The Last Ottoman Palace

Yildiz palace is the last palace complex the ottoman empire created. Exhibiting similarities with Topkapı Palace, the so-called family seat of the Ottoman dynasty, it is comprised of palaces and pavilions scattered over a 500,000 square-meter grounds.

NESTLED IN A GROVE

This palace complex in a wooded area called Yıldız Grove had a direct impact on Istanbul’s urban development. Moving its permanent seat of government outside the city proper for the first time to Beşiktaş with the building of Dolmabahçe Palace, the Ottoman dynasty began seeking a more sheltered location for its seat of government following the incidents of 1876.

A MODEST PALACE

With the exception of the Hünkâr Pavilion, built during the reign of Sultan Abdulmejid (1839-1861), and the Great Mabeyn Pavilion, built during the reign of Sultan Abdulaziz (1861-1876), the Yıldız buildings had the appearance more of a palace in the countryside. Here and there inside the buildings, however, were great halls characteristic of palace architecture.

THE WATER SYSTEM

But the main feature that distinguishes Yıldız from other Ottoman palaces is the water system laid out inside Yıldız Park. The large pools and small bridges erected over these waterways brought Europe’s concept of the romantic garden to Istanbul.

THE GREAT MABEYN AND CHALET PAVILIONS

The palace’s most magnificent building is the Great Mabeyn Pavilion, commissioned to architects Agop and Sarkis Balyan during the reign of Sultan Abdulaziz (1861-1876). The next major structure is the Şale (Chalet) Pavilion. The most important section of the Chalet Pavilion, which was enlarged by annexes during the reign of Abdulhamid II (1876-1909), was that built to accommodate the German Kaiser Wilhelm II on a visit he made to Istanbul. Commissioned to Sarkis Balyan, this pavilion is reminiscent of Alpine chalets in its external design.

SULTAN ABDULHAMID II AND YILDIZ PALACE

Abdulhamid II, rather than staying in a palace like Dolmabahçe where security was weak, decided to make a well-protected palace like Topkapı the seat of his government. A far cry structurally speaking from the usual palace, Yıldız was created with the concept of a countryside palace in mind.
Gaining in importance during the reign of Sultan Abdulhamid II, Yildiz Saray became the Ottoman Empire’s leading administrative center. Along with the neighboring palace complexes, which were enlivened when hunting parties were organized in the time of Suleiman the Magnificent, it became the seat of government in the 19th and 20th centuries. Yildiz Palace continues to exhibit remnants of late-period Ottoman history.

THE PALACE LIBRARY

Another major structure inside Yıldız Palace is the library. Noteworthy for the cultural legacy it houses as well as for its structural characteristics, this library was created through the personal efforts of Sultan Abdulhamid II, bringing together a wealth of extremely valuable books.

BUILDINGS THAT MAKE UP THE PALACE

The Hünkâr Pavilion, Harem pavilions, Privy Garden and Harem (Women’s Quarters) are the main components of the palace. In the palace, the large buildings around a planned courtyard are the Great Mabeyn Pavilion, the Çıt Pavilion and the Office of the Sultan’s Aides-de-Camp.

THE LIBRARY COLLECTION

Also among the library’s collection are the albums of 36,000 photographs, which were the product of Abdulhamid II’s interest in photography and include the photographs he had taken all over the world. Following the proclamation of the Republic, this invaluable library and its furnishings were donated to the University of Istanbul to service there.