From April 3, 1924, until now it is the most famous and most visited museum in Turkey. When the Ottomans conquered the city due to earthquakes, fires and the Latin invasion of the 13th century, Santa Sofia and its surroundings were in ruins. Although it was the best place in the city to find the palace, the ground needed to be fixed.
Contrary to what is assumed, Topkapı Palace is not the first palace founded by the Ottomans, but the second in the city of Istanbul.
The first palace was built in 1453, the same year of the conquest, on the site of Istanbul University, which is one of the oldest universities in the world.
They began to build it little by little in 1465 and named it “Saray-ı Cedide-i Amire” which means “New Great Palace” or “Saray-ı Hümayûn” which means “Imperial Palace”.
After building the new palace the other was named “Saray-ı Atik-i Amire”, the Great Old Palace, and the palace of Edirne, the second capital of the Ottoman Empire, where Mehmet II was born. it was named simply as “Saray-ı Atik”, “ancient palace”.
So where does the name “Topkapı Palace” come from?
Constantinople was surrounded by a wall of twenty-two kilometres, and had forty-five gates, two of the forty-five were called Topkapı, which means “the cannon gate”, one was just below the palace, and before the conquest, from here to the other side of the Golden Horn there was a thick iron chain to cut the entrance to the Golden Horn since they considered that this entrance was very weak, and they knew that if an army entered through there the city could fall immediately.
After the conquest of Constantinople Sultan Mehmet II placed cannons there to protect that point. Since then they named that gate the cannon gate.
The Ottoman sultans had to move to the Dolmabahçe Palace in 1853 but they never left this palace, they left “The Imperial Treasury”, and on Fridays, they came to visit the section of “The Sacred Relics”, they also came on the occasions of the circumcision parties of the princes, and on weekends also for picnics.
During their visits they used the door where there was a wooden pavilion with the watchtowers and of course cannons to watch over, naming it as “palace of the cannon gate”, later that pavilion and watchtowers disappeared in a fire and started to name the palace above (Saray-ı Hümayûn) with the same name as a charred pavilion, Topkapı Palace, palace of the cannon gate.
Palace Location: Topkapı Palace was 700 hectares and was located between the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara. Because of its surface area, it is larger than some countries  * On the one hand it rested on the Byzantine walls and the other hand on the walls of “Sur-u Sultani” “Walls of the Sultan”.
The first patio is 40 hectares, the second patio is 20 hectares, the third patio is 11 hectares, and the fourth patio is 9 hectares. In total, the buildings had 80 hectares and the remaining 620 hectares were green areas.
Byzantium: From the 11th century. BC the Greeks, for lack of fertile lands, began to emigrate to other parts of the world. Most preferred to emigrate closer to Anatoli, which means the East. The name of the Turkish Anatolian peninsula comes from there. The Greeks were in the habit of consulting the oracle of Delphi to ask where to go to find the city. The legendary founder of the city was Bizas, a Greek chieftain of the city of Megara, who consulted the oracle of Apollo at Delphi and founded his city right here. [two]*
Palace: In 1465 they began to build the palace right between the olive trees and among the ruins of the old buildings, a construction that lasted until 1478, while they stayed there from 1465. Due to the fires and earthquakes that occurred every hundred years They never finished building something until they moved to the Dolmabahçe Palace; After moving, they didn’t stop building pavilions either because they didn’t leave this palace.
The meaning of the palace is different for Europeans and Turks; for Europeans, it is the abode of kings, and for Turks a city within another. A Turkish Palace has three main parts, Birûn, Enderun and Harem.
1- Birûn: From the Imperial Gate to the Gate of Happiness, and is formed by the first and second court.
2- Enderûn: third and fourth courtyard was also called “Harem-i Hümayun” Imperial Harem.
3- Harem: it is the residence of the royal family
The first part of the Birun belongs to the guards, the second part of the Birun is the official part from where an empire is directed, it had 15 million square kilometres and where officials worked with working hours from 08:00 to 18:00.
The Entrance: It is located just behind Hagia Sophia, between it and the palace is a street called “Soğukçeşme Sokağı” where high dignitaries and officials who worked in the palace stayed.
From there, there are entrances to access Hagia Sophia. Before entering the first courtyard on the right is a monumental fountain built by Sultan Ahmed III, in 1728, and on its facade is the inscription “Aç besmeleyle iç suyu, Han Ahmed’e eyle dua” (Open the tap, drink water, pray for Sultan Ahmed).
To the left of the door is the corner of Santa Sofía where La Puerta is from where the Sultan accessed the imperial box of Santa Sofía. The main gate of the palace is called “Bab-i Hümayûn”.
The imperial gate and the whole of the palace are surrounded by the walls that are called “Sur-u Sultani” walls of the Sultan. According to the inscriptions, we know that the door underwent restorations by the sultans in the 19th century that is why there are “Tuğra”, signed by Sultan Mahmud and Sultan Abdülaziz. Above this door was a wooden pavilion, but in 1866 there was a fire and it was burned.
First Patio: On the first patio on the left is the Church of Santa Irene, consecrated to “Divine Peace” in 537 like Santa Sofía. It is the only church in the city that was not converted into a mosque or allowed to disappear because after building the imperial walls of the palace it was left in the first courtyard where the Janissary troops were, a war machine that did not know failure for almost four centuries, and whose role was to protect the palace from the outside, so its barracks were in the first courtyard.
They took advantage of the Church of Saint Irene using it as “Cebehane”, an arsenal were to keep weapons, (currently only on some occasions of the Istanbul festival it is used as a concert hall).
Apart from the military barracks of the Janissaries, there were several outbuildings, the Gülhane hospital, a pavilion where they received letters of petitions and where the ambassadors tied their horses on their visits, the bakery, the firewood stores, the stables of their horses, and to the right behind the barracks were the gardens where they cultivated their necessities.
On the left, behind the Mint, was the “Parade Pavilion” which was from where the Sultan watched parades of all kinds, (currently it is used as the office of the Minister of Tourism and Culture).
The Tile Pavilion (Çinili Köşk), was built by Sultan Mehmet II in 1472 as a summer pavilion, within the gardens that are currently used as a public park. Gülhane, which is the first building in the palace complex, is lined inside and out with beautiful examples of Iznik tiles.
Between the years 1875 and 1891 it was used as “Müze-i Hümayun”, “Imperial Museum”; in 1953 as the “Museum of the Conqueror” where they exhibited some examples of the exhibition of the “Evkaf-i Islamiye” “Islamic Foundation”, which was in the complex of the Suleiman Mosque, and later in 1981 they inaugurated the Pavilion of Tiles as ” Archaeological Museum of Istanbul ”. Today, the first courtyard seems very small, although it was the largest of all since it surrounded the entire palace complex.
Many parts have disappeared because of the fires, and because of the construction of the railway station. In the first courtyard lived about ten thousand Janissaries, and no one had the right to pass on horseback from the first courtyard except the Sultan, so the ambassadors had to tie their horses in the petition pavilion. From the Imperial Gate to the Middle Gate there is a 300-meter path.
Second Courtyard: Before entering the second patio on the right is “the Verdugo Fountain” which was where the executioner cleaned his sword after the execution, and the decapitated heads of the rebels were hung just above the entrance of the second patio, to teach everyone a lesson about what could happen if they failed the Sultan.
The second door, flanked by two octagonal towers, dates from the second half of the 15th century, it looks a lot like a medieval castle, to access the second courtyard it is called “Ortakapı” or “Bab-ı Selam” “Middle Door” for to be between two main doors of the palace or “The Door of Salutation” since those who entered, had to say hello “Devlet-i Ali Osmaniye” * 
On the tympanum of the gate, which looks like the entrance to a fortress, is “Kelime-i Tevhid” “Word of Monotheism which is the belief in the existence of only one God” Ach-hadu an la ilaja illa Allah, ua ach-jadu anna Mujammadan rasulullah, which means “There is no divinity except Allah, and Muhammad is the creature and messenger of Allah.” In the Qur’an it says “Word of Tevhid is my strength, and whoever thus enters my strength will be sure of my affliction.”
From the second door was the special part, where anyone could not enter. On either side of the entrance were two floors of guards’ dormitories, and the “half-open door” was the place where the executions of high dignitaries were carried out.
Behind the door on both sides were two slightly elevated terraces where the commanders of the Janissaries and Sipahis were. During the Divan, the meeting of the Grand Vizier, on the right was “Yeniçeri Ağası” commander of the Janissaries and on the left “Sipahi Ağası”, commander of the knights or horsemen.
This courtyard was the administrative centre of the Ottoman State. Here they carried out official ceremonies, the Janissaries collected salaries through their bosses, after the battles, they delivered gifts to the Janissaries and received official visits.
Sometimes ten thousand people would gather and respectfully not even the sound of a leaf was heard (an expression to express silence).
From the entrance, several paths were divided, and each one had to follow his path respecting the hierarchy.
In the middle was “Selvili Yol”, a straight road, which belonged only to the Sultan. On the right, two paths, one leading to the kitchen and dining rooms, and the other leading to the offices.
To the left were two paths, one leading to the Harem, and the other leading to the Divan, or council room. On the road to Divan were three short two-foot columns, which were called stones of salutation.
The first column was for the civilian members of the Divan, (Reis-ül Küttab, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Defterdar, Minister of Finance) to salute, the second for the military members, “the pachas” and the last “Sadr-ı Âzam ”, for the Grand Vizier to give his salutation.
Before entering this path, “Bab-ı Saadet Ağası” Lord of the Gate of Happiness, the Director of the Palace’s interior affairs, accompanied the members of the Divan and when they reached the height of each column, they played with his cane on the floor, making noise, so that they would not forget to say hello.
Ambassadors were received in the Divan room and at noon they ate in the same room.
Above the Divan building was the “Adalet Kulesi” Tower of Justice, the entrance was from the Harem behind. From above that tower the Sultan could watch over the entire city, and below, from behind the lattices, he could watch over the council room of the Divan to lead with justice.
At first, the sultans participated in the Divan meetings, but later, the chiefs were Grand Viziers, and given the possibility that the Sultan was behind that room, they had to take great care of what they spoke. Right next to the room is another where weapons are currently displayed, but before it was where they kept the imperial treasure.
In the opposite part of the courtyard to the left were refectories, pantries, kitchens, pastry shops and dining rooms. It is currently used for a small part of the third richest collection of Chinese porcelains, after Beijing and Dresden. Formerly, around ten thousand people ate here at noon, in shifts.
The silhouette of the palace chimneys that are seen from afar is the work of the architect Sinan El Grande. In the “helvahane” (pastry shop), every three months, large trays of baklavas were prepared to give to the Janissaries, who, along with their gold wages, came singing to their barracks, which were in Aksaray.
Upon entering the second courtyard, on the left, there is a ramp that goes down to the stables, where the racehorses were found, for riding and carriages. There was a mosque there, where they held the funeral ceremony for the high dignitaries of the palace and the members of the Harem. The Sultan, when he went out by car, used to go out through that door.
The Harem: The residence of the Sultan and his mother “Valide Sultan”, was not only the most powerful in the palace but perhaps in the entire empire. In addition to the Sultan himself, it was also the residence of the four wives of the Sultan, the concubines who were servants, and the princesses and children of the sultans until the age of adolescence, since at that age they would have to go to rule in another city to learn to rule.
This residence is made up of a group of beautiful rooms, lounges and Turkish baths.
One of the most mysterious parts of the Topkapi Palace is the Harem. The Harem Comes from “Haram” which means forbidden, a forbidden area for others, so how is it possible to write so many books about the Harem? The stories told in the books are false. According to what they said, the Sultan had 100 wives and thousands of children, it seems that the Sultan did not leave the harem, he did not dedicate his time to anything more than making children.
According to the authors of these books, these women were called Odalık and they were sex slaves of the Great Turk. In reality, these girls were nothing more than servants, they had no sexual relationship with the Sultan since they were only servants. The term odalisque was mythologized by Orientalism and the European painters who reflected them in their works. exaggerating more and more.
The reality was far from the imagination of Western writers, who have never had a chance to access the Harem. The black eunuchs were the only men who could access the few places in the harem, the only black eunuch who could circulate in most sections of the harem was Ağa of the Black Eunuchs.
The Harem was an institute or university, where the most beautiful and intelligent young maidens in the world met. Most came from Russia, which was Caucasian, Circassian, Georgian, Abkhaz and Italian peoples, Serbs, although their origin did not matter, it was enough that they were beautiful, tall, intelligent and could learn.
Because here they were taught everything, after becoming Muslim, they learned to be cultured, learning languages, starting with the Turkish language, playing instruments, singing, dancing, then taking lessons to read and understand the Koran, theology, geography, literature, science, a great study of everything to be prepared and to be candidates for future mothers of the Sultans.
The only jury for the election was “Valide Sultana” As is understood, only beauty was not enough, since those who could not continue studying and learning, could be worth, as concubines, to serve the Mother of the Sultan, for princesses, or as guardians.
After working a certain time, they could go out and marry a high dignitary. After his father’s death, the new Sultan sent his father’s harem to the Ancient Palace, which he used just for that. New candidates then arrived from other parts of the world for the new occasion.
The concubines were not women of Sultans. The Sultan, according to Muhammad’s permission, could marry up to four women; The one who gave him the first child was considered “Prima Donna” and the possibility that that son was Sultan was greater, but not certain because as only a prince could ascend to the throne, others ran the risk of losing their lives by force for The Sublime State to continue.
Third Courtyard: To access the third courtyard, you have to pass the third main door, which is called “Bab-ı Saadet” The Door of Happiness, because, from that door, the Sultan’s Abode begins. Right here, in front of the door in the second courtyard, there is a small stone where they placed “Sancak-ı Şerif” or “Sacred Banner”.
If the Sultan went out to battle he would take the banner here, if he was not going to participate he would deliver the banner to the commander at this point, with a ceremony. On the religious holidays of Ramadan and Sacrifice all the workers passed in front of the Sultan’s throne, the high dignitaries gave their hand, the less important gave the long sleeve of the imperial dress.
The funerals of the Sultans were held at this door. Nine times “Ayak Divanı”, “Emergency Meeting” got together here to solve some small problems. The guards at this gate were “Akağalar” “White Eunuchs.”
Outsiders did not have access to the third courtyard. As you enter right in front you will find “Arz Odası” The Audience Room, or office of the Sultan, here the decisions of the Divan were presented inside a sealed red velvet sack.
The ambassadors were received in this pavilion, accompanied by two gorilla-type guards, and they had no right to walk in the courtyard. Upon entering, they had to bow down on the ground, as Western-type bowing was not acceptable.
Then the ambassador would say his request to the Sultan through a translator, although the Sultan knew at least six languages like a native, they did not allow the ambassador to speak directly to the Sultan, because his level did not allow him to relate to an ambassador.
The walls were thick, and there were two doors, and inside and outside there were water fountains, whose taps were turned on so that the noise of the water was an obstacle to hearing what was being said inside the room.
The third and fourth court together was called Enderun, they were also called “Harem-i Hümayun” or Selamlik, the official part of the palace.
It was called the Imperial Harem because at night the Sultan was in the Harem to sleep, and during the day, he was here, in the third courtyard, where his office was, and in the fourth courtyard where the pavilions were to rest.
Just behind the Audience Hall was a library built by Sultan Ahmed III., Founder of the monumental fountain that stands in front of Hagia Sophia next to the Imperial Gate of the Palace.
The same Sultan also built “Has Oda” The Hall of the Sacred Relics and “Fatih Köşkü” or Pavilion of the Conqueror as The Treasure of Enderun, today they exhibit the famous “Dagger of Topkapı” and the “Diamond of Kaşıkçı” that has 86 carats, the thrones of ebony or gold adorned with precious stones and emeralds, the two solid gold chandeliers (each weighing 48 kilos) that adorned the Tomb of Muhammad, and the gold cradle of the prince etc.
The most important room of the palace is “Has Oda” “The Favorite Room” where they kept “The Sacred Relics” from the caliphate of Sultan Selim (father of Suleiman the Magnificent) ending with the Mamluks in Egypt, he took the Caliphate of the Abbasids Since then, Istanbul became the Vatican of the Islamic World.
And so, they transferred the holy relics from Cairo to Topkapı Palace. The room where the paintings of the Sultans are exhibited belongs to the Room of the Sacred Relics.
In the first room, currently, the exhibition hall, the pieces that belong to the prophets of the Old Testament are exhibited. Thanks to the C14 technique, the authenticity of each of the pieces is being checked and what era they correspond to.
Among the most striking examples is the sword with which David fought against Goliath, the stone pot of Abraham, the turban of Joseph son of James, the staff with which Moses crossed the Red Sea.
Right in front of the entrance, the worn pieces of Kaaba are exhibited, whose servant had to take care of it and from time to time make the necessary changes. The worn parts returned to Istanbul, and every year the Sultan sent a lot of precious gifts with the caravans.
Entering through the Ancient door, walking to the fourth courtyard, the locks, the worn sheath of “Make-ül Esved”, the black stone found in one of the four corners of Kaaba are exhibited, while in this room the swords adorned with the precious stones of Muhammad’s commanders.
Finally, in the third part the personal belongings of Muhammad, the Muslim prophet, are exhibited. Among them is his sword, his bow, his tooth broken in battle, his footprint, a letter of invitation sent to the infidels, the box where the dirt from his grave is found, and his cape. In this room, from its foundation until today, the Koran is recited live, 7 days 24 hours and 25 different imams change shifts to comply with this custom. There are three main parts currently.
Enderun School of Geniuses: The Enderun courtyard is known as the “University of Geniuses” since from many parts of the world, after being examined in other palaces, the most intelligent of the State arrived here.
At the end of this University, any young man regardless of ethnic origin or her previous religion could be Grand Vizier, the second most important title after that of Sultan.
Just as the most beautiful and intelligent girls came to the Harem, the strongest and geniuses came here.
The Janissaries, being brain hunters, sought the strongest and most intelligent throughout the empire, to recruit them for the headquarters of the Janissaries. If the family had only one child, they would not accept it, since that child had the duty to take care of his family;
if they were several males, they recruited the most suitable one. Then those young people could be Janissaries or future high officials of the Sublime State of the Ottomans, it all depended on how they did the exams so that they were chosen to study in the palaces of Edirne, Galata and Ibrahim Pacha. If they could not continue studying, they took advantage of them for some less important positions.
From here elite groups came out to lead an empire that reached its borders to fifteen million square kilometres. The young people cleaned The Room of the Sacred Relics in shifts, every day they did a dry cleaning and on Fridays with rose water. At the entrance of the room, there were two wells, in one they kept the dust from the floor and in another the rose water after cleaning so as not to despise it.
Fourth Courtyard: In the fourth courtyard, and after the conquest of those cities, the pavilions are built by the Sultan Murad IV, Bağdat Köşkü (The Baghdad Pavilion) and the Revan Köşkü (Eriván Pavilion) to commemorate the conquests.
There, next to the pool that is used to cool the atmosphere in summer, is “İftariye Köşkü”, the Ramadan dinner pavilion, where the Sultans broke their fast in summer and which is simply a brass roof from where there is a lovely view of the Golden Horn.
The Circumcision Pavilion where the princes’ ceremonies were held, the “Hekimbaşı Pavilion” was the chief physician’s pavilion. On the other side of the fourth courtyard is a pavilion that was built after moving to the Dolmabahçe Palace, and which is now a tourist restaurant, Konyalı.
From the top of the restaurant, there is a wonderful view of the Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara and Chalcedon (the land of the Blind). And so, looking at the current Kadıköy, we agree with Bizas why he named it as the land of the blind.
To know more
The oracle ordered Byza to settle in front of Chalcedon “Land of the Blind.” Thus, leading a group of settlers from Megara, Bizas found a strategic place, where the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn meet and flow towards the Sea of Marmara, and from there to the other side, he saw colonization founded blindly, without realizing the importance of the opposite party. Then Bizas thought the same thing, that the inhabitants of that population must be blind, not realizing the advantages that the land on the European side of the Bosphorus had over the Asian side. This is how in 667 BC. founded Byzantium, on the European shore of the Bosphorus, thus completing the mission commissioned by the oracle in front of Chalcedon. Thus the old Byzantium later became the Palace of the Ottoman Sultans.
The Ottoman Sublime State ”before entering. The Ottomans refused to name their state as Empire because imperialism was never appropriated by the sultans as a policy. They conquered countries, but a governor of the same people, and forced them to pay tribute without meddling in their internal affairs, without changing their names, without assimilating, without forcing them to change their religion or to learn their language.