Külliyye (Ottoman Context)

Külliye is an Ottoman term that refers to the building complexes that provides social services to the region it was located. It consists of complex buildings centered round a mosque. These building serve various purposes and provide different services; some are used as kitchens, cafeteria, schools, baths etc (Goodwin, 2008). Whereas the separate buildings that surround the mosque serve various purposes, they are considered as an architectural whole. Thus, a külliyye would either consist of hospitals, law schools, preparatory college, kitchen and medical school etc. in one compound and all of them centered round a mosque would be viewed as an architectural whole (Goodwin, 2008).


The külliyye concept is based on the earliest form of the mosque. The mosque was not only used as a house of praying but also as a place for eating, teaching and as a hostel for the poor. The structure of the külliyye derived from such concept. Instead of using one mosque for various services, other buildings were built to center around the mosque that provided the specific services. The services expanded and ‘were incorporated under one foundation document, and each housed it own building within an enclosure’ (Goodwin, 2008). This included the foundation of hospitals, law schools, preparatory college and a medical school among other services.

The majority of külliyyes was constructed and design by Architect Sinan (H. G. Agkun, 2008). He was the master architect of the Ottoman Empire for fifty years in the sixteenth century. As master architect, he was responsible for all planning and constructional works in the empire. Sinan built most of the külliyyes in Instanbul. The külliyye built by Sinan set the pattern for other külliyye architects. Most külliyyes followed these patterns: they were ‘located at the important points of the city and the structure emphasize the religious center of the mosque. In addition, they were either ‘built on hills and sloped lands, coasts or peripheries of the city’ (H. G. Agkun, 2008). The reason for this is that, külliyye’s helped create the silhouette and landscape of the city. The külliyye's were easily recognizable in tht form and one is able to marvel at them from afar.

According to Ottoman Empire law, the lands and the state belonged to the Sultans (H. G. Agkun, 2008). As a result of this, külliyyes are usually built for either the Sultan, one of the family members of the Ottoman Sultans or for the high state administrative officials such as the vizier or grand vizier. These aristocrats became the employers of architect Sinan and many others architects. As employers, they had a choice in choosing the location of the külliyye and had an input in its design; thus, they had an influence on the construction of the külliyyes (H. G. Agkun, 2008).


The administration of the külliyye rested upon the administrative officers also under the chief eunuch in the department of harem at Topkapi Palace (Ottoman Sultans primary and official palace of residence) (Goodwin, 2008). Among the administrative officers, the külliyye also had ‘religious officers and teachers, porters, chanters, grave diggers, servants responsible for maintenance, including the polishing of courtyards and window grilles, cooks, scullions, plumbers, lamp-lighters, a guard against the theft of oil lamps, carpenters, masons and tillers responsible for the lead sheets covering over 500 domes’ (Goodwin, 2008). The staff magnitude illustrate the sophistication of the külliyye; though it began with a simple concept, it had developed and become complex that a magnitude of staffs and officers were needed to manage it. The kitchen was responsible for feeding the staff and officers, as well as the students, travelers and the poor. This required an enormous supply of water, which serve as another reason for why the külliyye were built near the coasts and peripheral parts of the city.

Külliyye rose funding for the cost of the building and for the maintenance of such a vast foundation. This funding or endowments were ‘raised by public subscription, including the gift of various properties, ranging from entire estates to a mill or cottage’ (Goodwin, 2008). The donors ranged from the ruler (the Sultan) to office holders of greater and lesser ranks and then to the common people. The ruler tended to be the most significant donor as he was capable of assigning the revenues of a part of the realm.

Examples of Kulliyyes

The greatest of the Kulliyyes ever built was Süleymanyie Külliyye in Istanbul (Goodwin, 2008). It was built by Mehemmed II Fatih and Sülaymán I (Goodwin, 2008). The külliyye had ‘seven madrasas (schools), four of each of the Sunni law schools, a preparatory college and one for studying the Hadith and a medical school’ (Goodwin, 2008). These madrasas incorporated their own courts, latrines and two houses for the teachers. In addition, ‘there was a school for boys, a chantry, a hostel with stables, a bath, hospitals, public kitchen, shops, and fountains’ (Goodwin, 2008). Süleymanyie Külliyye stood out with its educational services along with its religious services. The külliyye environment resembled a university campus and it was the cultural and scientific center for Istanbul.

There were many other külliyyes, but none of them came to the magnitude of Süleymanyie Külliyye. Examples of other kulliyyes is as follows: Sokullu Mehmet Pasha Külliyye, Zal Mahmut Pasha Külliyye and Mihrimah Sultan Külliyye etc (H. G. Agkun, 2008). The Sokullu Mehmet Pasha Külliyye consists of a mosque, madrasa and a dervish lodge. The Zal Mahmut Pasha Külliyye consists of a mosque, madrasa, mausoleum and fountain. Finally, the Mihrimah Sultan Külliyye consists of a mosque, madrasa, mausoleum and Koran school for children (khan, public kitchen, and hostel) (H. G. Agkun, 2008).

Case Study:The Yeni Valide Mosque Complex

The Yeni Valide Mosque Complex was among the largest built külliyye constructed in Istanbul. It was built by two powerful dynastic women, the mothers of Mehmmed II and Mehmed IV. It follows in the pattern of the above Külliyye, whereby it was built on a slope land and located at the important points of Eminönü, Istanbul. This is illustrated by the following pictures.

Significance in Ottoman's History

Külliyyes had an important impact on Ottoman society. Külliyyes located in residential areas united the vicinity and residents and it served them with its various functional buildings. There were so many Külliyyes in the Ottoman capital (Istanbul) that they serve as the centers that introduce the actual identity of the city. The külliyyes came to be the cores of many cities in the Ottoman Empire (especially Istanbul) and acted as important centers of cultural, religious, commercial and educational activities. They serve as one of the symbol of power and achievement of the Ottoman Empire (H. G. Agkun, 2008).

References/ Sources:

Goodwin, Godfrey. 2008. "Külliyye." Encyclopaedia of Islam, vol. 5. Eds. P. Bearman and others. Amsterdam: Brill, p. 366, Column 2.

Thys-Şenocak, Lucienne. 1998. "The Yeni Valide Mosque Complex at Eminönü." Muqarnas 15: 58-70.

H. G. Agkun, A. Turk. (2008, March 25). Determination and analysis of site selection factors for kulliyes of architect Sinan with respect to the locations in the Ottoman city of Istanbul. Building and Environment (Vol: 43, Issue: 5) , pp. 720-735 .

Further Readings

G. Goodwin, A history of Ottoman architecture , London 1971

See Also

Instanbul- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Istanbul

Madrasa- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madrasa

Hammam- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hammam

Hadith- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hadith

The Yeni Valide Mosque Complex- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yeni_Valide_Mosque

Djami- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosque

Mehmed II Fatih- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mehmed_II

Sulayman I- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sulayman_I

Topkapi Sarayi- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topkapi_Sarayi

Islamic Architecture- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_architecture

Additional External Links:

• http://www.planetware.com/map/kulliye-mosque-of-suleyman-the-magnificent-map-tr-sulsk.htm

• http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayezid_II_K%C3%BClliye_Health_Museum

• http://bidbpersonel.trakya.edu.tr/KULLIYE/kulliye_ing/

• http://www.thais.it/architettura/islamica/schede/sc_00222_uk.htm

• http://www.flickr.com/photos/traces/2093070074/

• http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Middle_East/Turkey/photo607167.htm

• http://www.turkeyodyssey.com/articles/suleymaniye-mosque-and-kulliye.html

• http://www.golmarmara.gov.tr/halime%20hatun/photos/view_3.html

Search another word or see Kulliyyeon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature