Repair Phases of Suleymaniye Complex in Damascus

Şahin Güçhan, Neriman
Kuleli, Ayşe Esin
Süleymaniye Complex in Damascus, built on the bank of Barada River as the last stop before the desert on the pilgrimage route extending from the Balkans to Mecca, is one of the works of Hassa Chief Architect Sinan, which was designed according to the basic principles of the Ottoman classical period architecture, and built between 1554 and 1559. Many research has been carried out on the historical and architectural features of the complex, which is composed of the mosque that is also known as the “Takiyah Süleymaniye”, double tabhane (hospice) and caravanserais, imaret (soup kitchen), madrasa and arasta (bazaar) structures and these investigations focused on the original qualities of the mosque and its construction phases. According to the sources, the first phase of the Complex consisting of the mosque, tabhane and imarethane was completed in 1559 and the second phase including the madrasa was completed in 1566, later on, between 1567 and 1596, a Dervish lodge was added to this building group. Although the location of this dervish lodge, which has not reached the present day is unknown, it is anticipated that it was located in the area between the arasta and Barada river. Preserving its original characteristics in the 16th century, the first stage of the Complex is one of the most important Ottoman works in Damascus, both in terms of its architectural layout and construction technique. Although the Madrasa built in the second phase is attributed to Mimar Sinan due to its planimetric features, it resembles local characteristics of Damascus with its architectural elements and details in the construction technique. Süleymaniye Complex, which was visited by Aşık Mehmed in the 1590s, was a frequently used, and therefore a well-run social center in good structural condition. Evliya Çelebi, who went to Damascus in 1648-1649, defines the Complex as a pleasant rural retreat and even as the last oasis before the desert. Information from these travelers is also supported by the engravings of Damascus by Braun and Hogenberg, dated to 1575, and by Olmert Dapper, dated to 1667. The oldest known repair of the Complex took place after the earthquake of 1759, which caused massive destructions in Damascus. The repaired parts of the Complex can be identified from the records of exploration and expenditures related to the repairs carried out in Damascus after the earthquake. The Bartlett engraving of 1836 and the photographs from the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century show that the surroundings of the Complex were completely empty, like a summer resort area. In the work of Cengizkan, it is reported that in the last years of the Ottoman Empire, in a short period of time between 1915 and 1928, the construction and maintenance-repair works accelerated in the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula, which would be separated from the state territory. In the memorials of this period written by Architect MehmetNihat Nigisberk, published by Cengizkan, the repair works of Süleymaniye Mosque, Süleymaniye Madrasa and Imâret were described in detail. However, the growth of Damascus, started in the 1930s and increased after 1960, changed the close relations of the Complex with its environment even though it maintained its spatial arrangement and original function. The whole Complex, locally called as Takiyah Süleymaniye, which became part of the urban inner city during this period, was affected by disasters such as earthquakes and floods happened in Damascus. It has also undergone various repairs at different times according to contemporary needs and has faced serious structural problems, especially in the last thirty years, as a result of decreasing ground water level in the areas along the Barada River. This work aims to analyse the construction and repair phases of the Complex by classifying them into six chronological periods starting from its construction and to share the results obtained from recent publications by associating the findings and traces from the buildings with the historical documents and investigations in the international platform. While the evaluations on the repairs and interventions in the first five periods are based on the limited information and visual documentation where available, the assessments of the condition of the Complex in 2005 are based on field observations and archive research made by the authors. Along with contributing to the monitoring of changes took place in the Complex from its design phase that started with Mimar Sinan in 1554 until present day, it is also expected that this work would help in understanding the processes of building production and interventions in different periods.


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Citation Formats
N. Şahin Güçhan and A. E. Kuleli, “Repair Phases of Suleymaniye Complex in Damascus,” ODTÜ Mimarlık Fakültesi Dergisi, vol. 35, no. 2, pp. 1–28, 2018, Accessed: 00, 2020. [Online]. Available: