The Topkapi Palace – imperial court and centre of the Ottoman power for 375 years – is possibly the most famous of all Ottoman heritage in Istanbul. Approximately 30 sultans ruled the empire from there. The palace is a huge complex, meticulously designed to protect, but also to impress. The sultans lived there in the utmost Ottoman imperial opulence, together with their families and concubines.
I wrote about the harem in my previous post. In my opinion, the harem is the best and the most fascinating part of the palace. However, I am not going to write a separate post about the Topkapi Palace. Rather, I will only show some beautiful images that I captured during my visit in July 2019. As you will see, the palace was decorated with considerable thought and effort, mostly for the benefit of the members of the Ottoman dynasty.
The Topkapi Palace consists of four separate courtyards. The first courtyard was for people who conducted everyday business with the palace. It was much more difficult to access the second courtyard. That’s where the Imperial Council Hall is, from where they did the government business. The third and especially the fourth courtyard were exclusively for members of the Ottoman dynasty. The Ottoman imperial opulence is the most evident in the fourth courtyard, which is also the most lavishly decorated part of the palace.
THE IMPERIAL COUNCIL HALL (Dîvân-ı Hümâyûn)
The second courtyard is the entrance to the museum and it contains various interesting and important structures. The most impressive is the Imperial Council Hall.
Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror built the first council hall at the same time when they were building the whole palace. However, the chief imperial architect Alaüddin rebuilt it between 1527 and 1529, during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent. The chamber’s current look with golden gilded latticework and Rococo doors is from 1792, after the renovation during the reign of Sultan Selim III. Finally, Sultan Mahmud II reconstructed the facade of the structure in 1819.
The Imperial Council had three divisions: Kubbealti, where they discussed the state affairs, Dîvân-ı Hümâyûn kalemleri, where they recorded the state proceedings and Defterharne, an archive for council books and documents.
The Council met four times per week. It included the Grand Vizier, Kubbealti viziers and Anatolian and Rumelian judges of the army. When invited, Sheikh al-Islām also attended important meetings.
Additionally, the Grand Vizier received messengers in the Imperial Council Hall.
The sultan did not took part in the meetings. He watched and listened from behind the window that you can see in a photo above. If members of the council took a wrong decision, the sultan would terminate the meeting by shutting the window. When that happened, the Grand Vizier and other viziers would swiftly move to the Audience Chamber and appear in front of the sultan, in order to resolve the matter.
Kubbealti contains decorative elements that symbolise justice of the Ottoman Empire. Thus, outwards facing gilded latticework represented Council’s transparent decisions. Or, the sultan’s window from where he watched the meetings represented his personal assurance against injustice towards his subjects.
SULTAN AHMED III LIBRARY FOUNTAIN
The fountain in a photo below is in the third courtyard and it decorates the front facade of the Sultan Ahmed III’s library.
The Revan Kiosk was built in honour of Sultan Murad IV’s victory at the city of Yerevan in 1635-1636.
The kiosk is also known as the “turban room”, because that was where sultans stored their turbans.
The beautiful fountain in a photo below is close to the Reven Kiosk.
Images that follow are all of the external decoration in the fourth courtyard of the palace.
Actually it is one long wall, but as you can see, they decorated sections of the wall with different design and different tiles.
In any case, the result is very beautiful.
It certainly looks like they invested a lot of thought to create striking images.
The effect is engaging and captivating, far more effective than having just one monotonous image. In my opinion, this is the most beautiful part of the palace, together with the harem and the Imperial Council Hall.
The Baghdad Kiosk was built in 1639, in honour of Sultan Murad IV’s victory during the Baghdad campaign.
The kiosk is one of the last examples of the classical Ottoman palatial architecture.
The kiosk served as a private library of the sultan.
Because it was used by the sultan and his family, it was lavishly decorated with magnificent Iznik tiles.
Similarly to the Forbidden City in Beijing, ordinary people could not easily enter the Topkapi Palace. They could certainly never enter the third and the fourth courtyard of the palace, where members of the Ottoman dynasty spent most of their time.
Luckily, we can now visit the whole palace and see and enjoy in these magnificent images too, the same as the Ottoman royal family did over many past centuries.