DOLMABAHCE SARAYI (PALACE)
Towards the end of the Ottoman Empire, in the 19C, the Westernization movement was dominant. For the Ottomans who lived in Istanbul, “West” was in the “north” beyond the Golden Horn. In mid-nineteenth century they moved a few kilometers to the north for (Dolmabahce Palace) and this change took the Empire to an entirely different dimension.
“Dolma” is filled or stuffed and “bahce” is garden in Turkish. The site of the Dolmabahce Palace was obtained by filling the small bay on the Bosphorus giving the palace its name.
The architect Garabet Balyan managed to combine the Oriental and Western styles. The lifestyle and needs were Oriental but the plan was taken from European palaces. He also combined various architectural styles forming the eclectic style.
It covers an area of 25 hectares / 62 acres. The palace was built by Sultan Abdulmecit as the outcome of his Westernization influences between the years 1844 and 1853. The official opening of the palace was after the Crimean War, 1856. Abdulmecit lived in his new palace for only 15 years. The palace was used by different sultans until the republic. During the republic the palace was used for foreign statesmen and democratic cultural activities. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk occupied a room at the palace on his visits to Istanbul and died there in 1938.
The construction of the palace was at a time when the economy of the Ottoman Empire was not at all good. This difficult situation was not taken into consideration and all the materials used at the palace were very expensive, of top quality and brought from different countries. Among the valuable items were vases from Sévres, Lyon silk, Baccarat crystals, English candelabra, Venetian glasses, German and Czech Bohemian chandeliers and furniture in the rococo style.
The palace consists of 285 rooms and 46 halls. There are approximately 600 paintings and very beautiful huge Hereke carpets specially woven for Dolmabahce.
The Dolmabahce Palace is an impressive building facing the sea with very high walls on the side facing inland. The main building is surrounded by magnificent palace gardens. There are nine gates on the inland side, two of which are monumental. On the front facing the sea there are five gates.
The palace was intended to be symmetrical in plan and decoration which was not something new. However with this palace the focal point is the sea. The building was constructed to be seen from the sea and it is this feature which is new and unique in Ottoman architecture.
The reception hall with its five and a half-ton English chandelier, the hamam and the crystal banisters are of outstanding importance in the palace.