The Tower of Justice and the Divan

The most conspicuous building in the second courtyard is the conical-roofed Tower of Justice that is another prominent feature on the city skyline. The body of the tower dates back to the reign of Sultan Mehmed II, although the roof was completely remodelled by Sultan Mahmud II in 1820.

In front of it stands the domed Divan, or Council Chamber, where the business of state was conducted and justice administered. Before every meeting of the Divan the council of viziers (ministers) would process to the palace along the road now called Divan Yolu in their memory (LINK).

Once in the chamber they would seat themselves on the benches around the wall with the Grand Vizier, the Ottoman equivalent of the prime minister, in the middle facing the entrance. Originally the sultans also attended these meetings but over time they prefered to take a back seat, the grille above the Grand Vizier’s seat allowing them to eavesdrop on proceedings. The hanging gold pendant was a symbol of their continued authority. Fine iznik tiles adorn the lower walls of the Divan although much of the decor dates back to an 18th-century restoration by which time state business was being conducted from the Sublime Porte (LINK) beyond the palace walls.

Adjoining the Divan is the Public Records Office, so that any paperwork needed would be readily to hand. Beyond it the Grand Vizier had a private office that is not currently open to the public.

Next door to the Divan was the Public Treasury (Silahlar Seksiyonu) where tax revenues collected from the provinces were stored. Every three months the Janissaries were ceremonially paid from here at which time they were also treated to a specially prepared meal. This building houses the palace collection of armor and weaponry, including some of the horsetail standards that would be erected in front of the Gate of Salutations before the sultan set off for war.

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