic tradition
that had been indigenous to Istanbul since the construction of the
Byzantine church of Hagia Sophia in the 6th century and the other
Islamic tradition of domical construction dating to the 10th century.
While mosques and külliyes are the most characteristic monuments
of Ottoman architecture, important secular buildings were also built:
baths, caravansaries, and especially the huge palace complex of
Topkapi Saray at Istanbul, in which 300 years of royal architecture
are preserved in its elaborate pavilions, halls, and fountains.