The Edirne’s Selimiye is Sinan’s most beautiful, most graceful construction. It also sports arguably the finest, best-painted, most beautiful Iznik tiles ever.
The Muradiye complex in Edirne — like the Muradiye complex in Bursa — was built by a pious Sultan (Murad II) for a religious community he always said he intended to join himself (and did — twice, each time abdicating in order to do so).
Both complexes were built well outside city walls – suggesting another calculation behind the foundation: religious communities of single men living together are famously troublesome and the Sultan may have been shipping the dervishes out of his way. Each foundation was a vast project for its time: a large, beautifully decorated mosque (which doubled as the dervish residence). a medresa (school), a soup kitchen.
As the cities grew, both Muradiyes became located downtown; but the dramatic shrinkage of Edirne in modern times (from perhaps 250K in 1600s to 20K today) means that the Edirne Muradiye once again lies outside the city walls. One reaches it via a dusty road with a few low lying buildings, an itinerant vendor selling fresh cheese out of a donkey cart, old men playing backgammon in the shade of a weeping willow. The mosque is locked, but in the summer the hoca gives religion lessons to seven ragged gypsy children; he lets you in and leaves you alone to do all the photographing and sketching you want; and if you speak two words of Turkish, he’ll treat you to the sweets from his lunchbox.
The tiles of the Edirne Muradiye are very special. They were clearly painted by a master painter; not every one is unique – there are several repeats – but most are; no similar Iznik tiles have been found anywhere else.
The Old or Friday Mosque is not Turkey’s most famous, but it is perhaps her most storied. Founded by one Sultan-brother, continued by another, finished by a third — its construction history reflects the violent nature of early Ottoman succession. Many saints were associated with the institution, its walls bear inscriptions by famous calligraphers. It was here that European campaigns (the Turks campaigned every year but the decision where the campaign would be directed — East or West — was usually not made until the last moment) were announced by the grand mufti by preaching the Friday sermon here — with sword in hand. (The sword is still preserved in the mosque’s treasury — in case it’s ever needed, I suppose).