Monday, September 25, 2017


Sultanahmet, Fatih - Istanbul - Turkey

GPS : 41°00'45.5"N 28°59'01.4"E / 41.012653, 28.983724

Second Courtyard



The present Armory Exhibition Hall in the Topkapı Palace in Istanbul was formerly the Inner Treasury of the Ottoman Empire. It is a hall built of stone and brick with eight domes, each 5 x 11.40 m. It was transformed into a museum in 1928, displaying a rich collection of about 400 weapons (dating between the 7th and the 19th c.) from several countries, including swords of many sultans.

The Exterior Treasury building, which is currently used as Weapon Section, was initially constructed under Sultan Mehmet II (the Conqueror) (1451-81), and later demolished along with the former Council Hall and replaced by a new building erected between 1526 and 1528 during the time of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. The structure is covered with eight domes resting on three big buttresses pillars.

The Outer Treasury building has been used as official state treasury up until mid-19th century. The taxes levied from the country and from the provinces, resources originating from military campaigns, the furs and caftans to be bestowed upon ambassadors (hil’at), silk and gold brocade robes, sable-lynx furs and the old registers of the Council Hall were safe-kept in this building.

The trimonthly salaries (ulûfe) of the janissaries and cavalry soldiers (Sipahi) and the military campaign and navy expenditures, and the salaries of civil servants of the central administration were borne by this treasury. The Outer Treasury, which was under the responsibility of the Treasurer (Defterdar) was sealed off and closed by affixing the seal of the Sultan that was conserved by the Grand Vizier. Presently, the building is used as Weapons Section where the different kinds of weapons of different periods are exhibited.

The treasury building with eight domes, situated near the Kubbealtı, is built in the era of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. The taxes which are the incomes of the state were kept there. Maliye Defterhanesi, was the place where the Ottoman Sultans’ gifts called “hilat” which is a precious "kaftan" for the girls or women who is a member of Sultan’s harem and the delegates.

The structure which is known to be having a large fringe on exterior in 16th and 17th century was used by the treasury officials and keepers when putting the money into bags on the days of "ulufe". Interior treasury department with its two floors was very well-secured. Treasury which is under responsibility of the district treasurer would be opened when needed and would be stamped by the Sultan’s stamp which is kept by grand vizier.

This treasury was used to finance the administration of the state. The kaftans given as presents to the viziers, ambassadors and residents of the palace by the financial department and the sultan and other valuable objects were also stored here. The janissaries were paid their quarterly wages (called uluefe) from this treasury, which was closed by the imperial seal entrusted to the grand vizier.

Also located outside the treasury building is a target stone (Nişan Taşı), which is over 2 meters tall. This stone was erected in commemoration of a record rifle shot by Sultan Selim III in 1790. It was brought to the palace from Levend in the 1930s. During excavations in 1937 in front of this building, remains of a religious Byzantine building dating from the fifth century were found. Since it could not be identified with any of the churches known to have been built on the palace site, it is now known as "the Basilica of the Topkapı Palace" or simply Palace Basilica.

The building in which the arms and armour are exhibited was originally one of the palace treasuries (Divan-ı Hümayün Hazinesi / Hazine-ı Amire). Since there was another "inner" treasury in the Third Courtyard, this one was also called outer treasury (dış hazine). Although it contains no dated inscriptions, its construction technique and plan suggest that it was built at the end of the 15th century during the reign of Sultan Süleyman I. It subsequently underwent numerous alterations and renovations.


In 1846, at the initiative of Fethi Ahmed Pasha, the Commander of the Cannon Foundry (Tophane), the Church of Hagia Eirene was reorganized so as to form Turkeys first museum, the Collection of Ancient Weapons and the Collection of Antiquities (Mecma-ı Esliha-ı Atika ve Mecma-ı Asar-ı Atika). The museums weaponry was kept here until Topkapı Palace began to be used as a museum in the early 20th century. These weapons would later form the basis of the Military Museums collections, which are among the richest such collections in the world.

The present Armory Exhibition Hall in the Topkapı Palace in Istanbul was formerly the Inner Treasury of the Ottoman Empire. The building with windows and situated next to the Divan is one of the oldest structures of the Topkapı Palace. It is long wing, covered with eight domes of equal size.  It is a hall built of stone and brick with eight domes, each 5 x 11.40 m. Domes are supported by three massive pillars.

Throughout the centuries the treasury of the vast empire was stored here. The treasury was made up of the Sultan's personal possessions, as well as gifts given by European, African and Far Eastern countries. In 1928, four years after the Topkapı Palace was converted into a museum, its collection of arms and armour was put on exhibition in this building.



Covering 1,300 years and consisting of 52,000 weapons of Arab, Umayyad, Abbasid, Mamluk, Persian, Turkish, Crimean Tartar, Indian, European, and Japanese origin, the Topkapı Palace Museums weaponry collection is also among the world's premier weapons collections. The collection is made up in part of weapons transferred from the cebehane and those used by the palace guards; however, the collections most noteworthy section consists of those weapons ordered by the sultan personally or specially made as gifts for him, which weapons are a part of the palaces private collection.

This collection includes weaponry owned by such Sultans as Mehmed II, Bayezid II, Sultans Selim the Grim, Suleiman the Magnificent, Sultans Selim II, Sultans Mehmed II, and Sultans Ahmed I, as well as the weapons of such high-level dignitaries as grand viziers, pashas, and palace chamberlains; all of these weapons are eye-catching with their fine craftsmanship and decorations. An additional factor that contributed to the diversification of the collections highly artistic weaponry was the tradition of bringing to the palace the weapons of important figures that were obtained through plunder.

The needs of the Ottoman Army, involved as it was in constant warfare and conquests, were many varied. Arms and armor were provided by the weapon-makers of the empire, and kept carefully maintained in large armories in the major urban centers. The weaponry used by the Ottoman army was manufactured in various workshops and stored in armories called cebehane, where their maintenance and repairs would also be done. The first Ottoman cebehane was established in Edirne. Following the conquest of Constantinople, Sultan Mehmed II converted the Church of Hagia Eirene in Topkapı Palaces First Courtyard into a cebehane, for which purpose this building would continue to be used until the late 19th century.

The most valuable weapons acquired as trophies, many of them encrusted with precious stones or made of precious metals, and those once belonging to persons of importance were kept in the palace, alongside arms acquired by requisition or presented to the courts as gifts, and others belonging to the viziers and palace guards. They were stored in the palace treasuries under the supervision of the imperial treasurer or Hazinedar and the chief sword-bearer or Silahtar Ağa.

Arms bearing a sacred significance in the Islamic world, especially those belonging to important religious figures, were preserved with particular care, hence the excellent state of much of the collection which is based on the weapons kept in the palace, the contents of the armory having later being transferred to the Military Museum.

A significant part of the palace collection was shown for the first time in the privy treasury in the second court of the palace in 1929. The original display was removed in 1966, to be replaced by a new display of arms three years later. Among the most notable example of weaponry in the collection are those o Arab, Mameluke, Iranian and Turkish origin, which are here classified according to the type of arms and their major characteristics.

Today, approximately 400 differents arms of various countries are displayed here. They date from the 7th century to the 19th century. Turkish, Arabic and Persian swords, daggers, helmets, sceptres, chain armour, shields, bows, pistols, rifles and arrows are displayed. An Indian shield (16th century) inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and Japanese chain armour with sword, which were given as gifts to Sultan Abdülmecit II in 1891 are very interesting.

Ottoman Sultan's swords displayed along the wall in glass cases are a favourite attractions. Also to be seen in another display are Europeam swords. Ottoman weapons form the bulk of the collection, but it also includes examples of Umayyad and Abbasid swords as well as Mamluk and Persian armour, helmets, swords and axes. A lesser number of European and Asian arms make up the remainder of the collection.

The Arms Collection, which consists primarily of weapons that remained in the palace at the time of its conversion, is one of the richest assemblages of Islamic arms in the world, with examples spanning a period of 1300 years from the 7th to the 20th century. The palace's collection of arms and armour consists of objects manufactured by the Ottomans themselves, or gathered from foreign conquests, or given as presents.

The collection also contains number of Turkish jereed sticks used in (a kind of mounted darts) , horse arms (head pieces), medieval ceremoni swords, the swords and guns of Daghestan from the Crimea, Japanes swords and helmets and Europe, swords, guns and pistols.

Turkish Arms

The quantity variety of weapons in this group fen the most important part of the collection, including arms dating from the 15th to the 20th century not only of historical, but also of considerable technical, artistic and intrinsic value. The arms of the Ottoman sultans are particularly important for the collection. The typical Turkish sword emerged after some experimentation in the first half of the 15th century as a curved blade or sabre type, the earliest example of which is the sword of Mehmed the Conqueror.

This weapon, which is significant for the collection, is entirely original. The single, slightly curved edge is countered by a broad ridge to the blade which has a channel running down the centre to the tip. When compared with the sword of Selim I we see that the curve in the blade of the latter is slightly more marked, which brings us closer to the noticeable curve of 16th century swords.

It was in the 16th century that the Turkish sword developed to its ultimate if maturity of form, in particular during the reigns of Selim the Grim and Suleyman the Magnificent. We can date the emergence of the short slightly curved double edged sharp-pointed yataghan to the second half of the 16th century.

Turkish chain mail was similar to that of the Mamelukes and was extremely flexible arid light while helmets evolved over the centuries, from the narrow conical type of the 14th and 15th centuries almost all of which had vizors and nap pieces, to a more round-bellied shape towards the end of the 15th century with less pronounced and smaller finial. What we might call the classica1 form was sustained throughout the 16th century and by the end of the century the characteristics of the 17th century type had already been set, with no trace of finial and a brow piece in place of a vizor.

The earliest Turkish guns in the collection date from the beginning of the 17th century. These are the simple matchlock guns which were superceded by the flintlock gun. The latter, also represented in the collection remained little changed until the end of the 19th century but for a narrower but introduced during the 19th century along with a mauser type handle, undoubtedly influenced by European guns. The typical Turkish pistol whether single-or double barrelled, had a ball at the base of the handle.

Maces and halberds, like Iranian and Mameluke Iran arms of that kind in form, were however also to be found in brass and silver. Hatchets too were similar to those of the Mamelukes and Iran, but many had iron shafts. The lances of Turkish spears are generally cane, or hardwood such as ebony.

The history of the bow can be traced far back in Turkish history. Like the sword, arrows were considered sacred and oaths were sworn over them. Renowned as the finest in the world, four distinct materials went into the making of Turkish bows, wood, bone (horn), gut and gum The bows themselves were classified according to their function into three major groups, for hunting, range archer: and war or puta, menzil and tirkes types respectively.

Arrows, which were made o beech, cane or pine are of numerous type again falling into the major groups, such as the range or menzil arrow, a whistling halberdier's or cavus arrow, war or harp arrow and target or hedef arrow. Apart from the common iron or copper shields, there are also a number of Turkish shields made of willow branches twisted round into a spiral. There was no particular form favored by Turkish standards, which were mainly of copper brass, silver or gold.

Arab Swords

This group include the oldest weapons in the collection, also those most venerated in Islam. Dating from the time of the prophet to the 13t century swords belonging to certain Ummayid and Abbasid caliphs, are a similar in type, namely double edge broadswords of which only the blades at generally original, the hilts and cross pieces being later replacements in Mameluke and Turkish styles.

These unique pieces, the like of which are to t found in no other collection throughout the world, are of great importance for Islamic cultural history. They were brought to Istanbul along with a number of relics acquired by Selim I in 1517 on h conquest of Egypt.

Egyptian Mameluke Arms

The are a great number of Mameluke weapons in the collection, many of which a inscribed, and some of particular importance belonging to the Mameluke sultans. We know from the various examples of material and technique used in making of these weapons, which date from the 14th to the 16th centuries, and from the forms themselves that Mameluke weaponry was highly sophisticated in comparison with other contemporary arms.

There were basically two types of Mameluke swords, both represented in the collection, broadswords and sabres (straight and curved blades) , which were used simultaneously from the 14th through the 16th century, although the tendancy one sees among Turkish and Iranian swords of the same period towards the adoption of a single-edged curved blade in place of the earlier double edged broadsword is also discernable among Mameluke arms. The two finest swords of the period are those of the Mameluke Sultans Kayitbay and Kansuh-el-Guri.

Mameluke chain mail is either profiled wrought chain mail or fine, flat link mail, with steel guards under the arms, and breast and back plates, similar to Turkish chain mail of the 15-16th centuries. The flat link mail, being lighter and finer, is notably more serviceable than heavy European chain mails. The Mameluke conical iron helmets are characterized by ear and nape pieces.

The hatchets are single or double bladed with typical crescent-shaped head and round or angled iron shafts. Lances too, unlike Turkish and Iranian lances are iron, as are the Mameluke maces and halberds, all extremely effective weapons. Like Arab arms, these Mameluke weapons w brought to Istanbul after the capture Egypt.

Iranian Arms

Acquired as trophies or gifts, these are highly decorated may be classed among the finest exam of Iranian metalwork. The earliest swords in the collection, pre-dating the 15th century, indicate that like Mameluke Turkish swords these were gener double edged broadswords, tending later (after the 15th century) to be superceded by swords of the single edged sabre type the curved blade narrowing in the century to a sharper point in the scimitar or semsir type. Iranian helmets in collection are typically semi-spherical extended pointed finials and two aigrette mountings towards the front.

Chain mail with steel breast and back plates or characteristic form of armor, although there is also a type consisting of four plates or 'car ayine'. Hatchets are widespread broad-edged type rescent-shaped axe heads, mainly shafted, while the lances are wooden or reed shafted. Bows are composite Vi broad curve and a marked recoil to the arms, and standards, remeniscent of tulips or palmettes in form, are decorated open-work engraving and mounted iron shafts.


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