Palaces of the Modern Kingdom of Troy

Topkapi Palace in Istanbul

When Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror took Istanbul in 1453, he first ordered the construction of a new palace for this new Ottoman capital, on a site in the district of Beyazit where Istanbul University stands today. But before long, he changed his mind and had a number of buildings constructed on the headland to the southeast. This was to become the palace later known as Topkapi.

Apart from brief intervals, Topkapi Palace was home to all the Ottoman sultans until the reign of Abdulmecid I (1839-1860), a period of nearly four centuries. Over the years the palace complex underwent constant evolution. Some buildings disappeared, destroyed by fire, earthquakes or demolished to make way for new buildings. The palace was therefore not a single massive building in the western tradition, constructed at one go, but an organic structure which was never static, and reflected the styles and tastes of many periods in many independent units with individual functions.

The last new building to be added to Topkapi was commissioned by Sultan Abdulmecid who abandoned Topkapi for a new palace on the Bosphorus. Neglected thereafter, Topkapi Palace fell into disrepair. After the establishment of the Republic in 1923 it was extensively renovated and transformed into a museum, and ever since has been one of Istanbul's most popular sights. Since Topkapi is so large, only some sections are open to the public.

Before entering the outer portal of the palace, let us pause to look at the fountain of Sultan Ahmet III just outside. This lovely baroque building dates from the 18th century and is the most striking example of such "meydan" fountains. On each of the four sides of the fountains is a tap, and at each of the four corners a "sebil" for the distribution of drinking water to passersby. The road leading off to the right here takes you to Ishak Pasa Mosqe which has lost much of its character in repairs carried out over the years.

This portal flanked by towers known as the Bab-i H�mayun was built in the time of the conqueror. As at the Orta Kapi or Central Gate, the severed heads of traitors were occasionally displayed here. The portal was guarded by a special regiment of guards. Around the first courtyard within this gate were numerous service buildings, including a hospital, bakery, mint, armoury and accommodation for palace servants. This courtyard was open to the public.

To the right as you enter the portal are the remains of the Byzantine Samson Hospital, which was razed during the Nika Rebellion. This hospital was famous in its day, providing treatment for rich and poor alike.

Next to these is Haghia Eirene, one of the oldest churches in Constantinople and the church of the patriarchate prior to Haghia Sophia. It was enlarged in the early 4th century, and at that period played a major -and sometimes bloody- role in the controversies between Arian and Orthodox Christians. The church, too, was burned down in the Nika Rebellion and rebuilt by Justinian.

Haghia Eirene is the only Byzantine church in Istanbul with its atrium intact. The plan is a good example of the transition from a basilica to a Greek cross. Thick walls support the main dome and the small dome to the east, while columns divide the nave from the aisles. The plain cross in the apse must date from the iconoclastic period and the remains of the mosaics in the narthex probably date from the time of Justinian.

Since Haghia Eirene was enclosed by the palace walls soon after the conquest, it was never used as a mosque. Instead the janissaries of the palace used it as an armoury. The accumulation of antique weapons which resulted led to the building being used as the first Turkish military museum in the 19th century. When the military museum moved to new premises in Harbiye, Haghia Eirene was restored and for some years now has been used as a concert hall, a function for which its excellent acoustics and evocative atmosphere are ideally suited.

A narrow lane leading down the hill from the church takes you to G�lhane Park which was once part of the palace gardens. Halfway down the hills is the Tiled Pavilion and the Archaeological Museum, possessing one of the most outstanding collections in the world. Next door is the Museum of Near Eastern History where fascinating pre-Islamic Arab works and finds from Assyria, Babylon and Egypt are exhibited.

The Tiled Pavilion is the earliest building of Topkapi Palace, built by Mehmet II (the Conqueror). The striking tiles which adorn the entire building still display strong traces of Seljuk Turkish art in both the designs and the predominance of blue and turquoise. It is for this reason that the building has been transformed into a ceramics museum, where the finest examples of Turkish ceramics from the 12th century to the present day are on display. At the entrance to G�lhane Park is the Alay K÷sk� (meaning Ceremonial Pavilion) dating from the reign of Mahmud II (1808-1839) who watched various parades and processions from this vantage point.

If we enter G�lhane Park and walk straight ahead, we came to the Gothic Column, which was one of the principal Byzantine monuments, and thought to have been erected in commemoration of a victory against the Goths at the end of the third century. Nearby are the ruins of an unidentified Byzantine building.

There are known to be several Byzantine cisterns in the palace courtyards and next to the Archaeological Museum, and excavations here might also reveal the remains of the old acropolis. Before entering Topkapi Palace proper, there is one more building of note. This is Sepetciler K÷sk� (meaning pavilion of the Basket Weavers) (who wove baskets for produce from the imperial gardens) which is the last survivor of a number of palace pavilions in this area. This building at the water's edge now houses the International Press Centre.

An extra charge is made for visiting the Harem at Topkapi Palace, and groups of limited numbers are only allowed in at specific intervals, so it is best to get your ticket for the Harem as soon as you arrive. These restrictions are necessary to prevent any damage being done to the contents of this section. The Harem is a vast labyrinth of rooms and corridors, and only part is open to the public. The visitor's entrance is via the Divan Odasi in the second courtyard. The Divan Odasi or Chamber of State, served as a transition between the Harem and the public apartments of the palace. The Council of State convened four days a week under the Grand Vizier, over whose seat was a window with an iron grill. Whenever he wished the sultan could observe the meetings without being seen. The Inner Treasury Chamber adjoining the Divan houses a collection of weapons.

Now we enter the Harem itself, where we can see rooms occupied by the black eunuchs, concubines, the sultan's mother and the sultan himself. The most fascinating aspect of the Harem was the cloak of secrecy over life here. Virtually none of its inhabitants had the freedom to go out at will, and equally almost no one from the outside world was ever admitted. Sexuality is the principal theme on which the architecture is based, the sultan and his concubines and consort. Between these two poles of a single man and many women, were the sexless eunuchs who were guardians of the concubines, but themselves virtual prisoners. Of course the young princes lived in part of the Harem, and after puberty they too were provided with concubines. But their public existence was confined to the shadowy one of "potential sultans". Despite the change in the laws of succession introduced by Ahmed I, according to which the eldest member of the dynasty rather than the eldest son of the reigning sultan succeeded to the throne, the princes lived in constant fear of assassination.

The central gate known as Orta Kapi or Babusselam is the main entrance to the museum. Executions used to be carried out on the inner side of this gate and the heads exhibited on blocks of stones to the right of the door.

Along the opposite side of this courtyard are the kitchen buildings, which provided food for literally thousands of people every day. The lines of small domes and chimneys surmounting them make the kitchens a familiar part of the palace's silhouette. The central gate known as Orta Kapi or Babusselam is the main entrance to the museum. Executions used to be carried out on the inner side of this gate and the heads exhibited on blocks of stones to the right of the door.

Today as well as some of the original kitchen equipment, the palace's enormous collection of porcelain and glass is housed here. The Chinese porcelains are what is said to be the largest collection in the world. Following the courtyard wall to the left brings you to the stables which housed only the sultan's own horses. Various exhibitions are held here.

The gate into the third courtyard known as Babussade or Gate of Felicity brings us into the private inner areas of the palace. Only the sultan was permitted to pass through the gate on horseback, and even on foot only a favoured handful of statesmen and trusted intimates could enter here. Only once in Ottoman history, during the rebellion which dethroned Osman II, did rebels dare to enter this gate. And on one occasion Alemdar Mustafa Pasa broke this door down in order to save the life of Mahmut II.

Ceremonies such as those held on a new sultan's accession were held in front of this gate, and it was here when the janissaries were simmering into rebellion that councils were held to discuss their demands. It was also in front of this gate that the sultan presented the army commander with the holy standard when he set out on campain.

Within the gates is the Audience Chamber, where the Grand Vezier and members of the Divan came to present their resolutions to the sultan for ratification. It was also here that foreign ambassadors were received. Right behind the Audience Chamber is the elegant library built by Ahmed III in the early 18th century.

The buildings in the southeast corner of this courtyard housed the Imperial Enderun, an institution where young boys taken as tribute from Christian families in the empire were trained for administrative posts in various state departments. Some of these rooms now house offices and others the costumes section. Beyond these is the famed Treasury where jeweled thrones, baskets of emeralds, inlaid daggers and other valuable objects are exhibited. One of the buildings opposite the third gate houses an exhibition of the finest miniatures in the museum's collection of over ten thousand. The Has Oda, where the most able of the young Enderun novices were educated, now contains a superb collection of calligraphy.

Passing through to the fourth courtyard beside the wing containing the miniatures brings us to a series of exquisite pavilions built by various sultans. The Bagdat and Revan Pavilions built for Murat IV are outstanding both in terms of their architecture and interior decoration. The Sofa Pavilion in the center was built in the tulip gardens laid out during the reign of Ahmet III. The pavilion of Sultan Abdulmecit on the right is now used as a restaurant.

Between the Bagdat and Revan pavilions is a marble terrace with a pool in the center and an arbor with a gilded baldachin roof commanding a view over the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus. The Apartment of the Holy Mantle opposite is the section where the holy relics brought back from Mecca by Selim I on his return from the Egyptian campaign are kept. Beside the western terrace is the Circumsision Chamber built by Sultan Ibrahim.

Topkapi Palace nowhere aspires to imposing height. Everywhere the axes are horizontal, and the style consciously humble, avoiding ostentatious monumental facades. While mosques, as the house of God, were deliberately built on a large scale wherever possible, the sultans did not seek similar grandeur for their own homes. That is why, if it were not for the intricate decoration of surfaces and monumental gates, Topkapi Palace could disappoint the visitor in search of the same definition of splendour as exhibited by European palaces.

Information taken from

Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul

The Dolmabahçe Palace, a blend of various European architectural styles, was built between 1843-1856 by Karabet Balyan, the court architect of Sultan Abdulmecid. The Ottoman sultans had many palaces in all ages, but the Topkapi was the official residence until the completion of the Dolmabahce Palace.

The three-storied palace built on a symmetrical plan has 285 rooms and 43 halls. There is a 600 m long quay along the sea and two monumental gates, one of them very ornate, on the land side. Well-kept, beautiful gardens surround this seaside palace. In the middle, there is a large ballroom with a ceiling higher than the other sections. The entrance section of the palace was used for the receptions and meetings of the sultan, and the wing behind the ballroom used as the harem section.

The palace has survived intact with its original decorations, furniture, and the silk carpets and curtains. It surpasses all other palaces in the world in wealth and magnificence.

The walls and the ceilings are covered with paintings by the famous artists of the age and decorations made using tons of gold. All the furnishings in the important rooms and halls are in different shades of the same color. The ornate wooden floors have different designs in each room, and they are covered with the famous silk and wool carpets of Hereke, some of the finest examples of Turkish art.

Rare handmade artifacts from Europe and the Far East'decorate every room in the palace. Brilliant crystal chandeliers, candelabras and fireplaces add to the lavish decor.

The ballroom is the largest of its kind in the world. A 4.5 ton colossal crystal chandelier hangs from the 36 m high dome. The hall, which is used for important political meetings,receptions and balls, was previously heated by an oven-like system under the floor. Central heating and electricity were later additions to the palace.

Of the six baths in the palace, the one in the section reserved for men was made of unique and beautifully carved alabaster.

The upper galleries of the ballroom were reserved for orchestras and the diplomatic corps. Long hallways lead to the harem, where the bedrooms of the sultan and the quarters of his mother, other ladies of the court and the servants were located.

An annex in the north was reserved for the crown prince. The entrance to this building is from Beşiktaş and it now serves as the Museum of Fine Arts.

In the Republican era, Atatürk used to reside in this palace when he visited Istanbul. He died here in 1938 and before his body was taken to Ankara, it was laid in state while the public poured in to pay him their last respects.

Information taken from

Yildiz Palace in Istanbul

In addition to the State Pavilions at the Yildiz Palace complex, the compound includes a series of pavilions and a mosque. It was completed by Abdulhamit 11 at the end of the 19th century.

The Sale, the largest and most exquisite of the buildings, reveals the luxury in which the sultans lived and entertained. Set in a huge park of flowers, shrubs and trees gathered from every part of the world, the palace grounds offer one of the most beautiful panoramic views of the Bosphorus. Because of restoration work, only the Sale and park are open to the public.

Yildiz Palace is located inside a 500.000 square-meter woods between Besiktas and Ortakoy provinces and is comprised of a mansion, summer palace, administrative and service buildings. The palace got its name from the mansion which was commissioned by Sultan Mahmud the 2nd in this woods. This mansion was decorated by his son Abdülmecid and placed his cerubine named Yildiz. Sultan Abdülmecid’s mother Bezmialem Sultan commissioned for a mansion in 1842 named Dilkusa Summer Palace (Kasr-I Dilkusa) and therefore helped expand Yildiz Palace. During the period of Sultan Abdülaziz, Malta, Çadır and Çit mansions were commissioned. But the palace mostly developed during Sultan Abdülhamid period. The palace which was continuously used by Sultan Abdülhamid, was physically improving on one hand, it was becoming a scene to the most politically disputable period of the Empire on the other.

All buildings in Yildiz Palace are arranged in rows, gathering in the north end of the woods bordered by high walls. The rest of the woods is comprised of an exterior garden, in this garden which is open to public with the name of Yıldız Park, there is Çadir and Malta mansions and Yildiz Porcelain Factory.

Information taken from

Beylerbeyi in Istanbul

Beylerbeyi, located in Anatolian Side, has almost been one of the most special places of Istanbul since its existence. The Beylerbeyi Palace identified with the name of the district is situated there with its magnificence.

Beylerbeyi Palace reflecting the splendid life of the Ottomans, was built by Sultan Abdulaziz from 1861 to 1865. The architects of the palace were Agop and Sarkis Balyan.

The French Empress Eugenie who visited the palace with a fascinating architecture, was known to have built the same palace windows in the Tuilleries Palace in her country.

In the palace, what draw the most attention are the Turkish motifs in the front and inner decorations, embellished with Western ornament style. There are 26 rooms and 6 saloons in the three storied palace.

In one of the saloons situated in the middle of the palace, there is a pool. Besides verandas and horse stables there are also sofas, ornaments, carpets and curtains all of which have been preserved to date.

Information taken from

Ciragan Palace in Istanbul

The name Ciragan comes from the word "cerag" which means torch in Persian. The area in which the Palace is located was called Ceragan because of the famous Ottoman parties which were held in tulip gardens with torches. The palace was built during the reign of Abdulmecit and was designed by the Armenian architect Serkis Balyan. The building was constructed using the financial loans that were obtained for restructuring the water system of Istanbul and the construction of a new railway. The construction took 12 years. This is the last palace built by the Ottoman Empire for the royal family.

Unfortunately the main building was destroyed by fire on 6th of January 1910. Only the exterior walls remained from the structure. The main building has been renovated and with the addition of a modern hotel building the site has been converted to a fine hotel. The other surviving buildings in the complex are being used as schools.

Information taken from

Ihlamur Kasri in Istanbul

Lovely imperial rest house built in the midst of Linden trees, where you can have a cup of coffee, or as the Turkish word ihlamur implies, a cup of Linden tea. The pavilion was built between 1849-1855 by the Sultan Abdulmecit as a resting villa where he was also receiving some of his guests including the French poet Lamartine. It's architect was Nikagos Balyan, one of the members of Balyan family who were famous imperial architects at that time. Ihlamir Pavilion is formed by two buildings; Merasim kiosk used for ceremonies, and Maiyet kiosk reserved for the court of the sultan or his harem. After the death of Abdulmecit, the pavilion was also used by the sultans Abdulaziz and Mehmet Resat as a relaxing kiosk. It's opened as a museum in 1987.

Information taken from

Maslak Kasri in Istanbul

Maslak Kiosk was the sultan's hunting lodge and a resting place in todays Maslak neighborhood in the new part of Istanbul. The pavilion is a combination of several kiosks built during the reign of Sultan Abdulaziz in the mid-19th century. Kiosks which are survived until our days are; Kasr-i Humayun (imperial kiosk), Mabeyn-i Humayun (imperial court), Limonluk (lemon mansion), Cadir (tent), and Pasalar (generals). The imperial kiosk has the bedroom and working room of Sultan Abdulhamit II. The complex was opened as a museum in 1986 and one of the pavilions now serves as a cafeteria.

Information taken from

Kucuksu Kasri in Istanbul

Kucuksu Pavilion was built by Sultan Abdulmecit in the mid-19th century at the location known as Bagce-i Goksu along the Bosphorus Strait, near the Anatolian Fortress on the Asian side. The pavilion was finished in 1857 by the imperial architect Nikogos Balyan. It sits on three floors including the basement where there were kitchens and storage rooms. Kucuksu was used as a hunting lodge or a resting place by several sultans and restored by Sultan Abdulaziz surviving until our days. The building has a European style in its architecture, rooms and halls are decorated with exquisite fire places made of Italian marble, fine wood parquet floor, European furniture, crystal chandeliers and mirrors with sultans' Tugra, Hereke carpets, paintings etc. Kucuksu Kasri was used as a state guest house for some time during the Republic period and than opened to the public as a museum. There is a small cafeteria in the Pavilion grounds where you can sit and enjoy ships passing while sipping your Turkish tea or Turkish coffee.

Information taken from

Aynalikavak Kasri in Istanbul

Aynalikavak Pavilion is located at Haskoy neighborhood on the Golden Horn. Originally the area was full of agricultural fields during the Byzantine period and than with forests during the Ottoman period, where the sultans built wooden lodges for their relaxing stays. After the construction of the shipyards, the area has gained importance and the stone made Aynalikavak Pavilion and several other kiosks were built between 18th-19th centuries, the complex was known by the people as the Shipyard Palaces.

The land facade sits on two floors and the sea-side facade on three. The pavilion has a Divan room and audience hall (Arz Odasi in Turkish) decorated with sultans' Tugras, many calligraphy works, nice windows and mirrors. The ceiling is covered with a dome. In the lower floor of the Pavilion there is a research center for traditional old Turkish musical instruments where occasionally Turkish traditional music concerts are being held. The Aynalikavak is opened to the public in 1985 as a museum.

Information taken from

Sepetciler Kasri in Istanbul

It's located at Sarayburnu area at Eminonu district, at the entrance of the Golden Horn. The Kiosk was built in the 16th century by Sultan Murat III within the grounds of Topkapi Palace and was renovated by Sultan Mahmud I in 1739. It was also used as a boat house for imperial boats and the sultans used to watch their navy leaving or returning to/from a campaign. During the Republic era, the Sepetciler Kiosk was used as an army pharmacy and than left empty until its restoration in the late 1980's. Nowadays, a section of it serves as an International Press Center of the General Directorate of Press, and another section is a popular restaurant and night club. The restaurant is open everyday and gets very busy for Sunday brunches, but the Press Center is not open to the general public.

Information taken from

Tophane Kasri in Istanbul

The Tophane Pavilion gets its name from Tophane (meaning Cannon factory in Turkish, where there was one) neighborhood. It's located on Necatibey street next to the Nusretiye mosque and was one of the most important buildings on the Tophane Square during the Ottoman period. The kiosk was ordered by Sultan Abdulmecid and built by the British architect William James Smith in 1852. It was especially used for the sultans visiting weapons factories in the neighborhood and to receive foreign visitors coming to the port by the sea, such as the Russian Czar's brother Grand duke Konstantin.

Tophane Kiosk runs parallel to the shore on a rectangle plan sitting on two floors. It has a European style like all other buildings of the same period, with fine hand work ceiling decorations and marble fireplaces. At the moment Tophane Kiosk is closed to visitors and administrated by the Fine Arts faculty of Mimar Sinan University. Nearby this Kiosk, there are Istanbul Modern Arts museum, Tophane fountain, Nusretiye mosque, Kilic Ali Pasha mosque, old Turkish bath, and Cannon factory as sites of interest in this neighborhood.

Information taken from

Hidiv Kasri in Istanbul

Hidiv Pavilion is located on the hills of Cubuklu neighborhood in Beykoz district on the Asian side of Istanbul. It was built in 1907 by Italian architect Delfo Seminati as a residence for the Ottoman governor (Hidiv or Khedive) of Egypt, Abbas Hilmi Pasha. The mansion sits in a large area and at the main entrance there is a monumental fountain, rising all the way to the roof which is covered with stain glass. Other fine fountains and pools surround the building. Several rooms and halls are connected to each other on a circle plan, and there is a large hall at the ground level with a fire place. On the upper floors there are two great bedrooms. The tower is the most popular section of the kiosk because of its view over the Bosphorus, one can access to the terrace on top with an elevator or by stairs.

The Hidiv kiosk was sold to the Istanbul Municipality in the 1930s and not used much until 1980s. After a two year restoration period, Hidiv Kiosk was opened in 1984 as a hotel, restaurant and cafeteria. It's open everyday.

Information taken from

Malta Kosku in Istanbul

The Malta Kiosk is located in the Yildiz Park at Besiktas district. It was built in the mid-19th century by the Sultan Abdulaziz in this heavily forested park and used as a relaxing mansion for both sultans and their ladies wondering in the nicely cared vegetation. At some periods of the late Ottoman history, the mansion has also witnessed dramatic moments such as isolation or exile of young heirs or princes, Murad V to name one. The kiosk has a European decorative style with Acanthus leaves column capitals, fine friezes on the marble fountain at the entrance, gold leafed mirror, and ceiling decorations with fat marble fish statuettes. The mansion wasn't used much during the Republic era until 1979, than it was restored and opened to the public. Today, there is a restaurant and cafeteria which is open everyday.

Information taken from

Huber Kosku in Istanbul

Huber Mansion is located at Tarabya district along the European shores of the Bosphorus. Its exact construction date and architect is not known but most probably it was built by the Italian architect D'Aronco in the 19th century for a German weapons dealer, Mr. Auguste Huber. The mansion was extended with new constructions added at different periods as we can see it today. When Huber family left the mansion during the invasion of Istanbul after World War I, the mansion changed several hands until it was finally expropriated by the Government in 1985 and converted into a Presidential summer residence. Besides the main building, the mansion has a stable, garage, servants house, two small chalets and a greenhouse.

Huber Mansion is a Government property and closed to the public visits.

Information taken from

The Kingdom of Troy