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Istanbul Palaces and Pavilions

Byzantine Palaces

Detailed information about Tekfur Palace, The Great Palace
 

- Tekfur Palace

The palace was built adjacent to the land ramparts of Istanbul between Edirnekapi and Halic. According to the researches, it was determined that the palace belonged to the 13th century. It was used for various aims after the conquest of Istanbul in 1453.

It was restored between the years 1955 - 1970. Tekfur Palace is the only sample that remained from the Byzantine Period.

 

- The Great Palace

It is believed that the Great Palace of Constantinople was constructed during the reign of Justinian I (527-565). The Great Palace mosaic was the largest and the most beautiful landscape in antiquity (6th century A.D). Nowhere in the world of late antiquity can we find a building with a tessellated pavement of similar size and perfection of workmanship. It was probably made by an imperial workshop that must surely have employed the best craftmen gathered from all corners of the Byzantine Empire, guided by a master artist. It is this circumstance which makes it difficult to compare the piece with creations, and thus to date it by means of typological and stilistic methods. Composing the tessalated pavement, with its many coloured lime, terracotta and glass cubes of 5 mm. One square metre of floor space consumed about 40.000 cubes, which makes for 80.000.000 tesserae for entire area. The mosaic was brought to light only in fragmenta and sections, which together make-up about one seventy the original expanse, but these suffice to show that it is one of the most magnificent compositions known to us from antique mosaic art.

In the Great Palace Mosaic, the main field of the composition was 6 metres in width. On either side of its edge it is accompanied by an exquisitely arranged border of folliage each 1.50 metres wide, sufficient to cover the entire hall depth of 9 metres with a tesselleted pavement. The frame is dominated by a highly naturalistic acantus scroll. Acantus are filled with masked heads, exotic fruit and animals. The frame symbolises the Garden of Eden. After frame when looking at the scenes we find a movement from left to right in the notheastern hall. The pictures describe open-air scenes, the life of herdsmen the labour of peasants and the prowess of huntsmen. Scenes of children playing of wilde beast and grazing animals alternate with mythological motifs animal fables and fabulous creatures from exotic countries, animals, hunting, games, bucolic scenes nature and myths are the leading themes in the succession of pictures. On surviving parts of the mosaic we still count 90 different themes populated by some 150 human and animal figures.

The palatial district extended from Hagia Sophia and the Hippodrome to the coast line, where the sea wall acted as a mighty boundary of great military value. Its basic layout, first determined by Emperor Constantine I, soon housed a collection of state buildings with courtvards, throne rooms and audience rooms, churces and chapels gardens and fountains, libraries, assembly buildings, thermal baths and stadiums. Throughout the centuries palaces decayed due to fires, earthquakes, and other reasons. Finally, whatever remained was covered by earth.

British scientists from the University of St Andrews in Scotland made extensive excavations at the Arasta Bazaar in Sultan Ahmet Square (1935-1938) and (1951-1954), which partly opened up one of the south-western buildings, so called "Great Palace." The Great Palace had a large courtyard with perisyle (1872 m²) and was decorated with mosaics. It was at this point that the Austrian Academy of Sciences undertook to rescue, supervised by Prof. Dr. Werner Jobst, to study and preserve the famous palace mosaic and to carry out additional archeological examinations (1983-1997) within the scope of a cooperative project with the Directorate General of Monuments and Museums in Turkey.

 

Ottoman Palaces

Information about Dolmabahce Palace, Topkapi Palace, Beylerbeyi Palace, Ciragan Palace and Yildiz Palace
 

- Beylerbeyi Palace

The area of Beylerbeyi on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus has been settled since Byzatine times. According to the famous 18th century traveller Inciciyan, Constantine the Great erected a cross here, after which the area was known as the Istavroz Gardens. Under the Ottomans tihis area was an imperial park or hasbahce. Inciciyan relates that the name Beylerbeyi was given to this area in the 16th century because Mehmet Pasa who held the title of beylerbeyi (governor general) built a country house on the site.

The sultans built several country houses and pavilions on the imperial estate here, and in 1829 Sultan Mahmud II built a wooden waterfront palace.

Sultan Abdulaziz demolished this wooden palace to build the present Beylerbeyi Palace in 1861-1865. Designed by the well known Ottoman architect Sarkis Balyan, the palace was generally reserved for summer use by the sultans or to accommodate foreign heads of state visiting the Ottoman capital. The Prince of Serbia, the King of Montenegro, the Sah of Iran and Empress Eugenie of France are among the royla guests who stayed here. The deposed Sultan Abdulhamid II spent the last six months of his life and died here in 1918.

The interior design of Beylerbeyi Palace is a synthesis of diverse western and eastern styles, although the layout of the rooms follows that of the traditional Turkish house, consisting of a central sofa with closed rooms situated at the four corners. The furnishing and decoration of the Selamlik or public apartments are more ornate than those of the Harem.

The palace consists of two main storeys and a basement containing kitchens and store rooms. The palace has three entrances, six state rooms and 26 smaller rooms. The floors are covered with rush matting from Egypt which protected the inhabitants against damp in winter and heat in summer. Over this are laid large carpets and kilims, mostly made at Hereke. The furnishings include exquisite Bohemian crystal chandeliers, French clocks, and Chinese, Japanese, French and Turkish Yildiz porcelain vases.

One of the features which distinguishes Beylerbeyi from other Ottoman palaces of the period are the terraced gardens on the sloping hillside behind the palace. There are two pavilions on these terraces, the Sari Kosk beside the pool on the upper terrace, and the Mermer Kosk with its interior fountain and marble walls, which provided a cool refuge in the summer heat. The Mermer Kosk, the large pool on the lower terrace and the tunnel are the only parts of the palace remaining from the earlier timber palace of Beylerbeyi. The attractive Ahir Kosk is a fascinating example of Ottoman palace stables, and of particular interest as the only such building to have survived in its original state.

The old coastal road passed under a long tunnel constructed during the reign of Mahmud II (1808-1839) so that the palace would not be separated from the terraced gardens behind. This is a unique feature, other palaces and mansions along the Bosphorus being connected to their back gardens and parks by bridges. Today this tunnel houses a cafeteria and sales points for visitors. As well as books, postcards and posters published by the Culture and Information Centre, various gifts and souvenirs are on sale here. The gardens are available for private receptions upon advance application.

 

- Cigragan Palace

The palace, built by Sultan Abdulaziz, was designed by the famous Armenian palace architect Nigogayos Balyan and constructed by his sons Sarkis and Hagop Balyan between 1863 and 1867. This was a period in which all Ottoman sultans used to build their own palaces rather than using those of their ancestors. Ciragan Palace is the last example of this period. The inner walls and the roof were made of wood, the outer walls of colorful marble. The palace is connected with a beautiful marble bridge to the Yildiz Palace on the hill behind. A very high garden wall protects the palace from the outer world.

The construction and the interior decoration of the palace continued until 1872. After he moved in, Sultan Abdulaziz was, however, not able to live long in his magnificent palace. He was found dead in the palace on May 30, 1876, shortly after he was dethroned. His successor, his nephew Sultan Murad V, moved into Ciragan Palace, but reigned after only 93 days. He, who was deposed by his brother Abdulhamid II due to alleged mental illness, lived here under house arrest until his death on August 29, 1904.

During the Second Constitutional Monarchy, Sultan Mehmet V Resat allowed the parliament to hold their meetings in this building. Only two months after, on January 19, 1910, a great fire destroyed the palace, leaving only the outer walls intact. Called "Seref Stadi", the place served for many years as a football stadium for the club Besiktas J.K..
In 1991, the ruined palace was restored, and a modern hotel complex was built next to it in its garden. Today, the building serves as luxury suites for the hotel along with two restaurants that cater to guests.

The restoration of the Palace was considered a travesty by many, who criticised the government for allowing an independent company to restore a Turkish landmark at minimal cost and with absolutely no regard for the historical or architectural history of the building. The interior of the building was a very bright neon pink and contained several stores and areas for events such as banquets, many have criticised it for resembling the interior of an American shopping mall.
The Palace was renovated again during the first quarter of 2007, now resembling the authentic palace with the baroqe style and soft colors.

 

- Dolmabahce Palace

Located along the coast of the Bosphorus in Besiktas, 300 yards from the Besiktas ferry-boat quay, this palace is the greatest imperial Ottoman residence. It was constructed by the Armenian architects Karabet and Nikogos Balyan for Sultan Abdulmecid (1839-61) who preferring a more modern residence, decided to move out of the Topkapi Palace. The construction of this sumptuous palace was finished in 1853 and the royal family abandoned the imperial residence of Topkapi Palace which had served as a home for the Ottoman household for almost four centuries. Dolmabahce was the imperial residence of all subsequent Ottoman Sultans, with the exception of Abdulhamid II (1876 - 1909) who preferred living in the more secluded Yildiz Palace. An apartment within it served as Ataturk’s residence in Istanbul and he died there during his last visit to Istanbul on 10 november 1938. After extensive restorations, it was transformed into a museum. From time to time, it is used for gala official functions as well.

The site of Dolmabahce, which literally means "filled garden" was in Byzantine times an inlet on the Bosphorus. Mehmed, the Conqueror had the harbour filled and made into a garden. The palace’s magnificent marble facade faces the Bosphorus. One enters through the gardens after passing through the main south gate. Taking up the area of 250.000 square meters, the entire palace complex consists of 258 rooms, six of which are hamams and 43 are saloons. Two-thirds of the palace consists of the woman’s quarters (haremlik).

The palace’s sumptuous interior was decorated by the famous French decorator Sechan and is reminiscent of French palaces and villas. Among the riches and opulent furnishing found here are paintings made by well known European artists commissioned by Ottoman sultans (such as Boulanger, Ayvazovski and Gerome), Hereke carpets, Baccarat crystal and Bohemian glass chandeliers, including the world’s largest chandelier which hangs in the State Room.

 

- Topkapi Palace Museum

Not long after the conquest, Mehmet II began the construction of a new palace at Seraglio Point, wich became known as Topkapi Sarayi after a shore palace near the Cannon Gate (Topkapi) of the sea walls. Gulhane Park (The Rose Garden Park), Harem, Hirka-i Saadet Room, Topkapi Palace
1. Gulhane Park (The Rose Garden Park)

It is one of the oldest parks in Istanbul. The Park is located between Sarayburnu, the Topkapi Palace and the Cizme Gate. It took its name from the rose gardens of the Topkapi Palace.

In the Byzantine Period, in Gulhane, there was military depots and barracks, later on the Mangana Palace was built. But, this was a holy area because of Hagios Georgies Monastery and Panagia Hodegetria Sacred Spring (Ayazma). After the conquest of Istanbul, Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror had the Tiled Villa built, after surrounded Sarayburnu with city walls. In this villa many sports activities took place as wrestling, javelin etc. On the memory of these important activities many target stones were stitched around the area. Grand vizier Sinan Pasha had Incili Villa (Pearled Villa) built here for Sultan Murad III. For the cleaning of the gardens and palaces in Gulhane, a squadron was arranged from the Bostanci Ocagi, and named as Gulhane Ocagi.

The first important construction studies of Istanbul were made in 1776 by French architect Kauffer, Gulhane was included in these studies but it could not have been renovated. In 1839, because the Tanzimat Firman (The Restoration Manifesto) was read in the Gulhane Park, the firman was called also as the Gulhane Hatti Humayunu. In 1880’s, Sultan Abdulhamid II gave permission for the construction of the first in here. While the construction of the Muze-i Humayun (Museum), the garden planning was revived and the openning of both the museum and the garden took place together. Ataturk, in 24th November 1928, in the ceremony took place in Gulhane took the “Master Teacher” reputation and introduced the Latin alphabet to public and he gave his first lecture. The Park is still one of the most important parks in Istanbul, and there is a zoo established in 1955.

2 .Harem

The Imperial Harem (Harem-i Humayûn) is one of the sections of the private apartments of the sultan. The harem was home to the Sultan's mother, the Valide Sultan; the concubines and wives of the Sultan; and the rest of his family, including children; and their servants. The harem consists of a series of buildings and structures, connected through hallways and courtyards. Every service team and hierarchical group residing in the harem had its own living space clustered around a courtyard. The number of rooms is not determined, with probably over a 100 of which only about a couple are open to the public. These apartments (Daires) were occupied respectively by the harem eunuchs, the Chief Harem Eunuch (Darussaade Agasi), the concubines, the queen mother, the sultan's consorts, the princes and the favourites. There was no trespassing beyond the gates of the harem, except for the sultan, the queen mothers, the sultan's consorts and favourites, the princes and the concubines as well as the eunuchs guarding the harem.
The harem wing was only added at the end of the 16th century. Many of the rooms and features in the Harem were designed by Mimar Sinan. The harem section opening into the Second Courtyard (Divan Meydani), to which the Gate of Carriages (Arabalar Kapisi) opens to, expanded over time towards the side of the Golden Horn and became a huge complex. The buildings added to this complex from its initial date of construction in the 15th century until the early 19th century captures the stylistic development of palace design and decoration. Parts of the harem were redecorated under the sultans Mahmud I and Osman III in an Italian-inspired Ottoman Baroque style. These decorations contrast with those of the Ottoman classical age.

Gate of Carts / Domed Cupboard Chamber
The entrance gate from the Second Courtyard is the Gate of Carts (Arabalar Kapisi), which leads into the Domed Cupboard Room (Dolapli Kubbe). This place was built as a vestibule to the harem in 1587 by Murad III. The harem treasury worked here. In its cupboards records of deeds of trust were kept, administered by the Chief Harem Eunuch. Money which came from the pious foundations of the harem and other foundations, the financial records of the sultans and the imperial family were kept in this treasury.

The Hall of the Ablution Fountain, also known as Sofa with Fountain (Sadirvanli Sofa) was renovated after the Harem fire of 1666. This second great fire took place on 24 July 1665. This space was an entrance hall into the harem, which was guarded by the harem eunuchs. The Buyuk Binis, and the Sal Kapisi, which connected the Harem, the Privy Garden, the Mosque of the Harem Eunuchs and the Tower of Justice from where the Sultan watched the deliberations of the Imperial Council, led to this place. The walls are riveted with 17th century Kutahya tiles. The horse block in front of the mosque served the Sultan to mount his horse and the sitting benches were for the guards. The fountain that gives the space its name was moved and is now in the pool of the Privy Chamber of Sultan Murad III.

On the left side is the small mosque of the black eunuchs. The tiles in watery green, dirty white and middle blue all date from the 17th century (reign of Sultan Mehmed IV). Their design is of a high artistic level but the execution is of minor quality compared to previous tiles.

Another door leads to the Courtyard of the (Black) Eunuchs Harem Agalari Tasligi, with on the left side their apartments. At the end of the court is the apartment of the black chief eunuch (Kizlar Agasi), the fourth high-ranking official in the official protocol. In-between lays the school for the imperial princes with precious tiles from the 17th and 18th centuries and gilded wainscoting. At the end of the court is the main gate to the harem (Cumle Kapisi). The narrow corridor on the left side leads to the apartments of the odalisques (white slaves given as a gift to the sultan).

Many of the eunuchs’ quarters face this courtyard, which is the first one of the Harem, since they also acted as guards under the command of the Chief Harem Eunuch. The spaces surrounding this courtyard were rebuilt after the great fire of 1665. The complex includes the dormitory of the Harem eunuchs behind the portico, the quarters of the Chief Harem Eunuch (Darussaade Agasi) and the School of Princes as well as the Gentlemen-in-Waiting of the Sultan (Musahipler Dairesi) and the sentry post next to it. The main entrance gate of the Harem and the gate of the Kushane connected the Enderûn court leads out into the Kushane door.

The dormitories of the Harem eunuchs (Harem Agalari Kogusu) date to the 16th century. They are arranged around an inner courtyard in three storeys. The inscription on the facade of the dormitory includes the deeds of trust of the Sultans Mustafa IV, Mahmud II and Abdul Mecid I dating from the 19th century. The rooms on the upper storeys were for novices and those below overlooking the courtyard were occupied by the eunuchs who had administrative functions. There is a monumental fireplace revetted with the 18th century Kutahya tiles at the far end. The Chief Harem Eunuch's apartment (Darussaade Agasi Dairesi) adjacent to the dormitory contains a bath, living rooms and bed rooms. The school room of the princes under the control of the Chief Harem eunuch was on the upper storey. The walls were revetted with 18th century European tiles with baroque decorations.

The main entrance (Cumle Kapisi) separates the harem in which the family and the concubines of the sultan resided from the Courtyard of the Eunuchs. The door leads out into the sentry post (Nobet Yeri) to which the three main sections of the harem are connected. The door on the left of the sentry post leads through the Passage of the Concubines to the Court of the Concubines Kadinefendiler Tasligi. The door in the middle leads to the Court of the Queen Mother Valide Tasligi and the door to the right leads through the Golden Road (Altinyol) to the sultan's quarters. The large mirrors in this hall date from the 18th century.
After the main entrance and before turning to the Passage of Concubines is the Courtyard of the Queen Mother

The Passage of Concubines (Cariye Koridoru) leads into the Courtyard of the Sultan's Chief Consorts and Concubines. On the counters along the passage, the eunuchs placed the dishes they brought from the kitchens in the palace.

The Courtyard of the Sultan's Consorts and the Concubines (Kadin Efendiler Tasligi / Cariye Tasligi) was constructed at the same time as the courtyard of the eunuchs in the middle of the 16th century. It underwent restoration after the 1665 fire and is the smallest courtyard of the Harem. The porticoed courtyard is surrounded by baths (Cariye Hamami), a laundry fountain, a laundry, dormitories, the apartments of the Sultan's chief consort and the apartments of the stewardesses (Kalfalar Dairesi). The three independent tiled apartments with fireplaces overlooking the Golden Horn were the quarters where the consorts of the Sultan lived. These constructions covered the site of the courtyard in the late 16th century. At the entrance to the quarters of the Queen Mother, wall frescoes from the late 18th century depicting landscapes, reflect the western influence. The staircase, called the "Forty Steps" (Kirkmerdiven), leads to the Hospital of the Harem (Harem Hastanesi), the dormitories of the concubines at the basement of the Harem and Harem Gardens.

The Apartments of the Queen Mother (Valide Sultan Dairesi) together with the apartments of the sultan forms the largest and most important section in the harem. It was constructed after the Queen Mother moved into the Topkapi Palace in the late 16th century from the Old Palace (Eski Saray) but had to be rebuilt after the fire of 1665 between 1666-1668. Some rooms, such as the small music room, have been added to this section in the 18th century. Only two of these rooms are open to the public: the dining room with, in the upper gallery, the reception room and her bedroom with, behind a lattice work, a small room for prayer. On the lower storeys of the apartments are the quarters of the concubines while the upper storey rooms are those of the Queen Mother and her ladies-in-waiting (kalfas). The apartments of the Queen Mother are connected by a passage, leading into the Queen Mother's bathroom, to the quarters of the sultan.

These are all enriched with blue-and-white or yellow-and-green tiles with flowery motifs and Iznik porcelain from the 17th century. The panel representing Mecca or Medina, signed by Osman Iznikli Mehmetoglu, represents a new style in Iznik tiles. The paintwork with panoramic views in the upper rooms is in the Western European style of the 18th and 19th century.
Leading from the apartments to the baths lays the apartment of Abdul Hamid I.

The next rooms are the Baths of the Sultan and the Queen Mother (Hunkâr ve Vâlide Hamamlari). This double bath dates from the late 16th century and consists of multiple rooms. It was redecorated in the rococo style in the middle of the 18th century. Both baths present the same design, consisting of a caldarium, a tepidarium and a frigidarium. Each room either has a dome, or the ceilings are at some point glassed in a honeycomb structure to let the natural sunlight in. The floor is clad in white and grey marble. The marble tub with an ornamental fountain in the caldarium and the gilded iron grill are characteristic features. The golden lattice work was to protect the bathing Sultan or his mother from murder attempts. The Sultan's bath was decorated by Sinan with high-quality Iznik polychrome tiles. But much of the tile decoration of the harem, from structures damaged by the fire of 1574, was recycled by Sultan Ahmed I for decoration is his new Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul. The walls are now either clad in marble or white-washed.

The Imperial Hall (Hunkâr Sofasi), also known as the Imperial Sofa, Throne Room Within or Hall of Diversions, is a domed hall in the Harem, believed to have been built in the late 16th century. It has the largest dome in the palace. The hall served as the official reception hall of the Sultan as well as for the entertainment of the Harem. Here the Sultan received his confidants, guests, his mother, his first wife (Hasseki), consorts, and his children. Entertainments, paying of homage during religious festivals, and wedding ceremonies took place here in the presence of the members of the dynasty.

After the Great Harem Fire of 1666, the hall was renovated in the rococo style during the reign of Sultan Osman III. The tile belt surrounding the walls bearing calligraphic inscriptions were riveted with 18th century blue and white Delftware and mirrors of Venetian glass. But the domed arch and pendantives still bear classical paintings dating from the original construction. 
In the hall stands the Sultan's throne. The gallery was occupied by the consorts of the Sultan, headed by the Queen Mother. The gilded chairs are a present of Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, while the clocks are a gift of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. A pantry, where musical instruments are exhibited and certain other apartments, opens to the Imperial Hall which gives access into the Sultan's private apartments.
A secret door behind a mirror allowed the Sultan a safe passage. One door admits to the Queen Mother’s apartments, another to the Sultan's hammam. The opposite doors lead to the small dining chamber (rebuilt by Ahmed III) and the great bedchamber, while the other admits to a series of ante-chambers, including the room with the fountain (Cesmeli Sofa), which were all retiled and redecorated in the 17th century.

The Privy Chamber of Murat III (III. Murad Has Odasi) is the oldest and finest surviving room in the harem, having retained its original interior. It was a design of the master architect Sinan and dates from the 16th century. Its dome is only slightly smaller than that of the Throne Room. Its hall has one of the finest doors of the palace and leads past the wing of the crown princes (Kafes). The room is decorated with blue-and-white and coral-red Iznik tiles. The rich floral designs are framed in thick orange borders of the 1570s. A band of inscriptional tiles runs around the room above the shelf and door level. The large arabesque patterns of the dome have been regilded and repainted in black and red. The large fireplace with gilded hood (ocak) stands opposite a two-tiered fountain (cesme), skilfully decorated in coloured marble. The flow of water had to prevent any eavesdropping, while providing a relaxed atmosphere to the room. The two gilded baldachin beds date from the 18th century.

On the other side of the great bedchamber are two smaller rooms: first the Privy Chamber of Ahmed I (I. Ahmed Has Odasi), richly decorated with Iznik glazed tiles.  The cabinet doors, the window shutters, a small table and a koran lectern are decorated with nacre and ivory.

Next to it lies the small but very colourful Privy Chamber of Ahmed III (III. Ahmed Has Odasi) with walls painted with panels of floral designs and bowls of fruit and with an intricate tiles fireplace (ocak).  This room is therefore also known as the Fruit Room (Yemis Odasi) and was probably used for dining purposes.

The Twin Kiosk / Apartments of the Crown Prince (Cifte Kasirlar / Veliahd Dairesi) consists of two privy chambers built in the 17th century, at different times. The two rooms date from the reign of Sultan Murat III, but are more probably from the reign of Ahmed I. These chambers represent all the details of the classical style used in other parts of the palace. The pavilion has been completely redecorated and most of the Baroque woodwork has been removed. The decorative tiles, reflecting the high quality craftsmanship of the Iznik tile industry of the 17th century, were removed in accordance with the original concept and replaced with modern copies. The paintwork of the wooden dome is still original and is an example of the rich designs of the late 16th/early 17th centuries. The fireplace in the second room has a tall, gilded hood and has been restored to its original appearance. The window shutters next to the fire place are decorated with nacre intarsia. The windows in coloured glass look out across the high terrace and the garden of the pool below. The spigots in these windows are surrounded with red, black and gold designs.

The crown prince (Sehzadeler) lived here in seclusion, therefore the apartments were also called kafes (cage). The crown prince and other princes were trained in the discipline of the Ottoman Harem until they reached adulthood. Afterwards, they were send as governors to Anatolian provinces, where they were further trained in the administration of state affairs. From the beginning of the 17th century onward, the princes lived in the Harem, which started to have a voice in the palace administration. The Twin Kiosk was used as the privy chamber of the crown prince from the 18th century onward.
The Courtyard of the Favourites(Gozdeler / Mabeyn Tasligi ve Dairesi) forms the last section of the Harem and overlooks a large pool and the Boxwood Garden(Simsirlik Bahcesi). The courtyard was expanded in the 18th century by the addition of the and Interval (Mabeyn) and Favourites (Ikballer) apartments. The apartment of the Sultan's Favourites Consort along with the Golden Road (Altin Yol) and the Mabeyn section at the ground floor also included the Hall with the Mirrors. This was the space where Abul Hamid I lived with his harem. The wooden apartment is decorated in the rococo style.

The favourites of the sultan (Gozdeler / Ikballer) were conceived as the instruments of the perpetuation of the dynasty in the harem organisation. When the favourites became pregnant they assumed the title and powers of the official consort (Kadinefendi) of the sultan.

The Golden Road (Altinyol) is a narrow passage that form the axis of the Harem, dating from the 15th century. It extends between the Courtyard of the Harem Eunuch (Harem Agalari Tasligi) and the Privy Chamber (Has Oda). The Sultan used this passage to pass to the Harem, the Privy Chamber and the Sofa-i Humâyûn, the Imperial terrace. The Courtyard of the Queen Mother (Valide Sultan Tasligi’), the Courtyard of the Chief Consort of the Sultan (Bas Haseki), the apartments of the Princes (Sehzadegân Daireleri), and the apartments of the Sultan (Hunkâr Dairesi) open to this passage. The walls are painted in plain white colour. It is believed that the attribute "golden" is due to the sultan's throwing golden coins to be picked up by the concubines at festive days, although this is disputed by some scholars.

Until the late 19th century there had been a small inner court in this corner of the Enderûn Courtyard. This court led through the Kushane Gate into the harem. Today this is the gate from which the visitors exit from the Harem. Birds were raised for the sultan's table in the buildings around the gate. On the inscription over the Kushane door one reads that Mahmud I had the kitchen of the Kushane repaired. The balcony of the aviary facing the Harem Gate was constructed during repair work in 1916. The building's facade resembles traditional aviaries.

3. Hirka-i Saadet Room - Topkapi Palace

Hirka-i Saadet, is wide armed coat made of goat hair, it belongs to Mohammed the Messiah, and Hirka-i Saadet Room is the place where the coat is preserved in Topkapi Palace.

After the conquest of Egypt, Sultan Selim I brought the holy coat with the other holy relics brought to Istanbul. Formerly, the coat was preserved in the harem, after Hirka-i Saadet Room was constructed in the Topkapi Palace, it was brought here with the other relics.

The keys of the silver chest and the golden drawer was only possessed by the Sultans. The visit of Hirka-i Saadet, which became a tradition from the period of Sultan Selim I and left by Sultan Abdulmecid, was done in every 15th of Ramadan Month.

This ceremony was made by the Sultan, Sadrazam (Grand Vizier), Seyhulislam (the Minister of Religious Matters) and other high officers. The Sultan used to open the locks, bring out the coat and spreads it to his face and eyes then the others used to do the same thing and the imams and muezzins used to read Koran till the end of the ceremony. When the ceremony had completed, the Sultan himself had taken the coat, put it in the chest and locked it in the golden drawer.

4. Topkapi Palace

After the conquest of Istanbul, Mehmet the Conqueror chose a site on the Forum Tauri - Beyazit Square for his first palace. So called "Old Palace" is referred to in the sources as a walled complex, altough no traces of it now remain. It features, however in some old maps and plans of Istanbul, on the site of the present University Of Istanbul main building. It is though that the walls surrounding the university building follow the original walls of the palace, while the main portal is thought to have been where the present entrance is. Another portal looked out to Suleymaniye Mosque. After the construction of Topkapi Palace, the old palace became the abode of the members of the Sultan’s harem who had lost favour of the wives of previous sultans. At one point it is known to have have had a broad eaved Baroque portal. Not long fater the conquest, Mehmet II began the construction of a new palace at Seraglio Point, wich became known as Topkapi Sarayi after a shore palace near the Cannon Gate (Topkapi) of the sea walls. The walls surrounding the point, which known as the first hill of the city , were 1400 ms in lenght.The old Byzantine sea walls on the Sea Of Marmara and the Golden Horn were linked up with land walls enclosing the palace, known as the Sur-i Sultani, and supported by 28 towers. The main gate was the imperial gate "Bab-i Humayun" behind the Ayasofya. The gate was formerly surmounted by a keep which was later removed.

The flanking bays in the gate were also revetted in marble. The new palace was begun within these walls between 1472 - 1478, and construction continued thougthout successive eras with  additions being made right up to the mid. 19 century. The palace complex inculudes lodges, pavilionsi state offices, dormitories and barracks and private quarters, a mosque, library and huge kitchen, The last pavilion to be built on the site was the Mecidiye Kosku which is at present open to the public as a restaurant. Several pavilions and villas in the palace grounds on the point were burnt down during a fire in 1863. All trace of them was lost on the construction of present railway at Sirkeci.

In the first court, entered though the Bab-i. Humayun, only two imperial pavilions have survived in good repair. Topkapi Palace became a museum in 1924. It has undergone a number of restorations since then. The first courtyard, also known as Ceramonial Court - Alay Meydani., contains on the right the offices of Ministry Of Finance - Defterdar Dairesi and on the left. Hagia Eirene the Ottoman armoury. The road leading to the second gate passes between these two buildings. The second portal, which is flanked by towers, is the Bab-us Selam -The Gate Of Respects- which dated originally from the period of Conqueror. but which underwent some alterations to the towers during the reign of Suleyman I. During the reign of Mustafa II. a broad aeved bay was added to the inner facade of the portal. Entering through this gate, one passes into the second court which marks in the true enterance into the grounds of the so called Saray-i. Cedid (New Palace). On the right of this court are the pantry guards’ barracks, the kitchens built by the architect Sinan, the cook’s domitories, a bath, the chief stewards’s office and the larder. On the left a road slopes down to the barracks of the Crestes Halberdiers  adn the imperial stables, the livery treasury and the Mosque of Besir Aga. Further along the court on the left are the double domed chambers which housed the Imperial Council Of Viziers .This was built by Suleyman I, and it was from here that the state was ruled for a long time. A rectangular tower abutts onto the domed chambers. This was the palace watch tower It was built in the time of Mehmet I but later altered. The upper storey was timber-built until 1860. The tower was given its present apperance during the reign of Abdulmecid.

The Harem is entered via a door beside the domed chamber, and to the right is the entrance to the imperial records office.

The gate at the other end of the second court, the Gate of the White Eunichs, gives access to the third court, the privy court or Enderun. This gate dates from the reign of Selim III, and has a broad eaves. It was under the eaves of this portal that the imperial throne was set during court ceremonies such as those of alliegance, religious celebrations and public audiences. The imperial pennant was erected here too at certain times. The gate was flanked by the chamber and barracks of the White Eunichs.

The third court contained the Throne Room. The building dates from the reign of Mehmet II, altough the door and decorations date to the 19 century. The overhanging eaves of the building are eleganted to cover a columned arcade, and the walls are recetted with faience.

The building was used mainly for imperial audiences to viziers and foreing envoys. Behind the throne room is the library of Ahmet III - Enderun Kutuphanesi. It is the largest and finest library in the palace. On the right of the court was the Enderun school, artists’ and musicians atelier, the barracks of the Campaign Pages, the Treasury, formerly a pavilion in the time of Mehmet II and the remains of a bathhouse dating from the reign of Selim II. On the left of the court is the Treasury of the Sword-bearer. (Silahtaragasi.) and the apartments of the sacred relics. Further to the left is the vaulted mosque of the white eunichs. The Aka..alar mosque has been restored and now houese books and manuscripts collected from all parts of the palace, as the Topkapi. Museums Library.

The sultan’s private kitchen is a small building behind the mosque adjacent to the second entrance of the Harem.

Two slightly ramped alleys lead from the third to the fourth courtyard. Flanking the alley to the right barracks of the cellar slaves( Now the administrative offices of the palace.) and the barracks of the treasury guards. To the left of the alley on the left are the chambers of the scared relics.

The fourth court is a spacious garden, sometimes called the tulip garden - a misnomer based on the word "lale". The actual title is the "Lala’s garden". The chief court physician, or Lala’s tower is set on the edge of the terrace overlooking a lower terrace garden. This was the palace pharmacy. On a terrace wall a litte further on from the tower is the pavilion of Mustafa Pacha, also known as the Sofa, which dates to the beginning of the 18 century. It is a fine example of Turkish tradition, decorated with occidental-inspired motifs.

To the left of the court is a stone paved terrace adjoining the chambers of the sacred relics. The terrace extends from the arcade fronting the chambers, and contains an attractive pool. It is reached from the gardens via short flight of steps abutting onto Revan Pavilion, also called Sevk Odas, which was built by Murat IV in 163. This is an extremely finely decorated pavilion. Manuscripts originally kept in bookcases in the pavilion were later transferred to the museum library. At the end of the terrace on the right, dominating the wiev of the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus is the Baghdad Pavilion, built after Murat IV’s second conquest and interior, decorative dome and vaults and mother of pearl inlayed doors are among the most striking of its elegant attributes.

At the edge of the terrace overlooking the city and Golden Horn is gilded bronze baldachin, which has four fine columns supporting an eaved cupola. Along the eaves runs an inscription frieze containing a long poem which informs us that the baldachin was built by Sultan Ibrahim as a place of vigil. Below it is the figgrove, or lower garden.

To the left of the terrace, just opposite the chambers of the relics is a small chamber known as the Cicumcision room. This was built by Sultan Ibrahim in 1641, and is decorated with fine tile panels dating to the 16 century but which are reused on this building. The window panles contain small fountains and a long poemis inscribed on the facade.

Two pavilios of note are also to be found on the Marmara side of the fourth court, the Cadir Pavilion and the Mecidiye Pavilion built by Abdulmecit I. The letter is European in style and is the final building to be built in the palace complex. It is flanked by a small wardrobe room (Esvap Odasi) and a small chapel mosque with minaret (The Sofa Mosque). A path leads down the terrace from the Mecidiye Pavilion to a gate which gives access to the outer gardens of palace also known as Gulhane Park. A large number of pavilions and royal summer villas were once to be found in the seraglio gardens, but were brunt down during a fire in 1863, and all trace of them disappeared during the building of the Sirkeci railway which passed through the promontory at this point. Some drawings and plans of these pavilions do, however exist.

 

- Yildiz Palace

Yildiz Palace, one of the four imperial centres where the Ottoman Empire was dominated, is worth to see not only for its history but also for its elegant architecture and unique garden…

In Besiktas, behind Ciragan Palace, there is another palace on the hill: Yildiz Palace. Selim III built for the palace for his mother Sultan Mihrisah, but it was first used as a pavillion. Later, in the periods of Mahmud III, Sultan Abdulmecid and Sultan Abdulaziz, it was expanded by additional pavillions and summer palaces.

In Sultan Abdulhamid period, with the other additional buildings, it took its name, Yildiz Palace. The palace took its place in history after the Old Palace, Topkapi Palace and Dolmabahce Palace, as a center where the Ottoman Empire was governed.

One of the most important structures of Yildiz Palace is Sale Pavillion. It consists of three main structures in the garden, built at different times but attached to each other.

The first building was known to be built in 1880 by the architect Sarkis Balyan, as Merasim Villa the second one was built in 1889 by the architect D'Aranco and the third one was built in 1898. While you are touring at the three storied pavillion made up of wood and stone, its design and ornaments will fascinate you. There are in total 60 rooms and four halls where you will recognize the traces of Baroque and Islamic influences.

The ceiling of the “Yellow Saloon” was decorated with landscape paintings; the Saloon with mother-of-pearl with its inlaid mother-of-pearl decorations, and the ceremony hall with a huge Hereke carpet and a ceiling decorated with golden gilded panels, all of which appeals to the visitors.

 

Pavilions (Kiosks)

Ihlamur Pavilion
Ihlamur pavilion, a smaller version of Dolmabahce, was designed by the famous Imperial Architect Nigogos Balyan as a summer palace along the lines of Dolmabahce.

Kucuksu Pavilion

This attractive part of the Istanbul Strait on the Asian shore is mentioned by Byzantine historians, and in Ottoman times became one of the imperial parks known as Kandil Bahcesi (Lantern Garden).

Malta Kiosk
The Malta Kiosk is a pavilion located in Yildiz Park to the north side of the wall separating Yildiz Palace. There are also two watching and resting pavilions in the grove being the rear garden of Ciragan Palace from the Abdul Aziz I period.

Maslak Pavilion
The Maslak Pavilions on a shady green hill were conceived by Sultan Abdulaziz as hunting lodges.

Sadabad Pavilion
Sultan Ahmed III and Grand Vizier Nevsehirli Damad Ibrahim Pasha gave priority to this very important area during the renovation of Istanbul . A small pavilion named Sadabad was constructed in Alibeykoy and near the pavilion a mosque and a Turkish bath we

Sepetciler Pavilion
This 17th century mansion was the three mansions staying at the outer garden of the Topkapi Palace. This was e building where sultans enjoyed the ceremonies taking place at Golden Horn harbor and this was a starting point for the daily trips to Bosphorus that Sultans took with their Royal Barge. Now operated by Swiss Otel The Bosphorus as restaurant and convention center.

Tiled Kiosk
The Tiled Pavilion (Cinili Kosk) is the oldest Turkish building in Istanbul. Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror built a residence here in 1457, shortly after he took the city from the Byzantines (1453), but the present building dates from 1472. An oriental-style pavilion lavishly decorated with the finest turquoise and dark blue tiles of the time, it was conceived as a private residence for the sultan. Now the pavilion is officially the Museum of Turkish Faïence, a part of the Istanbul Archeological Museums. It can be visited along with the other museum buildings

Tophane Pavilion
The Tophane Pavilion gets its name from Tophane neighborhood, meaning Cannon factory in Turkish, where there was one.   

 
 
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