Kuleli Gardens

 
Catalogue
Ottoman Gardens
City
Istanbul
Country
Turkey
Dates
1528/1533 Present
Authors
Nurhan Atasoy;
Seyit Ali Kahraman

Description

Philippe Canaye, sieur de Fresne, who came to Istanbul in 1573, provides a description of the tower from which this garden gets its name:

Finally we gave a few coins to the garden workers who opened the palace to us. Signor Stanga had brought us to a paradise of a different kind in Kuleli Bahçesi. . . . This was no less beautiful than the other. There were paths with very tall trees, cypresses, flowers, fountains, and pleasant grottoes and shady places. These were almost all on the side of a hill, not very steep, more of a slope. There were five chambers built one on top of the other descending towards the shore, all made of rough stone with thick walls. These were made with such skill that the water supply rose to the very top and each chamber had its own fountain. Each of the beautiful terraces with painted and gilded walls on each side was cool at all hours of the day. All the handles of the doors and gates were made of bronze. At the foot of the tower was a beautiful garden. This was separate from the main garden and had a pool containing rare fish. When we look at the architecture of the tower, one can see that if one wishes to spend money on palaces, Turks are no less skilful than Christians at this. This was the tallest building I saw in Turkey; it had five stories and was worth more admiration in this barbarous country as Turks are used to sitting on the floor and do not like to climb stairs. As they will have to abandon everything when they die, they say their houses should not be so comfortable and beautiful that they would be grieve on leaving them. (Voyages, 88–89)

Among the documents concerning the building of a new tower between 1528 and 1533 is one that shows that this tower was built during the reign of Süleyman I: The Kule-i Cedid to be built near Mustafa Paşa Bahçesi at Karye-i Çengar (Çengelköy). Süleyman I is known to have built several buildings at Kuleli, as well as rooms for the gardeners, in place of which Mahmud II had a cavalry barracks built. In 1829, some additions were made. Sultan Abdülmecid had a new stone building made here, which became a hospital during the Crimean War and was subsequently made into a military school.

Among the documents still extant today is one that proves Süleyman I had the garden constantly cared for. The accounts from 1564 give the cost of repairs and other expenses for Kuleli Garden, which included those for repairs to the water-supply system, watermill, and kennels for the Saxonian hounds. Another account book records the expenses for repairs, construction, and equipment bought for imperial and other gardens, including Kuleli.

Eremya Çelebi, who took a trip down the Bosphorus in the seventeenth century, praises Kuleli Garden: Ahead was Kulebahçesi where there was also a large imperial mansion. After entering these grounds, one never wants to leave (XVII. asırda İstanbul, 47).

Evliya Çelebi provides more information: Kulebahçesi, today known as Kuleli, was where Süleyman I had a structure resembling a high tower built for him. He continues:

Toward the south of this place was an area known as Papas Korusu, which, showing great delicacy, this sovereign, who had the ability to make the right choices, presented to Revani Efendi. It bordered on Kule Bahçesi, that is, Selim I's private garden. One day, in a fit of rage, Selim ordered his chief gardener to put Prince Süleyman to death. Obediently, the chief gardener took the prince, had another youth put to death in place of Süleyman. Hoping that this would be for the later good of the state, he gave Süleyman a change of clothes and sent him to Kuleli Garden. Three years later after Selim I returned from Egypt, he began to fear death and cried out in despair Oh, chief gardener, I have made a great mistake. If I die childless, into whose hands will the Ottoman Empire fall? The chief gardener then had Prince Süleyman brought from Kuleli Garden to kiss the ground and smear the dust from the sultan's feet over his face. After drawing Süleyman to his breast, Selim I promised his son that he would be the next Sultan. When he became sultan, Süleyman gave great honors to the chief gardener in Egypt. Süleyman I had a palace with a nine-story tower rising to the sky like a fortress built at Kuleli Garden where he had been concealed and brought up. It was a paradise. On every floor there were fountains and pools and innumerable rooms. Because of this tower the place became known as Kule Bahçesi. In the garden here was a cypress planted by Süleyman himself. Whoever saw it admired God' s handiwork as it was so green and straight with not a branch out of line. Of the many kinds of fruit in this garden, the figs were especially delicious. (Seyahatnâmesi, 1:140b)

 


The text for this entry is adapted from Nurhan Atasoy, Garden for the Sultan, 316–17.

 

Sources

  • Travel Account, 16th century
  • Travel Account, 17th century
  • Travel Account, 17th century
Catalogue
Ottoman Gardens
City
Istanbul
Country
Turkey
Dates
1528/1533 Present
Authors
Nurhan Atasoy;
Seyit Ali Kahraman