Topkapi Palace is huge, and, as it is Wednesday, I do not have to go over all of it today. Instead, I will provide a brief introduction and will complete my post on Saturday.
After visiting Hagia Irene, my tour guide and I toured Topkapi Palace. Topkapı Palace today is a large museum in the east of the Fatih district of Istanbul in Turkey. From the 1460s until the completion of the sultan's new home—Dolmabahçe Palace—in 1856, the palace served as both the sultans' main residence and administrative center of the Ottoman Empire.
Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror ordered the construction of the palace six years after the conquest of Constantinople in 1459. Topkapı was originally called the "New Palace" to distinguish it from the Old Palace of Constantinople in Beyazıt Square. The complex was expanded over the centuries, with major renovations after the 1509 earthquake and the 1665 fire. It consists of four main courtyards and many smaller buildings. Female members of the Sultan's family lived in the harem, and leading state officials, including the Grand Vizier, held meetings in the Imperial Council building.
Visitors enter the palace trough the main gates called “Bab-i Humayun," which is located on the side facing Hagia Sophia. The inscription over the gate reads:
“This sacred castle was built by Sultan Mehmed Han, the son of Sultan Murad Han, the sultan of the lands and seas, the shadow of Allah, and the conqueror of Istanbul in November 1478.”
“Help from Allah and a victory soon to come” (al-Saff, 61: 13) is written directly above the gate, and on each side is the proclamation of faith.
Once inside, my tour guide and I first visited the museum's collection of fine china, tobacco pipes, silverware, and more. We then briefly toured the Imperial Treasury display before moving on to look at the buildings themselves.
It is difficult to imagine what any of this would have been like when it was in use—it is so foreign from the way we live now. To give you even more of an idea of the decadence, I will leave you with one final image before taking up the rest of Topkapi Palace on Saturday:
How would you like to own this?
The Spoonmaker's Diamond is an 86 carat (17.2g) pear-shaped diamond in the Imperial Treasury at Topkapi Palace. The diamond is set in silver and surrounded by a double row of 49 old-mine cut diamonds. It is the fourth largest diamond of its kind in the world and is the most valuable exhibit at the palace.
Amazingly, the story goes that the diamond was discovered in a trash dump by a poor man in the 17th century who, unaware of its value, sold it to a dealer. The dealer didn't want to give away what the man had found, so he casually glanced at the stone and said, "It's a piece of glass; take it away if you like, or if you like I'll give you three spoons. You brought it all the way here, at least let it be worth your trouble." From there, it eventually ended up at the Topkapı Palace.
Stay tuned for more next time!