Later, impressed by the situation of the Byzantine acropolis at today’s Saray Point, dominating the confluence of the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara, Fatih gave orders for the construction (1475 – 1478) of what we know as the Topkapi Palace.
In fact an earlier royal structure, the Çinili Kö?k, the Tiled Kiosk, was built in Fatih’s reign lower down on the landward slope of the Byzantine acropolis. The Topkapi Palace, besides being the royal residence of the Ottoman Turkish Sultans, was also the administrative heart of the empire of the Turks. The Divan the Ottoman equivalent of a Council of Ministers met there, all important official ceremonies were held at the palace, and the widest frontiers of the empire were in constant communication with the palace.
In the reign of Abdülmecit in the 19th-century, the palace showed signs of physical decay, and was abandoned as the royal residence as succeeding Sultans built, inturn, the, palaces of Dolmabahçe, Beylerbeyi and Çira?an. Finally, on April 3, 1924, the Topkapi Palace, by now called the «Old Palace.» was converted to a museum, the indentity it wears today.
The precincts of the Topkapi Palace Museum consist of four vast courtyards, separated from each other by three great portals or entrance ways. The complex itself is divided into numerous suites of rooms, indiviudal kiosks, gardens, articificial basins and fountains, and other constructions situated throughout the courtyard areas.
From the first gate, called the Bab-i Hümayun or Imperial Gate, overlooking Sultan Ahmet Square, one enters the palace’s Alay Meydani, or Courtyard of the Procession.
The first courtyard of the Topkap? Palace. In imperial times, this courtyard was the scene of eleborate royal ceremonies that celebrated victories, mourned deaths or hailed births, paid honor to religious days and national holidays of all sorts. At the end of the first courtyard, rises the Bab-i Selam (The Gate of Salutation). Both sections of this gate are fortified by two octagonal towers.
From this gate, which leads to the Topkap? Palace’s second courtyard, we step into that courtyard which is named the Court of the Divan. Before the gate, the fountain seen to the right, is the Executioner’s Fountain, Those condemned to death by Ferman royal order of the Sultan, including inhabitants of the palace itself, were beheaded on the spot, after which the executioners cleansed their hands and the instruments of beheading at the Executioner’s Fountain.
Only the Sultans themselves could enter and pass through the Orta Kap?, or Middle Gate, on horseback. All others had to proceed on foot. The right side of the second Courtyard is covered completely by the palace kitchens. Here it was possible to cook the food, and to concoct the sweets, required by all those thousands who made up the imperial household and its staffs.
The section on the left side of the courtyard, is called the Kubbe Alt?, or «Under the Dome» Here may be found such important parts of the palace as the ?ç Hazine or the Inner Treasury And it was in this section that functioned the very center of the palace’s official life.
History tells us that the Second Courtyard of the palace, was at times captured and occupied by revolutionary forces, and that on occasion even certain Sultans themselves were brought before the third gate to the Ayak Divani.
Entrance is obtained to the Third Courtyard through the Third Gate, called the Bab-i Saadet, or the Aka?alar Kap?s?, the latter name meaning White Aghas’ Gate. This gate is the most important entrance to the palace of Topkap?. In front of the gate is a revac a pavilion or gallery supported by marble columns. During the ceremonies attending the accession of the Sultan to the throne, the throne itself was set up here, as it was during religious holidays or when the Sultan received official acts of homage. And it was here that the Flag of the Army was handed to the Sadrazam, or Grand Vizier, just before the army set off on a new campaign.
The Third Courtyard is the area where the private life of the palace went on. This courtyard is called the Enderun Avlusu. The building just ahead as soon as one passes through the gate, is the Arz Odas?, the equivalent of a throne room.
All ceremonies of reception were held here. At the rear of the Arz Odas?, the throne room or Room of Ceremonies, is found the Library of Ahmet III.
At the end of this courtyard, and through the stairway of today’s Museum Directorate building, there is a passage leading towards the section of royal kiosks or pavilions. This is also called the fourth section of the palace.
The most important features of this section are the Mecidiye Kiosk, the Mustafa Pasha Kiosk, the Revan Kiosk, and the Baghdad Kiosk. These kiosks were the scene of important events in the history of the Ottoman Empire, even those that might have shaped the history of the world.
Palace Section In the seven rooms of the Topkap? Palace kitchens, are exhibits of Chinese and Japanese porcelain, as well as European glass and porcelains, and objects made by Turks themselves of precious metals. The Chinese porcelains are arranged according to the various dynasties of imperial China. The oldest porcelains belong to the celadon type, from the 9th-to the 13th-cen-turies. Those belonging to the Ming period represent the work of the 14th to the 17th centuries. The Sung and Yuan period porcelains are products of the 960-1279 and 1260-1368 respectively, and are worthy of great interest. The porcelains of the 17th- through the 20th-centuries of the Ching dynasty, may be looked upon as a continuation of the Ming period. Those here are colored pink and green. Most of the Japanese porcelain here belongs to the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, and were manufactured with commercial designs.
In the section called the Helvahane of the imperial kitchens, the one used for the making of Turkish sweets and jams, there is an exhibit of Turkish kitchen utensils. These are mostly items, made of copper, used at the palace between the 16th and 19th centuries. Istanbul glass and porcelain wares, are on exhibit in the kitchen’s Sabunhane, or Soap Factory, section. Here are Y?ld?z and Topkap? glass products, manufactured in these workshops during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. They all possess great artistic value.
In the building that once was the living quarters of the Sultans’ personal servants, the Sultans’ own robes are shown. One’s attention is drawn particularly in this section to the dresses, kaftans, furs and robes of the Royal children.
Today, is probably the most valuable treasury collection in the world, may be seen in the four large rooms of the third courtyard, the Treasury of the imperial Ottoman family.
The Treasury of the Sultans is displayed In a section of the Topkap? Palace affording a magnificent view of the Bosphorus and of the Sea of Marmara. The Treasury is a record in precious objects of the deeds and the aspirations of Turkey’s former sovereigns, a documentation of events in the history of the Ottoman Empire.
The booty of war, ambassadors’ gifts, gifts of other kings or emperors to the Turkish Sultans, gifts presented at the time of royal circumcisions, mementos of royal weddings, the relics of acquisition, all became the property of the Treasury.
From the fourth room of the treasury, a passageway leads the visitor to a marble balcony and to what is probably one of the most beautiful panoramas of Istanbul astride two continents. The natural and the man-made beauty of Istanbul’ appear before your very eyes.
In the sleeping area of a palace upper story built during the regin of Sultan Abdülmecit II, miniatures and Sultans’ portraits are displayed in chronological order. On the lower floor of the same structure, are examples of the art of Islamic miniatures.
Watches and clocks used by Turkish Sultans in one part of the palace or another from the 16th through the 19th-century, including pocket watches, wall and table clocks, are at present exhibited in the Silahtar Treasury. Some of these watches were purchased privately by the Sultans, while others were royal gifts to Turkey’s monarchs, or were acquired through other channels.
Topkapi Palace, Ottoman Treasury !