From the back of the third courtyard ramps lead down to a set of gardens and terraces. On the right-hand side stand the Sofa Mosque, built by Sultan Mahmud II for his corps of sword bearers and still in use today; and the Mecidiye Pavilion, a neoclassical structure built for Sultan Abdulmecid by one of the Balyan in c. 1840 that now houses the Konyali Restaurant (see below). Beyond it extends one of the best views in the city – straight out over the Golden Horn to the confluence of the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara, and thence across to Asia.
On the terrace to the left lies what was once the tulip garden where Sultan Ahmed III hosted the famous Tulip Era parties (see p.265); in the center is a 5th- century marble font that was once used as a piggy-bank for gold coins but now has a purely decorative function. The Head Physician’s Tower at the corner seems to have been one of a series of towers at the edge of the garden from which the sultans could watch games of cirit taking place beneath it; at the back is a 6th-century marble bishop’s throne reused as a seat for anyone who wanted to watch the game from closer quarters. Past the tower, the Sofa Pavilion was probably built so that the sultan could admire his flowers from indoors in poor weather.
At the end of the tulip garden steps lead up to one of the most delightful parts of the whole palace complex with a pair of wonderfully tiled kiosks standing on either side of a pool and with the Marble Terrace overlooking the Golden Horn stretching out between them. Centerpiece of this terrace is the charming iftar Canopy put here in 1640 during the reign of Sultan ibrahim I, known as “the Mad”; it was where the sultan would break the Ramadan fast at the end of each day while looking out over the stunning view. In general, though, the terrace was mainly used as a place for entertainment.
Of the two kiosks, the one to the right is the domed and porticoes Baghdad Pavilion, built by Sultan Murad IV in 1639 to commemorate his capture of that city. Splendidly wallpapered with blue and white tiles, it boasts a magnificent fireplace with a bronze hood and served as a library for many years. Facing it on the opposite side of the terrace is the Circumcision Room, built in 1641 and also covered in tiles; some of those on the outside walls are especially notable. This is linked by a portico with yet more tiles to the Erivan Pavilion, built by Sultan Murad IV in 1636 to celebrate his capture of the Armenian capital. Ironically, by the time work on the Baghdad and Erivan Pavilions had been completed both cities had been lost to the Ottomans.
Mecidiye Pavilion (IMAGE)
Baghdad Pavilion (IMAGE)