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Architecture - Turkish Saracenic

( Originally Published 1921 )



When the Seljuk Turks captured Constantinople from the Christians in A.D. 1453, they forthwith based their architecture on the local Byzantine churches, with spherical domes on pendentives and apses crowned with semi-domes, such as those in S. Sophia ; while many of the churches them-selves were appropriated to Moslem worship. There is a consequent absence of columned courts with flat ceilings, which was the typical treatment in other countries. S. Sophia, after being converted to Moslem use, became the model for all Turkish mosques, which were thus unlike those of Egypt, Syria, Persia, Spain, or India ; while in Turkey alone is found the curious extinguisher-roofed minaret.

The " Suleimaniyeh," Constantinople (A.D. 1550-56), or Mosque of Suleiman I " The Magnificent," was designed by the architect. Sinan (p. 840 A) . The forecourt, nearly 200 ft. in width, is surrounded on all sides by cloisters roofed with a succession of small domes ; in the centre is the usual fountain, and at the four corners are minarets. The main structure resembles S. Sophia, but is of smaller dimensions, the dome having a diameter of 86 ft. with a height of 156 ft. The gallery over the aisles is reached by two circular stairways. The walls are lined internally with coloured marbles, while the " mihrab " is white, framed in coloured Persian tiles, and the general decoration is carried out with inscriptions from the Koran. In the garden of the mosque are octagonal tombs of the founder and his favourite wife : that of the former is built of many-coloured marbles, faced internally with blue and white tiles, and is surrounded by an arcade and crowned with a dome supported on eight marble columns and deco-rated with arabesques.

The " Ahmediyeh," Constantinople (A.D. 1608-14), or Mosque of Ahmed I, differs in being an exact square on plan, with central dome on massive circular pillars surrounded by semi-domes, while in the four angles, bringing the plan to a square, are smaller domes. The interior, owing to the large windows of white glass and to a liberal use of whitewash, though relieved by blue tiles, lacks that sense of mystery which generally pervades mosque interiors. The exterior groups up in an imposing pile, with its central and smaller domes, guarded by the unusual number of six graceful minarets at the corners of the mosque and forecourt.

Domestic architecture in Turkey is transient rather than enduring in nature ; for it is largely of wood, and is subject to constant outbreaks of fire. Houses are on the plan necessitated by Moslem social customs, and are provided with cool, secluded, and arcaded courts, flat parapeted roofs and overhanging street windows, screened with pierced woodwork, while large doorways are the most important features of the facades on the street level.

Fountains are everywhere in Constantinople and other cities, whether as central features in the courts of the mosques, or set in arcades or street walls (p. 84o B). The great fountains which form cool and pleasant spots in the hot and dusty cities consist of a central block containing the water basin, while water issues from niches on each side. A wide-eaved wooden roof, sometimes upheld by columns and arches, covers the main structure, which is made beautiful by surface decoration of chastely carved marble or gleaming coloured tiles, often with inscriptions in gold on a ground of blue and green.



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