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Topkapi Palace Hirka-i Saadet Chamber – The Sacred Trusts


While Sultan Selim I put an end to the rule of Mamluks in Egypt, the last Abbasid Caliph living in Egypt assigned Sultan Selim I to the duty of Caliphate, which means the spiritual leadership of the entire Muslim community. So, the Ottomans took over the religious leadership of the Islamic world. Istanbul, which had been the spiritual leadership of the Orthodox Christian world till that time, officially became the spiritual capital city of the Islamic world after 1517. One of the concrete signs of this spiritual leadership, which went on till 1924, is souvenir articles belonging to Prophet Mohammed, his relatives, other prophets and Kaba, meticulously protected by Moslem Caliphs for centuries, and now kept in the Cloakroom for Prophet Mohammed’s cloak of Topkapi Palace. These articles are called ‘The Sacred Relics’(Emanat-i Mukaddese or Emanat-i Mubareke). The Sacred Relics were partly given by El-Mutevekkil III, who handed over the Caliphate to Selim I and partly brought by Emir Ebu Numey, who advanced until Cairo and submitted the keys of Mecca and Medina. These articles, brought to İstanbul after the Egyptian Campaign of Sultan Selim I, were put into the section of Topkapi Palace, which was formerly known as ‘Privy Chamber’. Since the Sacred Relics were put into this chamber, this section has been called ‘Hirka-i Saadet Chamber’ named after Prophet Mohammed’s cloak, which is accepted as the most valuable among these articles. It is among the most beautiful sections of Topkapi Palace. Its ornaments are so beautiful as to agree with the duty of protecting the Sacred Relics. In the Hirka-i Saadet Chamber of Topkapi Palace, the Holy Koran was continuously read for 407 years from 1517 on till March 1924 when Caliphate was abolished. This duty was shared by twenty four hafizs (persons who memorize the Koran), each for one hour. This place was protected by forty high-ranking army officers whom Enderun Has Odabasi equal to the rank of marshal was in charge of. These army officers called as the Privy Chamber Aghas were loyal to the Sultan. They did the cleaning. From time to time, the Sultan joined them. Dust and waste were thrown nito a special well. These relics preserved with great respect and care by the Ottoman Sultans have been opened to visits in Topkapi Palace Museum since 1962. Among the Sacred Relics can be considered the cloak called ‘Hirka-i Saadet’ or ‘Burde-i Saadet’ and given as a gift to Ka’b b. Zubeyr by Prophet Mohammad, a part of Prophet Mohammad’s teeth broken during the Battle of Uhud, his flag, his sakal-i serif kept in jewellery boxes, his footprints, his signature, his letters, his swords, his bows, the restored sections of Kaaba such as door, lock, key and altinoluk.


Hagia Sophia


Hagia Sophia considered being unique with its architecture, its magnificence, its size and its functionality has been a source of inspiration for the Ottoman mosques in terms of concept and constitutes east – west synthesis. This piece of art is among the most important monuments of the world architectural history, which have survived till today. Therefore, Hagia Sophia has attracted the attention of the whole humankind with its architecture, its mosaics and its structures of Turkish age as well as with its background for centuries. Hagia Sophia served as a church for 916 years and then as a mosque for 481 years. Hagia Sophia has continued its historical function as a museum since 1935. Byzantine historians (Theophanes, Nikephoros, Grammarian Leon) asserted that the first Hagia Sophia church was built during the reign of Constantinos I (324 – 337). This structure with a basilica plan and wooden roof was burnt down during a revolt. No ruins of this structure have survived till today. Emperor Theodosius II built Hagia Sophia again and opened it to the worship of the public in 415. This structure with a basilica plan again was burnt down during the Nika revolt in 532. Some ruins of this building were found during the excavations made in 1936. These are stairs leading the way to entrance of the sanctuary, columns, headings, various architectural fragments. Emperor Justinianus (527 – 565) wanted to have built a church bigger than two previous ones and assigned Isidoros from Miletos and Anthemios from Tralles, the famous architects of the era, to build the Hagia Sophia, which has survived till today. Columns, headings, marbles and colourful stones were brought to Istanbul from the ruins of the antique cities in Anatolia in order to be used in the construction of Hagia Sophia. The construction of Hagia Sophia began on December 23, 532 and completed on December 27, 537. Architecturally, the building covers a large central nave, two side aisles, apsis, inner and outer nartexes. The size of the inner space is 100 x 70 m and is covered with a dome supported by four large piers, of 55 m at height, of 30-31 m in diameter. The burden of the main dome is reduced by semi-domes added to the dome in the entrance and apsis direction, and by the upper covering system formed with two small semi-domes added to the end of other semi-domes. Basilica plan has been taken as a starting point. The main aisle covers three lengthwise aisles. Four large grades, which are at the same time among the elements separating aisles from each other, carry the heavy dome. These grades are bound to the side walls with arches. There are columns between. Through a twisted tunnel, you can go up to the galleries on the side aisles. Besides the architecture of the Hagia Sophia, its mosaics are also of great importance. The oldest mosaics are the mosaics with gold gilded, geometrical and floral designs in the inner narthex and on the side aisles. Figural mosaics were made in the centuries of the 9th and 12th centuries. These are on Emperor Door (the scene showing Jesus Christ on the throne and Emperor Leon VI prostrating before him), apsis (the image of Virgin Mary), on exit doors (Virgin Mary and the Holy Child Christ on the throne and next to them, Constantin submitting a small model of Istanbul and Justinianus submitting a small model of Istanbul), at the gallery of upper floor (the most important one, Deisis scene with its extraordinary workmanship). Moreover, here can be seen the scenes showing Emperor Constantin Monomakhos and his wife Zoe and Emperor Ioannes Comnenos and his wife Eirene next to the image of Jesus Christ on the throne.Various repairs and additions were made to the Hagia Sophia during the Turkish period starting with the conquest of Istanbul. The surroundings of the niche include the most beautiful examples of Turkish tile and Turkish calligraphy art. Among these, the most interesting ones are the round plates of 7.50 m in diameter and a sura from the Holy Koran made by the famous Turkish calligrapher Kazasker Mustafa Izzet Effendi. On these plates are written the names of Allah, Mohammad, Omar, Osman, Ali, Hasan, Ebu Bekir, Hussein. On the side walls of the niche are there the plates written and given as a gift by the Ottoman Sultans. The most beautiful examples of the Ottoman tomb tradition are the tombs of Sultan Selim II, Sultan Mehmet III, Sultan Murat III and the sons of sultans, the fountain (sadirvan) of Sultan Mahmut I, children school, alms house, library, the gathering place of the sultans, mosque timekeepers, tombs which are the examples of Turkish age in the Hagia Sophia, the interior facilities, its tiles and its architecture.


Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque)


The mosque situated immediately next to the Sultanahmet Square is also known as Blue Mosque. The kulliye (complex) made up of mosque, sultan’s pavilion, children’s school, madrasah, arasta, cure house, hospice, alms house and tombs was built between the years of 1609-1617 by the architect Sedefkar Mehmet Agha during the period of Ahmet I. Sultanahmet Mosque, built on the same level with Hagia Sophia at the center of the complex, is one of the symbolic buildings of Istanbul. The central dome of 23,50 meters in diameter and of 43 meters at height sits on four large grades of five meters in diameter. The semi-dome, at the side of the niche among the semi-domes added to the central dome from four directions, are broadened with two, and the others with three quarter domes. This upper covering system of the mosque on a square field of 64x72 meters in size completes the small domes on the corners. At the front of the mosque is there a courtyard of 30 domes with revak and fountain (sadirvan). There is simplicity and harmonic coherence in both the interior and the exterior architecture of the structure. In the interior illuminated with more than 260 windows, most of which are colourful glass, there is a fascinating atmosphere formed with the blue and the white of more than 1000 Iznik tiles. With its six minarets, the mosque shows a characteristic different from other mosques.


Suleymaniye Mosque


The mosque, built as a ‘mastership’ work of art of Architect Sinan between the years of 1550-1557, is situated at the center of a large-scale kulliye (complex). With a lot of domes, the complex makes an important contribution to the appearance of Istanbul. The most valuable materials were brought from all corners of the Ottoman geography for the construction of the mosque. As in Sehzade Mosque, the mosque group shows integrity with the courtyard with fountain (sadirvan) and revak. Its large space is covered with two semi-domes added in the direction of the niche and the entrance to the central dome of 27,40 meters in diameter and of 53 meters at height, and two quarter domes added to them, and at the sides, small domes in the arrangement of one large and one small. The inner space with four heavy grades and columns has an effect relieving with the light coming inside from 128 windows. Four minarets with ten balconies symbolize Suleiman I (Suleiman the Magnificent), the tenth Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, but the fourth one after the conquest of Istanbul. Two out of these minarets are shorter compatibly with the slope of the land. The tombs of Suleiman I (Suleiman the Magnificent), Hurrem Sultan and Great Architect Sinan are within the field of this kulliye (complex).


Ortakoy (Buyuk Mecidiye) Mosque


The mosque on the Bosphorus coast in Ortakoy was built between the years of 1854-1855 by Nichogos Balyan. The structure which Abdulmecit had built is situated on a wharf surrounded by the sea on three sides. The intensely ornamented and vertical mosque group shows a front system moving with concave fluctuations. The double-storied windows with round arches are separated from each other with monumental columns. The akant leaves below the balconies in the minarets are dyed with gold gilt. Ortakoy Mosque is an imposing structure. The supplementary structure group lying horizontally at the front of the mosque creates a contrast with its simplicity. The mosque is today situated within an active social life quarters.


Yeni Mosque


The mosque, which the architect Davut Agha started to build immediately nearby today’s Eminonu Square during the period of Mehmet II, was completed by the architect Mustafa Agha during the period of Mehmet IV in 1663 after approximately 50 years. The mosque planned with theological school, arasta (Egyptian Bazaar), tomb, fountain and public fountain, sultan’s gathering place, children school is the last large-scale example of the classical architecture. As in Sehzade and Sultanahmet Mosques, there is an upper covering system covered with semi-domes added to the main dome from four directions. The diameter of the dome is 16,20 meters and its height is 36 meters. Especially the high walled courtyard of this structure and its stairs leading way to the entrance of the courtyard is today and inseparable part of the daily life of the city. There are rich tiles and ornaments within the mosque.


Uskudar Yeni Valide Mosque and Complex:


The mosque and the complex built between the years of 1708 – 1710 during the period of Ahmet III is one of the important Ottoman works of art in Uskudar. The mosque does not reflect the effects of the Tulip Era style, which popularizes during this period. However, it reflects a style adherent to the tradition with its classical elements. The open tomb of Mother Sultan at the border of the outer courtyard and the geometric bronze networks of the marble fountain adjacent to this are interesting.


Eyup Sultan Mosque


It is the first mosque constructed in Istanbul after the conquest. It was constructed together with mausoleum in 1458 by Mehmet the Conqueror. The former mosque was demolished until its base except the minarets and today’s mosque was constructed under the supervision of Hussein Efendi in 1800.


Eyup Sultan Mausoleum


Halit Bin Zeyd (Prophet Eyup), the standard bearer of the Prophet Mohammed, and accepting the Islam first by coming to Mecca, lies in the mausoleum, constructed in 1458. Prophet Eyup participated in the war on the side of the army leaded by one of the Emevi rulers Ebu Sufyan and martyred during the seventh Arabic siege of the Istanbul. Eyup’s cemetery outside the ramparts has been found by the teacher of Conqueror the Mehmet, Aksemsettin after his conquer of Istanbul. Conqueror the Mehmet constructed a mausoleum on this cemetery and a mosque next to it.


Fatih Mosque


By Conqueror the Mehmet was the mosque constructed on the place of the Church of the Apostles, which was in ruins before the conquest of Istanbul. The mosque forms a very large complex with different religious foundations around. This complex built by Architect Sinaneddin Yusuf was completed between the years of 1462 and 1470. It has been accepted as a structure peculiar to Turks and not affected by the Byzantian architecture in any way.


Bayezit Mosque


It is located at the square, which is mentioned with its name. This great mosque and ıts complex, (theological school, school, alms house, caravansary and public bath), were constructed by the son of Fatih, Bayezit II in the years of 1501 - 1506. It has two minarets which are 87 meters away from each other and each of which has one balcony. Plan of the Bayazıt Mosque is similar to Hagia Sophia. But it is separated from it with especially a perfect architectural application which includes a different characteristic having worship order of a culture.


Suleiman Mosque and Complex


Suleiman Mosque and Complex which Great Architect Sinan called ‘my mastership work of art’, is one of the most beautiful examples of the Islamic architecture. The Complex shows a superior success firstly in city planning and in every kind of art such as technic, resistance, aesthetic and ornament. The Suleimaniye complex composed of six theological schools, hospice, alms house, carvansary, medical treatment center, public bath, school, chamber and shops and the mauseloums of Magnificent the Suleiman and Hurrem Sultan is the second biggest complex with its social and cultural connections after Fatih Complex. It was built by Great Architect Sinan on the order of Magnificent the Suleiman between the years of 1550 and 1557. It is in an interesting arrangement with its supplements placed in layers on the hill. Although it was done at the richest period of ceramic tiling, only the walls of the niche are covered with ceramic tiles. The rarely sensitive acoustic of the mosque should be taken into consideration. There is the mauseloum of Magnificent the Suleiman at the front of the niche of the mosque. On the left of this mauseloum is the mauseloum of Hurrem Sultan ornamented with ceramic tiles on the rarely seen colours and lines. On the corner at the left side is the modest mauseloum of Koca Sinan who made hundreds of architectural works of art in different kinds.


Great Architect Sinan Mausoleum


It is at the courtyard of Suleimaniye Mosque. Chief Architect Sinan (died in 1588) constructed this outstanding mauseloum of an attractive beauty and simplicity for himself. The structure reflects simplicity and elegancy, which completely complies with the genius of the master.


Sultan Selim Mosque


It was completed during the period of Magnificent the Suleiman in 1522. On the writing at the main entrance is recorded that Selim I gave the order of this construction. According to some sources, it is said that his son had it built on the memory of his father. It has a very simple architecture. The ceiling of the sultan’s gathering place within the structure is covered with an interesting and rich ornament. At the niche side of the mosque is the Mauseloum of Selim I in octagon form and with its windows and doors covered with nacre, with its excellent ceramic inscriptions. Nearby are there the mauseloums of the sons and daughters of Magnificent the Suleiman, at whose entrance there are very rare and preicous ceramic tiles. And behind the mosque is there Sultan Mauseloum Mauseloum.


Haseki Mosque


This work of art, which was constructed in 1538 on the memory of Magnificent the Suleiman's wife, Hurrem Sultan, was built by Great Architect Sinan. It is an elegant complex made up of theological school, hospital, alms house and public fountain, around it.


Yeni Mosque


When the construction of the mosque started in 1597 by Safiye Sultan, the mother of Mehmet III reached at the window level, the sultan and his mother died. The unfinished building was completed in 1663 by the will of Turhan Sultan, the mother of Mehmet IV. The stone work and especially the architectural style and ceramic tile ornaments of the sultan’s gathering place. The arrangement way of domes and small domes at the outer part are attractive.


Sehzade Mosque


It is at Sarachane, across the Municipality Palace. Suleiman I wanted Great Architect Sinan to construct a mosque on the memory of his son, Mehmet, who died in 1543, and the construction starting in 1544 completed in 1548. The mosque, which is situated at the city center, is in the middle of a complex composed of theological schools, mausoleums, hospices and alms houses. It attracts attention with the ornaments of its two minarets unique in style.


Nuruosmaniye Mosque


It is at the Nuruosmaniye entrance of the closed bazaar. The construction of this mosque was started in 1748 by Mahmut I, and because of his death, the constrcution was completed during the period of Osman III in 1755. The writing of highly artistic value are the works of art by the famous calligraphers of the age, Egrikapili Rasim and Mumcuzade Ahmet Effendi


Rustempasha Mosque


In 1561, the construction of this structure was assigned to Great Architect Sinan by one of the grand viziers of Magnificent the Suleiman, Rustem Pasha. Sinan built cellars and shops under the mosque, because the place in Eminonu is both a hollow and a trade center. The real value of the mosque comes from the fact that every part of the mosque including the walls of the entrance courtyard at the outer and the elephant feet at the inner, are ornamented with the most beautiful examples of Iznik ceramic tiles in the 14th century. This mosque is known as a tile museum so to speak.


Sokullu Mehmet Pasha Mosque


The construction of the mosque was assigned to Great Architect Sinan in 1671 on the memory of Grand Vizier Mehmet Pasha, the husband of Esmehan Sultan, the daughter of Selim III. The inner part of the mosque is ornamented with the most beautiful ceramic tiles of the period till the skirts of the dome. The cone of its pulpit is also ceramic tile.


Yeni Valide Mosque


It is at Uskudar. In 1710, the mosque was constructed as a complex by the mother of Ahmet III, Gulnuz Sultan. It has double minarets and two balconies. It is one of the last examples of classical style strictly adherent to the old tradition with its decoration during the Recession Period.


Bezm-i Alem Valide Sultan (Dolmabahce) Mosque


As it is understood from the inscription by Poet Ziyer on the door of the courtyard, Valie Sultan is the person who initiated the construction of the mosque, while his brother Abdulmecit is the person who completed the construction in 1853. Towards the year of 1848, the siege walls were removed and a sea museum was established within the mosque.


Imrahor Ilyas Bey Mosque (Studios Monastery)


It was constructed between Samatya and Yedikule in 463. The building, which is among the former Byzantian buildings of Istanbul, is dedicated to the baptist Yohannes. Flooring mosaics belonging to the 13th century can be seen on the flor of the building. It was converted into a mosque by Ilyas Bey in 1486 after the conquest of Istanbul. The structure was damaged to a large extent because of earthquakes and fires which occurred at several times later on, its roof collapsed in 1908. Consequently, the building could not be repaired and it has survived in this ruined condition till today.


Kariye Museum (Khora Monastery)


Kariye at the Edirnekapi district of Istanbul derives from the word ‘Khora’, which means ‘rural area out of the town’. During the period of Emperor Justinianus, Khora Church was constructed instead of a chapel, which formerly existed at this place. The structure, which ruined in the course of time, was reconstructed in the 11th century. The church, which was in a ruined condition during the Latin invasion, was repaired by Thoedoros Metekhites in the beginning of the 14th century.

The mosaics and the frescoes in Kariye Museum are the most beautiful examples of the 14th century, belonging to the last period of the Byzantian painting art. There are the scenes from the life of Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary.

The structure, which was used as a church for a period after the conquest of Istanbul in 1453, was converted into a mosque in 1511. The mosaics and the frescoes were covered with plaster and wooden shutters. As a result of the studies of American Byzantian Institute between the years of 1948 and 1958, all the mosaics and frescoes were removed and the mosque was opened to visits as a museum.


Fethiye Mosque (Pammakaristos Monastery Church)


It is situated at the Fatih district of Istanbul. It is the church of Pammakaristos monastery constructed during the Byzantian period. By the end of the Latin invasion, it was reconstructed on the ancient church ruins at the 13th century. After the conquest, the building in the hands of Christians used as a monastery for women. Patriarchate was moved in here in 1455 and remained as a patriarchate until 1455. This church was converted into a mosque during the period of Murat III (1574-1595) and given the name of Fethiye Mosque. The north church is still being used a mosque. The supplementary church, whose walls were ornamented with the beautiful mosaics of the 14th century, was restored in the years of 1938-1940 and then, turned into a unit as a museum dependent on Hagia Sophia Museum Directorate.


Hagia Irene Monument (St. Irene)


Hagi Irene Monument, situated in the first courtyard of Topkapi Palace, was constructed during the period of Emperor Justinianus at the VIth century. With its materials and its architecture, it is a typical Byzantian structure. In this museum were exhibited the works of art by Damat Ahmet Fethi Pasha, one of the Tophane Marshals. These works of art constituted the first nucleuses of the Turkish Museum in 1846. Hagia Irene was given the name ‘Muzeyi Humayun’ (Empire Museum) in 1869. In the course of time, the exhibition venues got insufficient and therefore, the works of art at the museum were carried to the Cinili Mansion in 1875. Hagia Irene has been used as Military Museum since 1908. Later on, the structure which stood empty for a period was repaired and was turned into a unit dependent on Hagia Sophia Directorate.


Zeyrek Mosque (Pantakrator Monastery Church)


It is the head church of an important Byzantian monastery complex. It was formed of three churches. The big church was constructed by the first wife of Ioannes Komnenos II, Eirene (1118-1143) and was dedicated to Jesus Christ. Firstly a small church, where burial ceremonies took place, and later on another church under the auspices of Theotohas Eleousa were added to this church. The sections of the church were converted into theological school after the conquest and this theological school was named after Molla Zeyrek, who is one of the scientists of the period.

In 1953, a mosaic floor divided into round and rectangular strips was found under the floor. With its richness and its line, this church reflects the empire art of the 12th century.


Kucuk Hagia Sophia Mosque (Sergius and Bacchus Church)


It was constructed by Empire Justinianus between the years of 527 and 536. It was dedicated to two saints named Sergios and Bakhos. The building is important as an example rarely seen in Byzantium. The church was converted into a mosque by Kapuaghasi Hussein Agha in 1504 after the conquest. The interesting point is the frizzie of an inscription on the inner columns.


Old Imaret Mosque (Pantepoptes Monastery Church)


t is at the ridge coming down to Halic from Fatih. It belongs to the beginning of the second century. It was constructed by Anna Dalaena, the mother of Alexios I. It is the most beautiful example of the architecture of the era.


Neve Salom Synagogue


The name of the synagogue, which is situated on the Buyuk Hendek Avenue in Galata, means ‘Peace Oasis’. This synagogue, which was opened on March 25, 1951, is still the most modern and the most magnificent synagogue in Istanbul. It has witnessed Hahambasilik Is’ad ceremonies and such many religious ceremonies as wedding, bar, mitzvah (maturity ceremony) and funeral.


Italian Synagogue


This synagogue, which was founded by the Italian and Austrian Jewish citizens living in the Ottoman Empire, came into service in 1886. It is a spectacular work of art with its front of gothic style and its marble stairs.


Askenazi Synagogue


The synagogue was constructed by the Askenazs of Austrian origin. With its front of European style and its Ehal and Teva (prayer desk) in wooden pagoda style with Polish influence, it shows a different appearance from the traditional Sefarad and Romaniot synagogues.


Zulfaris Synagogue


The current building of this synagogue, which is located at Galata and dates back to the 17th century, belongs to the 19th century. This synagogue, in which religious ceremonies were carried out before the construction of Neve Salom Synagogue, has not been in service for a couple of years. However, within the frame of the 1992 celebration activities, the synagogue has been decided to be converted into "500 Years Tranquil Life Museum" without losing its religious identity of the structure.


Ahrida Synagogue


The synagogue, located at Balat, was constructed by those who had migrated from the Ahri borough of Macadonia in the 15th century. The Teva (prayer desk) of the synagogue in the shape of a ship's bow resembles to Noah's Ship according to some people, while others think that it symbolizes the Ottoman galleys bringing Sefarad immigrants to the Ottoman piers from Spain. The Ahrida Synagogue, which was in service for more than 500 years, was burnt down several times and reconstructed. In addition, it was restored in the Tulip Period baroque style, embracing the most ancient appearance within frame of the 500th annual activities programme.


Etz Ahayim Synagogue (Ortakoy)


Ortakoy, where Jewish people had already lived from the ancient times, became a typical Jewish settlement area with the ones who came and settled here after the Great Bedesten (Bazaar) fire in 1618, and with its mosque, its church and its synagogue at a triangular area, Ortakoy set a precedent where three celestial religions live together in harmony and peace. With its name meaning ‘Life Tree’, the history of Ortakoy Etz Ahayim Synagogue dates back to the 17th century as it is understood from the decrees of repairs. It was totally ruined as a result of a fire in 1941 and today, what has only remained from this structure is the Ehal (the cupboard in which the manuscript parchments of the copy of the Pentateuch were kept) still seen at the sea front at its garden.