Çinili Kösk
Istanbul, Türkiye

Çinili Köşk (Tiled Kiosk) is one of the oldest surviving Ottoman buildings in Istanbul. It was commissioned by Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II in 1472/877 AH, construction beginning in the month of Rabiʽ al-Thani. Also known under the name of Sırça Saray (Tile Palace), the kiosk got its name from the tile decorations that once covered almost all surfaces of its interior and exterior walls. Only a small fraction of the kiosk’s original tile decoration remains today. Çinili Köşk was designed as a royal pleasure pavilion and is located in the outer gardens of the Topkapı Palace. The kiosk was frequently used in the fifteenth and sixteenth/ninth and tenth centuries AH by the Ottoman sultans to watch imperial games and spectacles that were held in the large square the kiosk faced, as well as for hosting numerous feasts and celebrations. During this period, the beauty of the kiosk and its tiles, and the splendour of the events hosted in it were frequently praised in Ottoman court poetry.


Çinili Köşk is a two-story building with a flat roof. The upper floor consists of a domed central hall that opens onto two iwans along the north-south axis, and a portico and a domed alcove on the east-west axis. The plan of the lower floor is similar, but lacks the iwans and the portico. Today, the portico is enclosed by fourteen marble columns. However, it is known that up until the eighteenth/twelfth century AH, the portico consisted of a wooden colonnade.


Sometime in the late sixteenth/tenth century AH, Çinili Köşk lost its original function, and thus its centrality to imperial life. From then onwards, it attained numerous different roles, such as a prison for political rivals and a military warehouse, and fell into serious disrepair. However in 1875/1292 AH, it was decided that the growing imperial collection of antiquities would be housed and displayed in the kiosk. Çinili Köşk thus became the official location of the Ottoman Imperial Museum (Müze-i Hümayun‎), regaining its significance as an imperial building, and went through a series of restorations and alterations. Although its collection and its title as a museum has changed on numerous occasions since then, Çinili Köşk continues to be used as a museum today as part of the Istanbul Archaeology Museums. Named the Çinili Köşk Museum, it currently houses a collection of tiles and ceramics, with the remaining tiles of the kiosk having become a part of the collection.


During its early history, in addition to fulfilling a practical function as a pleasure pavilion, Çinili Köşk also acted as a physical declaration of Mehmed II’s imperial claims and ambitions. One of the earliest written descriptions of the kiosk comes from the accounts of Mehmed’s court historian Tursun Bey. Tursun Bey wrote that the kiosk was built in the Persian style (“tavr-ı ekâsire”). The building was also described to be in the Persian style (“alla Persiana”) by the Venetian writer Giovanni Maria Angiolello, who served in Mehmed II’s court. The Persian style mentioned has widely been understood to mean the Timurid style, as the building’s cruciform layout, its building materials, and its tile decoration are typical of Timurid architecture.  Although at the time of Çinili Köşk’s construction the Timurids had lost their dominance over Iran, the Turkoman dynasties ruling this area, as well as the Anatolian Principality of Karaman, cultivated the Timurid cultural heritage. In addition to describing its architecture as Persian, Angiolello also stated that the kiosk was decorated in the Karamanid style. Therefore, Çinili Köşk’s architecture and decoration reflected a shared culture of the Timurids, the Turkomans, and the Karamanids. This was a culture that the Ottomans engaged with and appreciated. However, Çinili Köşk seems to be the only Ottoman building built in the Timurid plan, and its construction was not merely as a result of an Ottoman appreciation of this culture. The kiosk was built in a period of both cultural relations and military conflicts with these dynasties, and was intended as an explicit message of dominance over the lands where the culture flourished. It was built right after the Ottoman victory over the Karamanids, and during the war with the Akkoyunlu, the most powerful of the Turkoman dynasties in this period. It commemorated one victory, and declared that more were to come, reflecting Mehmed II’s ambitions to rule all of Anatolia and Iran.


Çinili Köşk was not the only kiosk built by Mehmed II in the palace gardens to express the territorial dominance and ambitions of the Ottoman Empire. According to Tursun Bey, next to Çinili Köşk existed another kiosk built under Mehmed II in the Ottoman style (ṭavr-ı osmânî). Moreover, in addition to noting the Ottoman style kiosk, Angiolello wrote that a third kiosk, one in the Greek style (alla Greca) was built in the same period near the two. Together these three kiosks, of which only Çinili Köşk survives, represented the different lands and cultures the Ottoman Empire encompassed and aspired to encompass.


The building’s rebirth as the Imperial Museum in the late nineteenth/thirteenth century AH was in ways a revival of this symbolic imperial function. The kiosk as a museum no longer represented Ottoman dominance over Karamanid lands and Iran through its “Persian” architecture, nor announced more conquests to come. Yet it declared through the objects displayed in it, which were brought from the four corners of the Empire, the continuation of Ottoman control over its remaining territories in a period of rapid decline and loss of territory.


In 1908/1326 AH, the Ottoman Imperial Museum was expanded with the construction of a new, purpose-built building. With this, Çinili Köşk was emptied of all classical objects, and became the Islamic Arts Division of the Imperial Museum, housing a collection much smaller than the classical collection displayed in the new, main building of the museum. Therefore, in this period, which coincided with the final decades of the Ottoman Empire, Çinili Köşk began once again to lose its centrality. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and the founding of the Turkish Republic, the Islamic collection was removed from Çinili Köşk, which remained mostly empty until 1981, when the kiosk was incorporated into the Istanbul Archaeology Museums.


-- Entry by Deniz Vural (2022)



Eyice, Semavi. "Çinili Köşk." In TDV İslâm Ansiklopedisi, Vol. 8, 337-341. Istanbul: TDV İslâm Araştırmaları Merkezi, 1993.


Meriç Uğraş, Hayal. Topkapi Sarayi Çinili Köşk / Sirça Saray: İşlevi, Anlami Ve Tarihsel Gelişimi. PhD diss., Yıldız Teknik University, 2010.


Necipoğlu, Gülru. Architecture, Ceremonial, and Power: The Topkapı Palace in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1991.


Shaw, Wendy. Possessors and Possessed: Museums, Archaeology, and the Visualization of History in the Late Ottoman Empire. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003.

Changes to site record

  • Updated description (August 2022)


Topkapi Sarayi , Istanbul, Türkiye
Images & Videos
Associated Names
Part of Site
1473/877 AH
Style Periods
Variant Names
Tile Kiosk
Tiled Pavilion Museum
Building Usages
Related Sites