Little Known Ways to Make the Most of Topkapi Palace – Part 3

by Istanbul Trails

in City Trip, Things To See & Do

As mentioned in the first part, the First Courtyard was the most public one, and therefore not really considered as being part of the Topkapi Palace.
But the deeper you go into the palace, the less accessible it was for the people of the Ottoman Empire. Where the Second Courtyard was already semi-public (see Topkapi Palace part 2), the Third and Fourth Courtyards as well as the Harem, were the most inaccessible ones.

Impression of the Third Court in Istanbul's Topkapi Palace, Turkey

The Third Courtyard

You enter the Third Courtyard, also called the Inner Palace, via the Gate of Felicity (3). It is possible you arrive in the Third Courtyard via a backdoor since the tour of the Harem ends there, but this is of course a far less impressive entry.
The Third Courtyard was the sultan’s private domain and therefore considered as the heart of the palace, guarded by white eunuchs.

Audience Chamber (4)

Upon entering the Third Courtyard, you’re immediately confronted with the Audience Chamber (Arz Odası). This is where the sultan received the Grand Vizier, council members and high-ranking officials to ratify their resolutions.
Foreign ambassadors could also have an audience with the sultan in this room, but only after being frisked first. And even after the strip-search, two white eunuchs would escort the ambassador at all times, each holding one of his arms. During such meetings, the Grand Vizier was also always present, since the sultan would never deign to speak with a non-Turk.

Sultan’s Costumes (6)

To the right of the Audience Chamber you’ll find the former dormitories of the Expeditionary Forces, now housing the Imperial Wardrobe Collection (Padişah Elbiseleri). It is a valuable collection consisting of around 2.500 garments. Top of the bill is undoubtedly the 550-year-old, red and gold silk kaftan worn by Mehmet the Conqueror, which is still in perfect shape.

Imperial Treasury (23)

Next to the houses with the sultan’s costumes, you’ll find the Imperial Treasury (Hazine). The Imperial Treasury is actually part of the Conqueror’s Pavillion or Kiosk (Fatih Köşkü), and is included in the basic Topkapi Palace entry fee.
In its original form, the pavilion consisted of three rooms, a sea-view terrace, a Turkish bath and a basement. In those days, it was used as a storage room for the revenues coming from Egypt (treasury) and art collections.

Now the Imperial Treasury displays a vast collection of art, jewelry and precious stones in three rooms, and is a must-see feature. Many of the items have never left the confines of the palace.

The first room shows the armors of Sultan Mustafa III, consisting of an iron coat of mail decorated with gold and encrusted with jewels, as well as his gilded sword and shield. Also worth mentioning is the ebony throne of Sultan Murat IV and a golden Indian music box.

The Topkapi Dagger in the Treasury of the Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, TurkeyThe second room holds the greatest pieces, with the Topkapi dagger as the star of the show.
It is a golden hilt, ornamented with three large emeralds, topped by a golden watch and emerald lid. It was intended as a present for the Shah of Persia, but he was assassinated before it reached him. Sultan Mehmet IV first wore it when he acceded to the throne in 1648.

The most eye-catching piece of jewelry in the third room is the 86-carat Spoonmaker’s diamond, set in silver and surrounded with 49 diamonds. Also impressive are the two immense golden candleholders, each weighing 48 kg and holding 6666 diamonds, and the gold-plated Bayram throne, which was given to Sultan Murat III.

For obvious reasons, taking pictures or shooting videos is strictly prohibited!

Privy Chamber (17)

If you continue your tour of the Third Courtyard anti-clockwise, the next feature you’ll encounter is the Privy Chamber (Has Oda). The five domed rooms date back to 1578 and was used by the sultans as their office. Now the Privy Chamber displays some of the holiest relics of Islam. It displays the sword of the prophet Mohammed, one of his teeth, a hair of his beard, an autographed letter, and the most sacred treasure, his mantle. As a visitor, you cannot actually walk in that room, but you can look into it from an antechamber through an open doorway. Even the sultan and his family were permitted entrance only once a year, on the 15th day of Ramadan.
Nowadays, many people come on pilgrimage to see these relics. Night and day, holy men continuously chant passages from the Koran.

Library of Ahmet III (5)

In the center of the Third Courtyard is the Library of Ahmet III (III. Ahmet Kütüphanesi) located. This beautiful example of Ottoman architecture once contained over 3.500 books on theology and Islamic law. Although the manuscripts have been removed, it’s worth a visit to admire the 16th and 17th century Iznik tiles on the walls above the windows.

The Fourth Courtyard

The last court is also known as the Tulip Gardens. The Fourth Courtyard is a garden with terraces and pleasure pavilions, the Circumcision Room (16) (Sünnet Odası) excluded of course. After a long journey in the palace, the Fourth Courtyard is the place to be to enjoy a fresh cool sea breeze or a wonderful view over the Bosphorus (9).

The Mecidiye Pavilion (8) (Mecediye Köşkü) was the very last building ever constructed in the palace. It now houses the Konyalı restaurant, famous for its magnificent terrace. Prices are unfortunately accordingly.

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