The mosque is modeled in part on the style of a Byzantine basilica, particularly the Hagia Sophia, which was perhaps a conscious move on the part of the sultan to create continuity and a symbolic connection with the city's past.
Designed by the Ottoman Empire's greatest architect, Mimar Sinan, the Süleymaniye dominates the city's Third Hill, just north of Istanbul University, overlooking the Golden Horn .
The Suleiman Mosque was ravaged by a fire in 1660 and was restored on the command of sultan Mehmed IV by architect Fossati. The restoration, however, changed the mosque into a more baroque style, damaging the great work severely.
The mosque was restored to its original glory during the 19th century but during World War I the courtyard was used as a weapons depot and when some of the ammunition ignited, the mosque suffered another fire.
Not until 1956 was it restored again. Today, the Suleiman Mosque is one of the most popular sites in Istanbul. Apart from the main mosque with the prayer hall and courtyard , the mosque complex also includes a caravanserai or seraglio , a public kitchen which served food to the poor, a hospital , a Qur'an school and a bath-house .
In the garden behind the main mosque there are two mausoleums including the tombs of sultan Suleiman I, his wife Roxelana , his daughter Mihrimah, his mother Dilaşub Saliha and his sister Asiye. Suleiman's tomb features a system of layered domes copied from the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.
The sultans Suleiman II, Ahmed II and Safiye (died in 1777), the daughter of Mustafa II, are also buried here. Just outside the mosque walls to the north is the humble tomb of Sinan, designed by the occupant himself.