Category: Turkey.

Restored Suleymaniye Mosque to open at Eid el-Adha

Restoration efforts took a full three years, and the historic site is now set to re-open for Eid El-Adha

Saturday, 13 November 2010 12:45

The three-year-long restoration of Istanbul’s historic Suleymaniye Mosque has been completed, and the mosque will open for prayers for Eid El-Adha.

21 million Turkish Liras was spent by the Foundations Directorate on the restoration, and now the mosque is strong enough to withstand an earthquake registering 8 on the Richter scale

The Suleymaniye Mosque was built during the era of Kanuni Sultan Suleyman (Suleiman the Magnificent) in 1551-1558 by the famous architect Mimar Sinan.

Restoration efforts took a full three years, and the historic site is now set to re-open for Eid El-Adha. The General Directorate of Foundations spent TL 21 million on the project, which was overseen by Gur Construction. A 200-member team composed of architects, artists, calligraphers, art historians, restoration experts, conservators and workers have been working day and night to complete the restoration of the Suleymaniye Mosque, which is seen as the epitome of Turkish-Islamic culture.

One positive result of the restoration is that the dome of the mosque has now been strengthened to withstand an earthquake registering 8 on the Richter scale thanks to a special cement cleansing technique used on the mosque.

There were 256 acoustic cubes discovered in the dome of the mosque, and the restoration also uncovered original pen-work in the hanging pendants that decorate the mosque. Some missing letters from a passage from the Quran, which were penned 150 years ago into the main dome, were also replaced by a decision of the restoration board.

Importance placed on science and technique

Speaking about the restoration, İstanbul Foundations Director Ibrahim Ozekinci noted that great care and importance had been placed on science and technique during the renewal process on this structure, which was immediately called “magnificent” when it opened and which is considered by many to have been a gift to world architecture from Suleiman the Magnificent.

Ozekinci noted that the structure continues to maintain its place on the World Heritage List and that as such the Foundations General Directorate had acted with great ambition and determination on this project, with the desire to see the ancient structure protected for future generations to enjoy.

Previous restorations of the Suleymaniye Mosque occurred in 1847-1849 and in the late 1950s/early 1960s. The latest effort began in 2007, and as Ozekinci explains:

”As a part of this restoration, the entire Suleymaniye Mosque was examined from tip to toe. The actual work began on the domes, with complete replacing of the leading; following this, a team from Istanbul Technical University worked using simulation techniques to determine whether or not the dome was earthquake proof. Then we discovered that the mosque could in fact withstand earthquakes of up to 8 on the Richter scale. There were some small cracks in the domes, which were strengthened. The outside of the mosque was cleaned and protectants put on.”

Cement cleansing

Ozekinci explained one of the most important techniques used in the restoration was the cement cleansing part. He said: “We saw with sadness that in the restoration done in the 1960s, there was cement used rather than the mosque’s original mortar made from lime and brick.

Perhaps that was all right for that time, but various analyses, tests and reports indicate that stone structures that have cement placed on top of them do not do well, as moisture and salting problems emerge. So the cement was removed, and finding the correct combination of ‘khorasson’ or lime and brick mortar, we applied this to the structure, and then did our decorative work. The mosque can finally breathe.”

Speaking more about the effort to rid this historic structure of its cement, Ozekinci said: ”We did not renew the Suleymaniye Mosque. Ours was a very serious project including conservators, restoration experts, architects and art historians. What was important here was to be able to restore according to the original structure of the mosque. We did not renew, but instead protected and worked according to historical needs and information. In these types of structures, it is vital that they do not lose their historical characteristics. Future generations must be able to see and read these structures for what they are and understand what their various eras have been. So our restoration was really a protective effort that stayed true to the essence of this mosque.”

256 cubes found in dome

Ozekinci noted that some interesting aspects of the mosque had been re-discovered during restorative efforts. For instance, he said, the mosque’s main dome was found to have 256 symmetrically placed cubes measuring 15 centimeters around the front and 45 centimeters in length.

He explained: ”The acoustics in Suleymaniye Mosque are truly incredible. Mimar Sinan used these symmetrically placed cubes with hollow insides to achieve this superior level of acoustics.” ozekinci also noted the team found much original calligraphic work and that some of the finds were very exciting for both the scientific and art worlds. He also said that the original tiles in the elephant legs had been found after many years.

Noting that the three-year-long restoration was about to come to an end, Ozekinci said the mosque would be opening during the Eid El-Adha next week and that it would be ready for people coming to pray. Ozekinci also said the surrounding grounds would be next on the docket for restorative efforts and that after permission was received, this aspect of the project would begin.

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Category: Turkey
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