The sultan to whom this mosque was dedicated (Süleyman the Magnificent’s father, Selim I, known as ‘the Grim’) is famous for having killed two of his brothers, six of his nephews and three of his own sons in order to assure his succession and that of Süleyman. He did, however, lay the groundwork for his son’s imperial success and, to this day, İstanbullus love his mosque.
The reason for this ongoing adulation is the ‘Tough’ Sultan Selim Mosque’s position atop the Old City’s fifth hill. Its terrace has panoramic views over the Golden Horn (the mosque you see on the right is Sülemaniye Mosque) and is a popular picnic and relaxation spot. Selim’s türbe (tomb) is in the garden behind the mosque.
The mosque is located in the fascinating Çarşamba district, one of the city’s most conservative enclaves. Women in black chadors and men with long beards and traditional clothing are seen everywhere, often hurrying to prayers at the İsmail Ağa Mosque, headquarters of the Nakşibendi Tarikatı, a Sufi sect. The huge sunken park next door was originally a 5th-century open Roman cistern; it’s now home to playing fields, basketball courts and an excellent children’s playground.
The building itself, constructed between 1522 and 1529, has a simple but elegant design. Inside, its mother-of-pearl inlay and painted woodwork provide the most distinctive features.