Eski Saray Garden (MEGT)
Istanbul, Turkey
After the Ottoman conquest of İstanbul, the first palace built there took the place of a Byzantine monastery and church situated on the airy hill where the campus of Istanbul University stands today. Construction began in 1454 and the palace was completed in 1457. After the new palace of Topkapı was built, this older palace took the name of Eski Saray (Old Palace).
When the sultans began to live in the Yeni Saray (New Palace) another use was found for the Eski Saray: the former sultan's mother, women, and sisters were sent to this splendid palace, which had no contiguous buildings. The palace burned down during the reign of Süleyman I and was completely rebuilt.
Süleyman I had three gates made to the palace: the Divan Gate to the east, the Bayezid Gate to the south, and the Süleymaniye Gate to the west. He also had palaces built outside the Eski Saray for his viziers and set aside a portion of the palace grounds for the construction of buildings attached to the Süleymaniye Mosque. In 1617, the palace suffered another fire and although various parts of it were rebuilt, it was pulled down in the nineteenth century by Sultan Abdulaziz (1861–1876) and the Bab-ı Serasker, which served as the Ministry of Defense, was erected in its place. During the Republic, this building was handed over to Istanbul University.
The sources do not offer much information about the garden of the palace Mehmed II had built in the middle of the city, except that it was surrounded by a high wall. In the section on Istanbul in the Menzilname, which concerned the posting houses used during Süleyman I’s Persian campaign, and which was completed in 1537 with text and illustrations by Matrakçı Nasuh, Eski Saray is shown surrounded by a four-square-high wall. The garden is also show as being full of trees higher than this wall. The description of İstanbul painted by Matrakçı in 1570 is as detailed as that of the one in Vienna except that, in the latter, directly beside the Süleymaniye Mosque, five or six red-roofed houses are seen among thick trees.
A hundred years after Matrakçı gives these details, Evliya Çelebi describes only one of the gates as having been built by Süleyman I. The fact that Eski Saray burned down in 1540 suggests that this is a view of it before rebuilding. In fact, in the center of the walled area, in a seemingly six-sided space surrounded by a wall, a number of crowded buildings are seen. The space between the two walls is covered with vegetation, the trees being represented by three cypresses and five blossoming trees. No further information could be found on either the palace or the garden.
The text for this entry is adapted from Nurhan Atasoy, Garden for the Sultan, 229–35.


Source: Court Chronicle, 16th century, Travel Account, 17th century


-Nurhan Atasoy, Seyit Ali Kahraman


Sources:

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

Menazilname (Open in Zotero)


Originally oublished at: Atasoy, Nurhan, and Seyit Ali Kahraman “Eski Saray 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.

Location
Istanbul, Turkey
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Dates of attested life: 1453- 18th century
Date of entry of information: August 2007
Style Periods
1299-1922
Variant Names
Eski Saray Garden
Building Usages
landscape
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