Hurrem Sultan (d. 1558)
Hurrem Sultan was the first especially powerful woman of the Ottoman dynasty. She rose to prominence after becoming the first concubine to legally marry a Sultan and move with her family and the harem into the Topkapi Palace in 1534. The extent of her architectural patronage is great, including new buildings as well as restorations. While there were female patrons before Hurrem, none made contributions as extensive and central to the empire; in fact, she was the first female to patronize works in Istanbul, as opposed to solely the provincial towns. Her most significant architectural contribution is known as the Haseki Hurrem Kulliye in Istanbul (1540). Large and centrally located, it was comprised of various religious and social structures: originally, a mosque, madrasa, Quran school (mekteb), and soup kitchen (imaret). In the 1550's she added a hospital for women and a double bathhouse (hammam). This complex helps illustrate that, overall, Hurrem Sultan's significance as a patron lies primarily in the fact that the extent of her visual display of status and power was unprecedented from a woman in the Ottoman dynasty.
|Haseki Hurrem Hammam, Istanbul |
Mihrimah Sultan (d. 1578)
The daughter of Hurrem and Suleyman, Princess Mihrimah Sultan, was along with her mother, probably the most notable female architectural patron of the Ottoman Empire. Various mosques and charitable foundations in Istanbul were provided by Mihrimah, who devoted a majority of her wealth to architectural patronage. Her mosque (circa 1562-65) at the entrance to Edirne was designed by the most prominent architect of the Empire, Sinan, and is renowned for its architectural innovation. Like Hurrem's complex, it consists not only of a mosque, but also a double hammam, imaret, and madrasa, as well as extensive courtyards and gardens. However, its unique, challenging position on the top of a hill and its unprecedented spaciousness and luminosity make it architecturally remarkable. That such a significant work was patronized by a woman supports the belief that royal women clearly enjoyed some position of authority and opportunity in society. In fact, women's structures were often more innovative than the typically monumental but conservative works by men.
Above: Exterior view, Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, Istanbul
Right: Interior view of qibla wall
Safiye Sultan and the later Valide Sultans
During the reign of her son, Mehmed III (r. 1595-1603), Safiye's great power as valide sultan marked the beginning of the "Reign of Women" in the Ottoman Dynasty, a period of almost 100 years during which women were arguably the most powerful members of the royal palace. In 1598, she initiated the building of what is known as the Yeni Valide Mosque (or, the New Mosque of the Valide Sultans) in Istanbul, but when Mehmed III died in
Exterior View of Yeni Valide Mosque, Istanbul
Below: The courtyard of the
Above: The sight lines from the Hunkar Kasri extend out in various directions, over the surrounding areas. This illustrates how the complex gave the valide sultan visual access to places that were physically inaccessible.