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SINAN’S ISTANBUL: ATIK VALIDE COMPLEX

SINAN’S ISTANBUL: ATIK VALIDE COMPLEX In his poem depicting a visit he made to the Atik Valide Mosque, Yahya Kemal, one of the great poets of Turkish language, remembers Sinan, the architect of Atik Valide Complex: "Here, one remembers the old architect with grace / He had the water flow from the heavens in this beautiful gaze". Being the last known work of Sinan, the Atik Valide Complex was commissioned by the Ottoman Sultan Selim II (1524-74), the successor of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, for his wife Nurbanu Sultan.

Although there are various rumours about her origin, it is generally accepted that Nurbanu Sultan belongs to a noble Venetian family. When she was brought to Istanbul, Nurbanu Sultan entered the Harem of Selim, who at the time was a prince. Thereafter she became one of the favorite odalisques of Prince Selim, and after he sat the throne of the empire, Nurbanu Sultan consequently became one of the most prominent figures of the Harem at the Topkapı Palace.

Being the second woman with whom the Ottoman Sultan officially married —after Sultan Suleiman’s wife Hurrem Sultan—, Nurbanu Sultan acquired the title "Valide Sultan" (mother queen) when her son Murad III became the Ottoman Sultan. From then onwards, she had been the most powerful woman in not only the Harem but the whole empire as well.

The construction of the Atik Valide Complex, which started when Selim II was still alive, was completed in 1579 after his death. The complex, which hosted a single-minaret mosque standing on a hexagonal plan when it was completed, reached its final state in 1583 after an expansion project ordered by Sultan Murad III.

A second minaret was added to the mosque in the phase of the expansion project. Being one of the biggest complexes in Istanbul at the time, the Atik Valide Complex consisted of structures such as dervish hostel, hospital, madrasa, caravansary and hamam. Some of these structures had been used as psychiatric hospital, prison and high school in the course of 19th and 20th centuries. The complex, which recently underwent a restoration, is now used as a campus of Fatih Sultan Mehmet University.

The Atik Valide Complex, with the glazed tiles at the mihrab section of the mosque and with its courtyard almost slowing down time, is a unique signature appended to this great city by Sinan before his death.