Topkapı Palace, which was used as the centre of administration and residence of dynasty in İstanbul the capital city of the Ottoman Empire, was completed in 1473 only two decades after Fatih Sultan Mehmet conquered the city. Members of the Ottoman dynasty inhabited in the palace until they moved to the Bosphorus Palaces in the 19th century. By the order of Atatürk, Topkapı Palace was opened to visit as a museum after the proclamation of the republic in April 3, 1924.
Having gained a magnificent size and function upon additional buildings and renovations made by the order of different sultans in various periods, the palace depicts the development of the state administration. In the process of time, magnificence and the multi-functionality of the palace protocol and hierarchy was reflected to the architecture of Topkapı Palace. Even the palace became the artistic account of the growth and the fall of the state. With its process of dramatic events decorating the great history of Ottoman Empire, the palace is one of the rare examples to the museums in the world that could reach today with their historical backgrounds. The fact that Fatih Sultan Mehmet was the heir of the empire tradition of Byzantine and the Middle East, symbolized with the conquest of İstanbul, gave rise to dramatic changes in the previous state administration system which was questionably adorned with a dynamic and nomadic Asia-Anatolia tradition. Apparently, this fact provided the monarchy which was composed of the sultan and his family with power, and along with Fatih Kanunamesi (Law of Fatih Sultan Mehmet), provided the palace with a hierarchical structure and solemnity that would consciously adapt to a system of empire. One can gradually observe these changes within Topkapı Palace.
Topkapı Palace is built on the Byzantine acropol situated in Seraglio-Point (Sarayburnu) which forms the headland for the historical İstanbul peninsula; between Marmara Sea, The Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. The Palace is seperated from the city by Sûr-ı Sultâni at the side of land which was built by Fatih, and at the side of the sea; by city walls of Byzantine. Besides a variety of doors with different functions and sea and land doors; Bâb-ı Hümâyûn (The Imperial Gate) which is situated behind Ayasofya forms the monumental door of the palace. The reflection of the functional simplicity needed for a strong state which had experienced all kinds of splendour and protocol details for centuries is clear from the entrance of the palace. This gate, with its character in the 15th century, suits the castle-palace construction. Above the gate through which the public could enter there used to be a manor house that could stand up by the 19th century. It is known that regiments were watched from the manor house and special treasures were preserved in it.
The largest courtyard of the palace The First Courtyard is separated from the private garden of the sultan (Hasbahçe), which stretches in the Marmara Sea and the Golden Horn direction, as it is situated in the major axis. In this courtyard between the Bâb-ı Hümâyûn and the Bâb-üs Selâm (The Gate of Salutation) where the interior palace begins are Birun (outer of the main palace) service buildings which were under the control of the gardeners (Bostancılar); they do not exist any longer today. At the left hand side, wood-warehouses, the church of Hagia Eirene which was used as Cebehane (ammunition-store), royal mint buildings which were renovated and expanded in the 18th century are the structures that have survived to our day. In front of a cloister where statesmen and ambassadors used to tie their horses were successively a house for petition called Deavi Kasrı and Ebniye-i Hassa warehouses. At the right hand side of the avenue, Gülhane Hospital, Has Fırın and Dolap Ocağı which constituted the water-distribution system of the palace were the buildings in sequence that were bordering the First Courtyard.
Hasbahçe which has surrounded the palace in every period included many pavilions. The first of these pavilions is the Alay Köşkü (The Ceremonial Pavilion or The Parade Pavilion) built on a polygonal bastion on the opposite side of the Bâb-ı Âli Kapısı (Bâb-ı Âli Gate). The building which was used by sultans for watching various parades was renovated according to the Empire Style in the 19th century. Every year sultans used to watch the fleet ships put to sea from the Yalı Köşkü which was a polygonal open observation pavilion situated in the direction of the Golden Horn and on the side of Sirkeci. Because it was decide to build the railway through the garden, the pavilion was demolished at end of 19th century. It is supposed that the harem inhabitants used to watch these ceremonies from a 17th-century construction built in classic form called Sepetçiler Kasrı that has survived to our day. Besides various dorms and buildings that belonged to gardeners, the most important pavilion in this area was the Çinili Köşk (The Tiled Pavilion) which was built with the palace itself by Fatih Sultan Mehmet. Known for its Timurid architectural style with its tiles and central plan with balconies, The Çinili Köşk was used as an archaeology museum in the era of the Abdulhamid II. In front of a gate with towers and cannons in Seraglio-Point because of which Saray-ı Cedid was lately called as Topkapı there was a wooden coastal palace which was built in Rococo style in the late 18th century at the seaside of Marmara Sea. The summer-palace was stretching next to The Mermer Köşk (The Marble Pavilion) with porticos which has survived to our day since the early 16th century. The palace burned in 1860s and a railway was built in stead of it. İncili Köşk (The Pearl Pavilion) whose base is visible in the walls next to the non-existing summer-palace was an observation pavilion which was constructed by the chief architect Davud Ağa by the order of Koca Sinan Paşa to submit to the Murad III.
The Marmara Wall surrounding Topkapı Palace ended with two functional gates called Balıkhane (Fish Market) and Ahırkapı (Stable Gate). It is only the light house built in the era of the Osman III that has survived to our day among the structures in this manor-house which included the large stables of the palace. On this side of the Hasbahçe where Gülhane Hatt-ı Hümayun (The Imperial Edict) was declared are the Cirit Meydanı (Jareed Square), The Gülhane Pavilion and The İshak Paşa Pavilion as well as the remains of the Byzantine Mangana Palace.
In the First Courtyard, one could see the glorious parade of the sultans upon arrival from or departure for a martial expedition or in ceremonial days such as Cuma Selamlıkları through the road with trees binding Bâb-ı Hümâyûn to Bâb-üs Selam. It is known that the Janissaries made use of this courtyard when they revolted against the palace and they opened up the gates. The main palace section which was determined by the gate with two towers called Bâb-üs Selam and the second gate which reminds modern European towers constitutes the citadel within the Sur-u Sultani. This place, in which various structures were surrounded by straight and strong wall-like buildings that look like bastions bulging into the courtyards, constitutes the whole palace with three courtyards in a row with different functions and the buildings surrounding them. The forecourt in which no one could enter riding a horse other than the sultan called Divan Square is a place specific for the top of the state administration with its buildings. In this courtyard, the most important axis between the garden divisions in which various animals once wandered around is the Bab-üs Saade axis which represents the sultan. At the left hand side is the Divan-ı Hümayun (The Imperial Council Hall) repesenting the function of the square with three domes and porticos under the Tower of Justice whose body has remained from the era of Fatih. The Divanhane (assembly hall), the official building where the grand vizier and other viziers negotiated the state issues four days a week was composed of Kalem and Defterhane sections. The council meeting was held and the ambassadors were accepted in this place. With its eight domes and massive walls, The Exterior Treasury, behind the Divanhane, was built for storing the official treasury of the state. The treasury was only used by the grand vizier and also the ulufe was distributed to Jannisaries from the treasury every three months with a ceremony. Galebe Divanı was made for the ceremonies to which ambassadors were also invited. Since the palace was reopened as a museum, this section has been used for exhibiting the weapons remained from the Early Islamic Period to early 20th century. Also, weapons specific to Islamic-Turkish period and the Middle East are exhibited here. Kubbealtı (Divan-ı Hümayun) is separated with a small and obscure gate of the Harem Dairesi (The Chamber of the Harem) called Arabalar Kapısı (The Gate of Carts) situated on the side of Golden Horn. The gate also connects the Divan Square on the side of Golden Horn to the Hasbahçe- to the Hasahır system which was used by the sultans when they were leaving the palace. Surrounding the palace with a lower courtyard belonged to itself, The Has Ahır (Privy Stables) is known as one of the oldest buildings within the palace. The stable which sheltered a few distinguished horses of the sultan included the harness treasury (Raht Hazinesi) which was under the responsibility of the administrator called 'imrahor' (master of the horses). Particularly in the official parades or as gifts to foreign countries, the harness sets were decorated with jewels. Another outstanding building in this section is The Beşir Ağa Mosque. Also, a group of functional buildings called the Baltacılar Koğuşu (The Dormitory of The Halberdiers with Tresses) situated in the Divan Square. The staff of the dormitory which was composed of the strong young men recruited through the devshirme system served as emcees, and also served in different positions within the selamlık and the harem. Expanded at the end of the 16th century, The Baltacılar Koğuşu took its final shape and it was like a separate quarter with The Divan Square, The Harem, the bathhouse surrounding the courtyard in front of the Has Ahır, the dormitory, the mosque and the çubuk odası (the resting place for the Zülüflü Baltacılar).
The magnificence of the state which was represented by the buildings in the Divan Square had a meaning with the monumental kitchens behind the porticos at the right hand side of the courtyard. The monumental buildings in a private, accurate and long courtyard stretching from end to end on the Marmara side are the Kiler (The Hall of the Commissariat) and the Yağhane (oil-house) which are used as The Palace Archive and fabric store today, the wooden building called the Aşçılar Mescidi (The Masjid of Cooks), and eventually the Kitchens with their spectacular scenery made of chimneys which emphasizes the palace at the entrence of the city. In ordinary days, meals were prepared for more than 5000 people in the huge building which served to the grand vizier, the Enderun, the Harem and the sultan. The Kitchens filled with the most quality foodstuff produced in all around the empire has a great importance in the Ottoman culture. The Chinese and Japanese ceramics imported or received as gifts were respected in the Ottoman palace and they are exhibited in these buildings today. Turkish kitchen tools, the Ottoman Yıldız porcelains and glass articrafts are exhibited in the Helvahane and the Şerbethane sections of the kitchens. In the buildings at the opposite side which were once used as dormitories of cooks are the European porcelain and silver handicrafts. The Bab-üs Saade (The Gate of Facility) is the gate that connects the Divan Square to the Enderun courtyard where the selamlık (Sultan's procession to the mosque) and inner palace (Enderun) organization took place. Ceremonies of cülus (enthronement), biat (allegiance), bayramlaşma (bairam parade), Ayak Divanı and funerals were held in front of the gate that represents the sultan. The sultans would not use the gate and the Divan Square out of these occasions. The gate was kept closed as it was the main door of the sultan's house; entering the other side without permission was accepted as the biggest legal violation against the infinite authority. This baldachin passageway which was under the control of the Bab-üs Saade Ağası (Officer of the Gate of Facility) has remained to our day with Rococo decorations made in the late 18th century. The Enderun, the selamlık section of the palace arranged under the auspices of the sultan, was also called as 'Harem-i Hümayun'. This place was composed of the Selamlık used during the daylight and the Harem used during nights. The education process through which senior bureaucrats and military chiefs were trained had a great role in the formation of the Enderun courtyard. The first structure belonged to the sultan himself within the Bab-üs Saade which was under the control of the Bab-üs Saade Ağası is the Arz Odası (The Audience Hall). This place with porticos and monospace symbolizes the Ottoman centralization because of its central location in the palace. The baldachin and bejewelled throne placed in the hall in the late 16th century is the throne used by sultans in the meetings with divan members, in the receptions of the foreign ambassadors and in the cülus ceremonies. Very few groups of people who had the honour of meeting the sultan could see the rich and original decoration and protocol of the official reception hall. Behind this building was the Havuzlu Köşk (The Pool Pavilion) which was built in the 16th century. Attracting a special interest within the palace, the pavilion included decorative stuffed birds as a symbol of strength. The Enderun Library which was built by the Ahmet III in the early 18th century in the Lale Devri (The Age of Tulips) is a typical sultan building with its projection and central plan. The library which was constructed with classic form and elegant style was donated to the Enderun Aghas by the sultan Ahmet III. The other examples to the buildings in the courtyard that belonged to the sultan are Enderun Treasury (Fatih Pavilion) and The Has Oda (The Privy Chamber / The Chamber of the Sacred Relics) situated at the corners. In spite of its plan, it is reliazed that the pavilion which was built along with the palace by Fatih Sultan Mehmet was used as the Ottoman palace treasury from the beginning. Built with face stones, the pavilion looked like a classical Ottoman house decorated with porticos and a marble terrace opening to the wonderful İstanbul scenary. These buildings, which are also known to have a monumental bath belonged to the sultan and the enderun aghas at the back side of the rooms with domes in a row, had large basement floors that were used for storing treasury stuff. The legendary treasury whose cash section was composed of the one fifth portion of the sultan's any kind of income and the state funds, dynasty shares and incomes from the hadika palaces was also a collection of all kinds of articrafts made or received as gifts such as sultanate jewels, donated furs, hilats (caftan given by the sultan to girls or women as a gift), precious palace clothes and fabrics, valuable yazmas (traditional headscarf) and the sacred relics. Apart from the state treasury, this reserve and arts collection which was financed separately was used when the economy of the state was in dire straits.
Among the numerous bejewelled pieces exhibited in these sections today the most outstanding ones are the four thrones (Bayramlaşma - Cülus, İtfariyye, Sefer and The Throne of Nader Shah), medals and crests which are the symbols of the sovreignity, the Topkapı Dagger and the Kaşıkçı Elması (the Spoonmaker's Diamond). Pieces from the treasury could only be taken and returned by the sultan and the high officials of the Hazine Koğuşu (The Dormitory of the Treasury) through registration under the control of the Hazinedarbaşı (The Chief Treasurer. The right of use of the treasury belonged to the dynasty while the public had the right of possession. It is known that sultans used to occasionally visit the pieces remained from their ancestors or placed in their periods. Precious gifts sent by foreign emperors used to be accepted in the treasury while the Ottoman side would send gifts as much valuable as the ones it received in return. The works sent by the sultans to sacred places constitute a part of the inventory of the Treasury.
The most important building in the Enderun courtyard is the Has Oda (The Privy Chamber). The chamber constructed according to a four-room geometrical plan in the 15th century, was the private residence of sultans in selamlık of the palace. The sultan used to negotiate with the enderun aghas, particularly with his crown princes, entertain himself and invite his viziers at times in the chamber which was divided into sections such as Arzhane, Aslanhane and Hasoda. This tradition continued until the 17th century. The building which was decorated with tiles from end to end has been used as the exhibition hall of the Sacred Relics since the 19th century. After the Mamluk Empire was demolished in the early 16th century, Yavuz Sultan Selim brought the belongings and relics of Propeth Muhammad and the earliest caliphs from Mecca and Medina by means of the Abbasid Caliphate, and placed them into the Treasury and the Has Oda, declaring himself the caliph of the Islamic world. Preserving these relics and living for the sake of the ideals they represent always was the ruling principle for the Ottoman sultans who were the rulers of an empire that was subject to the notion of ummah. Some of the relics in the section are the Propeth Muhammad's mantle (Hırka-i Saadet), the Prophet Muhammad's sacred banner (Sancak-ı Saadet), his swords, swords of the earliest caliphs and many other relics remaining from the history of abrahamic religions. These relics were shown with a palace ceremony to the palace inhabitants, viziers and people of harem on the 15th day of Ramadan. The 40 aghas (chiefs) who were responsible for the maintenance of the Has Oda which is a pathway to the Enderun courtyard and the Sofa-i Hümayun, the private courtyard for the sultans, were the senior aghas of the Enderun Mektebi (School of Enderun) and they were eligible to accompany the sultan.
The dormitories in which aghast were trained and resided surrounds the Enderun courtyard. Opening to the courtyard with porticos and having dorms and baths around a small hall inside, the dormitories had an order arranged according to the rank of training. The Grand Room and Small Room Dormitories for young aghast situated along two sides of Bab-üs Saade were built after the Sultan Selim (II) Bath House was demolished in the 17th century. Today, the clothes belonged to the sultans and the dynasty are exhibited in the place. Along the sides of the courtyard between the Treasury and the Has Oda were store rooms and treasury dormitories. The dormitory which once supplied all kinds of meals and treats to the sultans is used today as the administrative section of the museum. Two of these dormitories, The Dormitory of Treasury and The Dormitory of Has Oda, the building of Treasury Dormitory where the Enderun Treasure was kept are used today in the exhibition of Ottoman and Islamic tools of miniatures, handwriting and calligraphy.
With its original architecture, The Aghas Mosque (Ağalar Camii) which was built in the era of Fatih is situated in the Enderun courtyard. Enderun aghas as well as the sultans used to pray in the mosque. The three-section building which is thought to have survived from the 18th century and includes the richest examples of the Ottoman art of tile is used today as the museum library. The fourth place within the palace between the dormitories of the Enderun courtyard, the Harem opens to the courtyard with The Gate of Kuşhane like inner garden and pavilion passages. Here was also a kitchen staff special for the sultans. On the Seraglio-Point side of the palace, there are pavilions suitable for the sultan and his family. The pavilions are separated by a marble pool in the terrace of the Sofa-i Hümayun (The Imperial Sofa) which is one of the private places for the dynasty like the Has Oda and the Harem. Besides being observation pavilions, they include conversation, dressing and reading rooms. One of these pavilions, The Circumcision Room (Sünnet Odası) is particularly outstanding with colourful glazes on its facade. The polygonal pavilions with domes and balconies which were built by the Murad IV for the commemoration of the conquest of Revan and Baghdad are the last examples to the classic Ottoman palace architecture. The pavilions which open to the courtyard with porticos have tiled facades. These pavilions with their sofas in the balconies, braziers in the central structures with domes, magnificent tile decorations as well as ovens made of copper are clear examples to the heaven on earth in which the sultans lived. It is known that consultancy meetings were held in the terrace where Sultan İbrahim had his iftar (evening meal in Ramadan) in the summer evenings. The luxurious terrace exhibits some remarkable details such as copper and baldachin pergola and the marble oriel opening to the pool.
On the Marmara and Seraglio-Point side of the fourth courtyard in the Lala Bahçesi (The Tulip Garden) is the Hekimbaşı Odası (The Room of Heah Physician) or the Başlala Kulesi (The Tower of Head-Servant). This place was used as a pharmaceutical warehouse and room under the control of the head physician. Many medicine bottles and bottles from the palace have remained from the tower which was responsible for the health of the sultans. The Sofa Pavilion which was situated on the Hisarpeçe (Castlecover) and composed of two sections, was a divanhane (assembly hall) that was opening to the garden with Rococo decorations in the mid-18th century. The pavilion was open to the Harem particularly in the fabulous entertainments held at daytime and nights during the period of 'Havlet' (isolation). The base structure of the building was a corner bastion which was connected to The Baghdad Pavilion with a castlecover. It is clear from the stone throne, belonged to the Murat IV, adjacent to the tower of Hekimbaşı that sultans used to watch and join in the games. On the marble terrace which is on the Marmara side of the garden is the Mecidiye Pavilion built in early 1850s. The Esvab Room (The Dressing Room) the independent building having the same style with the pavilion is an interesting detail. The base structure of the pavilion vaulted with bricks most probably dates back to the era of Fatih and the earlier times. Another structure within the garden is the Sofa Mosque built in neoclassic style in the mid-19th century. The garden is connected to the Hasbahçe on the side of Seraglio-Point with a gate of Balyas style which has two towers.
The administrative and private sections which are separated by the wall of Bab-üs Saade are true of the Harem within Topkapı Palace. Along the wall axis are the buildings of the Harem on the side of the Divan Square. The buildings are composed of residential places allocated to external service staff under the control of the kızlarağası (chief of girls) and the harem aghas (eunuchs) and to the concubines as the service staff inside the palace. Opening to the Karağalar Taşlığı (The Courtyard of the Blach Eunuchs) and to the main wall, The Common Gate (The Sultanate Gate) is the entranceway to the main Harem section where the dynasty senior women of the palace lived and to the Selamlık sections of the Harem where the sultans and the crown princes lived. These sections which are situated around the Hünkar Sofası (The Imperial Hall) are connected to the main Harem with The Golden Road.
Compared to the other sections of the palace, it is a bit difficult to explain the structure chronology of the Harem which was divided into the Black Eunuch-Concubine, the Harem and the Selamlık sections. The principle sacredness and confidentiality brought to the family through Islamic tradition offered one of the most unprecedented and dramatic examples within the Ottoman palace, presenting sources about the architectural construction of the Harem. However, the historical events, the institutional facts, the architectural styles and the topography of the palace show that construction of the Harem was completed in four main periods.
I- The first period between the eras of Fatih Sultan Mehmet and Kanuni Sultan Süleyman - the late 15th and mid-16th century In the first period, The Old Palace which was the oldest Ottoman palace in İstanbul built in Beyazıt and Topkapı Palace were only composed of the chamber called Kadınlar Sarayı or Saray-ı Duhteran (The Palace of Women). Until now, the chamber has had great changes and, due to constructions afterwards, it is not an independent building anymore. The chamber is known as Baş Haseki Dairesi (The Chamber of the Chief Consort). Following the Adalet Kulesi (The Tower of Justice), the bastions such as The Common Gate of the Harem, The Chamber of the Chief Consort, The Tower of Selim I, The Baghdad Pavilion and The Towers of the Head Physician represent a regular construction as tower pavilions on the castlecover in the style of castle-palaces of the middle ages. The Harem buildings in this period are harmonized with house architecture including outer sofa. The area of the Harem in the first period was surrounded by the wall of the garden over which chambers of the sultans and the queen mothers as well as the dormitories of the concubines were built in the late 16th century.
It is clear that in the first period when there was no need to a crowded concubine and eunuch staff, The Gate of Carts and the Justice section was an independent area out of the Harem. The shaft of the horse ramp called The Büyük Biniş (The Big Mount) that connects the tower to The Tiled Pavilion and the independent base structure of the ramp prove this thought. Another important group of architectural structures is supposed to be The Selamlık Dairesi which is situated in the exit of the Harem next to The Privy Chamber. It is already known that the tower-pavilion which is called as the Hamamlı or The I. Selim Tower was allocated for training under the auspices of the crown princes. This place including the gardens constituted the core of the Princes Flat which has been known as The Şimşirlik Kafesi (The Boxwood Cage) since the end of the 16th century. It is realized that the first period structures composed of the buildings around The Courtyard of the Queen Mother and The Courtyard of the Favorites were surrounded by blocks of porticos.
II- The Period of Kanuni Sultan Süleyman
This period began when the Harem settled into Topkapı Palace and with Kanuni Sultan Süleyman and his official wife Hürrem Sultan who had a charismatic personality. As Topkapı Palace expanded between 1520 and 1530 it had changes in characteristics. Hürrem Sultan left the harem in the Old Palace and lived in the Harem of Topkapı palace with her children, which caused the family to meet all its needs from the Harem of Topkapı. In this period, the dormitories for the eunuchs and the concubines must have been organized outside the dynasty buildings in the Harem in an order of two adjacent but separate rooms within a courtyard surrounding and even protecting the dynasty buildings. It is clear that, functionally, these buildings included the Chamber of the Chief Eunuch and the Bath House of Concubines. Accordingly, The Chamber of Masters and Heads of Servants which was an important part of the Harem must have been moved to the wing which borders The Courtyard of the Queen Mother built in the era of Fatih on the opposite side of the Chamber of the Chief Consort. It is realized that in this period The Chamber of the Chief Consort was called after Hürrem Sultan in accordance with her position in the palace and Kanuni Sultan Süleyman built his Privy Chamber in the Harem which was renovated in the era of the Murad III.
III- The Period of the Murad III and Nurbanu-Safiye Sultan In the late 16th century, the Harem organization was completed in the palace just like the Ottoman state administration system. The true and indispensable reflection of the matriarchal structure of the traditional Turkish-Islamic family was the Queen Mother within the Ottoman Harem. Due to stormy relations between Nurbanu Sultan and Haseki (Chief Consort) Safiye Sultan, the Murad III who was faltering between the two charismatic figures had to initiate a new structuring which would enable the management of the stressful administration from the Harem of Topkapı Palace. Being situated on higher structures due to topographical conditions, the rich façade buildings which are harmonized with the classic architectural perception of the period represent the share of power within the Harem. While the concubine dormitories became the base structures to the gorgeous chambers with the new structuring, the old Concubine Courtyard gradually turned into a place in which the prosperities (ikballer) and the heads of wives (kadınefendiler), in spite of their modest façade, could benefit from the government which focused on the Harem. The Chamber of the Queen Mother which is regarded as the central building with its façade and its position within The Courtyard of the Queen Mother is the most detailed construction of the palace. Separated from the other chambers of the head of wives with its façade level, The chamber of the Queen Mother is connected to the row of chambers of the Sultan and Selamlık the first of which is The Sultan's Sofa and adorned with monumental porticos in the façade. The Chamber of the Queen Mother has preserved its importance of location in the history and it witnessed the political events in the 17th century -The Sultanate of Women' when the Queen Mothers were regents to the throne.
The magnificence of the classic Ottoman arts and the prosperity of the empire were represented with the Sultan Hamams and the Sultan's Sofa in the hands of chief architects such as Mimar Sinan and Davud Ağa. Being the largest ceremonial, reception and entertainment hall of the Harem and the palace, the domed classic structure had changes in its façade and internal decoration in time. The Privy Chamber of the Murad III built by Mimar Sinan next to the sofa is a live example to the balance and the symmetry that the classic Ottoman architecture, the Ottoman mind and aesthetic could achieve. The domed structure inside the chamber which was decorated with the richest Ottoman tiles was balanced with a pool placed in the base structure. Thus, the fundamental principles in the organization of the Harem were formed with the hierarchy of the sultan, the queen mother and the head of wives created in the place and the façade. This rational architectural organization which was created in classic form was continued with the large pool in the garden of the Harem. The Chamber of the Crown Prince (Şehzadegân Dairesi) is another complex of this period when the palace administration system and the harem hierarchy was established within Topkapı Palace. Due to the fights of crown princes for the throne against the palace and among themselves and their threatening relations with Anatolia and Iran in the 16th century, the crown princes who were assigned as sancakbeyi (governor) were called back to the Harem of the palace in this period. Furthermore, since the Fatih Kanunnamesi (Laws of Fatih Sultan Mehmet) allowed the fratricide for the sustainability of the state, the palace had a negative impression in the public-eye, which caused the crown princes to live under supervision within the dynasty and the harem. In the late 16th century, the authority of the Harem over the state administration was reflected in the façade buildings and the elaborate Chamber of the Crown Prince was built on the The Apartments of the Chief Consort in the Golden Road. This system included The Tower of Selim I with its bath house as well as the buildings in the Boxwood (Şimşirlik) gardens, being the symbol and the largest chamber of the dramatic history of the Harem.
IV- The Period between the 15th and the 17th Century and the 18th Century
In these periods, additional sections of the Harem buildings were completed with the fast internal dynamics in the 16th century not because of the institutional necessities but the increasing crowd and the fires within the Harem. The symbolic reason for the following structuring is the sultans' tradition of building Privy Chambers as a symbol of sovereignty. It is know that another group of buildings is in the neighbourhood of the hospital courtyard of the Harem. Moreover, new rooms were added over the chambers of the queen mothers in accordance with their increasing authority.
In the 18th century, the effect of the West on the way of living and arts as well as the Baroque and the Rococo decorations which depicts nature and simplicity was firstly seen in the still-life paintings in The Privy Chamber of the Ahmed III or The Fruit Room (Yemiş Odası). In the mid-century, the rich and simple romanticism of the Rococo style was reflected in the pavilions and their internal decorations. The Chamber of Treasury of the classic period bulging from the façade and The Privy Chamber next to it were renovated with the same decoration in the era of the Abdulhamid I, while The Tower of Selim (I) was partially demolished and the wooden mansion-like Mabeyn (Apartments) and the Favourites' Flat were built instead. The section known as The Boxwood Garden which had a dramatic feature in its history was opened to the daily life of the sultans in the 18th century, and twin kiosks were allocated for the crown princes
Various artistic styles are noticeable in the structures of the Harem. Topkapı Palace is a rare museum which reflects the Ottoman politics, culture and arts. Being the symbol of the classic hierarchy, power and an era of magnificence, Topkapı Palace completed its lifetime with Rococo additions, leaving its place to Bosporus palaces of the Tanzimat Period.
It is open every day between 09.00 and 16.00 except for Tuesdays and between 12.00 and 16.00 on the first days of the Feasts of Ramadan and Sacrifice. The Chamber of the Harem can be visited with a different ticket and in groups between 09.30 and 15.30. Address: Sultanahmet, Eminönü /İstanbul
Tel : +90 212 512 04 80