Privy Room and Chamber of Holy Relics

The Privy Room (Has Oda) / The Chamber Of The Holy Relics (Mukaddes Emanetler Dairesi) The Privy Room, built during the time of Sultan Mehmed II (r. 1451-81) as the sultan’s private apartments on the courtyard of the Inner Palace, is a two-storey structure of four basic spaces. The first part, at the entrance, is the Fountain Hall, named for the fountain located beneath the first dome. Beneath the second dome is a bench on which the sultan could sit. The wooden doors and window shutters open onto the Petition Room and the other rooms and date back to the building’s initial construction. Above them is inscribed the name of Mehmed II. The mother-of-pearl inlay door in the Privy Room was installed during renovations in 1916. The Petition Room (Arzhâne) is entered through a door on the right side of the Fountain Hall and on this door is written verse 46 of the Qur’an’s Surah al-Hijr: “Enter in peace and security!” (udkhuluha bisalamin aminina). In here, the sultan would read petitions submitted to him and issue appropriate orders related to them. It was also the room where he would receive guests. The Petition Room is decorated with Iznik and Kütahya tiles manufactured at the workshops established in the Palace of the Porphyrogenitus (Tekfur Sarayı) now located in modern-day Istanbul’s Fatih district. Containing tiles from several different periods and in several different styles, the Petition Room is effectively a fine ceramic tile exhibition in itself. In the band stretching among the tiles are inscribed verses 38 to 44 of the Qur’an’s Surah al-Ahzab; the sections following the final verse are located precisely in the centre of the Privy Room’s dome. One additional use of the Petition Room was as a place for the sultan to receive the congratulations of the grand vizier and other court dignitaries following his accession to the throne as well as during official visits to the Holy Mantle of the Prophet which took place on the fifteenth day of the month of Ramadan. Currently, the Petition Room is open to the public and some of the holy relics are exhibited here. The Privy Room was primarily a place used in the winter as a study. In particular, the sultans Mehmed II, Bayezid II, Selim I, and Suleiman the Magnificent would spend a large part of their days here, and would on occasion spend the night here when there was a great deal of state business. The Privy Room’s dome was raised on the order of Sultan Selim I following his conquest of Mamluk Egypt and uses Mamluk-style honeycomb corbels. This dome is much higher than the other domes-another sign indicating the fact that this was a room used by the sultan. In the left corner of the Privy Room stands a gilded throne made of silver covered by a canopy. This throne was made in the time of Sultan Murad IV (r. 1623-40) by the court’s chief jeweler, Dervish Zıllî Mehmed who is also known as the father of famed author and traveler Evliyâ Çelebi. The throne’s canopy is done as a cavetto vault and rests on four columns. Beautiful carvings and a hadith inscription decorate it, along with a panegyric written about this particular throne by the poet Cevrî. When a prince was to be enthroned, he would first sit here before proceeding to the enthronement ceremony at the Gate of Felicity. It was also here that the grand vizier and the shaykhu’l-Islam would swear their loyalty to the sultan. Before the official ceremony, two cycles of Islamic prayer (raka`ah) would be recited here. Until the time of Mahmud II (r. 1808-39), the two faces of the throne were covered with silver grilles and the holy relics were stored here together with the drawer holding the Holy Mantle of the Prophet. Though the Privy Room is not in fact particularly large, its ceramic tile panels and imposing dome make it appear larger than it is. Inscribed in white sülüs calligraphy over a dark blue base on the tile panels is the Arab poet al-Busiri’s poem Nahja’l-Burdah (“The True Path of the Mantle”) in praise of the Prophet Muhammad. Due to the poem’s presence here in the room where the Holy Mantle of the Prophet was kept, this poem is also known as “The Panegyric of the Mantle” (Hırka Kasîdesi) in Turkish. The Holy Mantle of the Prophet, or the Mantle of Felicity (Hırka-i Saâdet), has been kept in the Privy Room ever since it was brought from Egypt following Selim I’s conquest in 1517. When the Ottoman sultans formally took on the Islamic caliphate, various holy relics continued to be brought here following the reign of Selim as well. When Topkapı Palace was abandoned in the 19th century, the Privy Room began to be used solely to house and preserve the holy relics and, over time, the entire structure became known as the Chamber of the Holy Relics (Mukaddes Emanetler Dairesi). The Privy Room is currently closed to the public.