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Büyükçekmece Bridge



This bridge, unique, spectacular and heavenly,

Arches elegantly, as do the eyebrows of a beauty.

Mimar Koca Sinan (Sinan the Architect)


Büyükçekmece Bridge, of which the beauty has even impressed its own architect was the most precious structure of the travel complex and has become the symbol of Büyükçekmece today. Its construction was contracted to Mimar Sinan by Kanuni Sultan Süleyman (Suleiman the Magnificent) to Mimar Sinan (Sinan the Architect). Before setting out for his Szigetvar campaign, Sultan Süleyman gave orders to Sinan for him to build the bridge and the construction started in 1566. According to the information provided by Sinan in Tezkiretü'l-Bünyan (Bünyan Autobiographies) and Tezkiretü'l-Ebniye (Journal of Buildings), Kanuni Sultan Süleyman goes on a tour in the wilderness around the city one morning.

When he arrives at Büyükçekmece, he sees that his people have much difficulty in passing across the water to the other side and orders Sinan to build a bridge immediately. He learns that a bridge used to be present but collapsed since it was not built to be durable enough. Sinan carries out an examination and informs the Sultan: "Your highness, the reason for the inability of this bridge to stand was the provision of insufficient funds from the treasury. They built the bridge away from the sea and near the marshland. Thus, its foundations crumbled and collapsed. In other words, it is better for the bridge to be built near the sea since the area near the sea has shallow water and firmer ground." With this, he draws a sketch of the bridge he has designed and presents it to the Sultan.

Koca Sinan, who starts the construction of his bridge without repeating the mistakes made with the collapsed bridge after determining these, describes in his journals all the details of the construction of his bridge and all the techniques he used:

"My Sultan was very pleased and we started work with hundreds of carpenters and stonemasons upon his orders. Galley shaped boxes were formed around each pier with wood planks and tall, tough workers drained the seawater with pumps.  Stakes that were twice or thrice as tall as a man were rammed onto the foundations with sledgehammers. The stones which were furnished upon these were joined together to form one piece after these were fastened together with sturdy iron bars and melted lead was poured in between them. The celestial bridge became one of the most astonishing works of its time. And the Ruler of the World (the Sultan) praised this poor soul (Sinan) and set out for Szigetvar.

Thus Sultan Süleyman, Conqueror of the East and West and Ruler of the World, sets off on his campaign for new conquests and victories with the hope and eagerness to go across the bridge upon his return. According to the information provided in Zeki Sönmez's book "Mimar Sinan İle İlgili Tarihi Yazmalar-Belgeler" (Historical Texts and Documents on Mimar Sinan), it was natural for various "Royal Decrees" to be issued by the Divan (Ottoman Council) to the Guild of court Architects which was affiliated with the Municipality of the Ottoman era. An important segment of these from the period during which Sinan was the Chief Architect was published by A. Refik Altınay.

One of the published decrees is about the Büyükçekmece Bridge. It involves the request for a stonemason from Edirne to be employed in the construction of the bridge:

"To the Kadi of Edirne: A stonemason is needed for the bridge to be constructed near Büyükçekmece. It is by decree that you shall write the names of the serviceable stonemasons I the district when you receive this edict and send them here so that they arrive by Nawruz and start working. This is an important matter; you shall act accordingly and send effective stonemasons. And you shall prepare and send al list of these stonemasons so that their attendance can be checked." (M. 1565)

kopru01.jpg Büyükçekmece Bridge


As it can be understood from this decree, Sultan Süleyman placed much importance with the Büyükçekmece Bridge and ordered the stonemasons to get to work by Nawruz. He might have determined a deadline for the completion of the bridge as well. However, even though Kanuni Sultan Süleyman issued decrees and ordered the bridge to be completed swiftly, he was not able to see the finished bridge since he fell during his Szigetvar campaign.

Twelve years before Kanuni Sultan Süleyman gave the order for the construction of the bridge, there was another individual who wanted to witness a masterpiece in Büyükçekmece. Busbecq, who was in İstanbul as the Ambassador of Austria during the reign of Kanuni Sultan Süleyman between the years of 1554 and 1562, wrote about what he saw and experienced in the Ottoman Empire in four long letters. These letters were compiled in the book "Legationis Turcicae Epistolae Quatuor" (The Turkish Letters of Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq: Ambassador at Constantinople, 1554-1562; translated to Turkish as 'Türkiye'yi Böyle Gördüm'). Busbecq, who wrote the aforementioned letters to Nicholas Michault, his friend from university, praises Büyükçekmece and Küçükçekmece as such: "After departing from Silivri and traveling closer to İstanbul, we passed over bridges built on two coves created by the sea. I do not think that we can find the beauty of this place in any other lands. If only there was some human intervention as well; then we would be seeing even more magnificent sights." This bridge in Büyükçekmece over which Busbecq passed is most probably the old, collapsed bridge defined in detail by Sinan to be inadequately built. It is obvious that Busbecq did not like it and stated that he wished to see much better looking structures in this place with such natural beauty. And without a doubt, the architect to grant Busbecq his wish is Koca Sinan, the creator of Classical Period Ottoman Architecture. Büyükçekmece, which enchanted Busbecq, is thus touched by an architectural genius and Büyükçekmece Travel Complex (Menzil Külliyesi) will be shaped by Sinan with beautifuf architectural structures, surviving up to these modern times.

Büyükçekmece Bridge has been praised and admired during every period as the unique work of Sinan. Eremia Chelebi K'êomiwrchean, who depicts the 17th century İstanbul in his book titled "History of İstanbul", has stated that travelers describe "the big stone bridge as the most remarkable structure in Büyükçekmece". One of these travelers is the Venetian ambassador Jacopo Soranzo. The bridge has drawn the attention of everyone with its beauty. While getting praise from everyone from Europe, the bridge was also praised by its own architect. Koca Sinan has given much space to its masterpiece in Büyükçekmece in his autobiographies and is known to praise the bridge in respect to both architecture and aesthetics:

When His Majesty bid upon this subject of his

To build a bridge, a road over the sea,

I set arches on the water, like a rainbow,

For the people, land and sea became one.

The foundations were laid in the depths of the sea,

The structure reached the utmost heights of the sky.

With God's help, this grand bridge was built,

And completed in the district of Büyükçekmece.

It received the blessing of the people for day and night,

Both of the poor and the rich, who crossed on the bridge.

This bridge, unique, spectacular and heavenly,

Arches elegantly, as do the eyebrows of a beauty.

Its feet are low, deep down in the ground,

Its arches are high, up high in the sky.

Each arch is like a vault of heaven without its legs,

And turns into the letter "nun" in the water.

And how can it not be so modest when,

Such a great number of people walk over it.

In this masnavi, Sinan both exalts the bridge to the skies and expresses his joy in serving the public in such a way. This grand bridge becomes a rainbow at a time while becoming the eyebrows of a beauty at another. According to the masnavi, the bridge is so large that its feet are deep in the ground while its arches are very high in the sky. Without the legs of the bridge, each arch of it resembles a vault of heaven.  Koca Sinan, who built the bridge as to become an architecturally unique beauty that is difficult to be matched, has also praised it to the skies. He has even described his bridge as having a personality. Just like himself, the bridge is also very modest and a great number of people thus walk over it.


kopru02.jpg    Koca Sinan’s “Tall Beauty with Gorgeous Eyebrows”

Koca Sinan is not the only one that admired the bridge. Sai Mustafa Çelebi, who has written the epitaph on Sinan's grave, expressed his admiration as such: "The grand bridge Sinan built in Büyükçekmece is an image of the milky-way in the sky". Since he was aware how important and special this bridge was to Sinan, Sai Mustafa Çelebi did not forget to praise the work in the epitaph and compared it to the milky-way. Sinan the Architect describes Büyükçekmece Bridge as a "masterpiece". Additionally, Evliya Çelebi also stated that the bridge was very durable and that each arch resembled a rainbow.

Büyükçekmece Bridge is a masterpiece because it was built before Selimiye Camii and its Complex which were the mastership works of Sinan. Therefore, it might not be an exaggeration to say that while Selimiye Camii was the most beautiful mosque of the architect during the last period of his difficult but successful life, the Büyükçekmece Bridge was his most beautiful bridge. Sinan built the bridge while climbing up to the top in perfecting his profession. Therefore, the bridge is very developed in respect to architecture and engineering and is made with the utilization of a very advanced technology. Another indication of the importance this bridge had for Sinan is that he never placed his name on any of his work with the exception of Büyükçekmece Bridge. Sinan has signed the fourth arch of the bridge as "amel-i Yusuf b. Abdullah" (work of Yusuf b. Abdullah). Semavi Eyice explains this signature in his work under the title of "Büyükçekmece Bridge": " In the Ottoman era, the name Yusuf was always used together with the name Sinaneddin and the father's name of devşirmes were always determined to be names starting with 'abd-'; thus this is the signature of Sinan."


kopru03.jpg     “The grand bridge Sinan built in Büyükçekmece is an image of the milky-way in the sky.”

In his article, Eyice also tells of an incident in which Sinan's signature is stolen. In the 1960s, two people who were made to believe that there would be treasure where Sinan's signature is present, smashed Sinan's signature on the structure. According to the information provided by Erdem Yücel, Büyükçekmece Bridge was repaired in 1970 and a duplicate of the inscription was formed and placed in the old signature's place.  Koca Sinan is the biggest architectural genius of the 16th century and has made quite a name for himself with not only the mosques and mosque complexes but also the bridges he built within scope of Ottoman architecture. As Ünal Öziş has stated, "In the 16th century which is the peaking point of the Ottoman Empire, bridge construction bore the signature of Sinan the Architect, who was a great engineer.  These period bridges which were built from the capital İstanbul to west and east in order to facilitate the military and civil transport, were especially centered upon Thrace." A list of these bridges were provided by Sinan in his work Tezkiretü'l Bünyan ve Tezkiretü'l Ebniye (Book of Works):

A bridge in Büyükçekmece

A bridge in Silivri

Mustafa Paşa Bridge on the river Meriç

(Sokullu) Mehmet Paşa Bridge in Marmara

Odabaşı Bridge in Halkalı

Kapıağası Bridge in Haramidere

(Sokullu) Mehmet Paşa Bridge in Sinanlı

(Sokullu) Mehmet Paşa Bridge in Bosnia Visegrad

Sinan recorded 8 of the bridges he built in his autobiographies. Kazım Çeçen claims in his article "Bridges Built in 16th Ottoman Empire" that there are 12 bridges in our day which belong to Sinan because according to Çeçen, four bridges that are not included in the autobiographies of Sinan were built similarly in respect to architecture and engineering. Therefore, Çeçen dictates that we should add the below four to Sinan's list as well:

Kanuni Sultan Süleyman Bridge in Edirne (Sarayiçi)

Yalnızgöz Bridge in Edirne

Kanuni Sultan Süleyman Bridge Built Over River Dil in Gebze

Repair and Extension of Kırkgöz Bridge in Bolvadin

Apart from these 12 beautiful bridges which survived up to our day, Sinan built many other bridges while he was a janissary as well, however these were demolished for purposes of safety. Lütfü Paşa and Ayas Paşa did not want for the bridge over River Prut, which enabled Sinan to become Chief Architect, and even had a tower built near it to protect the bridge. This incident is proof as to how beautiful, durable and admirable the bridge built by Sinan was. However, Sinan refused the offer by saying: "Certainly not! If the enemy takes the tower with a few men, he will have taken a fort. It is not acceptable to value the bridge so highly, we can always rebuild it wherever necessary in the Empire." As can be understood from these words, for Sinan, serving the Sultan and the Empire righteously is superior to his art and architecture.

Büyükçekmece Bridge, which is referred to as "the bridge built in Büyükçekmece" in the autobiographies and is mentioned with praise by everyone as the masterpiece of Sinan is at a distance of 36 kilometers to İstanbul. It was built between Sea of Marmara and the Büyükçekmece Lake. The bridge, which connects the Büyükçekmece district to Mimarsinan neighborhood, is colloquially referred to as "Mimar Sinan Köprüsü" or "Sultan Süleyman Köprüsü". This indicates that Sinan the Architect is considered as a match to Sultan Süleyman and that he is as important and famous as a sultan. Mimarsinan neighborhood has also been named after Sinan and there is a statue of Sinan in the neighborhood square.

This masterpiece, which is formed by adding of 4 separate bridges of different sizes and lengths to each other through artificial islands, is 635,57 meters long and 7,17 meters wide. Koca Sinan examined the ground before building the bridge and built the bridge on the sea-facing side by setting the bridge legs on a foundation system of wooden piles. He stated in his autobiographies that he chose to build this way because the sea-facing side was more durable. In classical era Ottoman bridge architecture, two types of models are prominent: "equant serial arched type" and "non-equant serial arched type". Büyükçekmece Bridge is of the non-equant serial arched type. The information regarding the materials of the bridge, over which two caravans from opposite directions could pass while side-by-side, were taken from the associate professorship studies of Orhan Bozkurt. Bozkurt states that the bridge was built from a limestone that contains nummulites from the middle Eocene period with plenty of fossils; this type of limestone covers large areas around Hadımköy. According to the information provided by Bozkurt, the limestone used for the bridge was brought from Hadımköy. This limestone found new life in the bridge after being shaped by the architectural knowledge and skills of Sinan.

kopru04.jpg        Artificial islands on which the bridge legs were set

In his article "Turkish Works in Büyükçekmece", Erdem Yücel provides the information below in regard to the arches and the setting of stones that are used in the construction of the bridge:

"The arches in the middle are the highest, the ones next to these get lower gradually in conformity with the decline of the bridge. Arch forms are generally sharp and built out of 2 meter-long stones; thin, regular stones are used in the inner surfaces. Lime mortar has not been used during construction, the stones were fixed to each other via molten lead. A feature that draws the attention on the bridge is that as the arch widths increase, leg widths increase as well. This formation created by two arches is visible as sharp outcrops on the sides."

As stated by Yücel, the arches of the two bridges in the middle are very sharp. However, the arches of the 1st and 4th bridges are not sharp because of the history and observation houses are placed on these two.


Sharp arches of the Büyükçekmece Bridge

On the first bridge of the Büyükçekmece Bridge in the direction of Europe are two observation houses and there is a history house on the fourth and largest bridge. History and observation houses are construction elements specific to Ottoman bridge architecture that are positioned outwardly in the shape of overhangs. “Observation houses are single structures that may have been used for purposes of resting, elevated from the bridge road in the shape of a terrace.” Koca Sinan has not neglected to build observation houses for passing travelers to rest and watch the sea and lake views while resting. Thus, the beauty of the bridge becomes one with the beauty of the environment. Büyükçekmece’s beauty, which was depicted with praised by Busbecq, was completed with Sinan’s bridge. The opportunity of gazing at beautiful views from a beautiful bridge gives one the feeling of richness and glamour of the Kanuni Sultan Süleyman period that passed. 

kopru06.jpg    Observation house on the bridge

It is understood that Süleyman gave the order for the construction of the bridge in order for the local people and the army of his campaign to Europe to pass over the lake easily. Since the main aim is to conquer the lands in Europe the end part of the bridge is its European side and not the İstanbul side.

Eyice states that Sinan built the bridge to be resistant to floods and adds: "Additionally, there are posts at the beginning and end of each section that are encountered in all Turkish bridges. The fact that the connection spaces between each section lack railings makes on think that this might have been done in order for excess water to be discharged from these spaces in case of big floods". By virtue of Koca Sinan's skills in architecture and engineering, a technical and aesthetical structure that is extraordinary for both its own period and the period of advanced engineering in our day was created. Sinan passed the fruit of the decree of Sultan Süleyman to all following generations and showed us how the art of architecture should be applied in accordance with topographic conditions.

Süleyman the Magnificent, who spared no expense and spent "114 loads and 73.853 akches" for the bridge, did not live to see the magnificent work of Sinan the Architect. While striving the complete the bridge with his last efforts during the passing of Sultan Süleyman's body with his army upon their return from Szigetvar campaign for which the sultan lost his life, old Sinan shed tears for both the death of his much beloved sultan and the grief in his heart. It was not only the Ottoman Sultan Süleyman that he lost, he had also lost the sultan who gave him his fame and protected and supported art and the artists. His skills and genius was discovered and he had become Chief Architect during this sultan's reign. His most beautiful and glamorous works were done by this sultan's will. He had become the "Sultan of Architects" with his concern and effort to create works that were worthy of Sultan Süleyman.

The bridge was completed in 1567, under the reign of Selim II who inherited the throne from his father Sultan Süleyman. Büyükçekmece Bridge was the last work of Sinan during the reign of Süleyman the Magnificent. Koca Sinan had to complete his most beautiful and last work in this period with sorrow. After the 400th year following Sinan's death, which was 1988, was declared as the "International Sinan Year" by the United Nations, a part of the Sinan bridges, of which all was being used at the time, was closed off to vehicle traffic for purposes of preservation and these were repaired between the years of 1986 and 1988 by the General Directorate for Highways.

Mimar Sinan depicted Sultan Süleyman's life and death in the masnavi below:

The sultan of religion had a bridge built at the end of his life,

So that the believers could always have the right path.

Because the World is bridge, over which people pass,

Neither beggars nor the happiest of sultans shall remain.

The sultan died a martyr in battle at his old age,

May the Almighty God place him in his heaven.

Those who look upon his beautiful mosque would say:

"Here is the garden of heaven to which the immortal enter."

He had fountains built in İstanbul for the sake of people,

So may rivers of water fall in his share on the Day of Judgment.

He had a great alms house and madrasah built in the Kaaba,

All of the earth prospered under his justice.

Prayer Sai has prayed from the dawn of his ancestors,

May God rest all their souls.



Nighttime brilliance of the “Beauty with Gorgeous Eyebrows”



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