Click to view 800x600 version 
 Home > Museums of Turkey > Topkapi Palace: Harem   


The 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 The Mosque of Black Eunuchs 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.

Topkapi Palace and HaremGENERAL LAYOUT

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.


This 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 ), Decoration on the ceiling of the apartments of the Princessthe 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.


The 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 the cupboards.


A 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.

Next Harem Page

Topkapi Palace Museum

Sarayici, Sultanahmet

Telephone: 90-212-5120480

Open daily except Tuesdays, 09:30-16:00

Harem section can be visited only by a guided tour and tickets should be purchased separetely.


©2003 ISTANBUL PORTAL. All Rights Reserved.

The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire
Subjects of the Sultan: Culture and Daily Life in the Ottoman Empire
Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood
Harem: A Novel
Harem: The World Behind the Veil
The Sultan's Harem
Secrets of the Harem
Detailed information about Advertising !
Where is ISTANBUL ?
Click the map to view

  Area: 5.712 kmĀ²
  Population: 7.309.190
  Topkapi Palace Harem is 15 km from Ataturk Airport