Dolmabahçe Palace, one of the most fascinating buildings in Istanbul, sits on the most beautiful section of the Bosporus. Although it was built many years ago, the flamboyant appearance of Dolmabahçe Palace is still impressive. If you live in Istanbul, or if you are planning a come to the city as a tourist, we would suggest that Dolmabahçe Palace is a must. Why is that? All will be clear once you have read a story about Dolmabahçe Palace that has a special place in all Turkish hearts…
Dolmabahçe Palace was once a mansion...
According to the notes of Evliya Çelebi’s, Sultan Selim I had a mansion built on the very area where today Dolmabahçe Palace is located. The location of Dolmabahçe Palace was also once a bay where 400 years ago the Chief Ottoman Admiral would harbor his naval vessels. Naval ceremonies used to take place in the bay during those times. However, the bay began to turn into a swamp over time. In the 17th Century, the bay began to be filled. This filled bay was then given the name Hasbahçe. Sultans would use Hasbahçe for resting and feasting. Over time, it became known as Beşiktaş Coastal Palace, along with the other mansions and pavilions built on the area.
Dolmabahçe Palace was built in 1842
Dolmabahçe Palace was commissioned by Abdülmecid I, and its construction took place between 1842 - 1853. The palace was used by Abdülmecid I for both living in and for formal occasions. Abdülaziz, the brother of Abdülmecid, also lived there. But neither of them lived there for long.
The building became Atatürk’s Presidential Palace upon the declaration of the Republic
Dolmabahçe Palace became Atatürk’s Presidential Palace upon the declaration of the Republic. It has a very significant place for the Turkish nation as it was built during the Ottoman era and later became the Presidential Palace. It was unfortunately also the place where Atatürk died on November 10th, 1938.
Structure of the Palace
Built by the Armenian architects Garabet Amira Balyan and his son Nigogos Balyan, the palace exhibits a combination of European architectural styles. There are 285 rooms and 43 halls, as well as two extraordinary gates in the palace, all of which are laid out symmetrically. There is a ballroom and a ceremonial hall at the very center of the coastal palace. The Glass Mansion (Camlı Köşk) in the palace was the only place where the Sultan would observe his subjects and inspect the army. As Halit Ziya Uşaklıgil once said, the Glass Mansion was the “eye through which the palace watched the outside world”. It is possible to see Far Eastern, European, and Turkish artifacts in the palace. The palace is full of fireplaces, candle holders and chandeliers. There is a gorgeous 36m high crystal chandelier in the ballroom which weighs 4.5 tonnes.
Extravagance and Intrigue
It was a total disaster when Sultan Abdülaziz took over the economy from Sultan Abdülmecit. Yet extravagance increased still further during the reign of Sultan Abdülaziz. The palace cost 5,000,000 gold coins. During the reign of Abdülaziz, there were many cases of bribery and inappropriate appointments.
A Lonesome palace
After Murad V, Sultan Abdul Hamid II ascended to the throne, and he prepared the Kanun-i Esasi, i.e. the first Constitution, in this palace. However, Abdul Hamid II was afraid of being assassinated. It is for this reason that he only stayed in the palace for 236 days before moving to Yıldız Palace. The palace was only used twice a year for holiday ceremonies during the following 33 years.
Abolition of the caliphate and the revival of the palace
Upon the abolition of the caliphate, Abdülmecid and his entourage left the palace in 1924. Atatürk did not visit the palace for three years, but the palace achieved significant milestones during the time of Atatürk. The culture and art within the palace was made available to the outside world, and foreign guests, or statesmen in other words, were entertained there.
Farewell to Atatürk
During the era of the Republic, Atatürk stayed at the palace during his Istanbul visits. He passed away in room 71 on November 10th, 1938. Atatürk’s body was laid in state inside the catafalque in the Ceremonial Hall, and hundreds of thousands of people came to pay their respects to the great leader. The palace was also used during the time of İsmet İnönü for Istanbul visits and for entertaining foreign guests.
Dolmabahçe Palace became a museum-palace in 1984. Hundreds of thousands of local and foreign tourists visit this magnificent palace every year.
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