The Greatest Cıvılızatıon Project Of Sınan And The Ottoman

Kirkçeşme Water Distribution Network, One Of Mimar Sinan’s Works, Is A Unique Engineering Wonder And The Largest Civilization Project Of The Ottoman State In The 16th Century.

The level reached by the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century was the main agenda that attracted the attention of world states. İstanbul, the imperial capital, became the most important center of world politics in this century. The metropolis of İstanbul, where, in every respect, a rich and prosperous society lives, became an attractive world city for all kinds of people.

Rolling up his sleeves with the construction of Haseki Complex, Sinan started the era of large complexes in the capital. Later, symbolic collective constructions, such as Mihrimah Sultan Complex, Şehzade Complex and Süleymaniye Complex were built in Üsküdar. In this period when living in İstanbul became attractive, the demand for decorative arts increased as well as architecture. With the opening of new business areas, the greatest artists from all over the world began to flock to İstanbul. Thus, great craftsmen, who were performing arts which complemented the profession of architecture, such as first class ceramists, calligraphers, muralists, and sculptors, carpenters, blacksmiths and lead manufacturers were the highest income earners in the İstanbul market.

Sinan built range complexes between cities and developed both transportation and trade networks. Travel and trade routes increased to the Balkan cities through the main route of Gebze-Edirne and the transportation arteries were enriched. In İstanbul, which has become a major center of consumption, taverns, bazaars and covered bazaars have added vitality to the city trade. The fact that Hayreddin Barbarossa became the chief admiral (commander of the naval forces) enabled the Mediterranean to be under the control of the Ottoman Empire. Thus, the Ottoman Empire had a large share in the Mediterranean Sea, which had been considered the richest basin of maritime trade in the old world before the discovery of the America. Accordingly, the market between the East and the West moved to İstanbul.

Reconstruction Works With The Increasing Population Of Payitaht (Capital City)
The fact that the large and rich trade network was under the control of the Ottoman Empire brought great prosperity and vitality to the country. Thanks to these developments, the settlement areas around the complexes were expanded in order to meet the needs of the increasing population of the Ottoman capital, and consequently commercial structures increased. After the opening of the Süleymaniye Complex, the number of people providing the maintenance works of the mosque and religious services, the teachers and students working in madrasahs, in the schools such as darüşşifa and darülhad, employees and stuff in the imaret was around 750 in total. Here, two meals were served to the employees each day from the imaret, and two hundred free hot meals were distributed to 2500 people each day.

It is important to remember that Sinan was a great engineer beyond his architectural genius. In any case, at the basis of his success in the field of architecture was the multi-faceted engineering knowledge. Sinan’s interest in engineering was understood from his childhood interest in this field and especially from his success in his youth since his admission to the Guild of Janissaries. His ability was evident during his military expeditions. Thus, the three galleys by Lake Van and the bridge he built over the Prut River within 10 days not only uncovered Sinan’s engineering talent, but also revealed his future and made him the Chief Royal Architect of the Empire.

The Greatest Engineering Success Of Mimar Sinan
Sinan’s work in which he demonstrates his engineering talent does not consist of only those works. His greatest engineering achievements are his works in the field of aqua architecture. The arches he built for the waterways and the bridges he built in different parts of the empire are the works that document Sinan’s engineering career. It is important to note that all of Sinan’s engineering works have survived to the present day. Considered an engineering wonder of Sinan, the Kırkçeşme Waterway is a major project built in the 16th century. The construction of the work resulted from the excessive increase in water prices and the population living in İstanbul. As it is known, the city population, which was around 40 thousand in İstanbul during the period of Mehmet the Conqueror, increased by 4 times in the 16th century and approached 160 thousand. Due to rapid population growth, water shortage became unbearable. It is even known that the price of one jug of water in this period increased up to 15 coins.

Story Of The Constructıon Of The Kırıkçeşme Waterway
Sinan the Architect has given extensive insights into the story of the construction of the Kırkçeşme Waterway: “One day, when Sultan Süleyman Khan walks through the deserted countryside of Kağıthane in İstanbul, he happens to pass pleasant greenery and a nice grass-plot. The Sultan can not help to looking at the fresh water flowing here. When they come to the Imperial Palace, they gathered the prominent leaders of the reign and ordered to investigate and examine in which the river, which has led the city to develop and grow in the past and which gives the city refreshment.”

The Sultan appointed Sinan the Architect to investigate whether it was possible to bring water to İstanbul. Sinan expressed his ideas confidently when meeting with the sultan. In the manuscript of Tezkiretü’l-Bünyan, which contains the memoirs of Sinan, in the presence of Süleyman the Magnificent he said: “My blissful Sultan, I have special expertise in the construction of waterways,” and showed that he was assertive in this regard. Sinan, who was commissioned by Süleyman the Magnificent, started the construction of the Kırkçeşme water conveyance line in 1554. While the construction of the Süleymaniye Complex was continuing, Sinan started this large project and completed the Kırkçeşme project in 1563 with a feverish work.

The fresh water collected in the Belgrade Forest was brought to İstanbul with a thousandth slope with belts, without external energy and the use of fuel. This system, which is a successful and qualified example of the ecological architecture implemented by Sinan, has a total of 33 aqueducts, mainly the arches of Mağlova, Güzelce, Uzun, Eğri, Paşa and Ayvad. According to the Foundation Book, many fountains, baths, mosques and fountains reaching 580 were supplied from the city network and the Kırkçeşme water conveyance line. Kırkçeşme water plant includes important elements. There are many pools where water is collected, but the biggest one is Forebay. This large pool in Kemerburgaz is rounded and cylindrical. The size and depth of Forebay is as much as Galata Tower as Sinan said. Forebay has survived to the present day and is still working as a system. The water collected here is mostly used in agriculture. The most prominent parts of the Kırkçeşme facility are the arches built. These arches, which are viaducts to cross streams and valleys, are bridges that allow the passage of water. These arches, which also means bridge, are of great value as architectural monuments. Among them, the so-called Mağlova Arch is a distinguished example in terms of both engineering and architecture.

This arch, which is located in Kemerburgaz, İstanbul, has two floors and four big holes on each floor. It also has many small holes. Its height is 36 meters and its length is 258 meters. It was demolished twice because of the flood and rebuilt. The openings of the large holes are 13.45 meters at the top row and 16.75 meters at the bottom. One of Sinan’s most successful works, the arch, which has an original plastic, is one of the most perfect and rare examples of its kind.

Other examples of Kırkçeşme are the Güzelce (or Gözlüce) Arch in İstanbul Cebeciköy, the Kovukkemer, also known as Kırıkkemer or Eğrikemer in İstanbul Kemerburgaz, and Uzunkemer in Kemerburgaz. Sinan, the greatest symbol of our culture and art history, attracts attention with its engineering identity as well as architecture. In his entrance to his foundation, “the eye of elite engineers, the ornament of the founders, the master of the masters of the time, the head of the wise men of the time, the Occlidis  of the period and era, the architect of the empire and the teacher of the righteousness” was written for him.  It is not an exaggeration to refer to him as “sage of architects” in the tombstone, that is, “the white-bearded architect”.

Eyyubî (16th century), who tells this with the expression of a poet, praises Sinan to the skies and glorifies the great master from the mouth of Suleyman the Magnificent in his work “Menakıb-ı Sultan Süleyman” consisting of 1495 couplets.  Describing the water shortage in İstanbul and the reasons for the construction of Kırkçeşme in an epic language, the poet Eyyubi says that Sinan, who he describes as the philosopher of the time and the sharp sword of building works, is the guide of all the masters, and that the mountains and deserts are incapable of stand in front of him. He states that the words of Sinan, who ruled also the depths of the earth, are more valuable than the expensive pearls, that Allah granted him many miracles and placed other things on his chest, and honors him saying “If Aristotle had seen Sinan, he would have been his sincere disciple”.

Sinan, who is a great architect and engineer raised by the Ottoman culture and art environment, is a universal value that has achieved outstanding success and left a permanent mark in history. This great master, who brought numerous aesthetical values in our history of civilization, made physical contributions to the Ottoman cities, especially İstanbul. In fact, the Kırkçeşme facility, which is a water conveyance line connected to İstanbul, is the largest civilization project of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century.


Works Of Mimar Sinan In Istanbul
During the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, a center of attraction created by a strong social state brought about the construction of new buildings for new service areas in İstanbul. During this period, new mosques, masjids and madrasahs were built by the Sinan the Architect in historical peninsula, Eyup Sultan, which is outside the walls and in Üsküdar on the Anatolian side. Sinan built over thirty baths in the same neighborhoods. This gives an idea about Sinan’s feverish work in İstanbul to meet the needs of the growing population.

The Greatest Architectural Design Selimiye Mosque
Selimiye Mosque is undoubtedly the greatest architectural design of Mimar Sinan, which carried him to the top in his professional life. In order to achieve this success, there was his deep engineering knowledge as well as architectural ability. Sinan, who gave a universal message in architecture with this work, showed the power to have his name written in the history of world architecture in gold letters.

An Architectural Wonder: Kirkçeşme Water System
The length of this water conveyance line is 55 kilometers. Kırkçeşme, unique in the world and considered an engineering wonder, has been working as a water system for more than 450 years. This facility, which has technical excellence, includes Forebay, many settling tanks, irrigation areas, galleries, aqueducts and water jumps which are also important architectural monuments, additions, dividers, chimneys, grids, city network, water levels and many fountains.

Süleymaniye Waterway Network
Sinan also built waterways for the fountains in the foundations of the people who made him built them, such as the sultan and dynasty members or statesmen. The most important of these was the water supplied from the Halkalı region and transported to the Süleymaniye Complex at a distance of more than 30 kilometers by Sinan. The Süleymaniye Waterway facility, which also houses the Bozdoğan (Valens) aqueduct from the late Roman period, was put into service in 1557.

Tombstone Epitaph Of Mimar Sinan
Mustafa Sai Çelebi wrote the epitaph engraved on the tombstone of Sinan, who also came forward with his urbanism. In this poem, two important engineering works of Sinan are praised. One of them is the Kırkçeşme water conveyance line and the other is the Büyükçekmece Bridge, which consists of four parts. The relevant verse of the poem is given below:

He tried hard to build waterways ordered by the sultan

He was the one who poured aqua vitae like Hızır

He built a high arch on the Büyükçekmece Bridge

That hang like the Milky Way in the sky

By: Suphi Saatçi
*This article was published in the September-October issue of Marmara Life. 

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