The Topkapı Palace (Turkish: Topkapı Sarayı; Ottoman Turkish: طوپقپو سرايى, Ṭopḳapu Sarāyı; meaning Cannon Gate Palace) is a large medieval-palace, now museum, in the east of the Fatih district of Istanbul in Turkey. It served as the main residence and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman sultans, in the 15th and 16th centuries.
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The palace complex is located on the Seraglio Point (Sarayburnu), a promontory overlooking the Golden Horn, where the Bosphorus Strait meets the Marmara Sea.
The palace is an extensive complex rather than a single monolithic structure, with an assortment of low buildings constructed around courtyards, interconnected with galleries and passages. Few of the buildings exceed two stories. Seen from above, the palace grounds are divided into four main courtyards and the harem. The first courtyard was the most accessible, while the fourth courtyard and the harem were the most inaccessible.
The terrain is hilly and the palace itself is located at one of the highest points close to the sea. During Greek and Byzantine times, the acropolis of the ancient Greek city of Byzantion stood here. After Sultan Mehmed II's conquest of Constantinople in 1453, Ottoman court was initially set up in the Old Palace (Eski Saray). Mehmed II ordered that construction of Topkapı Palace begin in 1459 CE.
Surrounded by high walls, the First Courtyard (I. Avlu or Alay Meydanı) functioned as an outer precinct or park and is the largest of all the courtyards of the palace. The steep slopes leading towards the sea had already been terraced under Byzantine rule. Some of the historical structures of the First Courtyard no longer exist. This courtyard was also known as the Court of the Janissaries or the Parade Court. Court officials and janissaries would line the path dressed in their best garbs. Visitors entering the palace would follow the path towards the Gate of Salutation and the Second Courtyard of the palace.
circa 1478 CE
Imperial Gate (Bâb-ı Hümâyûn)
The Imperial Gate and outer wall were added to the fortress in Ramadan 883 AH, that is between November and December 1478, after the buildings and gardens had been finished. The Imperial Gate is the first entrance into the palace and thus separates the palace from the city. On each side of the gate are small rooms for gatekeepers and until 1866 CE (1282 Hj.) a manor style flat used to be over the gate.
circa 548 CE
Hagia Irene (Aya İrini )
The Hagia Irene Church was a Greek Eastern Orthodox church built under the orders of Emperor Constantine I over the ruins of a pagan temple as the first church in Constantinople. It served as the church of the Patriarchate until the Hagia Sophia basilica was built. In the 19th century it was converted in to a military museum displaying old weapons.
circa 1727 CE
The Imperial Mint (Darphane-i Amire)
The Imperial Mint dates back to the eighteenth century and produced the empire’s gold and silver coins. It is located inside the first courtyard of Topkapi Palace next to the Hagia Irene in Istanbul. The mint opened in 1727, but what is there today dates from the reign of Mahmut II (1808 - 39). It is now occupied by government offices.
circa 1580 CE
Clerk's Tower (Deavi Kasrı)
Not much remains (inspect) of this late sixteenth century CE structure. The structure, known as the Paper Emini Tower or Deavi Pavilion, with a pointed roof in the shape of a cone, located closest to the middle door, was where the petitions given by the public were received. Every day, one of the Kubbealtı viziers would come and collect the petitions given by the public, listen to the case owners and present the matter to the Court.
circa 1500 CE
Imperial Bakery (Has Firin)
The bakery gate opening into the first courtyard bears an inscription (inspect) with the date 1616. Located behind a monotonous stone wall towards the palace on the right, there are unique, mortar and fodla ovens, and a mosque with the wards of those who work in these furnaces. The bakeries that met the bread need of the palace operated until 1876, but after this date they were all completely extinguished. Now it serves as the entrance to a complex of buildings used as the restoration and technical laboratories of the Archaeological Museum of Istanbul.
Water Tower (Su Terazisi)
The tower-like structure known as the Su Terazisi (literally: water balance) maintained water pressure when conveying water to neighborhoods at a high level. These tower had a cistern at the summit from which the water flowed into distribution pipes.
circa 1891 CE
Istanbul Archaeology Museums
The Istanbul Archaeology Museums (Turkish: İstanbul Arkeoloji Müzeleri) are a group of three archaeological museums located in the Eminönü district of Istanbul, Turkey, near Gülhane Park and Topkapı Palace. The museum has a large collection of Turkish, Hellenistic and Roman artifacts, many gathered from the vast former territories of the Ottoman Empire. The ornate Alexander Sarcophagus, once believed to be prepared for Alexander the Great, is among the most famous pieces of ancient art in the museum.
Through the middle gate is the Second Courtyard (II. Avlu), or Divan Square (Divan Meydanı). The courtyard was probably completed around 1465, during the reign of Mehmed II. It received its final appearance around 1525-1529 CE during the reign of Suleyman I. It is surrounded by the former palace hospital, bakery, Janissary quarters, stables, the imperial harem and Divan to the north and the kitchens to the south. At the end of the courtyard, the Gate of Felicity marks the entrance to the Third Courtyard.
circa 1542 CE
Gate of Salutation (Bab-üs Selam)
The large Gate of Salutation, also known as the Middle Gate (Turkish: Orta Kapı), leads into the palace and the Second Courtyard. This crenellated gate has two large, pointed octagonal towers. Its date of construction is uncertain; the architecture of the towers appears to be of Byzantine influence. An inscription at the door dates this gate to at least 1542. The gate is richly decorated with religious inscriptions and monograms of sultans. Passage through the gate was tightly controlled and all visitors had to dismount, since only the sultan was allowed to enter the gate on horseback.
circa 1720 CE
Hacı Beşir Ağa Mosque and Bath
The small early 18th-century CE mosque and the bath of Beşir Ağa (Beşir Ağa Camii ve Hamamı), who was the chief black eunuch of Mahmud I, are located close to the imperial stables.
circa 1460 CE
Imperial Stables (Istabl-ı Âmire)
The imperial stables or the privy stables, located around five to six meters below ground level, were constructed under Mehmed II and renovated under Suleyman. A vast collection of harness "treasures" (Raht Hazinesi) are kept in the privy stables. Located on the Golden Horn Side of the second yard, the imperial stables of the Topkapi Palace housed the horses that only Sultan and high ranked people of Enderûn rode.
circa 1460 CE
Tower of Justice (Adalet Kulesi)
The Tower of Justice is located between the Imperial Council and the Harem. It is several stories high and the tallest structure in the palace, making it clearly visible from the Bosphorus as a landmark. The tower was probably originally constructed under Mehmed II and then renovated and enlarged by Suleiman I between 1527-1529 CE. Sultan Mahmud II rebuilt the lantern of the tower in 1825 CE while retaining the Ottoman base. The tall windows with engaged columns and the Renaissance pediments evoke the Palladian style.
circa 1460 CE
Imperial Council Hall (Dîvân-ı Hümâyûn)
The Imperial Council building was first built during the reign of Mehmed II. It is where the Imperial Council—consisting of the Grand Vizier (Vazīr-e Azam) and other council ministers (Dîvân Heyeti)—held meetings. The present building dates from the period of Süleyman the Magnificent; the chief architect was Alseddin. It had to be restored after the Harem fire of 1665.
circa 1460 CE
The Gate of Felicity (Bâb-üs Saâde)
It is the entrance into the Third Courtyard which comprises the private and residential areas of the palace. The gate was probably constructed under Mehmed II in the 15th century. It was redecorated in the rococo style in 1774 under Sultan Mustafa III and during the reign of Mahmud II. The gate is further decorated with Qur'anic verses and tuğras above the entrance. The Sultan used this gate and the Divan Meydanı square only for special ceremonies. The Sultan sat before the gate on his Bayram throne on religious, festive days and accession, when the subjects and officials perform their homage standing.
circa 1460 CE
Palace Kitchens (Saray Mutfakları)
The kitchens were built when the palace was first constructed in the 15th century and expanded during the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent. They were modeled on the kitchens of Edirne Palace. The kitchens are located on an internal street stretching between the Second Courtyard and the Marmara Sea. The entrance to this section is through the three doors in the portico of the Second Courtyard. Apart from exhibiting kitchen utensils, today the buildings contain a silver gifts collection, as well as a large collection of porcelain.
circa 1460 CE
Outer Imperial Treasury (Dış hazine)
This treasury was used to finance the administration of the state. Although it contains no dated inscriptions, its construction technique and plan suggest that it was built at the end of the 15th century during the reign of Süleiman I. It subsequently underwent numerous alterations and renovations. It is a hall built of stone and brick with eight domes. In 1928, four years after the Topkapı Palace was converted into a museum, its collection of arms and armor was put on exhibition in this building.
The Imperial Ottoman Harem occupied one of the sections of the private apartments of the sultan; it contained more than 400 rooms. The harem consists of a series of buildings and structures, connected through hallways and courtyards. 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.
Imperial Throne Hall (Hünkâr Sofası)
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.
Hall of the Ablution Fountain (Şadirvanli Sofa)
Also known as "Sofa with Fountain" (Şadirvanli 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, guarded by the harem eunuchs. The Büyük Biniş and the Şal Kapısı, 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.
Courtyard of the Eunuchs (Harem Ağaları Taşlığı)
The Courtyard of the (Black) Eunuchs (Harem Ağaları Taşlığı), with apartments on the left side is where the Harem eunuchs lived. At the end of the court is the apartment of the black chief eunuch (Kızlar Ağası), the fourth high-ranking official in the official protocol.
Beyond the Gate of Felicity is the Third Courtyard (III. Avlu), also called the Inner Palace (Enderûn Avlusu), which is the heart of the palace. It is a lush garden surrounded by the Hall of the Privy Chamber (Has Oda), the treasury, the harem and the library of Ahmed III. The layout of the Third Courtyard was established by Mehmed II. The Hünername miniature from 1584 shows the Third Courtyard and the surrounding outer gardens.
circa 1475 CE
Chamber of Petitions (Arz Odası)
The Audience Chamber, also known as the Chamber of Petitions, is right behind the Gate of Felicity. This square building is an Ottoman kiosk, surrounded by a colonnade of 22 columns supporting the large roof with hanging eaves. The building dates from the 15th century CE. The ceiling of the chamber was painted in ultramarine blue and studded with golden stars. The walls were lined with blue, white and turquoise tiles.
circa 1719 CE
Library of Sultan Ahmed III (Enderûn Kütüphanesi)
The Neo-classical Enderûn Library, also known as "Library of Sultan Ahmed III" (III. Ahmed Kütüphanesi), is located directly behind the Audience Chamber (Arz Odası) in the centre of the Third Court. The library is a beautiful example of Ottoman architecture of the 18th century. It was built on the foundations of the earlier Havuzlu kiosk by the royal architect Mimar Beşir Ağa in 1719 on orders of Ahmed III for use by officials of the royal household.
circa 1460 CE
Mosque of the Ağas (Ağalar Camii)
It is the largest mosque in the palace. It is also one of the oldest constructions, dating from the 15th century during the reign of Mehmed II. The Sultan, the ağas and pages would come here to pray. The mosque is aligned in a diagonal line in the courtyard to make the minbar face Mecca.
The Fourth Courtyard (IV. Avlu), also known as the Imperial Sofa (Sofa-ı Hümâyûn), was more of an innermost private sanctuary of the sultan and his family, and consists of a number of pavilions, kiosks (köşk), gardens and terraces. It was originally a part of the Third Courtyard but recent scholars have identified it as more separate to better distinguish it.
Yerevan Kiosk (Revan Köşkü)
The Yerevan Kiosk served as a religious retreat of 40 days. It is a rather small pavilion with a central dome and three apses for sofas and textiles. The fourth wall contains the door and a fireplace. The wall facing the colonnade is set with marble, the other walls with low-cost İznik blue-and-white tiles, patterned after those of a century earlier.
circa 1640 CE
Baghdad Kiosk (Bağdat Köşkü)
It is situated on the right side of the terrace with a fountain. It was built to commemorate the Baghdad Campaign of Murad IV after 1638 CE. It closely resembles the Yerevan Kiosk. The three doors to the porch are located between the sofas. The façade is covered with marble, strips of porphyry and verd antique. The marble panelling of the portico is executed in Cairene Mamluk style. The interior is an example of an ideal Ottoman room.
circa 1640 CE
İftar Pavilion (İftariye Kameriyesi)
The gilded İftar Pavilion, also known as İftar Kiosk or İftar bower (İftariye Köşkü or İftariye Kameriyesi) offers a view on the Golden Horn. Its ridged cradle vault with the gilded roof was a first in Ottoman architecture with echoes of China and India. The sultan is reported to have had the custom to break his fast (iftar) under this bower during the fasting month of ramadan after sunset. Special gifts like the showering of gold coins to officials by the sultan also sometimes occurred here. The marbled terrace gained its current appearance during the reign of Sultan Ibrahim (1640–48 CE).
circa 1575 CE
Terrace Kiosk of Mustafa Pasha (Sofa Köşku Mustafa Paşa)
The rectilinear Terrace Kiosk (Sofa Köşku / Merdiven Başı Kasrı), also erroneously known as Kiosk of Kara Mustafa Pasha (Mustafa Paşa Köşkü), was a belvedere built in the second half of the 16th century. It was restored in 1704 by Sultan Ahmed III and rebuilt in 1752 by Mahmud I in the Rococo style. It is the only wooden building in the innermost part of the palace. It consists of rooms with the backside supported by columns.
circa 1840 CE
Grand Kiosk of Abdül Mecid I (Mecidiye Köşkü)
The Grand Kiosk, also known as the Mecidiye Kiosk, Grand Pavilion or Kiosk of Abdül Mecid I (Mecidiye Köşkü), built in 1840, was the last significant addition to the palace, along with the neighbouring Wardrobe Chamber (Esvap Odası). Both were built on the orders of Sultan Abdül Mecid I as an imperial reception and resting place because of its splendid location, giving a panoramic view on the Sea of Marmara and the Bosphorus.
Surrounding the whole complex of the First to the Fourth Courtyard are the outer palace gardens. A part of this area that is facing the sea is also known as the Fifth Place. Mehmed II also had three pavilions, or kiosks, constructed, of which only the Tiled Kiosk (Çinili Köşkü) has survived. The Tiled Pavilion dates to around 1473 and houses the Islamic ceramics collection of the Istanbul Archaeology Museums.