Tomb and cemetery of Mahmud II

Mausoleum of Sultan Mahmud II, taken from the busy street. You can see the tramlines in the street.
Mausoleum of Sultan Mahmud II, taken from the busy street. You can see the tramlines in the street.

I wasn’t looking for this when I ran across it. I was looking for a haman–a Turkish bathhouse. But this quiet and regal cemetery and tomb simply drew me in from the crowded street of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar area.

The Sultan Mahmud II cemetery and tomb are in what is now a busy, downtown area, It’s surprising to see it so close to trams, carpet hawkers and  kabapci sellers (kee bap jee, sellers of kebobs).  The mausoleum itself houses the sarcophagi of three Ottoman sultans: Sultan Mahmud II (1875-1839), Sultan Abdulaziz (1830-1876), and Sultan Abdul Hamid II (1842-1918), and those of their close relatives. Adjacent to the mausoleum is a small graveyard containing the graves of some of the sultans’ more remote descendants and assorted dignitaries. Some graves are much older than the mausoleum.

Inside the mausoleum. You have to take your shoes off, but admission is free. I keep a scarf for this sort of thing. It's not required, but it is a sign of respect to cover your hair--much as used to be done in Catholic churches.
Inside the mausoleum. You have to take your shoes off, but admission is free. I keep a scarf for this sort of thing. It’s not required, but it is a sign of respect to cover your hair–much as used to be done in Catholic churches.
The caskets are oversized and tilted at an angle. On top of the draped box is a fez.
The caskets are oversized and tilted at an angle. On top of the draped box is a fez.

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The cemetery is even older and fascinating. I am still learning the symbolism. I found this information about Ottoman style tombstones: “Sixteenth-century Ottoman tombstones marked a change in funerary practice in the Empire. By now tombstones were beginning to appear as social markers where they were not only starting to be more prominent in structure, but there were also headgears of different turbans, decoration of the body of the tombstones with motifs, as well as providing more information about the deceased. The first mentioned change is said to be an indication of the pre-Islamic Turkic traditions. This carving of headgears displayed the social status and thus class of the deceased. Motifs were almost always reserved for women. With the exclusion of the palace women who had mausoleums next to their husbands, women didn’t hold social status through occupation. Perhaps it was because of this reason that women tombstones were fashioned in flower motifs.” There is a good video at the link that shows the cemetery.

From the internet: This beautiful tomb was built in Mahmud's sister's garden after his death. In the tomb with Mahmud is the 32nd Otomon Emperor Sultan Abdulazia, 34th Ottoman Emperor Sultan Abdulhamid II, and other members of the family incluing children and the wives of Mahmud and Abdulaziz. Eighteen family members are buried here. The chamber to the left of the entry contains the remains of 11 family members who are wives and children of the Sultans. There are 130 statesmen buried in the garden outside of the tomb. The tomb is located in the heart of the tourist district in the Sultan Ahmet section of Istanbul. It is very close to the Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar and other tourist attractions.
From the internet: This beautiful tomb was built in Mahmud’s sister’s garden after his death. In the tomb with Mahmud is the 32nd Otomon Emperor Sultan Abdulazia, 34th Ottoman Emperor Sultan Abdulhamid II, and other members of the family incluing children and the wives of Mahmud and Abdulaziz. Eighteen family members are buried here. The chamber to the left of the entry contains the remains of 11 family members who are wives and children of the Sultans. There are 130 statesmen buried in the garden outside of the tomb. The tomb is located in the heart of the tourist district in the Sultan Ahmet section of Istanbul. It is very close to the Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar and other tourist attractions.
These are dated in the 1300's.
These are dated in the 1300’s.

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The cemetery outside the Sultan Mahmud II mausoleum. The tombstones are made to resemble the "hats" or turbans that were worn.
The cemetery outside the Sultan Mahmud II mausoleum. The tombstones are made to resemble the “hats” or turbans that were worn.

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This is from the site:  Ottoman Tombstones http://tombstones.commons.gc.cuny.edu/inscriptions/
This is from the site: Ottoman Tombstones http://tombstones.commons.gc.cuny.edu/inscriptions/