The famous Topkapi Palace, which served as the main residence of twenty-five Ottoman sultans for four hundred years, is now one of the main tourist attractions of Istanbul's historic Fatih district and one of the most unique museums in the world included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. This amazing monument is located next to the Hagia Sophia Cathedral and you can get to Topkapı directly from Sultanahmet Square.
- History of the Palace
- Sultan Ahmet Fountain
- What to see at Topkapi Palace
- First courtyard (Janissary)
- Second courtyard (Council Square)
- Third Court
- Fourth Court
Built in the second half of the 15th century by Sultan Mehmed II, this stunning palace complex has survived to this day in excellent condition. Today you can immerse yourself in the world of the Ottoman court of the 15th-19th centuries, walk through the personal apartments of the sultans and the Harem, look into the Library and the Mosque, visit the Palace Kitchens, see the Bath Rooms, and much, much more.
Topkapi Palace is located at the junction of the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara
The territory of the palace is quite large, and the objects on it are very many, so on a tour of the palace should be planned at least half a day, if not the whole day. The tourist should keep in mind that at the ticket office, you can buy a general ticket to visit all the pavilions, temples and museum exhibits. Or you can get tickets only for the individual pavilions. A visit to the Harem is for a fee, which is not included in the general ticket.
A walk through the courtyards and halls of Topkapi Palace is an immersion in the history of the Ottoman Empire
If you visit the palace complex on your own after passing the control, it is obligatory to take an audio guide in English, for which you must leave a deposit. The audio guide will help you understand the purpose of the numerous rooms of the palace complex.
History of the Palace
Before the Turkish conquerors came to this land, washed by the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara, there was the world-famous city of Constantinople, the beautiful and rich capital of the Byzantine Empire. But at the end of May 1453, after a long siege, Constantinople fell to the Ottoman army. In the bloody battles the last Byzantine emperor Constantine the Eleventh was killed. And in the city captured by the Ottomans the Ottoman sultans reigned for almost five centuries, the first of whom was the conqueror of Constantinople, Mehmed the Second.
After a long siege and use of cannons, Mehmed II took Constantinople
It was Mehmed the Second who created a huge palace residence on the coast of the eastern ledge of the Balkan Peninsula in the form of a stone tent city, and Constantinople itself, renamed Istambul for many years, became the capital of the great Ottoman Empire. Originally a palace was built for the Sultan near Bayezid Square (this palace is lost), but further buildings of the complex, starting with the harem, moved eastward, closer to the coast.
Topkapi translates as "cannon gate", this is the name of the main entrance to the complex, which was under construction since the 60s of the 15th century. This name is quite symbolic, because it carries the meaning of one of the Sultan's rituals. The fact that the arrival or departure of the Sultan from the palace was always announced by a cannon salute. Although in the original version the palace complex was called Seral.
The main palace of Istanbul on the shore of the Sea of Marmara was built during the 15th-19th centuries
The palace pavilions and apartments were created as the main residence of the sultans. It is believed that the Harem was originally built behind the palace grounds. Later, during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, it was rebuilt in the immediate vicinity of the sultan's chambers. But it is possible that the harem courtyard was built within the palace complex. Although under Suleiman the palace did undergo considerable reconstruction.
Construction and decoration of the palace continued after Suleiman the Magnificent and a total of 25 Ottoman rulers had lived and ruled in this palace for 400 years until the mid-19th century when a new sultanate residence, Dolmabahce, was built in Istanbul. In 1923, the Turkish Republic was proclaimed and Topkapı Palace was given the status of a museum. Today it is one of the most popular and most visited attractions in Istanbul.
The tour of the palace grounds begins in a small square with one of the structures of the Ottoman Empire of the first half of the 18th century, the Sultan Ahmet Fountain.
Sultan Ahmet Fountain
This fountain, well known to all tourists visiting Istanbul, bears the name of the ruler under whom it appeared in one of the most popular centers of the city in front of the main palace gates. This ruler was Sultan Ahmed the Third, who ruled the Ottoman Empire in the first third of the 18th century.
The reign of Ahmed the Third is called in the history of the country "the Age of Tulips".
The reign of Ahmed the Third is called the "Age of Tulips. The fact is that, like Peter the Great, Ahmed, in order to further develop the country wanted to get acquainted with the advanced achievements of the leading European powers and sent for this purpose an embassy to France. As a result of quite a long study of European life in all its fields, the ambassadors compiled a multi-volume and detailed report. Many of the achievements and customs of the Parisians were the subject of borrowing, including the widespread enthusiasm for the cultivation of tulips.
Under the same ruler great attention was paid to the development of literacy of the population, and under him the first Ottoman printing house began to operate. The fountain pavilion erected in front of the palace's main gate in 1728, replaced the former Peraiton fountain, a monument of Byzantine history. The rococo style of the fountain pavilion shows the influence of the European style on the Ottoman architecture.
The Ahmed III Fountain is located between the Hagia Sophia Cathedral and Topkapi Palace
The pavilion has the form of a large square, with niches of mihrab framed with bas-reliefs of plant and floral ornaments. In each niche there are fountains of drinking water, which comes here from an inner 8-cornered reservoir. In the same niches, just above the fountains, framed by red and blue plates, are plates with 14-strophe poetic dedications to water and Ahmed.
The outer corners of the pavilion are provided with kiosks with barred windows where, in the old days, one could get water and sherbet for free. There are five small domes on the roof of the pavilion. The significance of this fountain for Istanbul was so great that in the mid-20th century this fountain was featured on the 10-rouble Turkish money.
The Ahmed Fountain was erected in the center of a large and crowded square
After seeing Ahmet's unique and historic fountain pavilion, tourists head to the Topkapi palace complex.
What to see in Topkapi Palace
The palace complex consists of several courtyards, each with its own interesting building objects. The tour begins with the First Courtyard, which is absolutely free to enter. In total, the palace has four courtyards, connected by a gate. Each courtyard is surrounded by walls and was a kind of fortress. So that in case of attack of the enemy, the sultan could hide in more distant courtyards while the defense of the previous ones was going on. As a last resort, it was possible to escape from the last courtyard to the sea, where the ship was waiting, through the underground passage or the emergency gate. But all these measures proved unnecessary, for not a single attack was made on the Topkapi palace.
Through this gate of the Fourth Yard one could go to the sea
The first and second courtyards were the outer part of the palace, which was called the birun. Here were the administrative services, visitors, and various events. The Third and Fourth Courtyards, on the other hand, were exclusively the inner part of the palace, the endurun, where the sultan's private life took place. This area was in turn divided into selamlik (personal territory of the sultan) and haremlik (residence of wives, concubines and children of the ruler). The sultan's private quarters were at the junction of these territories.
В покои султана можно было пройти из гаремлика и из селямлика
The First Yard (Janissary)
The entrance to the largest courtyard of the Sultan's palace is through the Imperial Gate or the Gate of the Overlord (Bab-i Hümayun). From here the Ottoman lords also went out to pray at the Hagia Sophia (Hagia Sophia) Cathedral.
The entrance to the First Court and the garden palace complex is through the Emperor's Gate
This gate, built as a two-story rectangle with an inner vault, resembled a medieval castle. The second floor was reserved for the sultan's pavilion, from where he could observe ceremonies or performances. That pavilion has not survived to this day. The Lords Gate was built in the second half of the 15th century under Mehmed II, but was rebuilt several times afterwards.
The first courtyard is also called the Janissary Courtyard because it housed their barracks. The Janissaries were the main Ottoman infantry military force, which was the army and police, fire brigade and departmental guard in the state. As an active military force, the Janissary army existed from the middle of the 14th century until the first half of the 19th century.
The Janissaries made up a huge army and were a powerful political force
The Yard of the Janissary was a passageway for the reigning sultan and his retinue, as well as a public area for all residents and visitors to the city, regardless of religion or social status. The Sultan's bakery and medical clinic functioned here, firewood was stored, and a water supply station operated here. Here was also the Treasury with the Mint, service pavilions, etc. In this courtyard the audience of foreign ambassadors waited for the Sultan. This is where the mass Friday prayers and various events were organized.
In the same courtyard the Orthodox Cathedral of St. Irene, a Byzantine architectural monument of the 4th-6th centuries, was used as a military arsenal during the Ottoman Empire. We will tell you about it below. Also in the First Courtyard were Platan of the Janissaries and the Hangman's Fountain. These two objects were connected in the following way. Disgruntled janissaries would periodically gather under the sycamore tree to demand the execution of a particular pasha. The janissaries would stand until the sultan complied with their demands.
Even today, many of the palace sycamores remember the reign of the Ottoman sultans
After an unwanted pasha was executed, his head was given to the rebels, and the executioner and his assistant washed the blood off their hands in the Fountain, hence the name of the fountain became the Hangman's Fountain. The head of the executed, placed on a large silver platter, was put on public display on a high marble pole, which was also located in the First Court. A special servant of the inner guard (bestaji) told all passing citizens about the crimes of the executed. In addition, on a nearby pillar there was written information about the criminal and his atrocities.
By the way, only the heads of higher dignitaries were placed on the silver dishes. For the heads of lower ranks there were wooden dishes, and the severed heads of the most rank and file officials were laid directly on the ground. The heads of enemies of the state or other parts of their bodies were also placed there. There was always plenty of people in Istanbul eager to see the heads of executed criminals.
The hangman's fountain is one of the mystical sites of Topkapi Palace
Despite the fact that the First Court was usually crowded, there was always a surprising silence. The requirement to maintain silence in the Topkapi Palace was very strict, and its violation was immediately punished by caning. The entrance to the First Courtyard was guarded by 50 gatekeepers during the day, and at night the guards were reinforced by janissaries.
Shrine of St. Irene (Holy Peace)
Tourists entering the territory of the First Court often pass by this unique architectural landmark of Istanbul, belonging to the early period of Constantinople's history (4th-6th centuries), not knowing about its existence. And this is very sad. This structure in the form of a traditional basilica appeared on the site of the ruins of the city's oldest temple of Aphrodite in the early 4th century. By the way, some of the stones, columns and other remains of the temple of Aphrodite went for the construction of the new church and some other buildings of the palace complex.
The Church of St. Irene - a unique monument of Constantinople architecture of the 4th-6th centuries
The Orthodox temple, built in honor of St. Mir, became the main Orthodox temple in Constantinople and remained so until the construction of the Cathedral of St. Sophia. It was here that the relics of St. John Chrysostom originally rested.
It is believed that later both churches (Peace and St. Sophia) were surrounded by a single fence and created a single religious complex. The Sofia cathedral consecrated in 360, became the main temple of the city, but the role of the Temple of St.Peace also remained essential after that. In it, for example, in 381 held the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople. The role of the cathedral was also performed by this temple at the beginning of the 5th century, when the Cathedral of St. Sophia was restored after the fire.
The temple also had an open courtyard, which has been preserved to this day
In 532, during the reign of Justinian in Constantinople, there was the famous Nika rebellion, which led to the destruction of many of the city's buildings. Both of the city's temples also suffered in this rebellion. But later they were both restored. The temple of St. Peace was not simply restored, but greatly enlarged and turned into a cruciform basilica.
Later the temple was damaged by an earthquake, but was rebuilt again. After the capture of Constantinople by the Turks, it eventually became part of the constructed palace complex Topkapi, in the left corner of the front entrance, and was used for a very long time as a warehouse for the armament of the Janissaries. By the way, at the same time the temple began to be called in the Turkish manner Aya Irini. In the middle of 19th century, the temple functioned as a Museum of Antiquities, and then as a Military Museum. Since 80-ies of the 20th century the cathedral was used as a concert hall. Here were held music festivals and other concerts. Today the church is under restoration, but is open to the public.
Today the inhabitants of the ancient temple are numerous pigeon families
This church was not reconstructed into a Muslim temple, and so it is valuable precisely because it has remained virtually as it was rebuilt after the 6th century rebellion under Emperor Justinian.
The curious tourist will enter with awe under the vaults of this ancient domed cruciform basilica, which is a unique example of Byzantine architecture, and is ingrown into the cultural layer of the earth for more than five meters. The entrance is through a high gallery, from which the visitor enters the nifa sub-dome space, surrounded by columns and the upper gallery.
In the Church of St. Irene there is silence and the spirit of the early Middle Ages
By the way, you should keep in mind that the entrance to the Temple of Irene is not free. You can buy a ticket, if you wish, only for this temple, or you can buy a single ticket to see all the sights of the palace (except the Harem, where the ticket is purchased separately).
The ticket office, where you can buy admission tickets, is located to the left of the entrance to St. Irene's Church.
In this temple the temple altar is very unusually decorated, on the east side surrounded by a cintron - seats for bishops in the form of an amphitheater. The point is that this altar is a witness of such an interesting historical period as iconoclasm (the 8th-9th centuries), when icons and other decorated temple items considered to be elements of idolatry were destroyed everywhere. That is why the semicircle of the apse of the altar of this temple is decorated with a huge mosaic black cross - the universal symbol of faith - on a green background, as if in the middle of the ground.
The decoration of the altar in the Church of Irene is a rare specimen of the iconoclastic period
In addition to the cross, there are other Orthodox symbols - the three windows symbolize the Trinity, and the synthronome symbolizes Mount Calvary. Walking around the temple you can touch Byzantine masonry from different centuries, see pigeons settled under the roof of the dome and feel the breath of the very early Middle Ages.
Second courtyard (Council Square)
After seeing all the possible sights of the First Courtyard, the visitor comes to the next gate, which is called the Gates of Welcome (Bab-us-selam). Visitors could only enter this gate, built in the second half of the 15th century, on foot. Only the Sultan could enter on horseback. Originally the gate was made of wood, and it was under the rule of Suleiman the Magnificent. It was during his reign that the gate was decorated with towers, similar to those in Europe.
The Gates of Greeting acquired this appearance under Suleiman the Magnificent
The main architectural structures of the Second Court were the Divan (Meeting Palace), the Outer Treasury, the long gallery of the Palace kitchens, the Beshir-Agha Mosque, the Chancellery, the stables, the Hamam and other service rooms. Here was also the entrance to the Harem, which was located partly in the Second and partly in the Third Courtyard.
In accordance with the available structures of this courtyard, paths were laid out from the Gates of Welcome in the directions to all the above-mentioned objects. The most important, the Road of the Padishah, led to the territory of the Third Courtyard.
Each object in the Second Yard had its own path
The building of the Divan, the supreme body of government, can be reached from the Gates of Welcome by walking along the Vizier's Road. The Divan in the East was always called a deliberative body of government, where the members of the government, in this case the viziers, were seated on low couches in a circle of the deliberative room.
Because of the location of the divan in the Second Court, the square of this court was called the Council Square. Here important state ceremonies were held, decisions were made on the beginning and end of wars, marriages of the sultan's children, meetings with foreign ambassadors, etc.
The Couch or Council Room was not very large and connected to the Chancery
The building of the Divan, also built in the era of Suleiman the Magnificent, has a rectangular shape and consists of three not very large rooms, zoned by arched partitions into three rooms - the Rooms of Sittings, the Chancellery and the Cabinet of the Chief Vizier. The State Council met for four days every week to deal with current and topical issues.
The meetings were attended only by the viziers. The ruler himself could be in the Tower of Justice at that time and observe the development of events through a special window (the Sultan's Eye). It was slightly above the place of the chief vizier and had a gilded lattice. If they saw that the sultan had closed the window, it meant that he did not like the decision. Then the ministers had to meet the sultan in the Audience Hall, which was in the next, Third Court. With the window open, the viziers could not know for sure whether the sultan was listening to them or not, but the very presence of the Sultan's Eye motivated them greatly.
Tower of Justice
This tower appeared in the Second Courtyard during the time of Mehmed the Conqueror, but then it was a small pavilion. Under Suleiman the Magnificent it was transformed into a Tower with a cone-shaped end. In the second half of the 19th century the tower was decorated with a belvedere in empire style. The staircase was probably rebuilt at the same time.
The Tower of Justice is the architectural dominant feature of the Second Courtyard and part of the Divan
From this tower the rulers viewed the surroundings of their capital, and from a special room they watched the meetings of the Divan.
The eight-domed Outer Treasury building is an extension of the Divan building. In the basements of this thick-walled structure with small windows, the money disposed of by the Divan, including the Janissary salaries, was kept.
The openwork entrances to the Divan and the Treasury are adjacent
Today in the buildings of the former Treasury you can visit interesting museum exhibitions, such as the exhibition of clocks or military Ottoman weapons. At the clock exhibition you can see very interesting exhibits with Muslim symbols from floor to miniature.
The clock collection of Topkapi Palace contains very interesting exhibits
The collection of weapons, collected over the centuries by the Ottoman rulers and consisting of Turkish weapons, gifts and trophies, is also fascinating. There are some swords and sabers from the Egyptian Mamelukes of the 14th-16th centuries, Turkish axes and sticks of the 17th century, armament and armor of Turkic cavalry (chain mail, spears, bows, etc.) and the armor of their horses. Turkic steel armament was for a long time the most advanced in the world in comparison with the bronze armament of other countries.
In the Museum of Arms you can trace the history of the formation of Ottoman weapons
There are also trophy weapons from conquered countries, such as medieval European knightly swords. There are Turkish muskets and rifles from the 17th-20th centuries and many other interesting things. Among the rarities of the museum are very interesting swords of Mehmed the Conqueror (15th century) and swords of many subsequent sultans of the Ottoman Empire, each of which is not only a weapon but also a work of art.
The original swords of the Ottoman sultans are the pride of the Arms Museum
The famous Topkapi Dagger is very interesting. This unique work of military art, decorated with precious stones, was made for the Persian ruler Nadir Shah as a gift from Mahmud the First in the mid-18th century. The three huge emeralds on the hilt, set with diamonds, and the watch inside the hilt draw much attention. The dagger itself is in a golden scabbard.
It is said that the gift was sent to Persia, but did not reach Nadir Shah, because of his sudden death. Therefore the dagger returned to Istanbul. It is believed that this dagger was used to kill all shahzadeh who were a threat to the reigning sultan.
It's hard to take your eyes off the famous Topkapi Dagger
It should be borne in mind that taking pictures in this museum is strictly forbidden, but, nevertheless, it usually does not stop tourists.
The territory of the Harem is a kind of city within a city. The Harem begins at the Carriage Gate, located to the left of the Divan. As already mentioned, the Harem can only be visited by individual tickets, which are sold at the ticket office located at the entrance to the Harem. The gate to the women's side of the palace was called the Carriage Gate because the residents of the Harem went in and out in closed carriages. Not far from this gate was the Gate of the Dead, under which the bodies of those who died or were killed in the palace, including those of the Harem, passed through. This is one of the mystical sites of Topkapi, along with the Hangman's Fountain, with which many ghost legends are associated.
Upon entering the harem, the tourist finds himself in the environment of an isolated city
This harem was built during the reign of Suleiman the First, well known to many from the Turkish series "The Magnificent Century". And it was built at the request of the most famous concubine of the Ottoman harem, who later became the wife of the Sultan - Roksolana or Hürrem Sultan, who wanted to be near the Sultan of her heart.
Hürrem Sultan became the most famous resident of the Istanbul harem
Although not all the harem chambers are open to visitors, even in those rooms that are accessible to view, one can marvel at the structure of this special world, where there was a contradictory atmosphere of luxury and intrigue, entertainment and struggle for existence. The curious visitor will walk through the sumptuous apartments of the Valide Sultan (the Sultan's mother) and see the modest rooms of the concubines, the eunuchs' rooms and the women's baths, the hammams and dressing rooms.
The Harem area is an entire city block in the Topkapi complex
Walking through the streets and alleys of the harem is very interesting, especially if you can at least approximately imagine the life of its inhabitants. After all, the most beautiful women from all over the world lived here. Were they happy? What did they do for a living? How did their days and years pass? Girls were most often in the harem as prisoners of numerous military operations and conquests of new territories, and sometimes when they were children.
The very existence of the harem and the number of its inhabitants over time became a kind of status of the ruler, a symbol of his power and might, rather than a matter of state necessity. The secrets of harem life, culture and traditions, complex relationships are well illustrated in the movie "The Magnificent Century". And although it is a feature film, which has the right to fiction and embellishment, but, nevertheless, the basic principles of harem culture of relations can be traced on it quite well.
Life in the harem was subject to strict rules and flowed according to its own laws
The life of the harem women was subject to strict laws and hierarchy. The main managers, guards and servants in the harem were black eunuchs. They were the link between the sultan and his mother, between the harem and the outside world, between the sultan and the charming slave girls. At the top of the female hierarchy was the sultan's mother, the valide, followed by the wives, then the concubines, the maidservants (senior and junior), and so on. Each of the senior maids had their own narrow specifics, one was responsible for food, another for laundry, the third for heating, etc.
All concubines were trained in language, literacy, music, dance, and, of course, the art of grooming. The number of concubines living there could be up to five hundred. And each of them dreamed of becoming the Sultan's favorite wife. It was the top of the harem's career ladder. But the sultan was alone, and naturally he did not have time to pay attention to all of them. Some girls who had never received the Sultan's attention might have been successfully married off. Many girls died as a result of intrigues, plots, envy, or other circumstances. For example, Sultan Ibrahim the First decided to have a new harem, but the inhabitants of the old one were simply drowned in the waters of the Bosporus.
The most luxurious rooms were occupied by the Sultan and his mother, the Valide.
The sultan's attention was paid to a concubine (güzde) and she was placed in a separate room. The sultan invited the concubine to his chambers with a kerchief (mendil), which he gave to the beloved. After a night with the sultan, the concubine became ikbal, received gifts and was moved to better living conditions. If she then gave birth to a son, she became a kadin (unofficial wife of the sultan), which meant an almost heavenly life. If, however, the sultan no longer remembered the güzda, she would return to the common room of concubines.
The Sultan's favorite wives and minions also lived richly
The elder wife was considered the qadin whose son was born first and was the heir of the first order (shehzadeh). In this connection, there was a constant struggle for primacy between the wives, including possible infanticide of the heirs.
As mentioned above, the multifaceted life in the harem passed under the constant attention of the Valide Sultan (the mother of the reigning sultan). She organized all harem life from the appointment of maids to the training of princes and princesses. She knew everything about everyone, punished or encouraged, executed or pardoned, handled the expenses of the harem and had her own secret council. The Walid's three-story chambers in the harem were the largest and most luxurious. They were adjoined by their own courtyard.
Women of his choice were taken to the Sultan along a corridor called the Golden Road.
The role of the Valide sometimes rose to that of ruling not only the harem, but the entire state. Especially in those periods when the sultans who were weak in character or prone to alcoholic beverages were in power. Then the valide would take their place during the Divan sessions, participate in making state decisions, and even conduct the change of officials.
Musical evenings for the Valide and a select circle were held in the Musical Salon
Walking around the territory of the Harem, we must remember all aspects of life of its many inhabitants. On the one hand, they lived on everything ready-made, not knowing cold and hunger. But on the other hand, their life depended on many circumstances, sometimes turning into hell.
Kafes (Golden Cage)
All children, including the Sultan's heirs, lived with their mothers until the age of 8, then until the age of 13 in separate apartments, but also in the Harem. Here they received a good education and underwent the ceremonial rite of circumcision. Then they began to be taught the art of government. However, all shekhzadehs continued to struggle for power, both explicitly and implicitly, and were a constant threat to the reigning sultan.
To avoid the possibility of an assassination attempt, Mehmed the Third killed 19 of his brothers
Even at the dawn of the Ottoman state, there was an unspoken rule of killing all the supposed heirs of the Sultan who ascended the throne. Mehmed the Second Conqueror turned this unspoken rule into an officially enforced law, under which the sultan who sat on the throne had to kill all possible heirs. This was intended to promote safe and quiet rule and to prevent the possibility of civil wars. As a result of this law, more than 80 hereditary princes were murdered during the 150-year history of the empire. At the end of the 16th century, only one ruler, Mehmed the Third, upon ascending the throne, strangled 19 of his brothers.
The succession of these bloody murders in the early 17th century was stopped by the next ruler, Ahmed the First, famous for building the Blue Mosque - the son of Mehmed the Second. He officially replaced the murders of possible claimants with life imprisonment in a special pavilion of the harem courtyard - Kafes - nicknamed the "Golden Cage". Possible heirs to the throne from the age of 8 were imprisoned in this peculiar prison.
Since the 17th century, all the Sultan's heirs to the throne were kept in Kafes under the care of
In Cafes the crown princes had to live in complete isolation from the outside world, guarded by deaf-mute eunuchs. Their living conditions were excellent, they had servants and even concubines, learned the sciences, entertained themselves at sporting events, their own zoo and music and dance evenings. But the total isolation from the outside world, the threat of sudden violent death, drove the poor princes to madness and often to suicide.
Good conditions of detention could not replace freedom for the heirs to the throne.
The purpose of keeping possible heirs to the throne alive was to preserve the dynasty, because it was impossible to kill all the heirs, as the hereditary succession could be interrupted, and, indeed, some inhabitants of Cafes managed to become rulers after many years of isolation, but most of them all had mental problems. Suleiman the Second, for example, became the Padishah after 36 years of living in the "Golden Cage", and the last ruler of the Ottoman Empire - Mehmed the Sixth ascended the throne after 48 years of living in Kafes.
The area of the palace kitchens on the right side of the Second Court can rightly be called a palace. The palace kitchens on the right side of the Second Court could rightly be called a palace, because it was an entire street of numerous kitchen buildings where more than a thousand cooks cooked food for the sultan, janissaries, harem, guests, etc. around the clock. The number of eaters ranged from 5 to 10 thousand! High brick chimneys rose above all the kitchens, and the buildings themselves had domed completions with arched windows.
The palace kitchens are another mini-town of Topkapi
In addition to the huge kitchen rooms there were storerooms for supplies, housing, mosques and bath-houses for all the kitchen workers, who not only cooked food here, but also lived completely. Today, in the former kitchen rooms it is very interesting to see real cooking conditions and real kitchen utensils, stone tables and improvised hoods.
Stone tables, huge vats - this is where food was prepared for the palace inhabitants.
In some rooms there are exhibitions of dining and tea utensils, porcelain and silver, samovars and knives.
Collections of tableware housed in the halls of the kitchen palace are very diverse
It is very interesting to walk along this street, looking through all the open doors. After seeing all the possible sights of the Second Courtyard of the Topkapi Palace, we move on to the Third Courtyard.
The entrance to the Third Courtyard of Topkapi, which was the personal territory of the sultan (selamlik), was through a beautiful and almost sacred to the subjects gate, variously referred to in different sources as the Gate of Bliss or the Gate of Audiences or also called the Gate of White Eunuchs. The threshold of the entrance to the sultan's territory was kissed by those entering in sacred awe.
The Gate of Bliss was also called the Gate of Happiness.
The rococo gate was guarded by the chief butler and his subordinate white eunuchs who served the entire male population of the selamlik. Their living quarters were to the right and left of the entrance.
The first pavilion in the form of a one-storey rectangular building with a marble colonnade, encountered on the way of visitors to the Third Court is the Audience Hall. It has been in Topkapi since the 15th century, but has been rebuilt several times over the centuries.
Auditorium (Throne Room)
This small and once quite lavishly decorated pavilion was a kind of the ruler's office. Here he listened to the Grand Vizier's reports on the activities of the Divan, here he received foreign ambassadors, and here he solved state issues requiring the participation of the Sultan himself.
The audience hall resembles a pavilion. It is modest and small
Ambassadors from other countries were obliged to enter the Audience Hall only accompanied by two white eunuchs, who held the foreign guest's hands to prevent any possible attempt on the Sultan's life. This is well portrayed in the movie The Magnificent Century.
During all the receptions, the Sultan sat half-lying on a magnificent gilded throne sparkling with emeralds, rubies and diamonds in the corner of the room, while his entourage sat near him on the floor. Today there is another, very humble throne here. The golden throne in the center of the room is a temporary decoration of the room.
The main throne of the sultan in the form of a large box is in the right corner
During the Sultan's reign, there was no other furniture in the room besides the large throne. There was also a fireplace, which heated the room. All visitors pay attention to the beautifully decorated spring, which had two functions - to be a source of life-giving water and to muffle the voices of the conversations, so that no one could overhear them.
The main purpose of the springs in the palace is to drown out the voices of those who talk
The large window of the Throne Room barred in gold is also very beautiful. In front of this window, visitors wishing an audience would display gifts for the sultan. And if the gift was of interest to the ruler, he would accept the petitioner and his offering. If the gift was not to the Sultan's liking, it was left untouched and later taken to the Sultan's private treasury.
Through the bars of this window, the padishah assessed the value of the gifts being offered
To today's visitors, the Throne Room or Hall of Audiences seems a rather modest structure, because the role of the Ottoman Empire, which conquered more than 30 countries, was enormous and worthy of a more presentable structure. But, one must keep in mind that this hall looked much richer at one time.
The Throne Room was once rich and very important to the life of the palace and the country
In the 19th century, much gold from the Throne Room was removed for the decoration of the new palace, Dolmabahce. And the throne was stripped of its precious stones, etc. Around the Throne Room is the traditional oriental gallery.
Ahmed the Third Library
The light and airy building, located almost in the center of the Third Courtyard, transports visitors into the atmosphere of Oriental fairy tales. The interior of this fine example of Ottoman architecture features 16th- and 17th-century tiles, bright stained-glass windows of numerous windows, painted walls and a dome.
A special library building was built to hold the book folios.
The Sultan and the high officials could come here, comfortably ensconced on soft couches, to read books, most of them of religious content. The sultan and high officials could come here and, comfortably seated on soft couches, read books, most of them of religious content, in peace and quiet.
The interior of the library is worthy of admiration and admiration for its creators
Today, the atmosphere of peace, quiet and tranquility is recreated here. We don't want to leave here at all, but we have to go and see the other sights of the Third Courtyard.
The school of pageboys
All along the perimeter of the Third Courtyard are low white buildings. They housed various branches of the boys' school. Children who lived there could not leave the palace and could not enter the harem territory. They received a very good education and the most able of them could subsequently qualify for the highest positions in the state. Thus, this school was a kind of state institution for training future officials.
Premises of the School of Pageants of various purposes are placed along the perimeter of the Third Courtyard
The boys who went to school were mostly from Christian countries. They were selected from all the countries conquered by the Ottoman Empire by special people--devsherme--and brought here to raise them as men loyal to the Sultan. Children were selected according to external and mental criteria between the ages of 8 and 13. Not all parents wanted to give their sons away, and hid them when they learned of the arrival of the sultan's representatives. But the poorest people gave their children away themselves, hoping for a better lot.
Here the boys were taught literacy, music, drawing, and military affairs. The basics of religious education were given, and they were taught to serve the Sultan and other high officials. The school had several levels of education, and not all boys reached the last level. Today in the former premises of the school there are various museum collections, which are very interesting to get acquainted with.
In the Museum of Sultan's Clothes you can see what Sultan the Magnificent himself wore.
To the right of the entrance in one of the rooms of the former school of pageboys one can see exhibits of sultan's clothes. These are ceremonial robes made of expensive fabric and decorated with gems and furs, as well as domestic casual wear. The clothes of all rulers were sacredly preserved, and even the red-gold caftan of Mehmed the Conqueror, who wore it in the distant 15th century, has survived.
Farther from the Museum of Sultan's Clothes there is the Treasury, where you can see the jewelry and jewels from the personal treasury of sultans. Here you can also find such a famous diamond as the "Spooner's Diamond". This huge gem fell into the hands of a poor man, who, not realizing its value, exchanged it for three wooden spoons. In the course of time, the diamond ended up in the Sultan's treasury and was given a decent treatment.
The Spooner's Diamond, one of the famous Topkapi Treasure Trove exhibits
There is in the Treasury the precious throne of Selim the Third and several personal belongings of the famous Hürrem, precious utensils, military decorations and many other interesting things.
Sacred Cloak Pavilion
On the left side of the courtyard behind the former Mosque of Alagar, also called the Mosque of the White Eunuchs, we see the Pavilion of the Sacred Cloak. Today it houses a collection of sacred rarities, including the Prophet's Banner and his Sacred Cloak.
The Sacred Cloak itself is kept in a golden chest
There is also the Prophet Muhammad's hair that once adorned his beard, a cast of one of his legs, the Prophet's bow and sword, a gold frame for the Muslim holy Black Stone, etc.
The Holy Robe Pavilion contains relics sacred to Muslims
Some of the Orthodox relics found by the Turks during the conquest of Constantinople have also been preserved here, in particular the mummified hand of John the Baptist, who baptized Jesus, can be seen here. The staff of Moses, the personal effects of Fatima and many sacred books are also here. In the halls of the Pavilion, surahs from the Quran are recited all day long, creating a surprisingly soulful atmosphere.
Muslim shrines in the Pavilion are kept next to Christian shrines
The Pavilion of the Sacred Cloak, as already mentioned, is adjacent to the largest palace mosque, Alagar, built in the 15th century under Mehmed the Conqueror and located diagonally to the rest of the courtyard.
The Alagar Mosque is the largest mosque on the grounds of Topkapi Palace
The diagonal location of the mosque is due to the fact that they are always oriented towards Mecca. Today, this mosque holds all the book treasures of Topkapi Palace.
The Fourth Yard
The fourth courtyard includes the territory of the sultan's garden, where the ruler could rest, enjoy the views of the connection of the Bosphorus with the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara, reflect on the fate of the empire and just be alone with himself.
The fourth courtyard was a relaxation area for the reigning sultan
There is no special gate to the garden, so the Fourth Yard is a logical continuation of the Third Yard. In addition to the garden landscape of the Tulip (Tulip) Garden, several fine examples of small-form architecture can be seen here. These are the pavilions of Yerevan, Baghdad, Golden (Iftariye) and others.
Here the Padishah walked between vineyards and fruit trees, enjoyed the fragrance of flower beds, where tulips and roses, hyacinths and carnations grew. Today, the Tulip Garden is part of the Gulhane Park public recreation area.
Among the shade of the trees and the fragrance of the flowers were small pavilions for resting
When you leave the Third Courtyard by the Pavilion of the Holy Cloak, you can go up to the Marble Terrace, look at the Yerevan and Baghdad pavilions on both sides of it, admire the opposite shore of the Bosphorus, etc.
This striking example of Ottoman architecture in the form of a pavilion, on the left side of the Marble Terrace, was built in the mid 1930s of the 17th century during the reign of Murad the Fourth to commemorate the conquest of Yerevan. This eight-cornered structure was built on the site of the drained part of the pond (architect Koj Kasim Agha).
The Yerevan Pavilion is one of the worthy additions to the Marble Terrace
Later, in the 18th century, this pavilion housed the most valuable books of the palace library, including the personal book collections of the reigning sultans. It was also used for moving sacred relics from the Pavilion of the Sacred Cloak when it was being cleaned.
The mosaic interior and stained-glass windows of the Yerevan Pavilion fascinate visitors
The Yerevan Pavilion is next to the magnificent Marble Terrace, its arched gallery, pyramidal fountain and ornamental pool. Opposite, just to the left, you can see the Circumcision Pavilion, which borders the eastern side of the Harem.
The Marble Terrace is a viewing platform surrounded by beautiful pavilions
On the Marble Terrace is the golden Iftariye Pavilion, built in the middle of the 17th century. It is the highest point of Topkapi Palace, from where you can see the surroundings with the Golden Horn and Galata Hill with the famous tower of the same name on it. These views were once seen by the Ottoman sultans who used to come under the roof of this pavilion for dinner and sunset contemplation. Here the rulers of the vast empire received greetings for the Bayram holiday, watched sports competitions, etc.
Opposite the Yerevan Pavilion on the right side of the Marble Terrace is the Baghdad Pavilion, built during the reign of Sultan Murad the Fourth on the occasion of the capture of Baghdad by the same architect as the Yerevan Pavilion.
The Baghdad pavilion, like the one in Yerevan, seems to have risen from the pages of Oriental fairy tales.
This very ornate Oriental-style pavilion is decorated mostly with blue tiles on which the traditional Arabic script in the form of surahs from the Koran has been inscribed in white tiles. Above the entrance, the inscription is in Persian.
Oriental motifs of the interior delight and captivate the imagination
The ivory and tortoiseshell doors of the Pavilion were trimmed with mother-of-pearl, and the offices contained the collection books of Abdul-Ahmed the First and Selim the First. This Pavilion had a small kitchen for making coffee.
This pavilion is located north of the Marble Terrace with the Yerevan and Baghdad pavilions. It was also built under Mehmed the Fourth, and under subsequent rulers (in the first half of the 18th century) it was divided into two zones - the Divan and the Sherbet.
The interior of the Sofa Pavilion is decorated in the recognizable traditions of the East
It is believed that this is almost the first building in the "Turkish Rococo" style.
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The main and immediate purpose of this building was the pharmacy function. All medical specialists - ophthalmologists, surgeons, gynecologists and others - could work here.
All in all, six or seven dozens of different medics worked in the service of the palace. All of them were under the supervision of the Chief Surgeon. It was here, under his supervision, that the pharmacists prepared the preparations prescribed by the palace physicians, and after preparation they were packed into bottles and jars.
The pavilion of the chief physician was in fact the palace apothecary
This structure appeared already under the first ruler of Istanbul, Mehmed the Second, and its roof was used by him as an observation deck. After the construction of the new Sultan's palace, Dolmabahci, the building of the Chief Physician's Pavilion was used as a music room and later as an armory. Since the beginning of the 20th century medicines have been stored here.
Medicine Pavilion (Medgidium)
This, the most modern structure on the grounds of Topkapi Palace, is interesting because its architect was Sarkis Balayan, the author of the design and the famous Dolmabahce Palace. This pavilion, built in the middle of the 19th century in the Empire style, later became known as the Medicine Kiosk.
The Pavilion or Medicine Kiosk, the most recent structure in Topkapi Palace
It is believed that the Ottoman sultans who later moved to Dolmabahce stayed in this pavilion during their short visits to Topkapi. They would come here for their ascension ceremonies or to visit the Pavilion of the Sacred Cloak.
In addition to this pavilion in this part of the Fourth Courtyard are the Dressing Room and the Mosque of Sopha. It is clear from the name that in the Dressing Room Pavilion, the clothes of the sultans were kept under the supervision of special custodians.
To store the numerous sultan's garments, the Cloakroom was created.
In front of the Medicine and Dressing Room pavilions, which are next to each other, there is a spacious observation deck from which one can perfectly see the Bosphorus sung by Esenin and the opposite side of Istanbul, which is on the Asian continent.
From the observation decks of the Fourth Yard you can clearly see the Asian side of the Bosphorus
Of course, to understand the whole structure of the palace buildings of Topkapı is very difficult, and probably it is not necessary. The most important thing is to absorb a sense of centuries-old Turkish culture, to see and touch the architectural monuments of different eras from Constantinople to Istanbul, to admire the preserved beauty and capture it in memory.