Monday, August 16, 2010

FID: Topkapi Palace - Istanbul, Turkey

Another history lesson that I feel will, again, add to your enjoyment of “Flight into Darkness” (FID). The villain (Samael Janus), eludes to the Topkapi Palace on several occasions. I felt an overview would be helpful.

Points to remember: The Topkapi Palace was ordered built by Sultan Mehmet II after he conquered Byzantine Constantinople on May 29th in 1453. In a later post, I will give a brief review of Mehmet. He was a very significant figure in the history of Istanbul and is mentioned in FID for an important reason.

Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, Turkey - view from the Bosporus

The Topkapı Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, was the official and primary residence in the city of the Ottoman Sultans for 400 years of their 624-year reign, from 1465 to 1856.

The palace was a setting for state occasions and royal entertainments and is a major tourist attraction today, containing the most holy relics of the Muslim world such as the Prophet Muhammed's cloak and sword.

Initial construction began in 1459, ordered by Sultan Mehmet II, the conqueror of Byzantine Constantinople. The palace is a complex made up of four main courtyards and many smaller buildings. At the height of its existence as a royal residence, the palace was home to as many as 4,000 people, formerly covering a larger area with a long shoreline. The complex has been expanded over the centuries, with many renovations such as after the 1509 earthquake and 1665 fire. It held mosques, a hospital, bakeries, and a mint. The name directly translates as "Cannon gate Palace", from the palace being named after a nearby, now destroyed, gate.

Scale model of Seraglio Point (meaning: Palace Point) with the Topkapi Palace complex

Sultan Mehmet II established the basic layout of the palace. He used the highest point of the promontory for his private quarters and innermost buildings. Various buildings and pavilions surrounded the innermost core and grew down the promontory towards the shores of the Bosphorus. The whole complex was surrounded by high walls, some of which date back to the Byzantine acropolis.

Sultan Mehmet II "The Conquer"

Topkapı Palace gradually lost its importance at the end of the 17th century, as the Sultans preferred to spend more time in their new palaces along the Bosporus. In 1856, Sultan Abdül Mecid I decided to move the court to the newly built Dolmabahçe Palace, the first European-style palace in the city. Some functions, such as the imperial treasury, the library, mosque and mint, were retained though.

After the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1921, Topkapı Palace was transformed by government decree on April 3, 1924 into a museum of the imperial era. The Topkapı Palace Museum is under the administration of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The palace complex has hundreds of rooms and chambers, but only the most important are accessible to the public today. The complex is guarded by officials of the ministry as well as armed guards of the Turkish military. The palace is full of examples of Ottoman architecture and also contains large collections of porcelain, robes, weapons, shields, armor, Ottoman miniatures, Islamic calligraphic manuscripts and murals, as well as a display of Ottoman treasure and jewelry.

The Imperial Treasury is a vast collection of works of art, jewelry, heirlooms of sentimental value and money belonging to the Ottoman dynasty. Since the palace became a museum, the same rooms have been used to exhibit these treasures. Most of the objects in the Imperial Treasury consisted of gifts, spoils of war, or pieces produced by palace craftsmen. The Chief Treasurer (Hazinedarbaşı) was responsible for the Imperial Treasury. Upon their accession to the throne, it was customary for the sultans to pay a ceremonial visit to the Treasury.

Topkapi Dagger

The second room in the Imperial Treasury houses the Topkapı Dagger. The golden hilt is ornamented with three large emeralds, topped by a golden watch with an emerald lid. The golden sheath is covered with diamonds and enamel. In 1747, the Sultan Mahmud I had this dagger made for Nadir Shah of Persia, but the Shah was assassinated in connection with a revolt before the emissary had left the Ottoman Empire's boundaries and so the Sultan retained it. This dagger gained more fame as the object of the heist depicted of the film Topkapi (see below).

Spoonmaker's Diamond
The most eye-catching jewel in the third room is the Spoonmaker's Diamond, set in silver and surrounded in two ranks with 49 cut diamonds. Legend has it that this diamond was bought by a vizier in a bazaar, the owner thinking it was a worthless piece of crystal. Another, perhaps more likely history for the gem places it among the possessions of Tepedeleni Ali Pasha, confiscated by the Sultan after his execution.

Topkapi Palace

The Light of Day - Novel
Topkapi - Movie
Movie: "Topkapi" - 1964;
based on the British novelist Eric Ambler's "The Light of Day" - 1962 (best seller).

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