The palace-museum Topcapes

The palace-museum Topcapes

Hall of the Lord. Throne room of Sultan Murad III in the harem

A few days later the young sultan left the conquered city, returning to the former Turkish capital – Edirne. During his absence they started building a palace, the place for which was chosen near the ancient forum of Theodosius, or the forum of Taurus, on the third of the seven legendary city hills, in the present district of Beyazid. The building was erected quickly, about a year, but during 1454-1457 there still continued work.

The palace-museum Topcapes

Portico of the Gate of Beatitude and the seat of the Sultan’s Standard

However, the new palace did not suit the young ruler. And then Sultan Mehmed II conceived the construction of another residence. This time the place was chosen cape between the Sea of ​​Marmara and the Golden Horn. Once here was the Acropolis of the ancient city of Byzantium. Thus, the main palace of the ruler of the state again moved to the very center of the capital.
Becoming the new lord of Constantinople and fearing a sudden attack of enemies, the Sultan ordered to put a cannon-shaped battery on the cape, which is why the city gates there were called Topkapy (Cannon gates). Over time, the cape began to be called Saray-Burnu (Dvortsovy Cape), and the new Sultan’s residence was named Topkapy-Saray (Palace near the Cannon Gate). With its appearance, the original palace of Mehmed Fatih became known as Eski-Saray (Old Palace). His appointment changed-Topkapy was sent there to live the deceased sultans who were excommunicated from the court and forgotten by all the mothers and widows, so Eski-Sarai received another name – the Palace of Tears. The fate of this architectural complex was also very sad – by the nineteenth century it had decayed and was completely demolished. Now in its place is the building of the University of Istanbul.

If the Grand Palace of the Byzantine emperors really was the center of the city and left one side to the Cathedral of St. Sophia, and the other adjoined to the ancient Hippodrome open to all, then life in the residence of the Muslim ruler should not be accessible to outsiders. Therefore, the high wall of Sur-i-Sultani (“Wall of the Sultan”) blocked the Cape of Saray-Bourne from the Golden Horn to the sea and separated from the city territory of about 27 hectares, comparable in area to the Moscow Kremlin.
The erection of the palace premises of the new residence on a high cape, windswept by the winds, began only in 1466 from the summer pavilion, which was called Chinili koshk (tile stall). Then built the so-called Mehmed Fatih Pavilion with an open terrace, as well as the walls dividing the territory into courtyards. All the following sultans added new buildings to the residence, so Topkapi does not correspond to the European concept of the palace as a single building – a huge complex includes many buildings of different eras, gardens, courtyards connected by galleries, terraces and passages.
However, in the XIX century, the ancient structures finally ceased to correspond to the notions of luxury and comfort, not to mention fashion. In 1853, according to the orders of the thirty-first Ottoman sultan Abdul-Majid I in Besiktas district, on loose lands near the shore of the Bosphorus, a new modern palace, named Dolmabahche-Saray (Palace on the embankment), began to be built according to Western models. Its opening was timed to the end of the Crimean War in 1856, and the Sultan’s court forever left Topkapi. From now on the building was also called the Old Palace. Now only the wives and widows of the rulers deposed as a result of the coups lived here, and also a few ministers. The gardens of the former Sultan’s residence were now open to the general public, the buildings began to deteriorate and decline.
Despite this, some of the most important ceremonies, such as the accession to the throne or the burial of the Sultans, were still only in Topkapi.
In the middle of the XIX century, the first visits to the palace as a museum also began, but then it required a special written permission.
October 23, 1923 Turkey was proclaimed a republic, and the Topkapi Palace ceased to be a Sultan’s residence. The first president was elected – Mustafa Kemal, who later received the surname Ataturk.
In 1924, under the decree of the President of the Turkish Republic, the Topkapi Palace, like many other former Sultan residences, was declared a museum, although some parts of the huge architectural complex are closed to visitors until now.
After the palace was left by the last ministers, it took years of painstaking labor of restorers to make Topkapi open its doors already as a museum. His collection consists of priceless treasures of art belonging to Ottoman sultans, as well as from buildings and objects that they and their yard used in everyday life.
The exposition of the museum is constantly updated, it takes part in many international exhibitions and projects. In 2010, the exhibition “Treasures of the Ottoman Sultans” from the collection Topkapi with great success was held in the museums of the Kremlin in Moscow.
Today the Topkapi Palace Museum and the historic center of Istanbul are on the World Heritage List and are protected by UNESCO. One of the most popular museums in Turkey is visited by more than 1.5 million people a year.
Visitors can enter the territory of Topkapi’s courtyard complex, just like several centuries ago, through the huge front gate – Bab-i-Hamayyun (Sultan’s Gate), located behind the cathedral of Aya-Sophia. They were built in the 15th century by order of the first Turkish lord of Istanbul, Sultan Mehmed Fatih. Some researchers believe that it was the majestic gate of the residence of a ruler 20 meters high that led to the European ambassadors to call the whole Turkish state the High or Brilliant Porta (that is, the portal, gate), that is the name of the Ottoman Empire in many European countries. From the inscription above the gate you can find out that they were erected in 1478 and originally the building had two floors. The upper pavilion for Sultan Mehmed has not survived to this day. Once the ruler and the women of his harem could watch from above all the solemn processions that began and ended in the palace.
On either side of the Sultan’s Gate stretches a high fortress wall with towers, also built during the times of Mehmed Fatih. It closes below, on the Sea of ​​Marmara and from the Golden Horn, with the ancient Byzantine walls, with which Constantinople was encircled in the 5th century by the order of Emperor Theodosius II. The names of the architects who built the palace walls of Sur-i-Sultana in 1463 are unknown, but they fulfilled their task – not only created a reliable protection for the Sultan’s residence, but also managed to erect a wall that does not differ in level from the work of Byzantine predecessors. So it is very difficult to distinguish the structure of Turkish masters from the works of Byzantine architects – the height of the wall, the size and height of the towers, and the distance between them coincide. True, the structure of the 15th century did not show its fighting qualities – Istanbul was not subjected to an enemy siege. But the impressive scale of the wall caused proper awe in the subjects of the Sultan, as well as foreign ambassadors.
On the square at the front gate of the Topkapi Palace, near the wall, there is a cubic building with five domes. It is a fountain in the style of the Ottoman Baroque, completely unusual for the European view, built with the funds of Sultan Ahmed III in 1728 at the site of the ancient Byzantine fountain. Its walls are decorated with multicolored marble, covered with complex carvings. The fountain had an important practical and symbolic meaning: once from its four sides water was poured into small stone baths, which could be collected by all comers. All sides are decorated differently, which is unusual for European architecture, the same only the location of the pools.
At the corners, closed with openwork grilles, four kiosks were placed where special servants ordered all passersby by order of the Sultan to treat cold water with cold water for cooling, also at the expense of the Sultan’s treasury. The fact is that in Europe the symbol of the state is the land, however in most countries of the East the land without water is useless, therefore the sultan was the full lord of not only the whole earth, but all the water in his state. During the ceremony of accession to the throne, he was offered a jar of water as one of the symbols of power. So the fountain of Ahmed III – one of the first sources of clean and public water in the city – performed charitable tasks and supported the authority of the authorities. This is also indicated by the inscriptions made with gold-plated Arabian inscriptions, glorifying the builder of the fountain, placed above the sources.
The fountain is one of the most interesting architectural monuments of Turkey of the XVIII century. This elegant structure made a great impression on the famous artist IK Aivazovsky, who repeatedly visited Istanbul. In 1888, the painter helped solve the problem of water supply for his beloved city – Theodosia.
Today, Topkapi’s front gate is always full of life – thousands of visitors enter through them. The fountain, unfortunately, has not worked for a long time, but street vendors, like many years ago, offer soft drinks and oriental sweets to everyone.
The first yard

The palace-museum Topcapes

The first yard

The entire inner territory of the palace complex is divided into two parts – the outer (birun, where the first and second courtyard belong) and the inner (enderun – the third and fourth courtyard, and also the harem). Birun, where the main economic services of the palace were located, was also intended for communication of the ruler with the people and the army, so any orthodox devotee of the Ottoman Empire could get here on certain days. In the enderun, the private quarters of the Sultan, where he lived together with his family, could only be held by government officials, servants of a palace of a certain rank and personal protection.
Birun starts from the main gate of Bab-i-Humayyun, from where visitors enter the first courtyard – Alai Meidan (Courtyard of the army). Nowadays it resembles, rather, a part of the palace park planted with cypresses and plane trees, but during the reign of the Ottoman sultans it was a large area (about 160×130 m), surrounded by numerous structures, most of which have not survived to this day.
Once on the left side there was a palace wood warehouse, where servants could come on horses, as well as workshop rooms where mats were made. In the left part of the courtyard, the huge St. Irene Church was preserved, which was used by the janissaries – the elite corps of the Turkish army – as an arsenal. From 1727, the Mint was moved to Alai Meidan, where gold and silver coins were minted. There were also workshops of jewelers, cutters of precious stones and embroiderers in gold. On the right side there was a hospital for pages and janissaries, a personal bakery of the Sultan, as well as services responsible for supplying the yard with water. One of the main buildings of Alai Meidan in those days was the Pavilion of Claims and Complaints, the place of filing petitions and declaring decisions. This allowed the Sultan’s palace to carry out one of the most important state functions – to be the place of justice.
According to some reports, on the right side of the yard there was an exit on the field for playing jerit, to which the sultans were entertained by the pages.
Currently, in the first yard there are cash desks and museum shops, and numerous visitors use its benches and lawns for rest.
Orthodox church of St. Irene

The palace-museum Topcapes

Orthodox church of St. Irene

To the left of the first gate of the palace complex is the church of Saint Irene – one of the oldest surviving churches in Constantinople. The first church here was erected in the beginning of the IV century under the emperor Constantine in place of the ruins of the ancient temple of Aphrodite. It was the main temple of the city before the construction of the Hagia Sophia in the 6th century and was considered the residence of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Together with the Cathedral of St. Sophia – the Wisdom of God – the Church of Saint Irene, that is, the World, was a kind of a couple that glorified the basic virtues of the rulers of Byzantium, the lords of the entire Orthodox universe – wisdom and the maintenance of universal peace.
However, in 532, during the uprising of the “Nika”, the church suffered from a fire, and then was rebuilt under the emperor Justinian. In general, this monument in the form in which it survived to date, refers to the era of Justinian, although the temple was rebuilt once again after the earthquake in the VIII century. Monograms of the ruler or his wife Theodora are on the capital of the columns of the temple. The unique building is a transitional type between the classical basilica and the Byzantine temple in the form of a cross. The Church of St. Irene is crowned with two domes. The large semicircular, whose diameter is 16 m, rests on four powerful supports and covers the main space of the temple; another, low, elliptical form, is located between the first dome and the narthex (the transverse gallery of the western part of the temple). Both domes are supported by massive brick pillars. Inside the church are preserved some small fragments of Byzantine mosaics, as well as a large cross in the apse.
After the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 the church was not converted into a mosque and for some time it acted, so there were no significant changes in its appearance. However very quickly parishioners (it was basically the higher nobility) have passed to service to a sultan and began to accept Islam. The community could no longer maintain such an impressive building, and the church closed at the end of the reign of Mehmed Fatih. During the XV-XVIII centuries it was used by the Ottomans as a jabehan (military arsenal), and from 1846 it was turned into an archaeological museum. Finally, in 1908, the Military Museum was opened in the church. Today St. Irene’s Church serves as a concert hall with excellent acoustics or used as an exhibition space.
Until now, near the building of the temple archaeological excavations are being conducted. After the restoration works have been completed, all the structures that have been preserved in the first courtyard near the church will be turned into museum premises.
Bab-u-selam (Greetings Gate)

The palace-museum Topcapes

Bab-us-villages-Greetings.

In the second courtyard of the birun, a powerful gate with battlements and two impressive towers on the sides, called Orta Kapy (Middle Gate) lead. They represent a multi-storey complex of rooms, where the palace guard was located. Although the exact date of construction of the inner wall and these gates is unknown, most likely they were also built in the time of Mehmed Fatih. The inner gates of the Sultan’s residence have a fully military appearance, this indicates that in the first years after the conquest of Constantinople the new lords of the city felt themselves not quite confident and feared a sudden attack.
Above the double iron door of Orta Kapa, ​​decorated with relief ornament, in the oval medallion is placed the tugra (monogram) of Mehmed Fatih, and above it the golden shroud of the Shahada is displayed, the main symbol of the Muslim faith is “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His prophet” . Approximately from the XVIII century, the Middle Gate began to be called Bab-us-villages (Gates of greeting). Privilege to pass under them was ruled only by the sultans, all the rest had to dismount.
At the very end of the Alai Meidan at the Middle Gate, once stood the two stones of Edification, on which the heads of the executed by the order of the Sultan were laid. Not far from the gate was Dzhellat Chesmesi (Fountain of the Executioner), where the master’s shoulder cases were flushed with blood from the implements of execution and hands.
Now in the internal premises of the Middle Gate there is an information office, a tourist police and an entrance ticket control service. Above the gates, like in many other places in Istanbul, the symbol of Turkey is fluttering – a red flag with a crescent moon, which has not changed at all since the time of Sultan Mehmed Fatih.
Second courtyard (Diwan Meidan). View towards Orta Kapy
The second courtyard – Diwan Meidan (Diwan Square) – also appeared in the times of Mehmed Fatih, but was rebuilt during the reign of Suleiman I Kanuni (Legislator), better known in Europe as Suleiman the Magnificent. Here are the buildings of public services, as well as a significant part of the premises of the palace services. Here the sultan came out at least twice a year, during religious holidays. In the second court there were such important state ceremonies as farewell to the body of the deceased Sultan and the elevation to the throne of his successor (Jylus). Here four times a year the salary of the janissaries was given. This ceremony, called “uluf”, was accompanied by a generous treat on behalf of the Sultan. Often the reception of foreign ambassadors was timed to coincide with it.
The hierarchical structure of the second courtyard was formed by three roads leading from the gate Bab-us-villages. The central one is called Padishah Yolu (Padishah Road). It should be recalled that the title “Sultan” (power, power) used by Europeans meant, in fact, only belonging to the Ottoman dynasty and applied to many of the kinsman of the ruler, including women, and the official title of the ruler of the Turkish state sounded like “padishahs.” On this road, he passed through the Diwan Meidan to the third gate of the palace. The second road, Vezir Yolu (Vizir Road), led from the gate to the building of the Divan, the supreme governing body of the Ottoman Empire.
The path of the padishah remains from the viewer to the right, behind the majestic old plane trees, which are not less than 300 years old, they remember many events that took place on the Diwan Meidan. Earlier in this part of the courtyard were the palace stables where the horses of the sultan and the highest dignitaries were housed, as well as a storehouse for lush horse harness and precious saddles.
In front of the viewer is a road that leads to the palace kitchens, and one of the many water sources. To the right of it are visible palace constructions, surrounded by open galleries. Currently, under this portico is one of the museum expositions – lapidarium, mainly consisting of Muslim tombstones decorated with carvings, and fragments of various palace buildings. Behind the portico is a passage to another small courtyard where there were palace palace buildings. In addition, in front of it, at the very gates of Orta Kapa, ​​there is a room where the magnificent carved gilded carriages of the 18th and 19th centuries are exhibited, in which the inhabitants of the harem left the palace grounds. Coaches of European work in the Turkish tradition were supplemented by dense curtains, so that an outsider could not penetrate the glass and saw a woman.
Palace cuisines
All the right of the gate Bab-u-selami part of the Diwan Meidan, behind the portico, occupies Saray Mutfaklary (Kitchen Courtyard). In its long (about 170 m) courtyard stretching along the shore of the Sea of ​​Marmara, there were ten large kitchens with domes and tall chimneys. Even in the time of Mehmed Fatih, a corps with four domes was erected here, and in the time of Suleiman Qanooni, when the number of Topkapi inhabitants increased, six hexagonal Khas Mutfak (Personal kitchen of the Sultan) and Helvahane, where they cooked exclusively halva – the favorite delicacy of the palace dwellers, were attached to it. After a violent fire in 1574 by the order of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent kitchens were expanded and updated by Mimar Sinan himself – the greatest Turkish architect of the 16th century. This indicates the importance in Turkey of that era of splendid blossom was given to refined dishes, as it is not in every palace complex that the kitchen building is proudly called “palace”.
Here, food was prepared for the Sultan, for the highest government officials, and for all courtiers of different ranks. The best Turkish and foreign chefs worked tirelessly, creating for the inhabitants of Topkapa works of unsurpassed culinary art. They always had ready any dishes to satisfy the sudden whim of the overlord. Turkish cuisine differed from the European by unexpected combinations of products and condiments, and the variety of the menu depended only on the imagination of the chefs. Recipes of their creations were inherited and carefully guarded. “And there was on this tablecloth that which runs, and flies, and floats in the seas, – quails, pigeons of pigeons, and lambs, and the best fish,” – narrates about the eastern dinner one of the tales of “Thousand and One Nights.” As a rule, not a single dinner was served without pilaf – a favorite dish of the Sultan’s family and simple ministers.
Full lunches of ten dishes were served twice a day. Desserts, drinks and coffee were served at the palace all the time. Therefore, in addition to the cooks, the kitchen staff included porters who brought food to the private quarters of the Sultan and the harem. The dishes were transported on large wooden stretchers, covered with a lid in the form of a dome, so that they did not cool down on the road. All served at the same time – soup, meat, rice, vegetables, dessert. They ate at that time with their hands, usually while sitting on their knees or in Turkish, crossing their legs, in front of a long low table. Before sitting down at the table, all the inhabitants of the palace chorused a short prayer addressed to their master: “May Allah bless Allah with the blessings of our glorious Padishah!” After eating, the servants carried out vessels with rose water for washing their hands, as well as thin towels. Then usually served coffee and pipes or hookahs with fragrant tobacco. Often such meals were accompanied by music and performances by dancers.
Building and the Tower of the Sofa
The main building of Diwan Meidan in accordance with the name of the courtyard is the building of the Divan – Diwan-i-Hamayun. To him from the gate Bab-Us-Selam leads Vezir Yolu – the road of the Vizier. The building for the meetings of the highest state council was built in the first half of the 16th century, in the era of Suleiman the Magnificent by his mimarbashi (chief architect) Alayuddin. It is surrounded by a wide gallery, which rests on slender columns.
Just behind the building of the Divan towers a two-tiered tetrahedral tower with a pointed roof, somewhat resembling a bell tower. Built in the time of Mehmed Fatih, she, according to Turkish researchers, has features that were present in the palaces of the former capital – Edirne. Originally the tower was intended for quite practical purposes – control over the water area of ​​the port, located in the Golden Horn Bay. However, later it was used to observe the solemn ceremonies that took place on the Diwan Meidan. Due to its proximity to the Divan, the tower received another name – Adalet Kulesi (Tower of Justice), the court of the Divan was also sometimes called Adalet Meidan (Area of ​​Justice).
Directly to the building of the Divan adjoins the eight-domed building Dysh Hazine (Treasury), where money was stored, intended directly for the needs of the court, including regular payments to the restless army of the Janissaries. In connection with the proximity of the two buildings, the Sofa still had the name of Kubbealt (Under the dome).
To the right of the Diwan building is the entrance to the most difficult part of the palace – the harem. It is called the Arabian Kapa (Gate of wagons), which was received because the inhabitants of the harem were preparing to leave for the city, got into covered carriages, and later – into carriages. Tradition claims that the tower of the Divan in connection with the proximity to the premises of the harem was used by its inhabitants to admire the views of the city, but there is no evidence of this in the documents.
Currently, the Divan’s room is a museum exposition and is open to all comers, and in Dysh Hazin there is a unique collection of Sultan weapons.
Room Sofa
Given the hot climate of the country, one of the main tasks facing all Turkish architects is maximum protection from the sun and the preservation of shade and coolness. Hence the love of the builders for the broken passages, galleries, porticoes.
Mimarbashi Alayuddin completely coped with his task – originally the building of the Divan was planned open. However, in the XVIII century it was rebuilt in the style of the Ottoman Baroque, and once the open arches were closed with windows with lush gilt lattices, and the walls were covered with paintings simulating baroque stucco and even columns. Thanks to this alteration, the once practical structure began to look like a precious box or a box for oriental sweets.
In the opinion of a picky critic, now the entrance to the building of the Divan is a typical example of the excess of eastern luxury that the sultans of the last two centuries of the Ottoman Empire loved. However, many tourists do not disappoint at all, especially since the paved multicolored marble gallery at the entrance really protects you from the heat.
Inside the part of the room, the Divan escaped the alteration and retained its original appearance. This is a typical Turkish interior, typical for other buildings of the era of Suleiman the Magnificent. The lower part of the walls is decorated with tiles of blue color, the upper part is painted with traditional patterned arabesques.
The front helmet. Turkey, XVI-XVII century
Currently, next to the building of the Divan in the premises of the former treasury is located one of the best expositions of the Topkapi Museum – the world-famous collection of Sultan weapons, not inferior in value to the collection of the Tower of London and the Armory Chamber of the Moscow Kremlin.
The collection of the Topkapi Museum, which was created on the basis of the Sultan’s arms treasury, presents only the ceremonial, richly decorated weapons belonging to the sultans or supreme commanders of the Turkish army.
First of all, let’s pay attention to things that were of special ceremonial significance and were used during the army’s withdrawal to the war, its solemn return from the victorious campaign, during the reviews and parades. Among such items, undoubtedly, belonged to the ceremonial helmet. It traditionally has a conical shape and a high elongated finish. This was due to a purely military need – almost any stroke slipped from such a helmet, and it was almost impossible to cut it. In addition, the helmet was on the back for protecting the neck and visor, covering his face. Judging by the surviving details, the last one was once missed by a movable arrow to protect the face from a lateral strike.
To the Russian tourist this helmet at once will seem familiar, that it is no wonder. Exactly in such headgear artists usually depict Russian warriors and princes, very similar weapons are in the collection of the Armory Chamber of the Moscow Kremlin. Traditional Russian weapons were very similar in type to the east. Therefore, the work of the famous eastern, including Turkish, gunsmiths were readily used by the Russian nobility and the kings.
I must say that the works of the best craftsmen of the Ottoman Empire, who served the sultan and his court, were really wonderful. The iron helmet is decorated with gold engraving in the form of hallmarks of a bizarre shape and a stylized vegetable ornament. The visor and on the back are decorated similarly. On the crown is a gold inscribed Arabic inscription. Usually such lines on the items of weapons contained good wishes to the owner of the helmet and the surahs from the Koran that promised him victory. Ottoman sultans wore precious helmets for some particularly solemn ceremonies, as well as for joining the city they conquered.
The front shield. Turkey, XVI-XVII century
This type of round shield is called “kalkan”, its diameter is usually about 60 cm. The base of the shield is made of processed willow rods fastened with silk threads. Strangely enough at first glance, but the design of the rods for a long time was considered quite reliable for real protection in combat and at the same time allowed the shield to remain light and comfortable. However, in the manufacture of combat shields of the 16th-17th centuries, copper, iron or steel was usually used. The front shields did not have a metal base. They inherited the shape of the ancient battle shields, acquired the splendor and brightness, typical of many works of Ottoman masters.
The central part of the shield – convex umbon – is made of iron covered with a special compound, from which the metal acquires a black color. Embossed ornament of umbon is known in many peoples as a symbol of the sun with curved rays. Who, if not the Sultan, “the shadow of Allah in the two worlds,” was the sun for the Turkish troops? On the edge of the umbon is an ordinary inscription of Arabic script, it could include the name of the master, the name of the customer and the desire for him to win in the battles.
Silk threads, intertwining rods of the basis of the shield, mostly crimson, inherent in the sovereign colors. In many countries, in Turkey and Russia in particular, all shades of red were considered a symbol of royalty. The surface of the product is covered with patterns created from threads, imitating a favorite fabric in the Ottoman Empire in the 16th-18th centuries with a large floral ornament. Such paintings were made by Turkish weavers made of silk with the addition of gold and silver threads and were very expensive. The floral pattern on the shield is formed by 4 large and 4 smaller colors interlaced with half-blown buds and leaves. In the sum of 4 and 4 are 8 – symbolic in the East number, which means the sides of the world – 4 basic and 4 intermediate. Perhaps, this is a kind of desire to the owner of the shita to extend its power to all sides of the world?
Standard (Alem) of the Sultan
One of the main symbols of the authority of the Padishah of the Ottoman Empire, like many other Eastern lords, was the standard, which was called “Alem”. The word “alem” goes back to the Arabic “jam-e-alam” and means “sign indicating the road”. In this sense, it can symbolize both the correct path that the faithful should follow, and the cohesion of people acting under the same banner.
The forehead of the alema was put on a sharp wooden pole, which could be stuck into the ground. Wherever the sovereign followed, Alem accompanied him: the standard was worn or installed next to the ruler. The chief alem was affirmed next to the throne at the solemn ceremonies in Topkapi in front of the Bab-Us-Saade gates. In military campaigns, alema denoted a stake – the main residence of the sovereign-commander. The rest of the time they were stored in rich cases of precious fabrics embroidered with gold thread, which also survived in the museum collection.
During the reign of Sultan Suleiman Qanooni (the Legislator) there were only four Sultan’s standards, but with his successors the number of Alemas increased to seven. Some products retain the old form characteristic of the spearhead.
This alem is made of gilt copper in the form of an old symbol of power and power – stylized bull horns. Similar horns in the ancient Mesopotamia served as a sign of the power of the heavenly gods and their governors on earth – kings. It is clear that in the appearance of alem the religious factor played a special role. It is even assumed that the first Alemas were made from real animal horns.
The gap between the horns is filled with Arabic script. The inscriptions on the Alem, regardless of the specific content, were to perform the role of a talisman. The tube of the product is simple, round in shape, the ball (apple) in the upper part is decorated with soft chased patterns.
In the arms of the Turkish sultans, trophy standards were also kept, for example, captured from the Mamluks sultans after the victory of Selim I Yavuz (Grozny) over Egypt in 1517.
Steel arms. Scimitars. Turkey, the 16th century and the 19th century
It is known that in the neighboring countries with the Ottoman Empire, the products of the Turkish armourers were especially valued for the blade weapons – sabers, swords, daggers. The whole world knew the famous scimitars – a formidable weapon of the janissary troops. And if the shield behind the noble warrior was usually carried by the squire, the dagger and saber accompanied his owner always. So the Sultans paid special attention to the collection of cold weapons, which with its ornaments provided the maximum opportunity to demonstrate wealth.
Efes yatagana does not have a guard, but only ears – an extension for the arm rest. The shape of an elongated, light enough blade allows you to apply both chopping and piercing strokes. The lower scimitar has a gilded top of the blade and a practical ivory handle. This is an early type of this type of weapon, it dates back to the 16th century, when the Turkish sultans still personally led the army during the campaigns. The upper scimitar with the handle, decorated with coral inserts, and the magnificently decorated scabbard is a purely decorative weapon and was made in the XIX century.
Battle lash. Turkey, XVI-XVII century
A combat lash is a fairly rare type of weapon. There are no such items in the collections of Russian museums.
The long enough handle of the whip (more than 40 cm) is made in the form of a mace – the traditional symbol of the commander’s power. It is decorated with spiral patterns, imitating winding strips of skin on real combat weapons. To its end is attached a loop from a small chain for hanging. The top and part of the handle are gilded. At the top, you can consider plant patterns, among which are the beloved in Turkey tulip flowers. Seven battle cores are attached to it, made in the form of balls made of natural stones – rock crystal, topaz and others. Balls are drilled and fixed on metal rods using small rivets. It is understandable sympathetic symbolism of the number of nuclei – seven, which was supposed to bring the owner of such a thing good luck.
Such combat lashes were an exclusive ceremonial weapon, made of expensive materials. Of course, such items were never used in battles, but served exclusively on days of particularly solemn ceremonies.
Protective mask for a horse. Turkey, second half of the 16th century
Although in the countries of the East there were usually no heavily armed riders and there did not understand the European knights, who together with their horses were often completely encased in iron armor, they still had to think about protection for the horse, because the horse’s life often depended on the life of the rider. However, today it is difficult to say whether the appearance of such a horse helmet is associated with military necessity or, nevertheless, the grandeur of the decoration of the horse during ceremonial ceremonies was of greater importance.
A copper protective mask for a horse was made in the Ottoman Empire in the second half of the 16th century, that is, in the era of its greatest prosperity and military successes. On the throne at this time were the immediate descendants of the great Sultan Suleiman Qanooni. The mask retained the stigma of the Arsenal of the Ottoman Sultans, which speaks of the highest level of performing masters. It consists of a central plate with a length of just over 50 cm and two lateral, mobile and attached to belts, which were only partially preserved. From the inside, the mask was covered with felt or cloth. In the middle of the central plate is a relief ledge, culminating with engraved plant motifs. By its form it reminds not only the religious symbol of Islam, but also the alema of the sultans. The surface of the product is decorated with engraving – decorative patterns in the Rumi style.
Wall clock. Mechanism – Western Europe, building – Turkey, XVII century
In one of the rooms overlooking the Meidan Divan, an exhibition of watches from the collection of the Ottoman sultans is currently being developed, which includes amazing monuments executed in the period from the second half of the 16th to the beginning of the 20th century.
The interest of the Turkish rulers to the clock is not surprising – they showed the exact time of the beginning of the prayer. Considering that the prayer should be performed five times a day at a strictly fixed time, the need for hours in the palaces of the sultans was great. All the new palaces of the rulers of the XIX century necessarily have a clock tower, however in Topkapi it does not exist. Consequently, a large number of hours were placed once in its interiors, among them the wall and desktop dominated.
In the XVII-XVIII centuries mechanisms for such watches were usually delivered to Turkey from Europe, and the case was carried out by court masters. These wall clocks are one of the rare specimens of the Topkapi collection, which exactly follow the shape of the European astrolabe. Their body is almost flat, on top – a loop for fixing on the wall. Thanks to the shape in Turkey, such watches were often compared with round shields-Kalkans.
The dial with ancient Turkish numerals is decorated with blue enamel. On the clock, according to the tradition of that time, only one hour hand, decorated with turquoise. The rest of the body is almost entirely covered with inlay from multicolored precious stones – turquoise, rubies, amethysts, emeralds and others. Such a lavish decoration speaks of the important significance that the clock had in the interior of the palace. They performed not only a practical function, but also represented a rare jewel, not inferior to other treasures of the treasury.
Clock in the form of a griffin. Russia, the beginning of the twentieth century
One of the main traditions of diplomatic relations between monarchs of different countries in the Middle Ages is the exchange of gifts. In the 16th-17th centuries gifts were regularly sent to Istanbul from the Russian tsars, gifts were preserved in the Armory Chamber of the Moscow Kremlin, brought by the ambassadors on behalf of the Turkish sultans. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the tradition changed somewhat, and the rulers began to exchange them about important state and family events – accession to the throne, weddings, jubilees.
One of these gifts is kept in the collection of the Topkapi Museum watch. This is a gift of the last Russian autocrat Nicholas II to Sultan Abdul-Hamid II. I must say that by the beginning of the 20th century, almost all the rulers of Europe were personally acquainted with each other, the Turkish rulers repeatedly came to Paris and other capitals with state and private visits. However, in Russia, none of the rulers of the Ottoman Empire in connection with the not always cloudless relations between the two countries did not happen. Nevertheless, Emperor Nicholas considered it his duty in 1901 to send to Istanbul an expensive gift for the 25th anniversary of the sultan’s rule – a desk clock in the form of a griffon standing on the hind legs, armed with a sword and a round shield. This creature is the main figure of the family coat of arms of the Romanov dynasty. The griffin is made of light green jasper. The dial is a shield in its left paw, the circumference of which is encrusted with 24 alternating rubies and diamonds. On the pedestal of the watch there is also a girdle of diamonds. The lower part of the pedestal is decorated with three diamond inserts – the monogram of Nicholas II, the tiger of Sultan Abdul-Hamid II and the Latin number 25 in the laurel wreath.
Such expensive gifts, presented on behalf of the emperor to the rulers of other states, were usually performed by famous Russian jewelry firms. These watches are the product of the craftsmen of the famous Faberge company.
Gateway to the third courtyard, or Gate of Bliss
After leaving the weapons of the Sultans, the spectator goes to the end of the vast courtyard of the Diwan Meidan. The outer premises of the palace (birun) here ended, then the enderun was located – the inner rooms, where the path was closed to strangers. The right of entry here was only to those close to the Sultan or authorized servants of the palace. According to the area, the enderun is about half as large as the Meidan Divan, and also consists of two courtyards, on which various buildings are located on time.
The way to the enderon was no longer blocked by a wall, but by a number of buildings adorned with the same portico as the entire perimeter of the second courtyard. Among them there were third, especially magnificent internal gates, crowned with a small dome. They were built in the XV century, with Mehmet Fatih, but were subjected to alterations in the XVIII century. Their dome is decorated with eight small gilt spiers and a crescent with a star.
The third gate of Topkapi has three names at once: the Gate of Audiences, the Gate of Bliss and the Gate of White Eunuchs. The first name is understandable: Often audiences to foreign ambassadors were given in the open air, and then the entire Diwan Meidan turned into a large ceremonial hall, and the portico served as a canopy over the throne of the Sultan. The second name (Bab-Us-Saade) is also clear: how else in Ottoman Turkey should have been called the entrance to the territory of the Sultan’s private quarters? The last name is due to the proximity of the premises occupied by white eunuchs. The Gate of Bliss was considered to be the personal gate of the lord, therefore every one who was allowed to cross it should kiss their threshold. On ordinary days, when there were no protocol celebrations, they were not used. Just behind the Gate of Bliss is the most important building of the palace complex – the Throne Room, which embodies all the power of the Sultan’s power.
The role of the Gate of Beatitude in the history of Topkapi can not be overestimated. They had the same significance as the Red Porch of the Tsar’s Palace in the Moscow Kremlin and witnessed many important historical events. They announced the death of the previous Sultan and the accession to the throne of his successor. They carried the bodies of sultans who left the world naturally or as a result of palace coups. Out of them, unwanted grand viziers were thrown out to be torn to pieces by the Janissaries. Before the Gate of Beatitude the Sanjak-e-Hamayyun (Banner of the Sultan) was sent to the great vizier or the commander-in-chief to go to war, on certain occasions the Divan’s meetings were held, and the subjects annually congratulated the Sultan on the main religious holidays. Finally, the most important state ceremony took place here – Jylus – the new sultan sitting on the throne and taking the oath to him by the highest ranks of the state and the court.
Third courtyard
In the courtyards of the enderun, as in the first two, there are many buildings of different time. This part of the palace is composed of Selemlyk, where the sultans spent their daytime in the difficult affairs and worries about the welfare of the state, and Garemlyk, where the family life passed and the sultan could rest with his soul and body. In general, Syamyllyk (from the greeting to the “villagers”) in the traditional Muslim house is the men’s quarters where they received guests. “Garemlyk” from Turkish – “forbidden, inviolable place”, where outsiders are not allowed to enter. In European languages, the harem was not called the premises, but its inhabitants.
In the third courtyard there is also the Throne Room, and the library building, and one of the oldest buildings of the entire complex is the pavilion of Sultan Mehmed Fatih. The rooms of the harem are located here. In the same courtyard is the Pavilion of sacred relics – a place where numerous sacred places of Islam are still preserved. There was also a school here, where from the boys-pages for the empire was educated the estate of state dignitaries and leaders.
To the left is the building of the mosque of white eunuchs – the main guardians of the Sultan’s harem. It is made of red brick and white stone. It is interesting that at present it is one of the few mosques on the territory of the complex. In a separate palace mosque the sultans did not need to have any need, because Aya-Sofia was very close.
Near the mosque is a long two-story building with domes and a traditional gallery – Khas Oda (Chamber of the Sultan), erected by the order of Mehmed Fatih to accommodate personal chambers. Here the sultans met with their heirs, viziers and high dignitaries, rested, and initially spent the night. Currently, it houses a gallery of Sultan’s portraits, which mostly refer to the book miniature, not banned by Islam. Painting portraits were performed by Christian artists – Europeans, Greeks and Armenians.
On the lawn in front of the Chamber of the Sultan there are a stone sundial built on the orders of the first builder of the palace – Sultan Mehmed Fatih, as the clockwork mechanisms were not invented in the 15th century.
Entrance to the harem
The Gate of Beatitude got its name not by accident: behind them is the harem room – a special complex of buildings from the Golden Horn. This part of the palace, formed over four centuries – from the 15th to the 19th century – consists of about three hundred rooms and yards, nine baths, several mosques, a hospital, a laundry and other buildings.
The guard, which was located at the entrance to the premises of the harem, served not to ensure that none of the noble inhabitants of the palace left it, but that an outsider without permission should not disturb their peace. If it was not difficult to leave the harem, it was easy to do it, but it should be done in a closed carriage – as the carriages of the Sultan’s wives, which are still located in the exposition near the gate to Bab-us-villages, and the very name of the entrance from the second courtyard – Araba -Kapy (Gate of wagons), built in the XVI century by the order of Murad III. But only the one who was expected could go there with the permission of the Sultan or at the invitation of the residents of this part of the palace.
For the stay of the harem guards (black eunuchs) a cool room was reserved, which, apparently, was previously open from above. It is called the Entrance Hall with a fountain. Its floor is paved with stone tiles, and the walls are decorated with traditional for Topkapi premises with blue and blue tiles made in the 17th century in Kutahya and decorated with plant motifs and verses from the Koran.
Yard of the Black eunuchs
To get to the premises of the harem, visitors need to go through the open courtyard of the black eunuchs, where the sultan could ride on horseback. It got its name because the eunuchs not only carried on duty here, but also lived – there were located their barracks or hostels, located in the left side of the yard, behind the columns. There were preserved small rooms, in which the guards were placed for two people. The present view of the courtyard acquired after restoration from the consequences of the fire in 1665.
The very word “eunuch” comes from the Greek language and means “skopets.” Eastern despotism, long before the rise of the Ottoman Empire, demanded that people who were deprived of all personal attachment should serve under the royal and noble courts. There were eunuchs in Christian Byzantium. By origin, the black eunuchs were mostly from Ethiopia, who were captured as a child.
The role of the eunuchs in the life of the harem was very great, and often they reached a very high position. In the state hierarchy, the chief eunuch (kizlyar-aga-mister of girls) took second place behind the great vizier. It was not for nothing that the guards used all their energy to prove that the physical advantages were nothing before the mind.
At various times, at the courts of the sultans, there were from several thousand to several hundred eunuchs. Each relative or wife of the Sultan had his first eunuch, who enjoyed considerable influence among the personnel of her court. The eunuchs often supported the connections of the harem inhabitants to the outside world. Influential eunuchs were very rich – they showered valuable gifts as wards ladies, and guests of the harem, who often provided secret services.
Contemporary researcher Sh. Kaziev writes in the book “The Daily Life of the Oriental Harem”: “Not all eunuchs were the same in the physical sense. Some were able to brighten up the weary everyday life of odalisks … in old age the eunuchs retired and received a pension. Some became fabulously wealthy and lived like grandees. They started their own slaves and odalisks and even married, so that they could decorate their full old age. Often, the chosen harem veterans became familiar ladies of the court, with whom they managed to make friends or were tender platonic feelings. Wives of wealthy eunuchs were also young ladies, confident that wealth would easily fill the lack of family happiness. ”

Courtyard of the slave girls
Do not think that the inhabitants of the harem were exceptionally frivolously dressed beauties. The first place in the harem was always rightfully occupied by the mother of the Sultan, who wore the title “Validide-Sultan”. European ambassadors have always called her the queen-mother, she was considered the mistress of this half of the palace. Following her in the hierarchy of the harem inmates were the sons of the sultan – sons-heirs (shahzade), daughters and sisters (hanym-sultan). Only then were four wives (Kadyn-Effendi) followed, who were not considered full-fledged members of the dynasty. Numerous slaves were divided into Kadyn (Mistress), Iqbal (favorite), Gesde (marked or caught in the eye), Kalfa (an old experienced servant, in charge of the household) and odalik (usual maid).
In accordance with the rank of the rooms were distributed. In the labyrinths of numerous buildings and transitions to the inhabitants of the harem it was very important to get a room with a large window, a balcony or access to the courtyard. His own spacious courtyard adjoined only to the quarters of the full sovereign – Validida Sultan.
A small inner courtyard of a harem was called the Court of Slaves. On the one hand, it adjoins the premises of the black eunuchs, on the other, it connects with the extensive apartments of the Valid. Built in the XVI century, the present form it acquired after the fire in 1665.
The buildings of the courtyard are surrounded on three sides by an open gallery. The second floor of the buildings is painted in a favorite color in Ottoman Turkey. In some places the facades of the buildings are decorated with paintings of the XVIII century with plant motifs. In this yard there were not only common apartments and bedrooms of ladies not of the highest rank, there were also baths, laundry, one of the kitchens and a reservoir for water. Apparently, in this yard not only did business, but also breathed fresh air after visiting the hamam (bath), which was in the harem one of the main entertainments.
However, we should not think that the distribution of the premises was constant in the harem. With the passage of time, everything changed in connection with the needs of the family and the court of the next ruler.
Hall of the Lord (Throne Room of Sultan Murad III in the harem)
One of the main premises of the harem – Hyunkar sofas (Lord’s room) – was built by the order of Sultan Murad III at the end of the XVI century. Its real form it received after numerous changes in the XVIII-XIX centuries. Here, the ruler, along with the Valid Sultan and his wives, celebrated various family festivities.
The room is a large hall with a dome. It is divided into two parts – the main room, whose wall under the canopy has a wide sofa – the throne of the lord. On the side is a gallery with a balcony, where, probably, during the holidays there were musicians, and in the gallery under it were places for the validity of the Sultan and the closest relatives of the Sultan.
The walls of the hall were originally covered with traditional Turkish tiles, but in the 18th century they were replaced by fashionable European tiles made in the Dutch city of Delft. As a result of numerous rearrangements the hall also received features of such European styles as the Baroque and Empire. It is decorated with crystal chandeliers made in Europe, as well as other items, such as watches. From the traditional Turkish interior here remained fountains with a magnificent carvings.
The entrance hall with a brazier is one of the Valide Sultan’s rooms
As already noted, the harem was not at all a place where a number of young beauties were bored waiting for a rare visit to their crowned husband. It was a woman’s state in a state with its complex hierarchy and structure, where the first place in the hierarchy was usually occupied not by the eldest wife, but by the empress mother.
Naturally, each of the Sultans deeply revered his mother and it was for her that the best rooms were allocated in the harem. Pokoi valida were built in the 16th century and rebuilt after a fire in 1665. They include a bedroom, a chapel, a cloakroom and other rooms.
One of the first rooms Validida is crowned with a dome, the painting on which imitates an open gazebo, surrounded by fruit trees. Light penetrates into the room through the windows located high under the dome, so that no one’s eyes disturb the hostess and visitors of the hall. The gaps between these windows are also decorated with paintings depicting charming landscapes. The interior of the room was decorated in a new fashion in the XIX century.
The decoration of the lower part of the room is more traditional. The windows here are covered with inlaid shutters to protect themselves from the sun. However, the Turkish climate means not only the sun, in winter it is quite cold in Istanbul, so there is a fireplace decorated with tiles in the room. Thanks to him, the room got the name Lobby with a brazier. The same tiles, belonging to the XVII century, at a height slightly higher than human growth, the walls are lined. From this vestibule you can get into the private baths of the overlord and his mother or proceed further into her private quarters.
The main hall of the rooms is the Valid Sultan
The power of the sovereign’s mother was indisputable not only in the territory of the harem or the whole palace, but at times and throughout the Ottoman Empire – in the event of the sudden death of the sultan and the minority of his heir, only the Validate Sultan became a full regent.
The first lady of the Ottoman Empire, who was called “Oh, crown covered with a veil!”, Instilled in everyone around her not just respect, but fear and trembling, because she managed to make her son (usually one of many) a sultan, and no one knew her better harem life with all its secret and obvious sides. For several centuries, the Walid Sultan was not a Turkish woman by birth, but a foreigner was a Circassian from the Caucasus or a former Christian woman – a Greek, an Armenian or a Slav. Tradition also says that several times the mothers of sultans were girls born in European countries. Having gone all the way from the captured slave somewhere, the future valida was usually an unsurpassed politician and master of subtle intrigues.
One of the main duties of the venerable matron (however, she might have been less than 40 years old) was to keep her son’s wives in check and not let their rivalry break the family’s quiet life. It is clear that all wives tried in every possible way to please her and to deserve her favor.
The main hall of the Valide chambers, apparently, was built in the second half of the 16th century under Murad III for his mother Nurbanu-Sultan and redone under Selim III at the end of the XVIII century in Baroque style for Mihrisah-Sultan. When creating the museum exposition, one of the scenes of the palace life of the past was reproduced. Walide-sultan sits in the alcove of a spacious room on a low sofa. She is dressed in a rich toilet with a high headdress, from which a thin veil descends. There is no need to say that it was Validida who was in the harem a trendsetter and no one dared to be dressed better than her. Her guest sits on the carpet, as she is supposed to by status. Kalfa, bent over in a bow, is going to put on the table in front of Validida a cup of fragrant coffee. Although, maybe it’s not kalfa, but another guest who decided to personally serve the adored mother of her husband? After all, Validum could have a serious influence on the choice of its successor. In the event that the sultan’s chosen one received her approval, there was no such power in the harem that could resist the union of these two women. But if the mother of the senior grandson Walide did not like, then there were possible different options, up to the elimination of the unwanted wife and her heir. True, Validida sometimes waited for the sad fate – if she was destined to survive her son, she ended the days in oblivion in the old palace of Eski-Saray.
Personal quarters of Sultan Murad III
In the long row of the Ottoman sultans, it is difficult to single out the most famous historical figures, but Murad III is known to Russian readers – this is the grandson of Suleiman the Magnificent and the famous Roksolana, undoubtedly the most famous inhabitant of the harem. Slavyanke, which was named Hurrem-Sultan, was not destined to become a valid Sultan, she died before her husband, in 1558. However, after the death of his father, one of the sons of Roksolana still ascended the throne, as she had planned. The rule of Selim II can not be called either long or successful: in eight years he mysteriously died in his hamam. In 1574 the grandson of the Khurem Sultan, Murad III, reigned. He not only successfully ruled over 20 years, but also became one of the most active builders of different parts of the palace, erected a new chambers for his mother Nurbanu-Sultan in the harem.
Next to the rooms of the beloved mother, the ruler first built separate rooms for himself. The construction of the famous architect Sinan began in 1579. The main of these chambers is a double-faced hall of impressive dimensions. Its walls are decorated with blue tiles from the city of Iznik, which was famous for its faience. In the walls are arranged in three tiers of small niches, at one time served for elegant and precious ornaments – vials of fragrances, vases, watches. In one of the walls there was a small fountain, refreshing the air in the summer. For heating in the winter, there was a fireplace on the right. Colored glasses are inserted in the windows of the second tier. In general, the lighting was very important in the palace, for the sultan on earth is a semblance of the light of Allah in the sky, that is why in the daytime light was shining from above in the chambers, and in the evening the rooms were illuminated with different lamps.
The great importance that was accorded to the symbolism in the design of the chambers of the faithful heads is also indicated by the choice of texts inscribed on tiles. On the blue frieze, in white letters, one of the main texts of the Qur’an is written: ayat al-kursi, or ayat of the throne: “Allah is no Deity except him, living, existing; he does not possess a drowsiness, nor a dream; He belongs to what is in the heavens and on earth. Who would intercede with him, except with his permission? He knows what was before them and what will happen after them, and they do not comprehend anything from his knowledge, except what he wishes. His throne embraces the heavens and the earth, and his protection does not bother him, truly. He is tall, great! “.
The mention of the throne of Allah should immediately remind us of the reverence for the throne of the earthly ruler. In the hall there were preserved two large gilded canopies, under which, probably during the family celebrations, there were places of the sultan and his mother Nurbanu.
At the beginning of the 17th century, Sultan Ahmed I also built private chambers in the harem, and in the 18th century – Ahmed III.
Interior of the Double pavilion – Shahzadeh’s rooms
Not only women were dwellers of the harem. The main task of the ruler is to continue the ancient Osman family, which goes back to the 13th century, so the role of the eldest son and future heir (shahzade) was very great. Up to a certain age the boy grew up in the female half, and the most luxurious rooms (after the sultan and Validida) were assigned to him.
The so-called Double Pavilion was erected on the territory of the harem in the 17th century. In the XVIII century, the room was assigned to the quarters of the heir. Along three walls there is a low cozy sofa. In the middle there is an obligatory brazier for heating. But the problem of cooling the room in the summer is solved very interestingly – each window has its own “air conditioner”. In the slopes of large windows made small fountains with elegant shells, and the air, getting into the room, immediately refreshed. The walls, like in the neighboring rooms, are decorated with tiles, and it is clearly visible that not only ornaments were drawn from them. The tiles on the left represent a single composition depicting three tall cypresses. Between the upper and lower windows there passes a belt of tiles with the stamps of texts from the Koran.
However, the study did not take place here. On the territory of the harem there was a school for the sons of the Sultan, one of whom was destined to become his successor. Its premises go to the courtyard of the black eunuchs. When the son of the Sultan started his studies, the great vizier was to give him an ornate alphabet with golden letters. On the occasion of the first reading of the Qur’an, they usually arranged big holidays and invited many guests. Further, the boys were taught writing, mathematics, the interpretation of the Koran, Muslim jurisprudence, history, philosophy, versification, rhetoric and some other subjects. Particular attention was paid to palace etiquette and military affairs.
After reaching the age of maturity, at the age of 13-14, the sons left the premises of the harem. However, living in other chambers, the young man could always visit the harem to witness his respect and love for his mother and grandmother, who eventually picked out the girls for his own heir’s harem.
The court of the minions
One of the largest open courtyards with a terrace is called the Palace of the favorites. It is not accidental that it adjoins the premises of the Sultan and the Shakhzad.
The walls of the Double Pavilion Shahzade, decorated with valuable blue tiles and outside, are visible to the left. The buildings in the right part of the courtyard date back to the second half of the 18th century and were built under the influence of the architecture of the southern countries of Europe. Their second floors were moved forward, the windows were often closed with wooden shutters from the very dawn of the sun. An additional protection against heat is the protruding roof, which allows the windows to be in the shade. In the middle of the courtyard is a traditional fountain with water. Once these rooms were called Gözdeler Direleri (Rest of favorites).
Settling in them was the dream of every newly arrived girl in the harem. However, this dream was not carried out by every inhabitant of the female part of the palace. To attract at least a brief attention of his master, the girls tried to improve all their dignity. It can be said that the harem of the Turkish sultan served as one of the first female universities in the world, because the education of the gays was, in its own way, no less serious than the training of the chess team. His main task was to turn the slaves of the most simple origin, often not at all literate and not speaking Turkish, in elegant court ladies. The girls were taught not only to carefully take care of their beauty and to understand costly apparels and ornaments, any of the contenders for the title of a favorite should have other talents. Particularly appreciated was the ability to write poetry and sing. Many were taught to dance and play on different musical instruments. Those wishing to be trained all the exquisite types of needlework – embroidery on velvet and silk, sewing pearls and gold threads. The most curious studied the whole course of sciences, down to philosophy and jurisprudence. If a girl, having passed such a course, for some time did not attract the attention of the Sultan, then she could determine the dowry and marry one of the nobles. For any courtier was considered a great honor and luck to get a wife of a pupil of the Sultan’s harem.
Today on the benches placed in the Courtyard of the favorites, numerous tourists enjoy the views of Istanbul and the palace gardens.
The Golden Road
From the Courtyard of the favorites is the so-called Altyn Yol (Golden Way). Using it, you can, bypassing the intricate labyrinths of the harem, go back to the Courtyard of the black eunuchs. The oldest and longest corridor of the palace received its name not from magnificent furnishings, but from the custom, according to which the Sultan, when leaving the apartments, scattered gold coins here during solemn ceremonies. They could be selected by the inhabitants of the harem – close friends and favorites, which is shown in the old Ottoman miniatures.
If you walk along the Golden Corridor to the other end, you can go to the gates of Kushkhana Kapysa (Kitchen Gate). Here was a small kitchen, which was used to service the sultans at night. Nowadays in this place the harem tour ends, and through the small gate one can get to the enderun.
Library of Sultan Ahmed III in the third courtyard
In addition to the Chamber of the Sultan and the Chamber of sacred relics, there are many other buildings in the third courtyard. Immediately beyond the gate is the Throne Room, where the sultans received foreign ambassadors. Behind him, closer to the center of the courtyard, is a small elegant building of the Library of Sultan Ahmed III.
Ahmed III ascended the throne in 1703. A beautiful small library building was erected in 1718 in the so-called lale style (“tulip”). No wonder the historians named the reign of Ahmed III “the era of tulips.” Indeed, both the Sultan himself and his great vizier were extremely fond of these refined flowers, spent big money on their acquisition and even brought out new varieties themselves. The Turkish “Lale” has a symbolic consonance with the word “Allah”, therefore at the court there were arranged “Tulip holidays”. The sultan with his harem and everyone else admired their flowering in Topkapi gardens.
The architectural style of this era already refers to the new history of Turkey. Ahmed III, who rightfully can be called the first of the Sultans-Reformers, pursued a consistent course to involve the country in the science, culture, economy of Europe. They opened the first printing house in the Islamic world, and developed interest in cartography, books, and the press. In different parts of Istanbul numerous palaces have grown, new parks and gardens with marble basins and fountains have been broken. The suburban residence of the ruler – Saadabad – was built on the plans of Versailles and Fontainebleau brought from France.
The library of the “European oriented” Sultan is a building with two porticos overlooking two porches on both sides of the facade. It is built of gray stone, large windows are arranged in two tiers. From classical Turkish architecture there was only a dome, crowned with an elegant spire with a crescent.
Chamber of sacred relics in the third courtyard
On the left side of the third courtyard, behind the Mosque of the White Eunuchs, is the Chamber of the Sultan, erected under Mehmet Fatih as the place of his permanent residence. At the beginning of the XVI century, under Selim Yavuz (Grozny), its form changed – a new room was built, which is called the Pavilion of sacred relics. After Selim’s conquest of Mamluk Egypt in 1517, the Turkish sultans began to wear the title of Caliph, the religious head of the orthodox Sunni Muslims. From Cairo to Istanbul, on the orders of Selim, the main shrines of Islam were transferred from the last Abbasid caliphs – the distant relatives of the prophet himself.
In the House there are keys and castles from the Kaaba, whose custodians for a number of centuries were the Turkish sultans, gutters from its roof, details of bedspreads changing at the shrine every year, fragments of reliquaries from the famous Black Stone. In addition, there are also Kaaba models made of different materials, as well as the model of the mosque in Medina, where the Prophet Mohammed was buried, and the Mosque “Dome of the Rock” in Jerusalem. Among the sacred relics are also the few remaining personal belongings of the prophet – his cloak and sword. One of the shrines, which is not quite ordinary for the Muslim world, is reminiscent of Muhammad’s earthly path. This is a casket with his tooth, knocked out in the first battle for Islam at the Nursing on March 19, 652, when the Muslim army was defeated during the war between Mecca and Medina. Also here are the things of his next of kin, for example, the shirt and robe of Fatima’s beloved daughter, the mother of his only grandchildren. The swords of his closest associates, Umar and Usman, were also preserved.
Among the sacred relics are also things related to the biblical and evangelical characters mentioned in the Qur’an. For example, the dish of the patriarch Abraham (Ibrahim), which is considered the ancestor of all the Arabs, a small wooden rod – according to the legend, the prophet Moses (Musa) extracted water from the rock. In addition, here lies the sword of the pious Israeli King David (Daoud) and clothes attributed to the patriarch Joseph (Yusuf). Among the greatest relics, revered and Christians – the ark with the right hand of John the Baptist (Yahya).
Despite the fact that now the exhibition of sacred relics is considered a museum exposition, a large number of Muslims come here to not only look at the ancient shrines, but also to bow to them.
Treasury Building
One of the oldest buildings of the third courtyard is the so-called Fatih Pavilion (Fatih Kyoshku), whose body stretched along the Sea of ​​Marmara. Its building, also called Enderun Hazinessi (Treasury of the inner courtyard), was built during the time of Sultan Mehmed II (circa 1460) and was among the first in the emerging structure of the new palace. It was conceived as a place for storing the main treasures of the Sultan’s treasury, which could leave the palace only on especially important occasions.
The building is crowned with two domes, cut through small windows, and surrounded by a gallery, like many other structures of Topkapi. Apparently, according to the original design of the first customer, Sultan Mehmed, the palace was planned as a summer residence, so the only purpose of the domes is to provide lighting and increase the volume of air in the room, and galleries should not allow the sun to heat the walls. An open terrace with a fountain, adjacent to the Fatih Pavilion on the other side, also speaks about this.
Over time, the pavilion of the 15th century was connected with another structure – the Chamber of Military Companies founded by Murad IV in 1635. By the construction of the gallery of this chamber, Byzantine columns of greenish stone were used. In the premises of the Chamber of military campaigns, rebuilt in the XVIII century, is currently housed a unique exposition of caftans and other clothes of sultans of the XV-XIX centuries.
An exhibition of one of the largest collections of treasures in the world is opened in the Enderun Hazinesse. Sultans of the Ottoman Empire have accumulated a huge number of unique values ​​and highly artistic artifacts, many of which are represented in this exposition, located in four halls.
Interior of the Circumcision Hall
The circumcision hall belonged to those buildings that were used for private life, and once in several years for family celebrations. Here one of the main dynastic events took place – the rite of circumcision of the heirs of the Sultan (hunnet). For 3-4 months prior to its carrying out, notices were sent to all major administrative centers, as well as to vassal and border states. Then we proceeded to preparations, because the celebration was to be quite splendid.

The palace-museum Topcapes

After circumcision, the boys were taken to an ornate pavilion and laid to rest. At this time, to distract the children from unpleasant sensations, they were offered generous gifts from the whole family and numerous guests. The heroes of the day felt themselves in the center of attention, on that day every whim had to be fulfilled.
Simultaneously with the circumcision ceremony for their sons, the sultans at their own expense also arranged circumcision rites for the children of the poor. To do this, special tents were installed in different parts of the city. Jugglers, acrobats and rope walkers performed in the squares, wrestlers and fireworks took place. For the residents of the city, a treat was arranged, and for the guests of the palace – dinner parties, attended by thousands of guests. For example, in 1582 celebrations on the circumcision of Mehmed’s chess team, the son of Sultan Murad III, lasted 52 days, and in 1720 celebrations on the circumcision of the son of Sultan Ahmed III lasted 15 days,
The interior of the Circumcision Hall differs from other rooms of the palace in that the tiled decoration is available not only on the walls, but also covers the ceiling. On the left side between the windows and the wall are two elegant niches that served as shelves for precious ornaments, and in the wide slopes of the windows there are fountains with shells to cool the air in summer heat. This is due to the original function of the building, which was still called the Summer Pavilion.