Ottoman fountains are a prominent feature of the Ottoman heritage in Istanbul. The monumental imperial mosques, historically and architecturally significant, dominate areas in which they were constructed. But, the fountains are equally historically and artistically important.
In Islam water is the origin of life, created by God. It purifies the human being, both on the outside and spiritually on the inside.
During the Ottoman era construction of fountains had an important role as an act of piety. People of elevated social standing commissioned fountains as an expression of their economic, social and political position. Consequently, fountains became an integral part of the architectural tradition. They fulfilled the practical role of delivering water to the population, but they were also a decorative feature that aesthetically embellished public squares, street corners and indoor spaces of private houses of rich and powerful people. They reflected the architectural taste and style of their time.
Ottoman fountains are all over Istanbul. Some are richly decorated and grandiose, while the others are small and ordinary. Some of them are still used many centuries after they were constructed, while the other ones are defunct and in need of repair.
This post is about the Ottoman fountains that I photographed during my stay in Istanbul in July 2019. I was taking the photos randomly while visiting different areas of the city.
OTTOMAN FOUNTAINS IN SULTANAHMET
The most beautiful of all Ottoman fountains in Istanbul is the Sultan Ahmed III Fountain. Sultan Ahmed III commissioned its construction in the Ottoman Rococo style in 1728.
Without any doubt, this is a fountain that most visitors to Istanbul see, especially if they visit the Topkapi Palace.
The fountain is in a spectacular location next to Hagia Sophia and almost in front of the Imperial Gate of the palace.
The German Fountain is very close to the Blue Mosque. It is a beautiful gazebo-style fountain, constructed to commemorate the second anniversary of the German Emperor Wilhem II’s visit to Istanbul in 1898. It was built in Germany, transported in pieces and assembled in its current place in 1900. This is also a fountain that most visitors to Istanbul see, because of its location in an area with the most famous historical sights.
Not far from there, in the graveyard of the Sultan Mahmud II’s mausoleum, you can find this beautiful small fountain.
OTTOMAN FOUNTAINS IN EMINÖNÜ
In Turkish, saka – a word derived from Arabic – means water carrier. In Ottoman times sakas provided a vital service, by carrying large skins of drinking water to houses. There were public sakas, palace sakas who served the Topkapi Palace and Janissary sakas who served the Janissary corps.
Sakas could only take water from particular fountains. Also, a limited number of sakas could take water from any one fountain. Only when a saka retired or died, another person could take his place. Sakas collected water from saka fountains.
I assume that the Saka Fountain, in the heart of the Bazaar Quarter, was one of those fountains.
The Hatice Sultan Fountain is directly opposite the Egyptian Spice Bazaar and at the beginning of the Bazaar Quarter. It is in a very busy area, in a street with numerous colourful shops selling spices, nuts and other similar products.
There were many people called Hatice Sultan in the Ottoman history. I tried to find out more about this particular fountain, but unsuccessfully. In any case it is a very beautiful fountain, although slightly neglected.
The Süleymaniye Square Fountain is in a square in front of the Süleymaniye Mosque.
Immediately next to the courtyard gate of the Şehzade Mosque you will find the Ayşe Sultan Fountain. Ayşe Sultan commissioned its construction in 1603 to commemorate her husband Damat Ibrahim Pasha who died in 1601. Ayşe Sultan was Sultan Murad III’s daughter and Sultan Mehmed III’s sister. In other words, this fountain is not the original feature of the mosque as they added it much later.
OTTOMAN FOUNTAINS IN FATIH
The Fatih district of Istanbul is a historical area that stretches from the Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sophia on one side, to the Theodosian wall on the other side. In other words, the Fatih district covers the area of old Constantinople. It is the area with most important historical sights. But, it also refers to the area around the Fatih Mosque.
The fountain in a below photo adorns a corner in front of one of the entrances to the Fatih Mosque complex. From there, I walked to the Yavuz Sultan Selim mosque.
At a short distance, I came across the Hafiz Ahmed Pasha Fountain which is in front of the mosque with the same name.
The most beautiful fountains are usually around the imperial mosques. The Yavuz Sultan Selim Fountain is behind the mosque, next to the Sultan Selim I’s mausoleum.
On the way back from the Fatih Mosque I came across the fountain in a photo below, in Fevzi Pasha street. I noticed it because of its beautiful blue and gold Ottoman calligraphic inscription.
OTTOMAN FOUNTAINS IN AKSARAY
I was on the way to visit the Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque, when I came across this fountain in Horhor street.
Basically, one wall of the building is a fountain. The building and the fountain are an outstanding example of the Ottoman architecture at its best.
Also in the same street there is the Horhor Fountain, defunct and neglected, but in my opinion very beautiful.
OTTOMAN FOUNTAINS IN BEYOĞLU
I haven’t really seen or photographed many fountains in this part of Istanbul. Beyoğlu is somewhat newer area of the city. There are not many historical sights, especially if you compare it with the old historical area. But, I know that there are many Ottoman fountains in this part of the city too, in Tophane, Beşiktaş and Şişli – where I didn’t go.
The Bereketzade Fountain is directly opposite the Galata Tower. Originally, it was next to the Bereketzade Mosque, the first mosque constructed in Galata after the conquest of Istanbul. The founder of the mosque and the fountain was Bereketzade Haci Ali bin Hasan, the head-muezzin of Mehmed the Conqueror and the first commander of the Galata area.
The fountain was completely rebuilt in 1732 and repaired several times after that. They moved it to its current location in 1957-1958.
The beautiful Matbah Emini Hasan Aga Fountain is in Yüksek Kaldırım street.
You can see the Galata Tower from this fountain. It is an outstanding historical feature in an equally outstanding street and still in use.
The Mevlana museum is very close to Istiklal street, almost as soon as you start walking down towards Yüksek Kaldırım street. I went to see the museum and in the courtyard I found two fountains, in addition to some other historical constructions.
One of them is the Adile Sultan Fountain.
And the other one is this historical fountain with beautiful calligraphic inscriptions.
OTTOMAN FOUNTAINS IN ÜSKÜDAR
One more fountain that Sultan Ahmed III commissioned is the beautiful Ottoman Rococo style Sultan Ahmed III Fountain in Üsküdar.
The fountain was completed in 1728-1729. Sultan Ahmed III dedicated this fountain to his mother Emetullah Rabia Gülnuş Sultan, together with the nearby Yeni Valide Mosque.
Actually, the fountain is next to the Mihrimah Sultan mosque, in a very central area near the Üsküdar port. I did not know about this fountain before I want there, so it was a very pleasant surprise when I saw it.
I couldn’t find any information about the fountain in a photo below. Clearly, the fountain is still in use as someone was washing hands when I took the photo. It is next to the fruit and vegetable market, so I assume that many people use it on a regular basis.
The fountain in a photo below is one more Ottoman fountain that I discovered in Üsküdar.
The newest fountain in this post is the Horhor Fountain from 1924, constructed one year after the establishment of the modern Turkish republic. The fountain is very close to the Yeni Valide mosque.
But, there are many more Ottoman fountains in Istanbul. They are everywhere and when you walk around the city you will inevitably come across one, perhaps when you least expect it.
They adorn the city and are a crucial part of the Ottoman heritage. I am sure that each fountain has an interesting story behind, although it is perhaps perfectly enough just to look at them and enjoy in their beauty.
And when you find the working fountain, you can drink some water too!