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Topkapi Palace :: First Court

First Court

We enter the first court through the Imperial Gate or Bab-i Humayun, the ceremonial gate through which the court and important figures of state passed in procession on important occasions. The gate was originally surmounted by a keep, which was partially destroyed by fire in 1866, and totally demolished in 1924. Over the door rests an inscription giving the construction date of the portal as 1478, and under it is the imperial monogram of Mahmut II. Two marble faced blind-arched niches on either side of the gate were an addition of the Abdulaziz period (second half of the 19th century) I and above the inner arch of the portal, facing the court itself, is an inscription bearing the monogram of Abdulaziz and the date 1867. The keep and the chambers flanking the gate were used to house the public treasury or Beytulmal and the Imperial Gate treasury during Ottoman times. The gate itself was opened every day after early morning prayers, and closed before the late evening call to pray.

Entering through the portal, on the right begins the terrace where once stood the Offices of the treasury superintendants or maliye nezareti, and the palace infirmary. The treasury offices were burnt down in 1866. A gate which once abutted onto the now non-existent walls of the infirmary -the so-called 'Boot Gate' or Cizme Kapisi opened into a path leading to the court of the armory. Although no trace of this Boot Gate exists today, there is a wall which runs along the right of the first court from where it once stood to the second gate of the palace. This wall once enclosed the palace bakeries, where the special loaves and sesame rings, called simit, were baked for the court. Attached to the bakeries were lodgings for the bakers and their staff, and a mosque for the bakery workers, -the Privy Baker's Mosque or Has Firin Camii. The bakery gate opening into the grand court bears an inscription with the date 1616. Now it serves as the entrance to a complex of buildings used as the restoration and technical laboratories of the Archaeological Museum of Istanbul. The Archaeological Museum itself can be reached via a sloping road on the opposite side of the court. As we approach the second, or middle gate, along the bakers wall, we see a fountain and a hydrostatic balance mounted on the wall, which fronts the palace water works, and close on the second gate, another fountain known popularly, althoughwithout foundation, as the 'Executioner's Fountain' or Cellat Cesmesi.

Opposite the site of the infirmary and the bakery, on the other side of the court, stands the Byzantine church of Haghia Eirene, which was renovated after the conquest for use as an armory.

This building, which became then the Privy Armory or Cebehane-i Amire for much of the Ottoman period, was later to house the Ottoman Museum of Antiquities, set up by Fethi Pasha in 1845. The collection of antiquities was removed from Haghia Eirene in 1916, in part, and became the nucleus of the Cinili Kosk and the just opened Archaeological Museum collections.

Flanking the church is the Ottoman Mint. The exact date of the building is not known, although it is thought that the imperial mint was transferred to the 'New Palace' sometime in the 18th century. It underwent repair during the reign of Mahmut II, when a royal lodge was annexed to the structure, as two inscriptions, one on the mint and another on the portal to the lodge bearing the date 1832 inform us.


Above text and pictures are from the book titled "Topkapi Palace Hardcover".

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