PALACES, MOSQUES AND BAZAARS OF ISTANBUL
area of Beylerbeyi on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus has been
settled since Byzatine times. According to the famous 18th century
traveller Inciciyan, Constantine the Great erected a cross here,
after which the area was known as the Istavroz Gardens. Under the
Ottomans tihis area was an imperial park or hasbahçe. Inciciyan
relates that the name Beylerbeyi was given to this area in the 16th
century because Mehmet Paşa who held the title of beylerbeyi (governor
general) built a country house on the site.
The sultans built several country houses and
pavilions on the imperial estate here, and in 1829 Sultan Mahmud
II built a wooden waterfront palace.
Sultan Abdülaziz demolished this wooden palace
to build the present Beylerbeyi Palace in 1861-1865. Designed by
the well known Ottoman architect Sarkis Balyan, the palace was generally
reserved for summer use by the sultans or to accommodate foreign
heads of state visiting the Ottoman capital. The Prince of Serbia,
the King of Montenegro, the Şah of Iran and Empress Eugenie of France
are among the royla guests who stayed here. The deposed Sultan Abdülhamid
II spent the last six months of his life and died here in 1918.
interior design of Beylerbeyi Palace is a synthesis of diverse western
and eastern styles, although the layout of the rooms follows that
of the traditional Turkish house, consisting of a central sofa with
closed rooms situated at the four corners. The furnishing and decoration
of the Selamlık or public apartments are more ornate than those
of the Harem.
The palace consists of two main storeys and
a basement containing kitchens and store rooms. The palace has three
entrances, six state rooms and 26 smaller rooms. The floors are
covered with rush matting from Egypt which protected the inhabitants
against damp in winter and heat in summer. Over this are laid large
carpets and kilims, mostly made at Hereke. The furnishings include
exquisite Bohemian crystal chandeliers, French clocks, and Chinese,
Japanese, French and Turkish Yıldız porcelain vases.
One of the features which distinguishes Beylerbeyi
from other Ottoman palaces of the period are the terraced gardens
on the sloping hillside behind the palace. There are two pavilions
on these terraces, the Sarı Köşk beside the pool on the upper terrace,
and the Mermer Köşk with its interior fountain and marble walls,
which provided a cool refuge in the summer heat. The Mermer Köşk,
the large pool on the lower terrace and the tunnel are the only
parts of the palace remaining from the earlier timber palace of
Beylerbeyi. The attractive Ahır Köşk is a fascinating example of
Ottoman palace stables, and of particular interest as the only such
building to have survived in its original state.
old coastal road passed under a long tunnel constructed during the
reign of Mahmud II (1808-1839) so that the palace would not be separated
from the terraced gardens behind. This is a unique feature, other
palaces and mansions along the Bosphorus being connected to their
back gardens and parks by bridges. Today this tunnel houses a cafeteria
and sales points for visitors. As well as books, postcards and posters
published by the Culture and Information Centre, various gifts and
souvenirs are on sale here. The gardens are available for private
receptions upon advance application.