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Topkapi Palace :: Third Court

Third Court

Once through the Gate of the White Eunuchs, one is in what was originally the sultans' domain, the court of the privy chambers -Enderun. Beyond the palace school and bathhouse abutting the wall dividing this court from the court of justice-on the right, is the Barracks of the Campaign Pages or Seferli Kogusu, where now a display of sultans' costumes is housed. The building is a two-roomed structure founded during the reign of Murat IV in 1635 and restored by Ahmet III between 1718 and 1719 and again by Abdulmecit in the 19th century. During restorations carried out between 1977- 78 traces of the furnace room of a bathhouse were discovered under the entrance chamber, towards the wall of the imperial treasury further along the court. This must have been the furnace room of the bathhouse built by Selim II, now part of the treasury building. The treasury, which takes up the rest of the right hand wall together with what is known as the Pavilion of the Conqueror, was directly under the supervision of the sultans, and was known as the Privy Treasury or Enderun Hazinesi- or the Imperial Treasury-Hazine-i Humayun. Here, one may now see the contents of the treasury on display. The four rooms of coarse sandstone, consisted originally of a bathhouse abutting onto the barracks of the campaign pages, the caldarium, which remains intact, a large room with central dome, two other domed chambers and an open columned terrace-room on the opposite corner of the treasury known as the 'hayat'. The entire complex is fronted by deep, flat-roofed portico. Turning the corner we face the buildings aligned along the second wall of the court, directly opposite the Gate of Felicity. Immediately adjacent to the treasury are what were once the barracks of the privy cellar slaves which were however, demolished in 1856 by Dayezade Mehmet Bey to make way for the Treasury offices or Hazine Kethudaligi Dairesi. A traditional bathhouse remains part of the present-day building, now occupied by administrative offices.

Immediately to the left of the building, a ramp leads down to the fourt court. Passing this while remaining in the third court, one comes upon the Barrack of the Treasury Pages or Hazine Kogusu which now houses the Miniature and Portrait Gallery. This structure dates fror the period of Mehmet II, and has bee altered considerably over the course o repeated restorations, the last during the reign of Abdulmecit.

Over the door an inscription attest to this with the date 1858. The entrance t the bathhouse of the barracks was wane over during renovation work in 1975.

In the corner of the court opposite the treasury is the Apartment of the Sacred Relics, also known as the Privy Chambers, where relics belonging to the Prophet Muhammed and his companions are preserved. The earliest date we have for these chambers coincides with thereign of Mehmet the Conqueror when it was used as a throne room and relics are known to have been preserved here from an early date.

The collection of relics was considerably augmented during the reign of Selim I with those he brought with him to Istanbul after his Egyptian campaign. A basement below originally housed the attendants to the privy chambers, who were provided other accommodation during the reign of Murat IV in a barracks next to the chambers, built for them along the third side of the court, which now houses the calligraphy and manuscript section of the museum.

Modifications to this barrack hall in 1947 led to the removal of wooden partitions that had obscured the original form of the building. Returning to the privy chambers, the main portal leading into the chambers from the Enderun Court is known as the Fountain Door or Sadirvan Kapisi, as it leads to a porch-like room with a fountain or the Sadirvanli Sofa. From here one enters the petition chamber or Arzhane to the right, and beyond that the room holding the sacred relics or Hirka-i Saadet. Immediately opposite the fountain door to the sofa another door opens into the Deste-mal room (formerly known as the Throne Room). The Chamber of the Sacred Relics was restored by Mahmut II in 1822. Beyond the petition room, where visitors to the Hirka-i Saadet traditionally waited to be received into the presence of the relics, a two-roomed domed section backing onto the wall of the treasury barracks housed the rest of the palace collection of sacred relics. Known as the Silahdar Treasury or Privy Chamber Treasury (Has oda) , currently houses the palace collection of clocks.

Following the third wall of the privy court from the Barracks of the Guards of the Privy Chamber back towards the Gate of Felicity, just beyond the barracks we pass a small gate to the harem, the Kushane Gate, into the outer section of the harem allocated to the eunuchs, and leading directly to a small court between the eunuchs' section and the main door of the harem. Between the harem gate and the complex devoted to the sacred relics is the Mosque of the Chief Eunuchs or Agalar Cami, now the library containing the palace collection of manuscripts, which juts out into the court at a tangent from the periphery buildings. This portal bears an inscription dated 1723, but the building itself has been much restored, and another inscription refers to restoration work carried out in 1925. Behind the library (Agalar Cami) is a small building approached by a flight of steps, restored by the noted 20th century Turkish architect Vedat Tekin 1915, which looks over the tiny Kushane Court. In the center of the Privy Court stands an impressive pavilion known as the Library of Ahmet III. Raised over a basement, the actual building is faced with marble. The foundations of the library were laid on February 17th, 1719, on the site of an earlier pavilion and pool. On an axis with the Gate of Felicity and the Library of Ahmet III, another pavilion housing the Throne Room or Arz Odasi, stands between the two. Here the sultan received envoys and members of his Council.

Though it is one of the earliest structures in the palace, it has undergone considerable restoration and alteration over the course of time. The most important changes date to the reign of Abdulmecit, and post-date the great fire of 1856.

Over one portal we read the date 1723, and over another the date 1810 and the name of Mahmut II. The pavilion opens onto a broad portico and encloses a single chamber where the sultan presided over his court under a lacquered baldachin bearing an inscription citing the date 1596 and Mehmet III as patron. A fountain on the facade facing the fourth court dates from the period of Suleyman the Magnificent.

It is framed by a pair of steps. Over the portal on this facade we read the date 1807 and see also the monogram of Mustafa: A 16th century miniature and an oil painting of the 18th century both show that the Arzhane has retained its original form throughout the centuries.


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

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