600-YEAR-OLD HISTORY: A SEPARATE CITY INSIDE A CITY
Its exquisite position in Sarayburnu, it’s having been the residence of Ottoman sultans and the administration and education center of the state increase the magnificence of The Topkapı Palace. It is definitely a must-see in order to have a real insight into the administrative structure of the Ottoman Empire, to observe the life of the palace and to witness its extraordinary collections. The Topkapı Palace Museum is one of the most visited museums in the world with its glittering treasures and interesting stories behind its simple architecture.
THE FIRST PALACE AFTER THE CONQUEST OF ISTANBUL (FALL OF CONSTANTINOPLE)
The first Palace built by Mehmed the Conqueror after the conquest was called “The Old Palace” in Bayezid, at the site where the University of Istanbul is located today. Then in 1460, by his order, the Tiled Kiosk and the Topkapi Palace, where he was going to settle, were built in the Byzantine Acropolis in Sarayburnu. The palace’s initial name was “New Palace” (Saray-ı Cedid) and it was inspired by the splendor of Edirne Palace which was built by Mehmed the Conqueror’s father Murad II. There are only the surviving remains of Edirne Palace today.
It was given the name “Topkapı” during the reign of Mahmud I. When the wooden palace of Sultan Mahmud I “Topkapusu Seaside Palace” near the Byzantine Walls burned down in a fire, its name was given to the “New Palace”. The burnt down palace was called that because of the salute cannons in front of it.
Topkapı Palace has been the administrative center of the state and the living place of the Sultan’s family since 1478 and has been continuously developed, grown and added new wings for centuries. The Ottoman state philosophy and the relations between the palace and the citizens had a great role in its structural plan. Although the sultans moved to Dolmabahçe Palace in the 1850s, state ceremonies continued due to the Imperial Treasury, holy relics and imperial archives.
TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT HOW THE OTTOMAN STATE LIVED
An important part of the Topkapı Palace, which spans an area of 700 thousand square meters, is reserved for The Royal Gardens (Hasbahçe). It has three main gates “The Imperial Gate” (Bab-i Hümayun), “The Middle Gate” (Babüsselam) and “The Gate of Facility” (Babüssaade); four courtyards, The Imperial Harem and The Royal Gardens (Hasbahçe/Gulhane). The palace was consciously built in a modest way and even the Great Architect Sinan built only one section. The plan consists of sections reserved for state affairs between courtyards and gardens, the dwellings and kiosks of the Sultans, and buildings for officials living in the palace.
Since 1924, treasury, sacred relics, clocks, portraits of the Sultans, Sultan’s dresses, weapons have been exhibited in the palace, which has hosted visitors as a fascinating museum.
TOPKAPI PALACE TREASURY
HAGIA IRENE MUSEUM
Hagia Irene means “Divine Peace” in Greek, so it was a church dedicated to holly peace, not to a Saint Irene as it’s wrongly pronounced today. It’s believed that the church was first built in the 4th century AD over the ruins of a pagan temple by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine I. The wooden construction was burned during the Nika Riot in 532 AD and it was renovated by Justinian I, representing typical characteristics of early Byzantine architecture. During the following centuries, the church was restored several times because of the earthquakes and some big fires.
The Janissaries used the church as an arsenal after the Conquest of Constantinople in 1453. The staircases to the galleries and the inscription on the gate were added by the Ottomans. In the 19th century, it was opened as a sort of museum displaying old weapons. At the beginning of the 20th century, it was closed and remained empty for many years until they started the restorations.
ISTANBUL ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUMS
Istanbul Archaeological Museums are a complex of museums consisting of three main units. The Archaeological Museum, The Museum of Ancient Oriental Works, The Tiled Kiosk Museum. Istanbul Archaeological Museum, the first museum in Turkey, has about a million artifacts from a variety of cultures, brought from the imperial lands.
The interest in collecting historical artifacts in the Ottoman period dates back to the reign of Mehmet the Conqueror, but the institutional emergence of museums coincides with the establishment of Istanbul Archaeological Museums in 1869 as Müze-i Hümayun (Imperial Museum). Müze-i Humayun, housing the archaeological works collected in the Hagia Irene Church, is the foundation of the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. The Tiled Kiosk built during the reign of Mehmet the Conqueror was converted into a museum because of the insufficiency of Hagia Irene. The Tiled Kiosk which is still under the administration of Istanbul Archaeological Museum was restored and opened its doors in 1880.
When Osman Hamdi Bey was assigned as the museum director in 1881, there was a breakthrough in Turkish museology. Osman Hamdi Bey excavated in Mount Nemrud, Myrina, Kyme, other Alolia Necropolises, and Lagina Hekate Temple and as a result of excavations he conducted in Sayda (Sidon) between 1887-1888, he reached the necropolis of King Sidon and returned to Istanbul with many sarcophagi, especially the famous one; Alexander the Great.
The oldest building (1472 CE) in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum complex is The Tiled Kiosk. The Tiled Kiosk Museum, which currently displays examples of Turkish tiles and ceramics, is one of the oldest examples of Ottoman civil architecture in Istanbul.
The building, which was used as the Museum of Ancient Oriental Works, was constructed by Osman Hamdi Bey in 1883 as Sanayi-i Nefise school, that is, the Academy of Fine Arts. The architect of the building was Alexander Vallaury, who would later build the Istanbul Archaeological Museum Classic building.
The Archaeological Museum stands out as one of the rare buildings constructed as a museum in that time period in the world. It is one of the most beautiful and splendid examples of neo-classical architecture in Istanbul. It reads the ‘Asar-ı Atika Museum’ (Museum of Ancient Works) in Ottoman language on the pediment. The writing on the tughra belongs to Sultan II. Aldulhamid.
A new museum building was needed to display magnificent works such as Iskender Tomb, crying women Tomb, Lycia Tomb and Tabnit tomb, which were brought to Istanbul from Sidon King Necropolis excavation performed by Osman Hamdi Bey between 1887 and 1888. Across from The Tiled Kiosk, Istanbul Archeological Museums Classical Building, built by the famous architect Alexandre Vallaury, was opened on June 13th, 1891.
THE TILED KIOSK MUSEUM
This mansion was commissioned by Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror in 1472 and is one of the oldest examples of civil architecture in Istanbul. The portico, which has 14 marble columns, was constructed during the reign of Sultan Abdül Hamit I (1774–89) after the original burned down in 1737.
The entrance of the mansion is a single storey while the back of the building adds another storey, and there is a 14-column marble porch at the entrance. The mansion’s antechamber is decorated with mosaic china work and has six rooms and one central hall.
On display here are Seljuk, Anatolian and Ottoman tiles and ceramics dating from the end of the 12th century to the beginning of the 20th century. The collection includes İznik tiles from the period between the mid-14th and 17th centuries when that city produced the finest colored tiles in the world. When you enter the central room you can’t miss the stunning mihrab from the Ibrahim Bey Imâret in Karaman, built-in 1432.
MUSEUM OF ANCIENT ORIENT
The Museum of the Ancient Orient building was also designed by the renowned architect Alexandre Vallaury, again by Osman Hamdi Bey in 1883.
Cuneiform tablets find from Egypt, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and the Pre-Islamic Arabian Peninsula await their visitors in this museum. The museum collection includes rare works of art such as the Steele of Akkadian King Naram Sin, the Kadesh Peace Treaty, a Love Poem from the 8th-century, and the Ishtar Gate of Babylon.