Sinan the Architect in the Book of the Procession (1582)


The carrying-in of a model of Süleymaniye Mosque

An extraordinarily beautiful model of the Süleymaniye mosque, fashioned from wood and ivory, was carried in and displayed to the spectators. So detailed was this model in its construction that it was virtually identical to the original. A group of men transporting the model recited verses along with one man who rode inside it. The text of the Surname refers to "a wise and talented architect and engineer who surpassed all his peers" and says that it was he who fashioned this model of the Süleymaniye mosque and had it brought to the Hippodrome and displayed to the people there after which he prayed to God and the Prophet. This architect is not mentioned by name but is almost certainly Sinan. In another section we are told that the same architect returned playing the seshane, that he and his colleagues were deft practitioners of their art, and that they won over many hearts with their recitation of verses..

Suleymaniye today

Sinan the Architect

The group of three praying figures beneath the sultan's balcony left of the middle of the scene is particularly intriguing. Two of the figures are beardless youths while the third between them is an old, bearded man who is almost certainly the great architect Sinan. This architectural genius was still alive at this date and indeed had continued be of service during the reign of Murad III. (He was the architect who oversaw the renovation of the Ibrahim Pasha palace for the festival and the addition of a new entrance at the corner.) Who would have been more entitled than he to accompany a huge model of the Süleymaniye mosque in the parade?


The arrival of the "Master of Süleymaniye" with his sheshane.

The şheşane was a six-stringed musical instrument with a long neck that was played with a pick. It was regarded as a very difficult instrument to play but we are told that the player here is a most accomplished performer. The previous scene (190b-191a) showed a "master" accompanying a model of the Süleymaniye mosque onto the field. That could only have been the building's architect, Sinan, who was still alive when the circumcision feast took place. The same logic leads us to conclude that the "master" referred to here must also be Sinan as well. Unfortunately the section of the miniature that would have shown Sinan performing before the sultan has been ripped out but from the text we understand that Sinan (who would have been about 94 years old at the time–he died in 1588 at the age of 100) accompanied himself on this instrument as he sang for the sultan and people assembled.

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