The luxurious palaces of the Ottoman Empire

Published 14.03.2015 00:00
Updated 16.04.2015 00:06
The luxurious palaces of the Ottoman Empire

As the former capital of powerful civilizations and empires, Istanbul is home to many glorious palaces that carry characteristics of those empires. In particular, the Ottoman palaces that were constructed in last 100 years of the empire enrich the cultural heritage of the city

It's no secret that the Ottoman era was a time filled with lavish lifestyles and luxurious structures, even at times when the empire was struggling with huge state debts. Even now, when we go to see the palaces of the time, we are dazzled with the gold and jewels that are embossed everywhere and sewn on everything. Let's take a look at some of these buildings that shed light on that opulent and ostentatious era.

l Beylerbeyi Palace: A palace for winter and a palace for summer, the sultans of the Ottoman Era really loved their luxury. Beylerbeyi Palace was ordered to be built by Sultan Abdülaziz and its construction lasted only four years between 1861 and 1865. The palace is located on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus and served as the summer residence for sultans. The outside of the palace is made from stones and marble and the inside is constructed with brick walls and wooden floors. The floors are carpeted with rush matting from Egypt in order to avoid humidity during the summer. Because the palace was intended only as a summer residence it does not have a central heating system. The design of the palace was influenced by French Neo-baroque style with a traditional Ottoman houseplan, however the decorations in the house have a very European look, from the furniture to the chandeliers. Bohemian crystals and fine porcelain decorate the whole of the palace along with Hereke carpets and a wonderful array of oil paintings. The rectangular palace has 24 rooms, six large halls, one hamam and one bathroom on two floors above a service basement that served as a kitchen and storage room. The palace includes a lush garden full of varied plants and trees and two kiosks by the pier where sultans could enjoy the weather and view of the Bosphorus. The sultans of the Ottoman Era used the Beylerbeyi Palace to entertain guests visiting from foreign countries. The guests were accommodated in the palace during the summer months where they could stay cool and live in luxury. The first foreign guest to stay in the palace was Empress Eugenie of France followed by the Prince of Serbia, King Nicholas of Montenegro, Austro-HungaryEmperor Franz Joseph, Shah Nasser al-Din Qajar of Persia, Prince Oscar of Sweden and many more.

Küçüksu Palace: This palace was used by Ottoman sultans for short stays during day trips to the countryside or hunting. Located on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus in the Beykoz area, Küçüksu Palace is yet another lovely palace among the many palaces in Istanbul. The palace itself was commanded to be built by Sultan Abdülmecid I, who had the architect Garabat Amira Baylan design the palace in place of a two story wooden palace that had been built during the reign of Sultan Mahmud I. The magnificent palace was designed in the Neo-baroque style and is made up of two main stories and a basement which is 15 meters by 27 meters. Its uniqueness,however, lies in the high walls of the gardens and the large cast iron railings that surround it. With one gate on each of the four sides the Küçüksu Palace has many entrances in order to allow easy access to the waterfront as well as other areas surrounding the structure. The basement of the palace has a kitchen, a larder and servants' accommodations. The floors above the basement reflect a traditional Ottoman house with many rooms around an elegant central hall. Each of the rooms have a private fireplace, and some rooms even have two, all detailed with an array of colorful Italian marble. Crystal chandeliers from Bohemia hang in all rooms along with curtains and carpets all woven in the Hereke factory. The decoration of the palace was given to a stage designer of the Vienna State Opera who chose to decorate the remainder of the rooms and halls with oil paintings. The elegant palace has appeared in many movies both in Hollywood and Bollywood. The mansion was the mansion of a woman in Baku in the James bond film "The World is Not Enough" and it also appeared in "Ek Tha Tiger," a popular Bollywood film.

Ihlamur Palace: This palace was built by Sultan Abdülmecid in the mid-19th century in a valley near a wooded area that lies behind the district of Beşiktaş today. The palace was designed by a member of the famous Balyan family, Nikogos Balyan, to be the smaller version of the Dolmabahçe Palace. The exquisite palace gets its name from the linden trees that surround the whole of the property. Ihlamur is the Turkish equivalent of linden tea, which was surely a favorite in the palace. It was in this little valley of musky smelling trees that Sultan Abdülmecid accommodated the famous French writer and poet Lamartine. The palace is composed of two different buildings called the Merasim Kiosk and the Maiyet Kiosk. The Merasim Kiosk was reserved for the sultan's personal use in ceremonies and celebrations. The building is intensely decorated and has a baroque staircase that frames the entrance. The furnishings are a combination of 19th century Ottoman style and various European styles. The smaller Maiyet Kiosk sometimes served as the harem and was also used to accommodate the sultan's guests. The perimeter of the Maiyet Kiosk is surrounded by rose beds and contains a large pool with lion statues.

Yıldız Palace: The sultans of the Ottoman Empire had a palace for everything, even one for leisure and vacationing. The area of the palace was originally natural woodlands and lush greenery where sultans enjoyed vacationing. Eventually,vacation mansions as well as villas were built by the sultans to embrace the natural surroundings of the area. The name Yıldız Palace refers to the huge complex made up of former Ottoman pavilions and villas. After leaving Dolmabahçe Palace out of fear of a seaside attack, Sultan Abdülhamid II ordered new buildings to be added to the already enormous complex. The palace was built in 1880 and when Abdülhamid II moved there it became the fourth seat of the Ottoman government after the Old Palace, Topkapı Palace and Dolmabahçe Palace. The layout of Yıldız Palace includes many buildings that served for different uses. The State Apartment was where government officials who worked for Abdülhamid II had their offices. The Şale Kiosk was designed to resemble a Swiss chalet, hence the word "şale." The section was added to accommodate German Emperor Wilhelm II who was the first foreign monarch to visit the palace followed by statesmen such as Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle. The building has a single piece carpet on the floor with an area greater than 400 square meters and was hand woven by 60 weavers. The Malta Kiosk is located on the north side of the wall. During the time it was a tradition to name kiosks after conquered places or important battles, hence its name. Çadır Kiosk was used as a prison during the reign of Sultan Abdülaziz, but is now used as a cafe and restaurant. Yıldız Theater and Opera House has stars on its dome-shaped ceiling giving the palace its name "Star Palace." Yıldız Palace Museum was used by Abdülhamid II as a carpentry workshop. Today it is a museum where art and objects from the palace are displayed. And finally, the Imperial Porcelain Factory was constructed to meet the demand for European style ceramics. The factory produced bowls, vases and plates with scenes of the Bosphorus. The building itself was made to look like a medieval European castle.

lDolmabahçe Palace:Imagine a palace so big and so luxurious that its construction led to the eventual bankruptcy of a nation. That palace is Dolmabahçe Palace, the biggest palace in Turkey. The brilliant palace was built between 1843 and 1856 when the sultan of the time found the Topkapı Palace lacking in the contemporary style, luxuries and comforts that were seen in the European palaces of the time. The design of the palace contains a variation of elements from different styles including Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassical and the obvious touch of traditional Ottoman architecture. The inside of the palace is intensively decorated with crystals of all shapes and sizes and up to 35 tons of gold, 14 tons of which were used only to gild the ceilings. The world's largest Bohemian crystal chandelier hangs in the Ceremonial Hall holding 750 lamps and weighs in at 4.5 tons. The palace is also home to a fine collection of Hereke carpets made by the Hereke Imperial Factory and a 150-year-old bearskin rug is among the precious carpets in Dolmabahçe. Built on 11.2 acres of land and containing 285 rooms, 46 halls, six hamams and 68 toilets the magnificent Dolmabahce Palace was home to six different sultans during the Ottoman Empire. The huge expenses to build the palace created an enormous burden on the state and eventually assisted in the deteriorating financial situation of the Ottoman Empire. After the ownership of the palace was given to the Turkish Republic it became the presidential residence of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey. Atatürk lived in the palace until his deteriorating health eventually took over and he died on Nov. 10, 1938 at exactly 9:05 a.m. All the clocks in the palace were stopped and set to 9:05 after his death.

Today, the palace belongs to the Directorate of National Palaces and the only way to see the interior the Dolmabahçe Palace is with a guided tour.

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