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Mihrimah Mosque
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Vital Statistics:
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Completion Date: 1555
Diameter: 66 feet
Type: Ribbed
Purpose: Religious
Materials: Concrete
Architect: Sinan

The earliest great domes, like the Pantheon, were made of solid concrete for fear that windows in a dome would lead to its collapse. In time, ancient engineers realized they could think of a dome as a circular ring of arches, which meant they could open up the spaces between the arches, creating windows. Sinan, one of the greatest architect-engineers of the 16th century, pierced one of his most famous domes, the Mihrimah Mosque, with more windows than any architect had ever dared before.

Mihrimah Mosque
Click photo
for larger image.

Rumors were that Sinan was in love with the Sultan's married daughter, Princess Mihrimah. To express his love, Sinan constructed a dome unlike any other. The Mihrimah Mosque was the lightest structure Sinan had ever built, pierced all the way around with 161 windows. Four immense arches support the dome, and glass walls fill the spaces between the arches. An elegant blend of art and engineering, the Mihrimah Mosque still stands today, almost entirely in its original form.

Here's how this dome stacks up against some of the biggest domes in the world.
(diameter, in feet)

Chart showing the relative size of the biggest domes in the world Mihrimah Mosque
66'

Fast Facts:
  • A single tower, called a minaret, stands to one side of the Mihrimah Mosque. As the Sultan's daughter, Mihrimah was entitled to two minarets, but as legend has it, she ordered Sinan to stop at one as a symbol of her desperate loneliness.
  • During his lifetime, Sinan built 79 mosques, 34 palaces, 33 public baths, 19 tombs, 55 schools, 16 poorhouses, and seven madrasahs (religious schools).

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