"Third Courtyard" Topkapi Palace Tip by nicolaitan
Topkapi Palace, Istanbul: 277 reviews and 656 photos
The Third Courtyard was the center of the Ottoman Empire and its rulers, with entrance limited to the sultan and his family, harem members, eunuchs and other workers, and the occasional visit of the grand vizer and foreign ambassadors. The original plan was by Mehmed II the Conquerer dating to the 15th C. This beautiful space approximately 100 x 100 yards is completely surrounded by important buildings and today is by far the most crowded section of the palace. The Harem lines the north side and there are several other buildings of note but most attention is directed to the Treasury.
Most striking is the classic library of Ahmed III, a free standing building dating from the early 18th C in the Third Courtyard with an exquisite fountain on the eastern exterior wall. Ottoman emperors valued books and manuscripts more highly than jewels and collected what is still the most important collection of books on Ottoman and Islamic arts, sciences, and religion in the world. Books were the most valued division of the treasury and each new sultan began his rule with an accounting of the included items, always beginning with the library. The tradition began with Mehmet the Conqueror and each following sultan added to the library. His successor Beyazit II was instrumental in developing Ottoman calligraphy and many of the books were copies. Sultan Selim I ( 1512-20 ) added to the library by adding the spoils of war with Egypt and Persia. Suleyman I ( 1520-66 ) was a poet and artist and chronicled the lives of prior sultans in books of artistic merit. Other sultans added more material over the years. It would fall to Ahmet III ( 1703-30 ) to build the library that bears his name and unify this amazing collection in one space. Entrance to the library is limited to scholars. The interior is said to be covered with Iznik tiles from the period of tulipmania. Other buildings in this courtyard include the schools and dormitories of the pages, the eunuchs, and a mosque.
The Treasury is the most visited attraction in the Third Courtyard, housed in the Conqueror's Pavilion built around 1460, one of the oldest remaining palace buildings. Even the arcade dates back to that period. Since construction, it has housed the art and jewel masterpieces of the sultans. Built on top of a cliff overlooking the sea, the upper levels were at one time probably dwellings with fabulous views of the Bosporus and Sea of Marmara. The lower level was comprised of four large halls with high ceilings, today the home of the Treasury.
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