10 Most Famous Architects Who Ever Lived


Mimar Sinan

A view of the Süleymanive mosque at dusk.
A view of the Süleymanive mosque at dusk.
Wilfried Krecichwost/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Michelangelo's contemporary in the Ottoman Empire was Mimar Sinan. Working in the 16th century, he worked on more than 300 structures, including mostly mosques but also palaces, schools and other buildings. Unquestionably the most influential Turkish architect in history, Sinan perfected the design of the domed mosque, which was an important symbol of both political power and the Islamic faith in the Ottoman Empire.

Although born Christian, Sinan was drafted into the Janissary Corps and converted to Islam. After quickly rising in the ranks to chief of the artillery, he first displayed his talent in architecture by designing fortifications and bridges. He became Chief of the Imperial Architects in 1538 and began building mosques.

His masterpieces include the Selimiye mosque in Edirne, as well as the Süleymanive mosque in Istanbul. Selimiye includes a massive central dome supported by eight pillars and encompassed by four minarets (spires). Inspired by the Hagia Sophia, Sinan designed the Süleymanive mosque with a central dome supported by four half-domes. The original structure incorporated not only worship space, but also a hospital, madrasahs (Islamic schools), baths and shops.