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Women’s Influence in Sinan’s Kulliyesi

Published June 11, 2019

Atik Valide Hamam (Sinan, Bath House, Üsküdar district, Istanbul, completed 1538)

The traditional bath house plan follows a single, high-domed layout. Mimar Sinan further developed these plans by enlarging the dome and supporting buttresses. Sinan’s expertise was often consulted in the creation of a larger complex, or kulliyesi. These complexes included separate buildings, each serving a specific purpose, including bath houses, kitchens, lodgings, religious schools, hospitals, banks and mosques. These installations were often included in association with the tenets of the Islamic faith. Of the five foundational pillars, charity often took the form of structures such as kitchen and lodgings.

The governance of these complexes was left to men, leaving little say to imperial or artistocratic women. This altered after the rule of Suleyman the Magnificent and his chief consort and later wife Hürrem Hakseki Sultan, also known as Roxelana (c. 1502-1558). After being kidnapped and sold into slavery, she was bought by the mother of Suleyman, the Valide Sultan, as his intended wife. Hürrem Hakseki was granted, for the time, exceptional privileges, including the commissioning of buildings. She set a precedent for women in the imperial court, Nurbanu Haseki Hürram benefited from, and contributed to, this new status, to commissioning Atik Valde Hamami.

By Taylor Guy, Sara Canon, and Emelia Porcaro

● Galina Yermolinko, “Roxolana in Europe,” in Roxolana in European Literature, History and Culture, (Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, 2013).
● Leslie P Peirce, The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 58.; Galina Yermolinko, “Introduction,” in Roxolana in European Literature, History and Culture, (Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, 2013).
● Necipoğlu, Gülru. “The Age of Sinan: Architectural Culture in the Ottoman Empire.” Oxford Academic. May 2009.
● Williams, Elizabeth. “Baths and Bathing Culture in the Middle East: The Hammam.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. October 2012.