Where is the dolmabahce palace in istanbul? What is the history of dolmabahce palace?
In the 16th century, there was a beautiful cove in Beşiktaş in the area where Dolmabahçe Palace exists today. Even, the admiral of the navy used to anchor the ships to that cove. In the 17th century, that cove turned almost into a swamp. For this reason, the swamp was drained, then filled, and made an imperial garden for sultans to get rest. The name “Dolmabahçe” (literally filled-in garden) was given to this garden, since it was made by filling the sea. In the beginning, it was called as Beşiktaş Palace of the Sultan (Beşiktaş Saray-ı Hümayunu), but then its name has been changed to Dolmabahçe Palace. It was built by the order of Sultan Abdülmecid between1843-1856. Its architects were Garabet Balyan and Nigoğayos Balyan. It was established over an area of 250.000 m2. It contains 285 rooms, 46 halls, and 6 baths. Its facade was made of stone, interior wall made of brick, and inner floors were made of wood. Between 1910 and 1912 during the time of Sultan Mehmet Reşat, electricity and central heating systems were added to the palace. In addition to the main building, the palace also consists of a building for the heir Prince, a building for furnishings and guards; Hareket Mansions,* a Glass Mansion and some other small sections. There are seven side gates to enter the palace; two of them are from the side of the land, five of them from the side of sea. One of the enormous gates is called as Treasure Gate, and another one is called Ceremonial (Sultanate) Gate.
The Palace was built in accordance with the model of European Palaces, completely away from traditional architecture. Its design is a combination of French Baroque, German Rococo, English Neoclassical and Italian Renaissance styles.
The Palace was built on a 600-meter marble dock.
The Palace is composed of three parts; the Mabeyn-i Humayun: this section where the official state affairs were dealt with has two floors. It is one of the glorious sections of the palace. A ceremonial staircase, also called “Crystal Staircase” or “Sultanate Staircase,” which is on the first floor and connects the entrance hall to the upper floor is very beautiful. Especially on the second floor, Intizar and Süfera Halls, where envoys waited and were hosted, and the Red Room, where the Sultan met with the envoys, are among the most beautiful halls of the palace.
After the entrance hall, the first room on the right side is the Clerk’s Office, which is also called as Tiled (Çinili) Hall. This room was used by the chief clerk and other clerks, and sultanate’s correspondences were prepared there. The painting of Surre-i Humayun by Stefano Ussi is in that Hall.
This work is the biggest painting among the collection of the palace. The Sultan used Zülvecheyn Hall when he was passing to the section of this hall assigned for his private use. This Hall (Zülvecheyn) was used in religious ceremonies and on special days. In this Hall, Mawlids* used to be read, wedding ceremonies used to be performed, and in the month of Ramadan, Huzur lessons** used to be held. The workrooms and resting sections situated in this private section were used by the Sultan himself.
That hall is distinguished from other halls with the beauty of its parquet. Besides, there is a bookcase consisting of the books of Abdulmecid. Another important and famous part of this section is Sultan’s Bath. The marbles which was used in the Bath is called as Alabaster (water) marble; which was mined out of Nile’s stream bed.
Muayade Hall (the Ceremonial Hall): It is situated between Mabeyn-i Hümâyûn (i.e. Selamlık, the quarters reserved for the men) and Harem-i Hümâyûn (i.e. the Harem, the residential apartments for the family of the Sultan). This is the most magnificent hall of the palace. The hall has an area of 2000 square meter. It consists of 56 columns, and its 36 meter high dome was successfully hidden in facade. The plan of the hall is close to the shape of a square and it has a unique interior decoration. British-made 4.5 ton crystal chandelier was produced by special order. This hall is a special one, where holiday celebrations, very important state ceremonies and balls organized for the guests from foreign states were held. It is the largest ball hall among others throughout the world. The galleries above the hall were made for the orchestra and diplomats, but there is no gallery situated in the area above the throne of the Sultan.
A 120 square meter Hereke Carpet covering the ground of this hall is quite precious. This carpet is the largest one in the palace.
The Section of Harem: This section of the palace is composed of two parts; Sultan’s Room and Harem. Religious and holiday ceremonies used to be held in the “Blue Hall,” which is situated in Sultan’s Room. “Red Room” (also known as “Has Room”) where the official meetings used to be done, is one of the magnificent rooms of this section.
Pink Room, furnished with huge mirrors, is another place among the outstanding parts of this section. This hall also has a beautiful terrace overlooking the sea. This hall is the place where the Sultan and his family lived.
In addition, Harem, situated in this section, consists of publicly and privately used rooms and places.
The magnificence and the power of Ottoman Empire were tried to be shown in the furnishings and decorations of Dolmabahçe Palace. Its furniture, silk carpets and curtains are preserved just like in their first day. The walls of the palace were furnished with the paintings of famous European artists of the time. About 1800 kg gold was used in decorations of the palace. The parquets covering the ground were made of precious woods, and it is the product of a fine artisanship. Hereke silk and wool carpets are quite precious. Crystal chandeliers decorating many rooms and halls, candlesticks, vases, fireplaces of the Palace were brought from European and Far Eastern countries.
The construction cost nearly 5 million gold coins. It is reported that just for the decorations and furnishings 1.5 million liras were spent.
Even, Sultan Abdulmecid deplored about such extravagance and when he saw the palace, he said, “Beşiktaş Palace is exaggerated, it could be simpler”. Thereupon, Fethi Ahmed Pasha said to the Sultan; “This is nothing for our Sultan.” (Ahmet AĞIN, Saraylarımız, p. 74)
It is not possible to understand belittling of politicians to spend that much money for a palace in a country whose economy was in debt. Military and education were almost led to a bankruptcy.
Abdulmecid who ordered to build this palace died 6 months after the construction. After him, the palace was used by Abdulaziz and Murat V for a short time. Sultan Abdulhamit did not prefer to stay in this palace. During the thirty-three years of sultanate after Sultan Abdulhamit II, the palace was used for only religious festivals, twice in a year.
Moreover, between 1927 and 1949, it was used as the Presidential Residence. The founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, stayed in this palace when he was in Istanbul, and he passed away in this palace on November 10, 1938.
The palace theatre that is located at the feet of Gümüşsuyu and Maçka, İstabl-i Amire, Atiyye-yi Seniyye Storehouses, Pharmacy, Baker house, Flour Factory and some other parts of the palace did not survive until this day.
The palace can be visited from 9.00 to 15.00 everyday, except Mondays and Thursdays.
* Hareket literally means movement or earthquake. These mansions have been called as “Hareket Mansions” maybe because they were built after an earthquake occurred in 1894.
* A religious poem about the birthday of the prophet Muhammad (pbuh)
** Religious classes which were held right in the presence of the Sultan