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.

Hagia Eirene, Istanbul

 

This is just outside the gate of the Topkai Palace, near the Archeology Museum and Gulhane Park.
This is just outside the gate of the Topkai Palace, near the Archeology Museum and Gulhane Park.

Hagia Irene or Hagia Eirene (Greek: “Holy Peace”, Turkish: Aya İrini), sometimes known also as Saint Irene. It is a former Eastern Orthodox church located in the outer courtyard of Topkapı Palace, near Gulhane Park in Istanbul, Turkey. It is open as a museum every day except Tuesday. The church was dedicated by Constantine to the peace of God, and is one of the three shrines which the Emperor devoted to God’s attributes, together with Hagia Sophia (Wisdom) and Hagia Dynamis (Force)

Personally, I didn’t think it was worth the 20TL they charged (The Archeology Museum only charged 15TL). There was no signage, no explanation, no decorations inside the church–just a very old, gutted building. I couldn’t get a good look at the dome, as there was netting stretched across the top–presumably to catch the pigeons–and their droppings–who clearly live here.

Hagia Eirene, Istanbul, Mar 2015, 3

You can see the edge of the netting they have stretched over the ceiling. It covers the view of the domed ceiling.
You can see the edge of the netting they have stretched over the ceiling. It covers the view of the domed ceiling.
It was a Sunday, but despite the crowds outside, I was alone in the church.
It was a Sunday, but despite the crowds outside, I was alone in the church.

According to Wikipedia: The building reputedly stands on the site of a pre-Christian temple. It ranks, in fact, as the first church built in Constantinople. Roman emperor Constantine I commissioned the first Hagia Irene [Reference?] church in the 4th century. It served as the church of the Patriarchate before Hagia Sophia was completed in 360. From May to July 381 the First Council of Constantinople took place in the church. It was burned down during the Nika revolt in 532.[2] Emperor Justinian I had the church restored in 548.

Heavily damaged by an earthquake in the 8th century, it dates in its present form largely from the repairs made at that time. The Emperor Constantine V ordered the restorations and had its interior decorated with mosaics and frescoes. Hagia Irene is the only example of a Byzantine church in the city which retains its original atrium. A great cross in the half-dome above the main narthex, where the image of the Pantocrator or Theotokos was usually placed in Byzantine tradition, is a unique vestige of the Iconoclastic art; presumably it replaced earlier decoration. The church was enlarged during the 11th and 12th centuries.

The church measures 100 m × 32 m. It has the typical form of a Roman basilica, consisting of a nave and two aisles, divided by columns and pillars. It comprises a main space, a narthex, galleries and an atrium. The dome is 15m wide and 35m high and has twenty windows.

….After the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 by Mehmed II, the church was enclosed inside the walls of the Topkapi palace. The Janissaries used the church as an armoury. It was also used as a warehouse for war booty. During the reign of Sultan Ahmet III (1703–1730) it was converted into a weapons museum.

In 1846, Marshal of the Imperial Arsenal, Ahmed Fethi Paşa, made the church into a military antiques museum.  It was used as the Military Museum from 1908 until 1978 when it was turned over to the Turkish Ministry of Culture.

Today, the Hagia Irene serves mainly as a concert hall for classical music performances, due to its extraordinary acoustic characteristics and impressive atmosphere. Many of the concerts of the Istanbul International Music Festival have been held here every summer since 1980.

A rainy day in Gülhane Park, Istanbul

From a wall above the park you can see all the footpaths and landscaping. If you could see over the buildings on the right, you'd get a glimpse of the Bosphorus Strait. The tulips and other bulbs were just pushing through the pansies and the daffodils were ready to pop open.
From a wall above the park you can see the footpaths and landscaping. If you could see over the buildings on the right, you’d get a glimpse of the Bosphorus Strait. The tulips and other bulbs were just pushing through the pansies and the daffodils were ready to pop open.

Gülhane Park, or “Rosehouse Park,” is an historic urban park in the Eminönü district of Istanbul, Turkey. It used to be part of the Topkapı Palace. The south entrance of the park sports one of the larger gates of the palace. It is the oldest and one of the most expansive public parks in Istanbul. I found it a lovely, peaceful expanse of trees, flowers, benches and walkways–an escape from the busy, over-crowded city. I loved it, even if it drizzled the entire visit. It will be even more beautiful in April and May with flowers in bloom. It has it’s own tram stop (Tramvey).

Gulhane Park, Istanbul, March 2015, 2

This was such an unusual fountain. The water sprayed out and moved from right to left, like a turning page.
This was such an unusual fountain. The water sprayed out and moved from right to left, like a turning page.
The first statue of Atatürk in Turkey was erected in the park in 1926, sculpted by Heinrich Krippel.
The first statue of Atatürk in Turkey was erected in the park in 1926, sculpted by Heinrich Krippel.
I was looking for the Goth's column, but it turns out this isn't it. The park's Goths Column (Turkish: Gotlar Sütunu), dating from Roman times, commemorates a Roman victory over the Goths. I'm not sure what this is. Anyone? This (from the internet, so you know it's true. LOL) According to an article I read, this is "the ruins of what appears to be an early Byzantine structure, consisting of a series of small rooms fronted by a rather irregular colonnade. These ruins have never been thoroughly investigated and their date and identity have not been established."
I was looking for the Goth’s column, but it turns out this isn’t it. The park’s Goths Column (Turkish: Gotlar Sütunu), dating from Roman times, commemorates a Roman victory over the Goths. I’m not sure what this is. Anyone? (from the internet, so you know it’s true. LOL) According to an article I read, this is “the ruins of what appears to be an early Byzantine structure, consisting of a series of small rooms fronted by a rather irregular colonnade. These ruins have never been thoroughly investigated and their date and identity have not been established.”

 

No idea what this is, except adorable.
No idea what this is, except adorable.
This is one of the walls of the park, formerly of the medieval palace. Notice the lines of brick between the stone. This isn't just decorative. It allows the walls to move slightly in an earthquake. A ridged structure would likely break. Yes, I am a wealth of almost completely useless information!
This is one of the walls of the park, formerly of the medieval palace. Notice the lines of brick between the stone. This isn’t just decorative. It allows the walls to move slightly in an earthquake. A ridged structure would likely break. Yes, I am a wealth of almost completely useless information!
This is the most unusual fountain I've seen yet. There are many fountains throughout the city of various designs. Some dating back to Roman times. But, unlike the fountains you find in Italy, these are not for drinking. They are for washing before prayers. The tap water is not recommended for drinking unless it is at least boiled. So far, I've stuck to bottled water.
This is the most unusual fountain I’ve seen yet. There are many fountains throughout the city and they are of various designs. Some date back to Roman times. But, unlike the fountains you find in Italy, these are not for drinking. They are for washing before prayers. The tap water is not recommended for drinking unless it is at least boiled. That’s what happens when you have a city of 20 to 30 million people. So far, I’ve stuck to bottled water.
It's not quite spring--but this daffodil (my favorite flower) is set to bloom on the first warm day.
It’s not quite spring–but this daffodil (my favorite flower) is set to bloom on the first warm day.
Gülhane Park was once part of the outer garden of Topkapı Palace (the original Ottoman Palace) and mainly consisted of a grove. A section of the outer garden was planned as a park by the municipality and opened to the public in 1912. The Museum of The History of Science and Technology in Islam is located in the former stables of Topkapı Palace, on the western edge of the park. It was opened in May 2008. The museum features 140 replicas of inventions of the 8th to 16th centuries, from astronomy, geography, chemistry, surveying, optics, medicine, architecture, physics and warfare. I'll check that out someday.
Gülhane Park was once part of the outer garden of Topkapı Palace (the original Ottoman Palace) and mainly consisted of a grove. This park was planned opened to the public in 1912, though it’s gone through several renovations. The Museum of The History of Science and Technology in Islam is located in the former stables of Topkapı Palace, on the western edge of the park (those are the buildings you see in the distance). It was opened in May 2008. The museum features 140 replicas of inventions of the 8th to 16th centuries, from astronomy, geography, chemistry, surveying, optics, medicine, architecture, physics and warfare. I’ll check that out someday.

According to Wikipedia: “The namesake of the park, the Gülhane (“Rosehouse”) present on the grounds, was the place where the 1839 Edict of Gülhane (Turkish: Tanzimât Fermanı or Gülhane Hatt-ı Şerif-î) was proclaimed. The edict launched the Tanzimat reforms in the Ottoman Empire, which modernized the empire and included changes such as the equalization of all Ottoman citizens, regardless of religion, before the law. The proclamation was made by Grand Vizier Mustafa Reşid Pasha, a leading statesman, diplomat, and reformer in the Empire.”