construction of Topkapi Palace or Seraglio was begun in
1465 on the site of the ruins of various old Byzantine buildings.
But it is extremely difficult to assign any exact date to
the construction of the first Harem apartments.
Several scholars have claimed that these existed in Topkapi
Palace as early as the reign of Suleyman The Magnificent
( 1520-1566 ). But there is no concrete evidence available.
The earliest date at which we know the Harem buildings to
have been in existence is 1578. This date, together with
the name of Sultan Murat III, occurs in the inscription
over the Carriage Gate leading into the Harem. This section
of the palace continued to provide accommodation for the
mother of the reigning Sultan, his children and his concubines.
They were then transferred to the new Dolmabahce Palace
in 1853, and thence to the Yildiz Palace in 1876.
The harem is composed of a number of different buildings
arranged around four large courtyards. It is entered through
the Babusselam Gate and extends from the left side of the
second courtyard into the interior of the third ( Enderun
) courtyard. From 1578 until the first half of the 19th
century, new buildings were continually being added to meet
the requirements of succeeding sultans. So Harem now presents
the appearance of a small city of nearly four hundred rooms
and courtyards. For the acute observer it presents a series
of collections of the architecture styles and various decorative
arts of the succeeding centuries.
is the gate by which visitors now enter the Harem Apartments.
It bears an inscription stating that it was built by Sultan
Murat III ( 1574-1595 ). The Carriage Gate opens into a
long, narrow, open courtyard leading to the actual door
of the Harem. Around this courtyard are to be found the
Dolapli Kubbe ( domed anteroom with cupboards ), The Sadirvanli
Taslik ( Shadirvan Court ), the
apartments of the Kule Bahazinedar Agha ( Imperial Treasurer
) and the Basmuhasip Agha ( Chamberlain ), as well as the
Meskane Gate, the Mesjid of the Black Eunuchs, the Quarters
of the Black Eunuchs and the Apartments of the Chief Black
Eunuch. The door leading into the Harem itself stands in
a small vestibule at the far end of the courtyard. On the
right of this there is a vaulted corridor leading through
the Kushane ( Aviary ) Gate into the third ( Enderun ) Courtyard.
KUBBE ( DOMED ANTEROOM WITH CUPBOARDS )
carriage Gate leads into a square chamber with a single
dome supported on four Turkish triangles ( pendentives ).
It has huge built-in cupboards in the walls. It is interesting
to note the extreme simplicity displayed by the doors of
double-leafed door leads from the Dolapli Kubbe into a rectangular,
paved chamber with panel vaulting and a central dome. The
walls are faced with 17th century tiles. But in spite of
the name ascribed to it, there is no evidence of a shadirvan.
It was through the Meshane Gate on the right that the Sultans
used to enter the Harem on returning from the Girding of
the Sword ceremony at Eyup Sultan.
daily except Tuesdays, 09:30-16:00
section can be visited only by a guided tour and
tickets should be purchased separetely.