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Topkapi Palace     Istanbul Tours
Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror, with the conquest of then Constantinople, simultaneously closed and opened two ages. Now the capital of the Ottomans was to be Istanbul, and the Sultan was to build his palace here for the administration of the Empire. The first palace of the sultans was built in the district of Beyazit (Old Palace).

In 1465, however, Mehmet the Conqueror ordered the construction of a new palace on today's Palace Point, then an olive grove. From that year until 1478 the first buildings were therefore constructed, and the administration of the Ottoman Empire began from the Topkapi Palace. The new palace was surrounded by fortifications giving security to the whole area.

Starting with the Conqueror's small place, each succeeding sultan added additional pavilions and palaces, spreading finally to a total area of 700.000 meters square. According to the traveler Evliya Celebi, in the year 1640 the population of the place reached 40.000, as if it were a city or small state itself.

The palace, which was used for four centuries, was named the "Cannon Gate" palace by the people out of respect for the cannons which gave protection to the gates and the grounds within. The palace walls extend a total of five kilometers, with multiple towers, surrounding the land as well as sea side of the palace. In addition to many small gates, six major gates, three on the sea and three on the land, give access to the grounds.

The main gate, called the "Empire Gate", dates back to the period of the Conqueror. it is also called the First Gate today. The second gate, called the "Peace Gate", marked the point from which the sultanate actually began. Today, this gate is the formal entrance to the Topkapi Museum. The gate has towers on either side. It is known that some of the Ottoman ministers of the court were imprisoned here before sentencing.

Through this gate we enter a 22 acre open court yard where holiday celebrations were observed, and where the sultan, but only the sultan himself, was always mounted on horseback. At the far end of this court stands the third gate, the Gate of Felicity, in which the sultan's throne was placed on occasions of the enthronement of a new sultan, on religious holidays, and days of public audience when complaints and grievances were heard.

From the Gate of Felicity we enter the third open court. In this, and the fourth court further on, are located the pavilions and kiosks in which the sultans attended to daily business tasks, retiring to the Harem in the evening. For four centuries the affairs of the Empire were directed from here, until the move of the court to the Dolmabahce Palace in 1856.

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