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Visiting the three great mosques of Edirne gives one a history of Ottoman architecture in the 15th and 16th centuries. As time passes the expanse of the central dome grows, and simultaneously the simplicity of the wall decorations increases. Thus in the Old mosque in Edirne, like in the Ulu mosque in Bursa, there are the huge names of God and his followers on the walls.


There is less of that in the Three Balconies mosque. When we get to the Suleyman Mosque, there is a grand central dome, resting on massive pillars far on the circumference, while allowing a great deal of light from the sides. Sinan, the famous architect of many 16th century Ottoman buildings, thought this was his greatest building.


Edirne has much to love beyond its remarkable mosques. Beautiful Ottoman bridges, an elegant caravansary, and a lovely walking area downtown. Edirne is now right on the border – signs point to Bulgaria and Greece, each just a few kilometers away. Even in historical times, however, Edirne faced Christian Europe – it was the jumping off point for any offensive (and later defensive) actions in the Balkans.


Indeed, considering both Edirne’s military and architectural legacy shows just how involved with Christendom the Ottoman Empire was in these centuries. Sinan was quite consciously seeking to create a monument as grand as the Aya Sofia. Several sultans were crowned in the mosque when they were ruling from Edirne. This is unusual in Islam they probably got the idea from Byzantine crowning rites in churches.Once the Empire conquered the Balkans and before it expanded to take the Arab lands, the Ottoman Empire was a Christian-majority empire!

20130717-132728.jpgSuleyman Mosque in Edirne at night