TOPKAPI SARAYI(TOPKAPI PALACE)

 The Topkapi Sarayi was the second palace in Istanbul after the conquest.The first was in the Beyazit area and it was called the Old Palace after the construction of Topkapi.Called the New Palace initially it was named as the Topkapi Palace after a summer palace near the sea at Sarayburnu in the 19C.

The construction of the Topkapi Palace,including the walls, was completed between 1465 and 1478.However,different sultans having ascended to the throne added parts to the palace which now gives the appearance of a lack of unity and style.The changes were made for reasons of practicality, to commemorate victorious campaigns or to repair damage caused by earthquakes and fire.

The Topkapi Palace had never been static but was always in the process of organic development with the influences of the time.The first of these influences was the parallelism between the palace and the empire.

As the empire became larger, the palace was likewise enlarged.The second is that as the sultans felt insecure and withdrew themselves behind the walls removed from nature, there was an attempt to bring nature inside the walls in the form of miniatures, tiles and suchlike.

If late Ottoman period palaces are excluded, only the Topkapi Palace survived from the glory days of the great Ottoman Empire, which implies that palaces for the Ottomans were something different than the ones we know today.There is a kind of humble simplicity and practicality in the Ottoman palaces.

The Topkapi Sarayi was a city-palace with a population of approximately 4,000 people.It covered an area of 70 hectares\173acres.It housed all the Ottoman sultans from Sultan Mehmet II to Abdulmecit, nearly 400 years and 25 sultans.In 1924 it was made into a museum.

The palace was mainly divided into two sections, Birun and Enderun.Birun was the outer palace and Enderun the inner.Out of four consecutive courtyards of the palace the first two are Birun.Enderun, the inner palace, consisted of the third and fourth courtyards with the Harem.

The first courtyard which was open to the public started after the Bab-i Humayun (imperial gate).This was the service area of the palace consisting of a hospital(with a capasity of 120 beds),a bakery,an arsenal, the mint,storage places for varrius things and some dormitories.This courtyard acted sometinglike a city center.

Topkapi palace,as well being the imprial residence of the Sultan,his court and Harem,was also the seat of government for the Ottoman Empire,Divan.The second coutyard also called, alaymeydani (procession square),which started after the BabuSelam (Gate of Peace),was the seat of Divan and open  anyone who had business with the Divan.This was the administration center.The Divan met four times a week.

In the earlier years the sultan would be present at this council meetings but later on,he would sit behing a latticed grille placed in the wall and listen to proceedings from there.The council never knew wheather or not the sultan was actually present and listening to them unless he decided to speak himself.The Divan consisted of two rooms:the Office of the Grand Vizier and the Public Records Office, The Tower of Justice.

In addition to the Divan there were also the privy stables and kitchens.The kitchens consist of a series of ten large rooms with domes and dome-like chimneys.In these kitchens in those times they cooked for about 4,000 people.The kitchens were used separately for different people,because different dishes for different classes had to be prepared.

In the kitchens today,a collection of Chinese Porcelain which are accepted as the third most valuable in the world, are on display together with authentic kitchen utensils as well as both Turkish and  Japanese Porcelain.

Just before entering the third courtyard, in front of the third gate, the Babussaade (Gate of Felicity) or the Akagalar (White Eunuchs) Gate is the place where the throne was placed for all kinds of occasions, such as religious holidays,wellcoming foreign ambassadors and funerals.

Payment of Yeniceri salaries took place there too as well as the handing over of the Sancak,the standard or the flag of the Caliph by the sultan.The Enderun,inner palace,started after the Babussade and was surrounded by the quarters of the inner palace boy were in Service to Sultan and Palace.The first building after entering into the third courtyard is Arz Odasi, the Audience Hall.Many important ceremonies also took place there.Foreign ambassadors and results of Divan meetings were presented to the sultan in this chamber.

In the middle of the courtyard is the library of Sultan Ahmet III.On the right is a section in which sultans' costumes are shown.Next to this is the treasury section where many precious objects are displayed.

Among these the Kasikci Diamond (the Spoonmaker's Diamond) and the Topkapi Hanceri (the Topkapi Dagger) are the most precious.The Kasikci Diamond is 86 carats, "drop-shaped", faceted and surrounded by 49 large diamonds.The Topkapi Dagger, a beautiful dagger ornamented with valuable emerald pieces was planned to be sent to Nadir Shah of Iran as a present, but when it was on the way it was heard that Nadir had been assassinated and so it was taken back to the palace treasury.Relics including a hand, arm and skull bones belonging to John the Baptist are also on display in the treasury section.

From the righ- hand corner to the left in this courtyard are the sections of miniatures, calligraphy, portraits of sultans, clocks and holy relicsof Islam.The holy relics are personal belongings of  the Prophet Mohammed (a mantle,sword, seal, tooth, beard and footprints) and Caliphs, Koran scripts, religious books and framed inscriptions.

In the fourth courtyard there are pavilions some facing the Marmara Sea and others facing the Golden Horn.