Saturday, October 7, 2017


Sultanahmet, Fatih - Istanbul - Turkey

GPS : 41°00'47.2"N 28°59'02.9"E / 41.013105, 28.984139

Third Courtyard



The Mosque of the Ağas (Ağalar Camii) is the largest mosque in the palace. It is also one of the oldest constructions, dating from the 15th century during the reign of Sultan Mehmed II. The Sultan, the ağas and pages would come here to pray. The mosque is aligned in a diagonal line in the courtyard to make the minbar face Mecca. In 1928 the books of the Enderûn Library, among other works, were moved here as the Palace Library (Sarayı Kütüphanesi), housing a collection of about 13,500 Turkish, Arabic, Persian and Greek books and manuscripts, collected by the Ottomans. Located next to the mosque to the northeast is the Imperial Portraits Collection.

The Sultan, the squires and pages would come here to pray. The mosque is aligned in a diagonal line in the courtyard to make the minber  face Mecca.  It is situated adjacent to the Privy Chamber on the Golden Horn side of the Enderûn Courtyard. Its large central section was covered with a large barrel vault in the 18th Century. There are two narrow lateral spaces on each of the two sides.

There is a separate mihrab (altar) in the section facing the Privy Chamber. The second lateral section facing the other side is reserved for the squires from the Dormitory of the Expeditionary Force and the Pantry and Treasury Wards to perform their prayers. Three windows in the rear of the large section open up to the Harem masjid where Sultans as well as the Sultanas (Mothers of the reigning Sultans) and the Sultans’ wives used to fulfill their religious prayers.

The walls of the Mosque of the Ağas are covered with 17th Century tiles. The most interesting examples are the stacks with the Arabic letter vav, bearing the signature of the Archer Mustafa. This is a space reserved for the prayers of high-level squires. The most significant restoration carried out in previous centuries, of this stone and brick masonry building was the renovation by Es-Seyyid Mehmed Ağa of the adjacent small mosque, according to a door inscription in the interior.

The tile epigraph on the inside of the door refers to the date of 1136 A.H. (1722 Gregorian) and to the name of “Es-Seyyid Mehmed Ağa”.  The building used as a warehouse from 1881 onwards was restored in 1916.  The newer inscription by Kâmil Akdik dated 1928 indicates that following a further restoration of the Mosque of the Ağas in 1925, the books from the Sultan Ahmet III (Enderûn) Library and other libraries in the Palace were all moved here so that all the libraries in the Palace were unified under the name of New Library or Palace Library.



The Topkapı Scroll
The Topkapı Scroll, the best preserved example of its kind, contains far-reaching implications for the theory and praxis of geometric design in Islamic architecture and ornament. Created by master builders in the late medieval Iranian world, the scroll compiles a rich repertory of geometric drawings for wall surfaces and vaults. This important document belongs to a once-widespread Islamic tradition of scrolls in which geometric patterns ranging from ground plans and vault projections to epigraphic panels and architectural ornament in diverse media appeared side by side.

The Koran Collection At The Topkapı Palace Library
When the Topkapı Palace, the home of the Ottoman sultans and the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire for four hundred years, was turned into a museum in 1924, the manuscripts, found in many pavilions and rooms, were gathered together to form the New Library. Today, the Islamic manuscripts preserved in this new library have been sorted out into categories of Arabic, Farsi and Turkish.

A complete catalogue was compiled and published by F.E. Karatay in 1960. The first of the Arabic catalogues contains Korans and works of Koranic commentary. These Korans and Commentaries, which have been gathered from the various pavilions, buildings and rooms of the Palace and are classified by the name of the location where they were found, number more than two thousand.

The collection of Korans, the richest to be found anywhere in the world, comprises texts of the Koran inscribed during the 7th - 19th centuries in Arabia, India, Maghrib (North Africa) and the lands dominated by the Seljuks and Ottomans. Almost all have been prepared by famous calligraphers, gilded by master gilders, and bound by the most capable bookbinders of the times. The 1600 or more Korans found in the first volume of the Arabic catalogue are preserved in the Palace Library as rare books.

Among these are seven believed to be inscribed by khaliph Osman (RA), nine accredited to khaliph Ali (RA), two ascribed to Hasan and Hussein (RA) as well as many translations. There are twenty-one Turkish translations, thirty-nine Farsi translations, twenty-one Chagatay translations and one Uygur translation.

The first Korans were written on parchment in the 7th - 8th centuries in a monumental type of script called kufic. This script, whose name is derived from Kufa, an early Islamic center, is a style of Arabic script closest to pictorial design. Kufic script, most characterised with its horizontal and vertical lines, showed regional peculiarities in the 9th century. The kufic script of Iran differed from the kufic of the regions of Baghdad and North Africa. The script used in Baghdad and North Africa was more dynamic and of slighter dimension.

The first Korans written in kufic script, besides the one believed to have been recited by khaliph Osman (RA) at the moment of his death, are the Korans written in vertical form. In addition to those written on parchment, there are those of the 9th -11th centuries inscribed on thick dark paper with sepia ink using delicate kufic lines. Also in the Palace collection are Korans prepared in North African cities such as Ceuta and Marrakech between the 12th and 16th centuries.

These are written on parchment on thick dark paper in Maghribi kufic with gilded frontispiece, illuminated surah headings, surah titles, marginal rosettes and sajdah marks. Kufic script was used in copying the text of the Koran until the middle of the tenth century. Examples of eastern Iranian kufic continued to be seen until the twelfth century. From the eleventh century onwards, a more rounded type of script was used in the writing of the Koranic text. The main type of script characterising this new tendency was naskhi, a style completely opposite in appearance to kufic.

This script began to be characterised in the first ten years of the tenth century when a calligrapher named Ibn al-Muqla used the length of the letter alif as a proportional guide At the beginning of the eleventh century another calligrapher named Ibn al-Bawwab created a freer naskhi.

After Ibn al-Bawwab, Yakut al-Mustasimi, a Turk from Amasya living in the Abbasid Baghdad of the thirteenth century, specified the rules for six different scripts in the art of calligraphy. The scribes trained by Yakut spread his style in Koranic script to all Islamic countries. The scripts he used in the main text were naskhi, muhaqqaq, rayhani. In the surah titles and other additions tawqi, riga, thuluth and kufic were used.

In the second half of the thirteenth century Korans written in rayhani script begin to appear. All these resemble naskhi of Yakut al-Mustasimi (d.1298) Although both small and large styles of rayhani were used in Iranian Korans until the late fourteenth century, this style was rare in the Mameluke Korans. Besides naskhi and rayhani scripts, the more majestic thuluth and muhaqqaq scripts were the styles to gain more popularity and appear more frequently in the Korans that have come down to us from the twelfth century.

Examples where muhaqqaq script is used in combination with rayhani appear in Iran at the end of that century. Although the technique was used in both Iran and Turkey, it was not preferred by the Arabic speaking countries.

At the beginning of the fourteenth century the only script to be used in copying the Koranic text in the Islamic world was muhaqqaq. In the Egypt of the Mamelukes, however, this type of script made its appearance only in the second half of the same century. Gilders were as important as calligraphers in Koranic manuscripts. Throughout the 19th - 14th centuries the gilders decorating the Korans of the Abbasid, Fatimi, Eyyubi, Muvahhid, Mameluke, Seljuk and llhanic periods created colourful gilt arrangements using a variety of motifs.

The large Korans of the Mameluke and Ilhanic periods, with their impressive gilt compositions, made the Koran the most magnificent work of art in the Islamic world. The tradition of gilt designs in Koranic inscription appears to have been established in the eleventh century. The most common tradition of gilt design in the Korans of the 11th -14th centuries was the complete decoration of a designated square or rectangular area on the first page of the text. The gilding of the border around the text of the first two surahs (Al-Fatiha and Al-Bakara) appeared in the fourteenth century.

The Koran of the eleventh century written by Abul Kasım Ali b.Abdullah al-Baghdadi, vizier to the Seljuk sultan Tuğrul Bey, and preserved in the Palace Library today, is an important example of the period's Koranic gilding with its frontispiece, illuminated surah heading, surah titles and marks in the gilt style of the Seljuks. The works of the 13th century master of the naskhi style, Yakut al-Mustasimi, are just as valuable.

It has been discovered that the Korans and Koranic sections written by Yakut al-Mustasimi and the 14th century naskhi masters Abdullah Sayrafi and Argun Kamili were restored and carefully gilded in the time of the Ottoman Sultan Süleyman in the 16th century. The "Al-An'am" surah in thuluth and rayhani script of Argun Kamili of Baghdad, the gilt Koran in rayhani script of Muhammed b.Sayfeddin al-Nakkash are distinguishable for their rich and colourful design.

The 15th section of the Koran written on thick paper in gold muhaqqaq script in Mosul during the era of the Ilhanic ruler Sultan Olcaytu is another important development in Korinic calligraphy. In the fourteenth century the Ilhanic and Mameluke ateliers were the most productive in the Islamic world. The most distinctive examples of Mameluke Korans were prepared in 1256-1399. While bight colored gilt Ilhanic Korans were being produced at the beginning of the fourteenth century, the transition to colourful design in the Egypt of the Mamelukes and in Syria came later towards the middle of the same century.

The Mameluke Korans preserved in the Palace Library are part of this development. In the same way, the Timuri Koran written at the end of the 15th century by Muhammed b. Sultanshah al-Haravi of Heart and the Turkmen Koran written in the fifteenth century at Tabriz are significant for an understanding of how Koranic design developed a rich and colourful set of motifs.

Some valuable Korans in the Palace Library were inscribed under the Safevids in Iran in the 16th century. They are important for their design and gilding as an example of the development of the Safevid Koranic style and the elaborateness of motif. Particularly Koran numbered H.S.25, with its pages of dynamic taliq script, is a magnificent work of the famous calligrapher Shah Mahmud Nishapuri.

Undoubtedly the best examples reflecting the development of gilding and calligraphy in the Ottoman Korans are preserved in the Palace Library. The fundamentals of Ottoman Koranic script were set down in the Korans produced in naskhi by the famous calligrapher Sheikh Hamdullah at the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th century. Koranic gilding developed in those years as well. The Sheikh Korans in the Palace Library are all matchless examples of the gilding style of the period.

The Koran written in naskhi script by Abdullah b. Ilias and gilded by Bayram b. Dervish, the Koran written in a combination of naskhi-thuluth script by Ahmet Karahisari and gilded in the style of the gilder Karamemi are both important works reflecting the stages of Ottoman Koranic writing in the sixteenth century. The large Koran attributed to Ahmed Karahisari is a magnificent manuscript incorporating rich motifs of gilt. This work, a major masterpiece of Ottoman book design, is one of the most valuable manuscripts in the Palace Library.

Some selected Korans produced by the well-known Ottoman calligraphers of later centuries are precious additions to the Library's unique collection. The calligraphers and artists of the nine-tenth and early twentieth centuries experimented with different script styles such as thluth and taliq and preferred to produce decorative wall inscriptions. The Ottoman art of hand-copying Koranic text eventually adopted a rococo style and then exhibited neoclassic gilding patterns. The Library Collections is abundant with examples of these as well.

This magnificent assembly of work was accumulated through the individual collections of the Ottoman Sultans for hundreds of years. The multitude of samples of kufic and maghribi kufic script, the works of the well-known Islamic calligraphers Yakut, Abdullah Sayrafi and Argun Kamili, the exquisite Safevid Korans together form a precious legacy.


WEB SITE : Topkapı Palace Museum Directorate

E-Mail :
Phone : +90 212 512 0480
Fax : +90 212 526 9840

These scripts and photographs are registered under © Copyright 2017, respected writers and photographers from the internet. All Rights Reserved.


Sultanahmet, Fatih - Istanbul - Turkey

GPS : 41°00'46.2"N 28°59'05.7"E / 41.012837, 28.984902

Third Courtyard


GPS : 41°00'46.7"N 28°59'03.8"E / 41.012967, 28.984399


A foundation library bestowed to the benefit of the Enderûn Palace School students was built by Sultan Ahmet III (1703-1730), replacing the former Pool Pavilion. The Arabic poem in six verses inscribed on the main gate of this building, which is the first library established on the Palace premises, situated in the centre of the Enderûn Courtyard. It is explained in the epigraph that Sultan Ahmet III had this dwelling, destined to collect books, built at his own expense as a good deed to serve the lofty ideal of encouraging the learning of science.

The Neo-classical Enderûn Library (Enderûn Kütüphanesi), also known as Library of Sultan Ahmed III (Sultan Ahmed III Kütüphanesi), is situated directly behind the Audience Chamber (Arz Odası) in the centre of the Third Court. It was built on the foundations of the earlier Havuzlu kiosk by the royal architect Mimar Beşir Ağa in 1719 on orders of Sultan Ahmed III for the use of the officials of the royal household. The colonnade of this earlier kiosk now probably stands in front of the present Treasury.

The library is a beautiful example of Ottoman architecture of the 18th century. The exterior of the building is faced with marble. The library has the form of a Greek cross with a domed central hall and three rectangular bays. The fourth arm of the cross consists of the porch that can be approached by a flight of stairs on either side. Beneath the central arch of the portico is an elaborate drinking fountain with niches on each side.

The construction has been extended through iwans on its three sides. The exterior façade is marble coated. It is surrounded by two fountains, one on the building side, and the other on the courtyard side. Sultan Ahmet III Library Fountain is in front of the Sultan Ahmet III Library the third courtyard of Topkapı Palace. It was built by Sultan Ahmet III in 1719.

The domes and vaults are ornamented with vegetal motifs manufactured through the malakâri - decorative plasterwork - technique characteristic of the Tulip Era. Window and door wings are ivory inlaid with classic geometrical patterns. Window and door frames are covered with 17th Century concatenated tiles; ceilings are stone inlaid with geometric figures, such as the Baghdad and Revan Pavilions. Silver wire caged built-in book cabinets are located between the windows.

The building is set on a low basement to protect the precious books of the library against moisture. The walls above the windows are decorated with 16th - 17th century İznik tiles of variegated design. The central dome and the vaults of the rectangular bays have been painted. The decoration inside the dome and vaults are typical of the so-called Tulip Era. The books were stored in cupboards in the walls. The niche opposite the entrance was the private reading corner of the sultan.

The library contained books on theology, Islamic law and similar works of scholarship in Ottoman Turkish, Arabic and Persian. In those days the library contained more than 3,500 manuscripts. Some are fine examples of inlay work with nacre and ivory. Today these books are kept in the Mosque of the Ağas (Ağalar Camii), which is located next to the library in the western direction. One of the important items is the so-called Topkapı manuscript, a copy of the Holy Koran from the time of the third Caliph Uthman Ibn Affan.

The library’s book collection consisting of books originating from the private treasure of Sultan Ahmet III, and the books endowed by Sultan Abdülhamit I and Sultan Selim III was conserved here, date after which it was integrated into the collection of the Palace Library.

In 1928 the books of the Enderûn Library amongst other works were moved here as the Palace Library (Sarayı Kütüphanesi), housing a collection of about 13,500 Turkish, Arabic, Persian and Greek books and manuscripts, collected by the Ottomans. Located next to the mosque to the northeast is the Imperial Portraits Collection.


Enderûn (meaning "inner most") was the “selâmlık” portion reserved for men, of the private compartment of the palace. It was also called the “Harem-i Hümâyûn” together with the Harem where the Sultan lived with his family. Beyond the Gate of Felicity is the Third Courtyard (III. Avlu), also called the Inner Palace (Enderûn Avlusu), which is the heart of the palace, where the sultan spent his days outside the harem.

The Enderûn Courtyard which took form during the reign of Fatih Sultan Mehmet - the Conqueror - (1451-1481), consists of the patio where the Sultan’s pavilions are located, the marble terrace called Sofa-i Hümayun (Imperial Hall) harbouring the Sultan’s mansions and the flower garden. That courtyard contains as well the dwellings of the Enderûn School, destined to the education of the youngsters recruited via Devşirme - a system of recruitment of youngsters of foreign background for serving the Ottoman Empire.

It is 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 most important treasures of the Ottoman age, including the Ottoman miniatures, the Sacred Trusts), the Harem and some pavilions, with the library of Sultan Ahmed III in the center. Entry to the Third Courtyard was strictly regulated and off-limits to outsiders.

The third Courtyard (Enderun) formed by the dormitories and the structures belongs to the Sultan. Hall of Audience where Sultan accepts viziers and ambassadors, Enderun Library which was constructed by the Sultan Ahmed III, Treasury of Enderun also known as Conqueror’s Pavilion, Privy Room (Chamber of Sultan) and the Aghas’ Mosque which was constructed for the Enderun aghas at the reign of Fatih are the important structures of this courtyard. Courtyard is surrounded by the Big and Small Room Wards, Expeditionary Force Ward, Pantries’ Ward, Treasure Ward and the Privy Room Ward which added to the Privy Room at the 19th century.

The Third Courtyard is surrounded by the quarters of the Ağas (pages), boys in the service of the sultan. They were taught the arts, such as music, painting and calligraphy. The best could become Has Odalı Ağa (Keepers of the Holy Relics of Muhammad and personal servants of the Sultan), or even become officers or high-ranking officials.

Enderûn was the term used in the Ottoman Empire to designate the "Interior Service" of the Imperial Court, concerned with the private service of the Ottoman Sultans, as opposed to the state-administrative "Exterior Service" (Birûn). Its name derives from the location of the Sultan's apartments in the inner courts of the Topkapı Palace; its head was the Kapı Ağası.

The Inner Service was divided into four departments. In descending order of importance, these were the Privy Chamber (Hass Oda), the Treasury (Hazine), the Privy Larder (Has Kiler), and the Great and Little Chambers. Among the responsibilities of the Inner Service was also the running of the palace school, where selected young Christian boys, gathered through the devşirme system (from the 17th century, however, Muslim boys were also admitted) were trained for the highest state offices. These boys served then as pages in the Inner Service, and were known as içoğlanı ("lads of the interior").

The Inner Service was also notable for its employment of deaf-mutes (dilsiz), at least from the time of Sulta Mehmed II, to the end of the empire. They acted as guards and attendants, and due to their particular nature were often entrusted with highly confidential assignments, including executions. Their number varied but they were never numerous; they had their own uniforms, their own heads (başdilsiz), and although many were literate, they also communicated in their own special sign language.

The Enderûn Institution, inspired from the state organization schemes of the Great Seljuk Empire and Seljuk Sultanate of Rum, functioned for centuries as the principal Ottoman establishment devoted to the education and training of the future members of the high-level state and military bureaucracy, where also the artistic skills of students in various fields were developed.

In the framework of the above-mentioned Devşirme system which existed from the first half of the 15th Century up until the end of the 17th Century, the Ottoman Sultans created a class of civil servants loyal to them, educated within the principles of the Islamic religion and Turkish culture. A group of the thus recruited pages were educated at the Palace as such and others were trained in the army.

They were eventually assigned to high ranking positions in the state apparatus following their schooling. From the 18th Century onwards, these high posts were occupied by native Turks.

During the initial phase, the youngsters were confided as pupils to a Turkish family where they learned Turkish and were brought up within the traditions and customs of Turkish society. Following that phase, they were sent to preparatory schools. The most gifted among them were then admitted into the classes of the Enderûn School.

There, the interns were studying in successive wards beginning from the Big Room and Small Room, continuing respectively through the Dormitory of the Expeditionary Force (Seferli Koğuşu), the Pantry, Treasury and Privy Chamber wards. The students who were fulfilling symbolic tasks relevant to the function of each particular ward, had then the possibility to climb the ladder of public offices all the way up to the post of Grand Vizier (Greatest Minister holder of the Sultan’s imperial seal).

The Enderûn Courtyard is so structured as to highlight the Sultan’s buildings, like in other venues of the Palace. Dwellings used by the Sultan such as the Conqueror’s Pavilion, also called the Conqueror's Kiosk (Fatih Köşkü), the Privy Chamber, and the Pool Pavilion were situated in the centre and inner corners of the courtyard whereas the wards used by the students of the Enderûn School were located at its outer edges.

These wards opening up to the courtyard through their porches had an interior layout consisting of a small hall surrounded by the dormitories, the glass room and the baths. The Enderûn wards were lined up in a hierarchical order arranged according to the level of training classes. The Big and Small Room wards located on each side of the Gate of Felicity (Bâb-üs Saade) and the Ward of the Expeditionary Force (Seferli Koğuşu) established in the 17th Century after demolishing the Sultan Selim II Bath would constitute the lower rungs of the School of Enderûn.

While others are the Pantry, the Treasury and the Privy Chamber wards. The Privy Chamber Ward is known to be intertwined with the actual Privy Chamber. Also in this direction, there is the Mosque of the Ağas (Ağalar Camii). In the middle of the Enderûn courtyard was the Pool Pavilion which was demolished in the 18th Century and replaced by the Enderûn Library (Sultan Ahmet III Library).

The establishment of a new army in 1826 after the abolition of the Janissary Corps was also the occasion for the creation of a new education system. After this date, the Enderûn School and Institution began to lose of its importance.


The Enderun School was a palace school and boarding school mostly for the Christian millet of the Ottoman Empire, which primarily recruited students via devşirme, a system of the Islamization of Christian children for serving the Ottoman government in bureaucratic, managerial, and Janissary military positions. The Enderun School was fairly successful in creating the multicultural bureaucracy, which was reflected in the multicultural nature of Ottoman statesmen over the centuries.

The Enderun School functioned for academic and military purposes as well. Ideally the graduates were permanently devoted to government service and had no interest in forming relations with lower social groups. It was run by the "Inner Service" (Enderûn) of the Ottoman palace. The Enderun School's gifted education program has been called the world's first institutionalized education for the gifted.

The growth of Ottoman Empire is attributed and was dependent on the selection and education of statesmen. A vital component of Sultan Mehmet II's goal to revive the Roman Empire was to establish a special school to select the best youngsters within the Empire and to mold them for government. Sultan Mehmet II improved the existing palace school founded by his father, Sultan Murat II and established the Enderun Academy (Enderun) in Istanbul.

The third courtyard of the Topkapı Palace was surrounded by the Imperial Treasury, the Pavilion of the Holy Mantle, and the buildings of the Palace School, which educated the top tier of students from Enderun as well as princes of the House of Sultan Osman. There were seven halls or grades within the Palace School, and within each hall there were 12 teachers responsible for the students' mental and academic development. Students wore special uniforms designated by their achievement level and additional buildings included the library, mosque, music conservatories, dormitories, and baths.

The Enderun system consisted of three preparatory schools located outside of the palace in addition to the one within the palace walls itself. There were 1,000-2,000 students in three Enderun Colleges, and about 300 students in the top school in the Palace. The curriculum was divided into five main divisions :

Islamic sciences; including Arabic, Turkish and Persian language education
Positive sciences; mathematics, geography
History, law, and administration: the customs of the Palace and government issues
Vocational studies, including art and music education
Physical training, including weaponry

At the end of the Enderun school system, the graduates would be able to speak, read, and write at least three languages, able to understand the latest developments in science, have at least a craft or art, and excel in army command as well as in close combat skills.

The graduation ceremony for students leaving the Enderun School was known as çıkma. The graduates themselves were referred as çıkma. The name çıkma literary means "leaving" or "pulling out". The pages were leaving Palace School and palace service to continue their training in the functional service. This "transferral" occurred every two to seven years, or after the accession of new sultan to the throne.

The successful graduates were assigned according to their abilities into two mainstream positions: governmental or science, and those who failed to advance were assigned to military. One of the most distinctive properties of the school was its merit system consisting of carefully graded rewards and corresponding punishments.


GPS : 41°00'47.8"N 28°59'06.7"E / 41.013278, 28.985194

Under the responsibility of the head of kitchen called Kilercibaşı (Chief Cook), Kilerli Koğuşu used to concern on cooking the sultans meals, preparing the sultans table and taking dinner service . After 1856 Enderûn fire in 1856, it was reconstructed as Hazine Kethüdalığı. Since 1960 it has been using as Topkapı Sarayı Müzesi Müdüriyeti.


WEB SITE : Topkapı Palace Museum Directorate

E-Mail :
Phone : +90 212 512 0480
Fax : +90 212 526 9840

These scripts and photographs are registered under © Copyright 2017, respected writers and photographers from the internet. All Rights Reserved.


Sultanahmet, Fatih - Istanbul - Turkey

GPS : 41°00'45.2"N 28°59'03.3"E / 41.012546, 28.984238

Third Courtyard


The Gate of Felicity (Bâbüssaâde or Bab-üs Saadet) is the entrance into the Inner Court (Enderûn), also known as the Third Courtyard, marking the border to the Outer Court or Birun. The Third Courtyard comprises the private and residential areas of the palace. The gate has a dome supported by lean marble pillars. It represents the presence of the Sultan in the palace. No one could pass this gate without the authority of the Sultan. Even the Grand Vizier was only granted authorisation on specified days and under specified conditions.

The gate was probably constructed under Sultan Mehmed II in the 15th century. It was redecorated in the rococo style in 1774 under Sultan Mustafa III and during the reign of Sultan Mahmud II. The gate is further decorated with Qur'anic verses above the entrance and tuğras. The ceiling is partly painted and gold-leafed, with a golden ball hanging from the middle. The sides with baroque decorative elements and miniature paintings of landscapes.

The Sultan used this gate and the Divan Meydanı square only for special ceremonies. The Sultan sat before the gate on his Bayram throne on religious, festive days and accession, when the subjects and officials perform their homage standing. The funerals of the Sultan were also conducted in front of the gate. On either side of this colonnaded passage, under control of the Chief Eunuch of the Sultan’s Harem (called the Bâbüssaâde Ağası) and the staff under him, were the quarters of the eunuchs as well as the small and large rooms of the palace school.

The small, indented stone on the ground in front of the gate marks the place where the banner of Muhammad was unfurled. The Grand Vizier or the commander going to war was entrusted with this banner in a solemn ceremony.

Bâbüssaâde ağası

The Kapı Agha (Turkish: Kapı ağası, "Agha of the Gate"), formally called the Agha of the Gate of Felicity (Bâbüssaâde ağası), was the head of the eunuch servants of the Ottoman Seraglio until the late 16th century, when this post was taken over by the Kızlar Agha. In juxtaposition with the latter office, also known as the Chief Black Eunuch as its holders were drawn from Black African slaves, the Kapı Agha is also known as the Chief White Eunuch.

As his title implies, the Kapı Agha was in charge of the Gate of Felicity that separated the Outer Court (Birûn), where state affairs were conducted, from the Inner Court (Enderûn) and the Sultan's private apartments in the Topkapi Palace. The Agha occupied an office to the right of the gate and was responsible for controlling entrance to the Inner Court and for transmitting the Sultan's orders to his officials, rendering him, in the words of the Ottomanist Halil İnalcık "the sole mediator between the Sultan and the world outside the Palace".

Among the duties of the Kapı Agha and his white eunuchs was also the running of the Palace School for the pages of the palace, whose graduates then went on to provide the administrative elite of the Empire. The "Mosque of the Aghas" (Ağalar Camii) in the Topkapi Palace was built for use by the Kapı Agha and his eunuchs. The Kapı Agha consequently was an influential post, a close adviser to the Sultan and able to play a decisive role in the imperial succession. Its holders bore the rank of vizier and came in precedence only after the Grand Vizier and the Shaykh al-Islam.

At his heyday in the 15th and 16th centuries, the Kapı Agha rivalled the Grand Vizier for importance. Nevertheless, and in contrast to his analogues in other Islamic states, usually denoted by variants of the title hajib, the holders of the office never expanded their power to the extent that they could rival the Sultan's own.

Unlike their counterparts, the Kapı Ağası controlled neither the administrative apparatus, which remained firmly in the hands of the Grand Vizier, nor the palace troops, which were commanded by another official, the Agha of the Janissaries, who notably also received about five times the Kapı Ağası's daily salary of 100 akçes. Nevertheless, many Kapı Ağası went on to assume major provincial governorships (often distinguished by the epithet hadım, "eunuch", in their subsequent careers), and several are considered as among the greatest Ottoman statesmen of the period.

The post reached its height in the reign of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent (1520–1566), when its holders became the steward of the charitable foundations and endowments (vakifs) designated for the upkeep of the two holy cities (Haramayn) of Islam, Mecca and Medina, and of over seventy large mosques. During this time, the holders of the office engaged in open rivalry with the Grand Viziers for control over state affairs.

Soon after, however, through the influence of the women of the Imperial Harem, the Kapı Ağası was eclipsed by the Kizlar Agha, who supervised the Harem. The Kizlar Agha became independent of the Kapı Ağası in 1587, assumed the control of the Haramayn and quickly rose to become the senior palace official. The final blow to the authority of the office came in 1704, when its remaining powers were transferred to the Silahdar Agha. The position of the Kapi Agha survived, but thereafter was devoid of any significance.



Beyond the Gate of Felicity is the Third Courtyard (III. Avlu), also called the Inner Palace (Enderun Avlusu), which is the heart of the palace, where the sultan spent his days outside the harem. It is 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 most important treasures of the Ottoman age, including the Ottoman miniatures, the Sacred Trusts), the Harem and some pavilions, with the library of Sultan Ahmed III in the center. Entry to the Third Courtyard was strictly regulated and off-limits to outsiders.

The Third Courtyard is surrounded by the quarters of the Ağas (pages), boys in the service of the sultan. They were taught the arts, such as music, painting and calligraphy. The best could become Has Odalı Ağa (Keepers of the Holy Relics of Muhammad and personal servants of the Sultan), or even become officers or high-ranking officials.

The layout of the Third Courtyard was established by Sultan Mehmed II. Its size is roughly comparable to the Second Courtyard. The rigid layout did not allow for any great changes. While Sultan Mehmed II would not sleep in the harem, successive sultans after him became more secluded and moved to the more intimate Fourth Courtyard and the harem section. The Hünername miniature from 1584 shows the Third Courtyard and the surrounding outer gardens as it must have appeared following its completion under Sultan Mehmed II. It also shows at the bottom the sultan in what looks like a shore pavilion either holding audience or being entertained by courtiers.


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