The Topkapı Palace was the governmental centre and residence of the imperial family. It was founded on an area of the Istanbul peninsula which commands views of the Golden Horn on one side, and the Bosphorus Strait and the Sea of Marmara, on the other. It is a complex of buildings in three parts (birun
) situated within large gardens.
is between the first gate, Bab-ı Hümayun (Imperial Gate), and the third gate, Babü’s-Saade (Gate of Felicity). The first courtyard accommodated the service buildings, the imperial mint, military barracks, ministries and other governmental offices. The second courtyard was called Alay Meydanı and housed the Divan-ı Hümayun – also called ‘Under the Dome’ – the treasury, the kitchens, stables and the entrance to the harem
Ceremonies, for instance enthronement, the royal hearing in case of emergencies known as Alay Divanı (Assembly on Foot) and the celebration of feasts, were made in front of the Gate of Felicity. The sultan’s throne was also placed near the Gate; and the Holy Flag (Sancak-ı Şerif), the very symbol of the Ottoman Sultan as Caliph
, was raised here when it was taken out of the Pavilion of the Holy Mantel on ceremonial occasions.