During a previous visit to Istanbul, I slighted Topkapi Palace, but made up for it by spending the better part of a day exploring the massive complex. The palace chambers are as entertaining to see as beautiful views of the Golden Horn are difficult to describe! Musical compositions were written praising the allure of Topkapi Palace and its extraordinary vistas of Istanbul’s spectacular Bosphorus Strait.
It rained late in the afternoon, and I got soaked. While it was raining hard, a Turkish man let me share his umbrella to walk between pavilions. I haven’t learned to read Istanbul clouds, but clearly the ones yesterday meant business. The blustery weather created dramatic skies and a great backdrop for Istanbul’s famous skyline.
Topkapi History and Ottoman Sultans
Construction of the Topkapi Palace complex completed in 1478. The complex sits at the tip of the peninsula between the Bosphorus and Golden Horn.
“For almost four hundred years, from the time of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror until the thirtieth Sultan Abdulmecid, Topkapi Palace was the residence, administrative, educational, and art center of the Ottoman Dynasty.” In the mid 19th century, the Ottomans moved to the Dolmabahçe Palace, but Topkapi preserved its importance in Turkish history.
“The Ottoman dynasty ruled the Ottoman Empire from c. 1299 to 1922. During the Empire’s history, the sultan was the absolute regent and head of state. At times power shifted to other officials such as the Grand Vizier, the Prime Minister.”
After the Republic of Turkey formed in 1924, Topkapı Palace became a museum. The first museum of the Turkish Republic and one of the biggest palace-museums of the world, Topkapi Museum covers about 300,000 square meters (3,229,173 sq. ft.). It includes Turkish baths, mosques, schools, and a hospital! The complex has a Roman Wall – known as the Theodosian Wall of Constantinople – separating it from the city.
An array of gardens, chambers, courtyards, pavilions, architecture, and collections surround Topkapi Palace, including:
- Hagia Eirene Church
- Alay Square – first palace courtyard
- Justice Square – place for the state administration meetings
- Gate of Felicity – entrance into the Sultan’s private quarters
- Chamber of Treasury
- Pavilion of the Holy Mantle and Relics
- Tower of Justice
- Inner court – wards and structures belonging to the Palace School
The interiors of some of the rooms and mansions in the palace complex are exquisite examples of the “classical mosque architecture of Ottoman art”!
- Marble Sofa
- Sofa Mosque and Pavilion
- Chamber of Sacred Relics
- Baghdad Pavilion
- Revan Pavilion
- Mecidiye Mansion and Esvab Chamber – last buildings constructed
I had a map and audio guide – but it was still confusing following everything. The Portleri Section with Sultan portraits was one of my favorites. The ornate domes throughout the complex were fascinating. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Culture and Tourism Minister Nabi Avci, recently welcomed a new oil painting depicting the Osmans.