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Üsküdar Palace Gardens

Kavak Palace Gardens

Details

Catalogue: 
Ottoman Gardens
Authors: 
Nurhan Atasoy; Seyit Ali Kahraman
Country: 
Turkey
City: 
Istanbul
Dates: 
16th century 19th century

Source

  • Travel Account, 16th century

Garden Description

Üsküdar was famous for its flowers and gardens: From the gardens here countless pots of carnations as big as roses were brought every day to the city to be sold (XVII. asırda İstanbul, 48). Perhaps Üsküdar gained its fame when Sinan built a summer palace there known as Kavak Palace for Süleyman I in 1550. Süleyman I's daughter, Mirimah Sultan, also lived in Üsküdar at the palace called Sultan Tepesi.

From 1564 to 1565, various repairs were made to the garden and the names of the buildings that were repaired were recorded. These included the large main palace, the kitchen with the “jasmine banisters,” the yoghurt maker's court, the large outer court, the ice house, and the dormitories for gardeners and workmen.

The palace with its three enclosed gardens was further enlarged during the reign of Murad III (1574–1595) when Stephan Gerlach came there with a group from the Austrian Embassy. Gerlach writes:

We were taken to the imperial palace ornamented by a high wide gilded dome, with water flowing from elegant white marble fountains. This building had floors covered with translucent marble and carpets, though now somewhat dusty. We inspected the rooms where the monarch spent the day, ate his meals, and slept at night. All was gilt and marble. The garden was a paradise of orderly beds of sweet-smelling herbs and flowers and all kinds of trees. In particular, we saw red, white, yellow and red and yellow-–striped flowering bulbs. The garden with its buildings and gates, was surrounded by a high wall like a fortress. On passing beyond this wall one finds oneself in another garden with a domed, semicircular building surrounded by white columns.

Access to a third garden was through this second garden also surrounded by a wall. In each of the three buildings, especially in the sultan's apartments, costly Persian carpets were spread and there were raised seats covered with gold embroidered velvet cushions. In front of the second building there was a square marble pool with a small red boat for the amusement of the sultan's children. In the center of each of the three large buildings was a marble fountain with brass taps. In the middle garden, divided from the others by a wall, was a rectangular reservoir fed by the water of a spring sacred to Dionysus and also revered by the Turks. We gave a tip of half a thaler to the gardeners on duty here. (Stephan Gerlachs des aeltern Tage-Buch, 170–71)

Sources detailing repairs begun under Murad III and completed under Mahmud I (1730–1754) list the names of several buildings added to Üsküdar Palace at that time: Sivri Kasrı, Kasr-ı Sultan Süleyman, Kasr-ı Mehmed Paşa (possibly the building Sokullu Mehmed Paşa had built for Selim II), Kasr-ı Sultan Murad Han, Kasr-ı Revan (the name Revan must come from that built at Topkapı Palace after the conquest), and its hall with a fountain. Apart from these, the names of the valide sultan’s apartments and those of the haseki sultan, as well as hamams, small pavilions, pools, water channels, stables, quays, and a small mosque built in the name of Sultan Ahmed are mentioned.

Ahmed I (16031617) and Murad IV (16231640) spent many happy days in the Üsküdar gardens in the pavilions they built here. Peçevi also mentions its beauty: After spending the summer either at his main palace or at his paradisiacal garden at Üsküdar, the sultan set forth for Edirne at the onset of winter. Like the previous summer, he spent most of his time there hunting and returned to Istanbul in the spring (Peçevî tarihi, 442).

Murad IV built Hünkar İskelesi at Kavak and added a pavilion in the Üsküdar gardens. Whenever the sultan stayed there or used it as military headquarters, he came from Ahırkapı by caïque, as he did every day in 1573 and 1574 according to Philippe Canaye, sieur de Fresne, and Pierre Lescolopier (Voyages, 90 and E. Cleray, “Voyage de Pierre Lescalopier,” 37–38). Since Üsküdar Palace was so close to Sarayburnu, it was easy for the sultan to reach it from Topkapı Sarayı. In the Üsküdar palace gardens, trees were arranged in a star formation around the pavilion.

In a seventeenth-century copy of Piri Reis's map of Istanbul, the plan of the Üsküdar gardens shows many pavilions, some domed, as do other extant engravings and pictures. Among these is a tower-shaped building, taller than the rest, which resembles the Cihannüma Köşkü at Edirne. This may have been built by Murad III. It is surrounded by cypress trees.

A cut-paper depiction of Istanbul on a writing box from the 1820s or 1830s shows the garden and palace in the nineteenth century. On the lid, Topkapı Palace is seen on the right and the Üsküdar gardens with Kız Kulesi and Sultan Selim Mosque and the islands beyond. Nothing remains except the name, Harem İskelesi.

 


The text for this entry is adapted from Nurhan Atasoy, Garden for the Sultan, 31014.