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Palace of Mirrors Aynalikavak Kasir
2003 / September
At Kasimpasa on the north shore of the Golden Horn stands Aynalikavak Kasir, the only surviving building of a palace that was once one of the largest in Istanbul. Known as Tersane or Naval Arsenal Palace, its construction commenced in 1613 during the reign of Sultan Ahmed I, and additions continued to be made until the reign of Sultan Selim III (1789-1807). In the 15th and early 16th centuries this area was a forest which was one of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror's favourite excursion places. He would have his royal tent erected here and practise archery on the great archery field on the hilltop known as Okmeydani. When the Ottoman naval arsenal was established on the shore of the Golden Horn by Sultan Selim I (1512-1520) the forest became known as Tersane Park. The palace built here in the early 17th century was surrounded by a beautiful flower garden, to which eminent courtiers of the time made gifts of bulbs and plants.
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Palace of Mirrors Aynalikavak Kasir
2003 / September

This was one of the most outstanding examples of Ottoman gardens prior to the Tulip Era, as the reign of Sultan Ahmed III (1703-1730) came to be known. The famous 17th century Turkish writer and traveller Evliya Celebi gives this description of Tersane Garden: 'Tersane Garden beside the sea at Haskoy belongs to the sultans. Prior to Ottoman times it was a royal vineyard. After the conquest Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror had his tent erected here, and commanded the construction of a royal lodge and bath, seating places, pool and fountain. Twelve thousand cypress trees were planted in a grid pattern, shading the gardens, whose peaches and apricots are most excellent. A chief gardener and 300 assistants serve here. There are boathouses for the use of the sultan.

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Palace of Mirrors Aynalikavak Kasir
2003 / September
If the sultan wishes to go to the New Palace [Topkapi Palace] or another place, he is rowed along, seated on a jewelled throne beneath the jewelled canopy of his barge, watching the waterfront houses on either side of the Golden Horn, and the orchards, gardens and naval yards. In this garden there is also an imperial stable, and they go to play jereed at the Archery Field.' Sultan Mehmed IV (1648-1687) was one of the sultans who came here most frequently. After a fire broke out here in March 1677, the palace was renovated on his orders. On his return from his campaign to Poland in February 1679, Mehmed IV stayed here and watched the victory celebrations and illuminations that lasted for three days and three nights from a latticed pavilion on the shore. Part of these celebrations was the splendid guild procession, which passed along the Golden Horn.
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Palace of Mirrors Aynalikavak Kasir
2003 / September

The trade guilds rented boats and barges, attached them one to the other and constructed pavilions upon them. This train of boats set out from Galata, and inside the pavilions the guilds put on displays for the spectators as they sailed along, passing by Tersane Palace on their way. The gardens and park of Tersane Palace rose in terraces up the hillside behind, and covered a huge area. From the Golden Horn all the buildings of the palace could be seen. The two-storey harem apartments had a glass conservatory that ran right across the ground storey. This large building with a tiled roof contained a bath, an arbour and a pool with an ornamental fountain. On the waterfront stood the lead-roofed Namazgah Kosk and the palace mosque. Next to the mosque were baths, and beyond the apartments of the chief black eunuch, the chief treasurer and other officers of the royal household, and the quarters of the pages and servants.

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Palace of Mirrors Aynalikavak Kasir
2003 / September
The name Aynalikavak Palace dates from the reign of Ahmed III, when the Treaty of Passarowitz was signed with the Republic of Venice in 1718. To mark this treaty the Venetians sent the sultan a gift of magnificent Venetian mirrors 'as tall as poplars,' which were placed in the rooms and halls of the palace. From then on it became known as Aynalikavak (Poplars of Mirrors) Palace. Following the reign of Ahmed III the sultans lost interest in the palace and allowed it to fall into disrepair. It was restored during the reign of Abdulhamid I (1774-1789) at the instigation of his grand vezir Koca Yusuf Pasa. When Abdulhamid was succeeded by his nephew Selim III in 1789, the palace was repaired once more, and the sultan had the royal lodge known today as Aynalikavak Kasir built here. Selim spent one spring at Aynalikavak, but after signing the Zishtovi Treaty here in 1791, under which the Ottoman Empire recognised the annexation of the Crimea by Russia, Selim was so grieved that he never returned again.
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Palace of Mirrors Aynalikavak Kasir
2003 / September

The palace fell into ruin, and when the naval arsenal was being enlarged by Kucuk Huseyin Pasa, the palace buildings were demolished one by one, the last traces being swept away in 1802-3. Only the royal lodge built by Selim III remained, and today houses a collection of Ottoman musical intruments.

* Ali Konyali is a photographer and cultural researcher

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