Fener Garden (MEGT)
Istanbul, Türkiye
This beautiful suburb was used as a place of recreation during the Byzantine period. Summer palaces were built there, including Hieron, which Justinian had built for Empress Theodora, and which included a small church and baths. After the conquest, it continued to be used for the same purpose when it became one of Mehmed II’s private estates.
Like many of the imperial gardens, Fener was redesigned in the sixteenth century. Mustafa Sâi Çelebi recounts in his Tezkeretü'l-Ebniye that Mimar Sinan rebuilt the palace here, information also found in Sinan’s autobiography and in Evliya Çelebi’s account (Seyahatnâmesi, 1:206). The Byzantine lighthouse, which extended toward the sea, was renovated by Süleyman I in 1562. An imperial order to renew the curtains at the imperial mansion at Fenerbahçe Çadır Köşkü shows that there was a mansion here in 1565–1566.
Stephan Gerlach, a priest in the entourage of David Unggnad, ambassador for Emperor Maximilian II of Austria from 1573 to 1578, describes it the gardens in 1576 as follows: Behind the wall was the sultan’s palace with gilded ceilings and marble fountains, and behind another wall was the sultan’s garden (Stephan Gerlachs des aeltern Tage-Buch, 171). The French explorer Grelot, who came here in the seventeenth century, gives a picture of the garden in Süleyman I’s time: At the end of a spit of land 10 miles wide, which extends into the sea at Kadıköy, there is a large lighthouse. On the same spit of land there is a beautiful imperial mansion known as Fener Köşkü. Like almost all the other mansions, this is a square building surrounded by covered galleries with many columns. It stands in a beautiful, well laid-out garden where there are orderly paths and well tended flowerbeds. . . . (Relation nouvelle, 45) Süleyman II had a pavilion built in this delightful place where he and his ladies occasionally came to enjoy themselves. In the middle of the large hall, the sultan had a large divan made, which was covered with cushions and costly rugs, and, in the Arab fashion, surrounded by a marble railing. Square in shape, it was placed in the middle of a large pool full of small fountains made in the same style.
Among the names of other gardens listed in the accounts of expenses for repairs, equipment, and new buildings in 1580, the name of Fenerbahçe is also given.
Eremya Çelebi writes of Fenerbahçe in the seventeenth century as follows: The shore from Kadıköy to Fenerli Bahçe is lined with gardens pleasing to the eye. In the sea in front of the pavilion, there is a lighthouse standing on a firm foundation; the tower where the light burns resembles a monolith. The garden and pavilion take their name from this light, which is said to be visible from half a day’s distance. The light shines like a star from dawn to dusk to prevent ships from being wrecked on the rocks. Here there is also a beautiful imperial pavilion stretching out over the sea and visible on every side, situated opposite a garden full of plane and cypress trees (XVII. asırda İstanbul, 39).
Cornelius Loos, who lived in Istanbul from 1710 to 1711 and drew pictures of many places he saw here, drew two pictures of Fener Garden at that time. In one of these, a pavilion surrounded by two rows of cypress trees is seen in a garden protected by a fence and thickly planted trees. The pavilion, which has a side roof supported on columns, is half open and half covered. The spacious garden seems well laid-out, with a fountain pool, roofed and with a waist-high wall surrounding it, and squares of faded color resembling flowerbeds or carpets. In Loos’s other painting, there is a more general view of Fenerbahçe. In the front foreground is a quay with a small boat moored to it. At the end of this, the garden is surrounded by a high wall. In the wall near the boat is a door and in the middle there is a wooded area with several pavilions. The left-hand pavilion has a wooden fence around it and seems more important than the others. In the upper left corner a hilly area extends behind the wall and in the background is open country and views of the sea.
İnciciyan also describes Fener Garden: After Kalamış, comes Fenerbahçe in front of which there is a tower, lit at night, which is built on the huge rocks. There is an imperial pavilion here jutting out into the water and surrounded by plane and cypress trees. When he pleases, the sultan rides here in state. This beautiful place, looked after by a team of gardeners, faces the north, east and southwest winds so ships coming from the Mediterranean, Istanbul, and Izmit are always clearly visible (XVIII. asırda İstanbul, 112).
Dallaway, a priest at the English Embassy, writes in his memoirs that he came here in the eighteenth century and found only ruins.
By the nineteenth century, the garden had become a public picnicking place, which Leyla Saz describes in memoirs: At that time there were a lot of cypress and terebinth trees here. If I am not mistaken, this peninsula was wider then. There was a lot of space apart from the trees and the ground was higher. At the back, there were the ruins of an imperial pavilion; only the hamam was still standing. We swam from a secluded corner and played in the sea for a while. We ate our lunch under the shade of one of the large terebinth trees opposite the sea. We all enjoyed ourselves as we pleased. We sat and looked at the see until the carriage came for us (Harem’in içyüzü, 244–45).
In 1909, Fenerbahçe was taken over by the imperial treasury and was later renovated and opened to the public as a park after years of neglect and decay.
The text for this entry is adapted from Nurhan Atasoy, Garden for the Sultan, 307–9.

Source: Travel Account, 16th century-19th century | Memoirs, 19th century

-Nurhan Atasoy, Seyit Ali Kahraman


Evliya Çelebi Seyahatnâmesi: Topkapı Sarayı Bağdat 304 Yazmasının transkripsiyonu (Open in Zotero)

İstanbul tarihi: XVII. asırda İstanbul (Open in Zotero)

Stephan Gerlachs des aeltern Tage-Buch (Open in Zotero)

Cornelius Loos: Teckningar från en expedition till Främre Orienten 1710-1711 (Open in Zotero)

Relation nouvelle d’un voyage de Constantinople (Open in Zotero)

XVIII. asırda İstanbul (Open in Zotero)

Harem’in içyüzü (Open in Zotero)

Originally published by: Atasoy, Nurhan, and Seyit Ali Kahraman “Fener Garden.” Middle East Gardens Traditions. Dumbarton Oaks, December 1, 2014. https://www.doaks.org/resources/middle-east-garden-traditions/catalogue/C98. Archived at: https://perma.cc/5UDZ-R9BM.

Istanbul, Türkiye
Images & Videos
Associated Names
Associated Collections
Dates of attested life: 16th century -
Century/Date of creation: Byzantine period
Style Periods
Variant Names
Fener Garden
Building Usages