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Current time:0:00Total duration:6:37

Video transcript

we're in Istanbul at the enormous complex Suleymaniye in the mosque this was the mosque in the complex of Suleiman the Magnificent Suleiman the lawgiver as he is known he ruled for most of the first part of the sixteenth century so this is in terms of European history the time when the Francois premia was ruling this is the time of Charles the fifth the time of enormous leap powerful rulers and Suleiman certainly was in that vein in this building which was built 36 years into his reign is a testament to that greatness and the greatness of the Ottoman Empire so this is interesting because so many souls built their major mosques early in their careers and he was well into his reign really knew what he was doing and had had tremendous military success so this was a time to build something that would be his legacy there is a grandeur here and there's a sense of sureness in really some ways we shouldn't find that surprising because it was designed and built by sinon Solomon's Great Architect this is viewed as his crowning achievement where Ottoman architecture reaches its peak and of course the Ottoman Empire was of enormous scale it was an empire that ruled far to the east south to Egypt across North Africa and into the Balkans well into Europe all of modern-day Iraq Syria basically the pilgrimage routes to Mecca all of that was under control of the Ottomans it's a huge Empire seen on Specht materials from all over the Empire and so this building functions as a kind of trophy of Imperial grandeur you have granite columns granite comes from Egypt you have well hold on those granite columns are enormous and look there isn't a single cot these are monoliths they're a single piece of stone can you imagine what it would have taken to just transport those to get them upright and of course one of the other things that's so amazing about many of the stone columns they're taken from across the empire whether it's a [ __ ] tour some are taken from Baalbek that's exactly what Justinian had done in building Hagia Sophia there's no question that this building is attempt to take that ancient building and to remake it to a turret to show that Suleiman was superior even to Justinian his plan goes back to the plan of Hagia Sophia with a big centralized dome on pendentives and to semi-domes which is not what was being used in a lot of mosques built between 1520 and 1530 and so that changes a very specific decision when I enter the building my eyes immediately go upward there's something that feels as if the heavens are contained within this space well and that's interesting because a lot of 16th century sources contemporary sources made that comment they felt like they were in a cosmological space that was partially helped by the hanging mosque lamps that create a sense of the heavens but also reflective metal balls were hung so things like that which would reflect light and create a shimmering effect so that ethereal space is not only happening just because you have light coming in from the outside but also the way the space is lit and like Ayasofya the walls and the dome were pierced with an enormous number of windows so light enters in and illuminates the space in so many different complex ways if you think about the pillars and columns in Hagia Sophia they're much more solid they're more columns the light has to fight more to get through we're here xenon allows even more light in so in the sense that's an improvement on the interior well hi Sofia was in every way an experiment and here sinon knew exactly what he was doing you can see all of these years of experience where he's been chief architect for 12 years before he starts on this now we have to be careful because much of what we see is not original a lot of the painting especially the red and white is just paint and likely was not there in the original building there was a big fire in 1660 and then a massive earthquake in 1766 both of which damaged the interior and then it was heavily restored in the 19th century but there were renovations and restorations done in the middle of the 20th century which attempted to take this back what is original is the building itself and then a few other elements for instance the stained glass windows that are just either side of the moon rock they were created by a glazier whose name was Abraham the drunkard clearly he must have been good at what he was doing despite his drinking issues and what they do is they quote the light first from karate God is the light of the heavens and earth and that also gives this feeling of the mosque being illuminated by divine light light is almost an architectural element in this building not just something that passes through it it is the substance of this space Istanbul gets cold and dark and gray in the winter to have wonderful light that comes in from many different angles makes the interior far more effective if you think about the Pantheon it has an oculus that lets its light in in the door those are two sources this has light coming from all angles and directions it reflects and refracts it's almost as if we're in a gem of extraordinary size for you to say gem is really appropriate because some of the blue pigments that were used in the original decoration were made of lapis lazuli this extraordinarily expensive material the way ancient forms are reused and rethought can be seen throughout take for example the Capitals at the top of the massive granite columns those are not classical columns those are not Doric or ionic or Corinthian columns and they're not the Byzantine columns that we see in hi Oh Sophia these are harness that is these the lad tight like forms that create a series of convex is these units that get multiplied that are used in so many different ways in Islamic architecture and here are being reinvented in the capital of the column it's interesting how light these feel that column is so dense and so powerful but it's supporting something that feels so light and almost feathery there is this miraculous quality as the weight of this massive building seems to literally dissipate before our eyes you almost feel like you're in the presence of something otherworldly it does make one feel very humble it also is a great reminder of the power of God and the power of the Sultan as is divinely appointed ruler if we can imagine ourselves back into the 16th century the pomp and circumstance that would have gone with the Sultan arriving here on Friday for the prayers he would parade through the city with thousands of Janissaries in front of him and behind him you couldn't help but be awed by the power of the Sultan so not only is the building overwhelming but the ceremony that goes with it is overwhelming you