Topkapı Palace

Topkapı Palace (Topkapı Sarayı in Turkish, literally the "Cannongate Palace" - named after a nearby gate), located in Istanbul (Constantinople), was the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire from 1465 to 1853. The construction of the Topkapı Palace was ordered by Sultan Mehmet II in 1459. It was completed in 1465.

The palace is located on the Seraglio Point between the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara in Istanbul, having a splendid view of the Bosphorus. (41.00'43.09" N, 28.59'00.55"E) It consists of many smaller buildings built together and surrounded by four courts. The First Court (or Alay Meydanı) spans over the entire Seraglio Point and is surrounded by high walls.

The main gate is called Bab-ı Hümayun, simply the Imperial Gate. Apart from the Topkapı Palace, the First Court also contains the old imperial mint (constructed in 1727), the church of Hagia Eirene, the Archeology Museum (constructed during the 19th century) and various fountains (including the Fountain of the Executioner), pavilions (for example the Çinili Pavilion) and gardens (including the Gülhane Park, the old imperial rose garden). The huge Gate of Greeting (Babüsselam) leads into the palace and the Second Court (Divan Meydanı). This court is a park surrounded by the palace hospital, bakery, Janissary quarters, stables, the imperial Harem and Divan to the north and the kitchens to the south.

Through the Gate of Felicity (Babüssaade) is the Third Court which is the heart of the palace, a lush garden surrounded by the Hall of the Privy Chamber (Has Oda) occupied by the palace officials, the treasury (which contains some of the wonderful treasures of the Ottoman age, which include the Sacred Trusts), the Harem and some pavilions, with the library of Ahmet III in the center. The Fourth Court was more of a private garden of the Sultan and consists of a number of pavilions, kiosks (köşk), gardens and terraces. Other places in the Topkapı Palace are the Tower of Justice, the Pavilion of the Holy Mantle containing relics of the Prophet Muhammad and the first caliphs, the Throne Room (Arz Odası) in the Harem where the Sultan received his guests and envoys, and the Baghdad Pavilion in the Fourth Court, built by Murat IV.

The palace also owns large collections of porcelain, robes, weapons, shields, armors, Ottoman miniatures, calligraphic manuscripts and mural decorations, as well a display of accumulated Ottoman treasures and jewelry. In 1853, Sultan Abdulmecit decided to move his residence to the newly built and modern Dolmabahçe Palace. Today the Topkapı Palace serves as a museum for the imperial era, and is one of Istanbul's greatest tourist attractions. Compared to its other contemporary royal residences like Schönbrunn Palace or the ultimately extravagant Versailles, Topkapı Palace distinguishes itself with its human proportions, sensible interiors and prudent layout, despite having once housed the rulers of one of mightiest empires of the world.