Topkapı Palace, the harem

The Imperial Hall (Hünkâr Sofası), also known as the Imperial Sofa, Throne Room Within or Hall of Diversions, is a domed hall in the Harem, believed to have been built in the late 16th century. It has the largest dome in the palace. The hall served as the official reception hall of the sultan as well as for the entertainment of the Harem. Here the sultan received his confidants, guests, his mother, his first wife (Hasseki), consorts, and his children. Entertainments, paying of homage during religious festivals, and wedding ceremonies took place here in the presence of the members of the dynasty.
The Imperial Hall (Hünkâr Sofası), also known as the Imperial Sofa, Throne Room Within or Hall of Diversions, is a domed hall in the Harem, believed to have been built in the late 16th century. It has the largest dome in the palace. The hall served as the official reception hall of the sultan as well as for the entertainment of the Harem. Here the sultan received his confidants, guests, his mother, his first wife (Hasseki), consorts, and his children. Entertainments, paying of homage during religious festivals, and wedding ceremonies took place here in the presence of the members of the dynasty.

Thursday, during a day off from teaching, I visited Istanbul’s original Ottoman Palace, Topkapı. Yesterday I shared photos of the palace, but today will add photos of the Harem. The word “harem” is a Arabic word, meaning forbidden and it was the private residence of the Sultan and his “family.”

Though not on the tour, the harem also included The Cage, a set of rooms where the sultan's brothers were confined to avoid them trying to take the throne. Brothers of sultans, kings and emperors were often killed, usually strangled, to keep them from trying to take over power.
Though not on the tour, the harem also included The Cage, a set of rooms where the sultan’s brothers were confined to avoid them trying to take the throne. Brothers of sultans, kings and emperors were often killed, usually strangled, to keep them from trying to take over power.
The domed ceiling of the Imperial Hall.  The harem was the residence of the sultan's wives, concubines and children. They were guarded by black African slaves, eunuchs. The sultan and his sons were the only other men allowed in the harem.
The domed ceiling of the Imperial Hall.
The harem was the residence of the sultan’s wives, concubines and children. They were guarded by black African slaves, eunuchs. The sultan and his sons were the only other men allowed in the harem.

According to Wikipedia: “The Imperial Harem (Harem-i Hümayûn) occupied one of the sections of the private apartments of the sultan; it contained more than 400 rooms. The harem was home to the sultan’s mother, the Valide Sultan; the concubines and wives of the sultan; and the rest of his family, including children; and their servants. The harem consists of a series of buildings and structures, connected through hallways and courtyards. Every service team and hierarchical group residing in the harem had its own living space clustered around a courtyard. The number of rooms is not determined, with probably over 100,[78] of which only a few are open to the public. These apartments (Daires) were occupied respectively by the harem eunuchs, the Chief Harem Eunuch (Darüssaade Ağası), the concubines, the queen mother, the sultan’s consorts, the princes and the favorites. There was no trespassing beyond the gates of the harem, except for the sultan, the queen mother, the sultan’s consorts and favourites, the princes and the concubines as well as the eunuchs guarding the harem.

The harem wing was only added at the end of the 16th century. Many of the rooms and features in the Harem were designed by Mimar Sinan. The harem section opens into the Second Courtyard (Divan Meydanı), which the Gate of Carriages (Arabalar Kapısı) also opens to. The structures expanded over time towards the Golden Horn side and evolved into a huge complex. The buildings added to this complex from its initial date of construction in the 15th century to the early 19th century capture the stylistic development of palace design and decoration. Parts of the harem were redecorated under the sultans Mahmud I and Osman III in an Italian-inspired Ottoman Baroque style. These decorations contrast with those of the Ottoman classical age.”

Much of the palace is under renovation, so it’s not all open to the public. Also, many of the jewels, portraits, clothing and special exhibits do not allow photographs.

The women of the harem were slaves, gathered from the furthest corners of the Ottoman Empire and sometimes beyond. Their highest dream was to become a favorite of the sultan and bear him a son. This could possibly lead to marriage. At it's height, the harem contained over 1,000 concubines. The last of these women left in 1909.
The women of the harem were slaves, gathered from the furthest corners of the Ottoman Empire and sometimes beyond. Their highest dream was to become a favorite of the sultan and bear him a son. This could possibly lead to marriage. At it’s height, the harem contained over 1,000 concubines. The last of these women left in 1909.
This terrace is part of the Summer Palace and overlooks the Bosphorus. It has a large fountain and several pavilions (kiosks).
This terrace is part of the Summer Palace and overlooks the Bosphorus. It has a large fountain and several pavilions (kiosks).
The Baghdad Kiosk is situated on the terrace, beside the fountain. It was built to commemorate the Baghdad Campaign of Murad IV after 1638.
The Baghdad Kiosk is situated on the terrace, beside the fountain. It was built to commemorate the Baghdad Campaign of Murad IV after 1638.
At the foot of the hill you can see part of the original palace walls, now alongside a highway.
At the foot of the hill you can see part of the original palace walls, now alongside a highway.
Detail of a door, decorated with mother of pearl.
Detail of a door, decorated with mother of pearl.

Topkapı Palace

The Gate of Salutation, entrance to the inner courtyard of the Topkapı Palace. From this vast palace complex, the Ottoman Empire was ruled for about 400 years.  The other courtyards are open parks, including Gulhane Park, which was covered in tulips this spring. The tulips will soon be pulled away, reveling the roses, for which the park is names. Another outer courtyard includes the green space around Hagia Eirene and a fountain, called the Executioner's fountain. It is so named because the executioner washed his hands and sword here after a public beheading.
The Gate of Salutation, entrance to the inner courtyard of the Topkapı Palace. From this vast palace complex, the Ottoman Empire was ruled for about 400 years.
The other courtyards are open parks, including Gulhane Park, which was covered in tulips this spring. The tulips will soon be pulled away, reveling the roses, for which the park is names. Another outer courtyard includes the green space around Hagia Eirene and a fountain, called the Executioner’s fountain. It is so named because the executioner washed his hands and sword here after a public beheading.

Went to Tapkapı Palace yesterday. It’s an amazing historical sight, but the crowds about did me in! Too many people. It was a beautiful, sunny, hot day and the lines were long. But the metro was worse. Can you say sardines?

The Topkapı Palace (Topkapı Sarayı) was the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans for approximately 400 years (1465–1856) of their 624-year reign. This post is about the palace. Tomorrow, I’ll focus on photos of the harem.

The tulips are past their prime, but still beautiful.
The tulips are past their prime, but still beautiful.
The Tower of Justice, between trees of the courtyard. The tower symbolizes the eternal vigilance of the sultan against injustice. Everyone from afar was supposed to be able to see the tower to feel assured about the sultan's presence. The tower was also used by the sultan for viewing pleasures. The old tower used to have grilled windows, enabling him to see without being seen, adding to the aura of seclusion. The golden window in the Imperial Council is accessible through the Tower of Justice, thus adding to the importance of the symbolism of justice.
The Tower of Justice, between trees of the courtyard. The tower symbolizes the eternal vigilance of the sultan against injustice. Everyone from afar was supposed to be able to see the tower to feel assured about the sultan’s presence. The tower was also used by the sultan for viewing pleasures. The old tower used to have grilled windows, enabling him to see without being seen, adding to the aura of seclusion. The golden window in the Imperial Council is accessible through the Tower of Justice, thus adding to the importance of the symbolism of justice.
Entrance to the Imperial Council chambers. The Imperial Council (Dîvân-ı Hümâyûn) building is the chamber in which the ministers of state met.
Entrance to the Imperial Council chambers. The Imperial Council (Dîvân-ı Hümâyûn) building is the chamber in which the ministers of state met.
 The ceiling of the Imperial Council chambers. My photo of the golden window did not come out, but from the window, covered by a golden grill, the Sultan or the Valide Sultan (his mother) was able to follow deliberations of the council without being noticed. The window could be reached from the imperial quarters in the adjacent Tower of Justice. This grill was removed by Ataturk.
The ceiling of the Imperial Council chambers. My photo of the golden window did not come out, but from the window, covered by a golden grill, the Sultan or the Valide Sultan (his mother) was able to follow deliberations of the council without being noticed. The window could be reached from the imperial quarters in the adjacent Tower of Justice. This grill was removed by Ataturk.
The Tower of Justice. The tower is the tallest structure in the palace, making it clearly visible from the Bosphorus. The tower was probably originally constructed under Mehmed II and then renovated and enlarged by Suleiman I between 1527-1529.
The Tower of Justice. The tower is the tallest structure in the palace, making it clearly visible from the Bosphorus. The tower was probably originally constructed under Mehmed II and then renovated and enlarged by Suleiman I between 1527-1529.
The Gate of Felicity (Bâbüssaâde or Bab-üs Saadet) is the entrance into the Inner Court (Enderûn). the private and residential areas of the palace. The gate has a dome supported by lean marble pillars. No one could pass this gate without the authority of the Sultan. Even the Grand Vizier was only granted authorization on specified days and under specified conditions. The small, indented stone on the ground in front of the gate marks the place where the banner of Muhammad was unfurled. The Grand Vizier or the commander going to war was entrusted with this banner in a solemn ceremony.
The Gate of Felicity (Bâbüssaâde or Bab-üs Saadet) is the entrance into the Inner Court (Enderûn). the private and residential areas of the palace. The gate has a dome supported by lean marble pillars. No one could pass this gate without the authority of the Sultan. Even the Grand Vizier was only granted authorization on specified days and under specified conditions. The small, indented stone on the ground in front of the gate marks the place where the banner of Muhammad was unfurled. The Grand Vizier or the commander going to war was entrusted with this banner in a solemn ceremony.
The throne room and chamber. Memet II (known as The Conquer) breached the walls of Constantinople in 1453. He chose this spot for his palace and construction began almost immediately. During Greek and Byzantine times, the acropolis of the ancient Greek city of Byzantion stood here.
The throne room and chamber. Memet II (known as The Conquer) breached the walls of Constantinople in 1453. He chose this spot for his palace and construction began almost immediately. During Greek and Byzantine times, the acropolis of the ancient Greek city of Byzantion stood here.
Inside the throne room and audience chamber, where Sultans ruled from 1465–1856. before moving to the Dolmabahçe Palace.
Inside the throne room and audience chamber, where Sultans ruled from 1465–1856. before moving to the Dolmabahçe Palace.
The trees in the Topkapı Palace complex are remarkable, as many have fallen victim to a fungus that has completely hollowed out their trunks, over the course of centuries. The trees nonetheless survive and remain standing.
The trees in the Topkapı Palace complex are remarkable, as many have fallen victim to a fungus that has completely hollowed out their trunks, over the course of centuries. The trees nonetheless survive and remain standing.
The palace complex is located on the Seraglio Point (Sarayburnu), a promontory overlooking the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara, with a good view of the Bosphorus from many points of the palace. The site is hilly and one of the highest points close to the sea. The tower in the center is the Galata Tower.
The palace complex is located on the Seraglio Point (Sarayburnu), a promontory overlooking the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara, with a good view of the Bosphorus from many points of the palace. The site is hilly and one of the highest points close to the sea. The tower in the center is the Galata Tower.
The Isnik tiles are a wonder--most of the interior walls have lavishly decorated tiles like this, in shades of blue. "Turquoise" literally means the color of the Turks. Isnik is a city in Turkey which produced these tiles, originally copies of Chinese porcelain.
The Isnik tiles are a wonder–most of the interior walls have lavishly decorated tiles like this, in shades of blue. “Turquoise” literally means the color of the Turks. Isnik is a city in Turkey which produced these tiles, originally copies of Chinese porcelain.
This reminded me of the window scene from Romeo and Juliet.
This reminded me of the window scene from Romeo and Juliet.
There was a special exhibit, hidden away and difficult to find. While I enjoyed the artifiacts and information about coffee at "A Drop of Pleasure," I liked the solitude most of all. I had a cool drink in the shade of this courtyard and collected myself. It's not even high season and the museum was bursting with people.
There was a special exhibit, hidden away and difficult to find. While I enjoyed the artifiacts and information about coffee at “A Drop of Pleasure,” I liked the solitude most of all. I had a cool drink in the shade of this courtyard and collected myself. It’s not even high season and the museum was bursting with people.
It was a hot summer day and museum goers seek the shade of one of the trees.
It was a hot summer day and museum goers seek the shade of one of the trees.