Two restored mansions of Ottoman royalty await visitors

Posted on 14 February 2011

Date: 13/02/2009
Two restored mansions of Ottoman royalty await visitors

New sightseeing spots were added to Istanbul’s cultural attractions this week as two mansions that belonged to Ottoman royalty, the Hünkar Kasri of Yeni Cami and the Bagdat Köskü of Topkapi Palace, were opened to visitors following major restoration.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan inaugurated the two historic buildings on Tuesday in Istanbul as the city gears up for its role as European Capital of Culture in 2010.

Built in 1663 upon the order of Hatice Turhan Valide Sultan, Hünkar Kasri was used by Ottoman sultans both as a prayer hall and as a resting area. The three-storey mansion is connected via corridor to a separate section in Yeni Cami (New Mosque) where the sultans used to pray. In addition to the building’s main body, the mansion also boasts two additional spaces beneath ground, both built under the road known as the Tahtirevan (palanquin) road, on which the mansion is located. The main structure has walls decorated with Iznik tiles, lacquered wood, intricate engravings, beautiful glass windows, doors inlaid with mother of pearl and gold leaf. Hünkar Kasri is one of the most magnificent structures of its era in Istanbul.

The mansion was neglected following the founding of the republic. Although it was renovated several times, many of its valuable tiles were stolen and sold in auctions abroad. Although some pieces have been brought back to Turkey, many remain missing. The glow of the palace diminished until the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce (ITO) began restoration in 2004. The 350-year-old entrance underwent an overhaul which some called a “renovation of compassion,” the mother of pearl inlay was repaired and the lacquered wood and engravings cleaned.

Now that the TL 8.5 million restoration is complete, Hünkar Kasri is counting down the days to when it will start serving as a museum.

The Bagdat Mansion is a waterside royal residence located on the grounds of Topkapi Palace. It was built in 1639 upon the order of Sultan Murat IV in honor of his conquest of Baghdad. The Provincial Special Administration of Istanbul began restoring the mansion in 2006. The total cost of the restoration came out to around TL 1.4 million. Having witnessed several significant events throughout its history, the mansion was used as a resting room by Ottoman sultans starting from the 17th century and also served as a library for sultans Abdülhamit I and Selim II. The mansion’s two gardens have a beautiful view of the Golden Horn, the Galata Bridge and Beyoglu. The walls of the mansion, a masterpiece of Turkish architecture, are adorned with patterns of pomegranate flowers on a white background and Iznik tiles decorated with artichoke blossom patterns. The wooden doors inlaid with ivory and mother of pearl and its lead-coated dome recall images from fairytales.

A visit to these magnificent historical buildings is perfect for anyone who would like to embrace Istanbul’s beauty once more and take a break from the daily grind of everyday life.

13 February 2009 Today’s Zaman

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