Topkapi Palace is a story of astonishing achievements, representation of a glorious unity and a master piece of tremendous architectural work. While the palace is among one of the most beautiful and largest palaces of the world, and when you will see the unrivalled views of lush green gardens around this palace, significant interior and outer design of the palace structure, spectacular courtyards with amazing outer wall boundaries then you will easily understand that’s why this palace is often called a city with in a city. And in the palace you will find an outstanding museum in which you can see a vast and finest collection of the Muslims Holy Relics, historical and antique arms and weapons, and the portraits of the Sultans with much more which you expect to know about the Islamic cultural heritage of that era. Let us share with you, on some of the important facts and information about this dazzling and gorgeous palace.
In Turkish Topkapi means “Gate of Cannons” and the palace was a political and administrative head quarter of the Ottoman Empire in the capital city of Istanbul from 15th to 19th century. Its construction was ordered by Fatih Sultan Mehmed R.A in 1459, who conquered the city of Constantinople in 1453 and moves the capital of Islamic Ottoman Empire from Adrianople to Constantinople and named it as Islambol which is now known as Istanbul. Palace was completed in the late 1460s according to some sources. The palace is located on one of the highest hilly point in a small peninsula near to the sea, giving an elegant and great view of the Golden Horn, the Sea of Marmara and the Bosphorus. Topkapi Palace was a home of hospitality and over 5000 people were daily facilitated here at its peak time. In fact in every aspect, the palace shows a fantastic combination of administration about political, social, economic matters, military, cultural and religious harmony.
There are four main courtyards and numerous buildings in the palace. Fatih Sultan Mehmed R.A set the foundation and established the layout of this splendid palace. While the total area during the construction years of this palace was 700,000 square meters and the whole complex was surrounded by 5 kilometres long wall. The architectural work and the styles that was adopted in constructing this palace is related to Middle Eastern and Arab styles of architecture, while one of the other marvelous aspect of this palace was the use of Islamic calligraphy on the walls, entrance gates and in the Mosques. Using beautiful tiles with excellent woodwork on the internal and external sides of the Halls, Mosques, and in rooms made this palace awesome and beautiful. Now we will take a look on the courtyards and different parts of the palace.
The First Courtyard
As you pass the first and the main gate of this palace which is known as Imperial Gate or Bab-i-Hümayun, you will enter into the first courtyard which is known as Courtyard of the Janissaries (Alay Meydani) or Courtyard of the Regiments. After entering into the courtyard you will find out yourself enthusiastic as you will see a lot of intriguing and exciting things all around in the courtyard like Imperial mint, Archaeological Museum, houses and hospital of Imperial guards and the Janissaries. The courtyard was used by the Janissaries who gathers here, court officials and by the citizens of the state which were allowed to discuss their matters with the state on specified days.
The Second Courtyard
The Bab-us-Selam gate which means the Gate of Salutation, after entering from this gate you will reach into the second courtyard which is also known as Divan Courtyard (Divan Meydani). It was obligatory for everyone to salute the Sultan when passing through the Gate of Salutation and there wasn’t any access for general public to pass through this gate except those who works in the palace, foreign dignitaries or the peoples who were called for any official matter. While the courtyard was an administrative center for the government and state, and the Imperial council hall is also here where the viziers and the grand viziers of the Sultan gathered to discuss the daily issues or receiving the foreign visitors. At the right side of the courtyard there are palace kitchens, whose daily duty was to serve over ten thousand people living in the palace. The extended kitchens concept which was introduced to the world by Fatih Sultan Mehmed R.A is a prominent feature of this palace. After the incident of 1574 when the kitchens was burned down, the kitchens were rehabilitated by one of the master architect Mimar Sinan. He rebuilt the kitchens according to old plane, and form two rows of 20 wide chimneys. Others important places in this palace includes; Tower of Justice, Imperial Treasury, Imperial stables which was constructed by Fatih Sultan Mehmed R.A, arms collection center, and the Harem.
The Third Courtyard
The third courtyard starts from the Gate of Felicity, and when you enter from this gate you will see and experience the remarkable places like Audience Chamber, Conqueror’s Pavilion, Miniature and Portrait gallery, Privy Chamber, Enderun Library and the Mosque of Ağas which is the largest mosque in the palace. The third courtyard has a great importance, as there is a museum section in which important religiously things are present such as Kamees, footprint, hair and a tooth of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W), swords of the first four Caliphs (R.A), the Black Stone from Ka’ba, and much more.
The Fourth Courtyard
The fourth and the last courtyard has some of the interesting elements to watch, and surely your trip to Topkapi Palace will be incomplete if you miss to see the splendor of this last courtyard. At this place you can watch Chamber of the Chief Physician, Circumcision Room, Terrace Mosque, Stone throne and different Kiosk like Revan, Baghdad, Terrace and Grand Kiosks.