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Topkapi Palace :: Treasury


The Privy Treasury or Hazine-i Hassa, which includes the wealth in coins and the treasures of the Ottoman sultans, is kept in a suite of three chambers dating from the period of Mehmet the Conqueror and a fourth chamber, originally the cool room of a bathhouse built by Selim II. The contents of the Treasury represent not only the vast wealth and status of the Ottoman Empire accumulated over 600 years, but also a collection of invaluable works of art. The treasury acquired these artifacts either as trophies or gifts, or by traditional reversion of the estates of deceased courtiers or statesmen to the crown. Some were crafted by court jewellers.

The most notable trophies are those brought to the palace by Selim I after his defeat of Shah Ismail and conquest of Egypt. Those on display include the goblet and amulet of Shah Ismail, Mameluke lanterns of the 14h century, the well- known Seljuk mirror, a casket bearing an inscription to Ulug Bey, as well as the sword of Osman. Also of interest are the Byzantine gold reliquary containing the skull of John the Baptist, and bones from his hand and arm.

A large part of the Treasury consists of the many gifts sent to the court, as was traditional, in honor of the accession of sultans, royal weddings and circumcisions, royal celebrations and as diplomatic gestures, the latter presented by visiting envoys. The throne sent to Mahmut I by Nadir Shah is the most notable of these. Others include a music box presented to Abdulaziz along with a pearl figurine. Large numbers of gifts were sent to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the reign of Abdulhamit II, including a, golden ewer and a bowl bearing the signature of Fauberge presented by the Russian Czar, Nicholas II; and the insignia, of the 19th century monarchs of Europe.

However, by far the most dazzling masterpieces in the Treasury are those made by the court jewellers, some for presentation to the sultan as gifts, others ordered by sultans themselves, including some diplomatic gifts intended for foreign sovereigns. The so-ca1led 'Topkapi Dagger' and encrusted quivers, made by order of Mahmut I to be sent to Nadir Shah in return for his gift of a throne, but returned to Topkapi as Nadir Shah died before they could be presented, are among these gifts, as are a number of ceremonial water flasks, aigrettes and pendants of notable interest.

The pendants in the Treasury Collection are numerous enough to form a group on their own account. They were suspended from the ceilings of the sultan's rooms or in the doorway to them.

Almost every sultan also had a pendant made for the governor of Medina, Fahrettin Pasha and placed in the treasury during World War I. Among these fine artifacts, three of special note are the prizmal-cut hexagonal emerald pendant of Ahmet I (No.7622), the emerald pendant of Mustafa III, the triple emerald and the pentagonal emerald pendants of Abdulhamit I, and the monogrammed pendant of Selim III.

An imperial symbol like pendants, aigrettes are also very much in evidence among the treasures of Topkapi Worn by sultans, crown princes and viziers, the finest aigrettes were encrusted with emeralds, rubies, diamonds and pearls mounted in gold and surmounted with the plumes of the heron or birds of paradise. Since many aigrettes were later preserved in the tombs and returned to Topkapi Palace when it opened as a museum. Some of the valuable horse aigrettes, which are encrusted and plumed, are also kept in the treasury.

Among the most important artifacts are the encrusted arms and armor of the sultans including bejeweled helmets, quivers and daggers. The most renowned of the daggers are the so-called 'Topkapi Dagger', the inscribed dagger of Selim the Grim with a Crystalline handle, the inscribed yataghan of Suleyman the Magnificent and the emerald-'handled dagger of Mehmet IV.

Royal thrones are an important part of the collection. These include the throne presented to the Ottoman court by Nadir Shah; the ceremonial throne dating to the 16th century; the mother-of-pearl inlaid throne of Ahmet I; and the so-called 'Throne of Murat IV'. The latter, inlaid with mother-of-pearl and ivory dates from the period of Suleyman I, but was thought to have been used by Murat IV during the Baghdad Campaign, hence the name. These four thrones are each displayed in a different room of the treasury.

By far the most notable jewel in the treasury collection is the 'Spoonmaker's Diamond,' a 17th century acquisition and the most valuable single gem in the imperial diamond collection, which also boasts the not inconsiderable gems entitled the 'pearl star' or Kevkeb-i Durri, the 'firefly' or sebciragi and the well- known diamond of Silahtar Mustafa Pasha, as well as many smaller stones on encrusted artifacts, broaches in particular.

Apart from innumerable small artifacts almost impossible to classify, the treasury also contains a collection of candlesticks worthy of mention, the most notable of which are the solid gold pair made for Abdulmecit, the largest in the collection, and those made for Cemile Sultan. Other notable artifacts include encrusted Koran covers and pouches, incensers and rose-water sprinklers and a curious group of zinc vessels, Persian- Turkish in style.

During the Ottoman period, the Treasury was stored in coffers. Successive sultans displayed their wealth, to which they would add wealth of their own, on ceremonial occasions. During the reign of Abdulmecit (1839-61) the treasury was opened, in part, to selected royal guests and was finally opened to the public after the contents were inventoried, whereas the palace opened as a museum during the Republic.


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

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