After the conquest of Constantinople by Sultan Mehmed II, the basic framework of city’s main structure as it existed during the Byzantine period appears to have been maintained under Ottoman rule. There is a comprehensive compilation of literature about Constantinople before the Ottoman conquest. There is also a vast amount of literature about the city from the period following the Ottoman conquest.1 As shown in this literature, the dense population centers of the city during the late Byzantine period consisted of the districts surrounding Theodosius Square (essentially today’s Beyazid Square), the Hagia Sophia, the region around the palace of the Hebdomon (Tekfur Palace), and the areas around the Byzantine churches and monasteries. Mehmed II established his first palace in Theodosius Square, where Istanbul University and the Office of the mufti are located today. Later, particularly after the construction of Beyazid Mosque, Beyazid Square became an extension of the marketplace. Beyazid Square has always maintained its central position in the street network. After the conquest, the city became known as Istanbul.

The city was known as Stambul during the Seljuk era and in the early days of the Ottoman period. According to Armenian sources and the work of J. Schiltberger, who was captured by the Ottomans at the end of fourteenth century, it was pronounced either Stimbol or Stambol. In the tenth century, Mes‘udi noted that the Greeks called the city Bulin or Stanbulin. During the Ottoman period, the Greeks called the city Stimboli and the Turks referred to it as Stambol. It has long been known that this pronunciation comes from the Greek phrase eis tin polin, which means towards the city, to Constantinople. It seems that the name Stambulin had become Stimbol or Stambol, and the name Istanbul was derived from this. According to official sources of the Ottoman period, the word Kostantiniyye was engraved on the currency, but the Greek and Turkish population generally used the name Istanbul. After the conquest, scholars in particular preferred to use the word Islambol instead of Istanbul. According to an Armenian source, the name Islambol was given to the city by Sultan Mehmed II after the conquest. From what we understand from the writings of Evliya Çelebi, the name Islambol was used in the seventeenth century. With an imperial edict dated 1760, the word Kostantiniyye was ordered to be written upon the currency.2 Today, the official name of the city is Istanbul. Before the conquest Arabs and Persians used the names Kustantiniyye or Kunstantiniyye. The name Byzantion was rarely used during the Ottoman period. We see the forms Rumiyyetü’l-Kübrâ and Taht-ı Rûm in Islamic and Ottoman literature. The form Gulgule-i Rûm is also mentioned in Islamic literary sources and Ottoman words and phrases such as Payitaht-i Saltanat, Tahtgâh-i Saltanat, Makarr-ı Saltanat, Darüssaltana, and Darülhilafe were also used in official correspondence. Similarly, we see the phrases Der-i Sa‘âdet, Dersaâdet, or Asitâne in official records. The names el-Mahmiyye or el-Mahrûse, indicating a kind of sanctification, were also used. Although other names, such as Darü’l-hilâfeti’l-‘aliyye or Makarr-ı saltanat-ı seniyye can be seen in official writings, Istanbul is sometimes referred to merely by the word şehir (city).

Constantinople was a legendary city and known as the Kızıl Elma (the Red Apple), which the Ottomans had watched with admiration from afar; since the reign of Osman I they had been making plans to capture it one day. After the Yalakova victory on 27 July 1302, Osman I’s soldiers went as far as the banks of the Bosphorus to loot the city. It is known that Sultan Orhan had a close relationship with Istanbul due to his marriage with Theodora, the daughter of the Byzantine emperor John VI Kantakuzenos, and that he participated in battles in Thrace against the Bulgarians and Serbians (1352) as the emperor’s ally.3 Certain preparations were underway as early as the reign of Sultan Osman, such as settling in Kandıra, Akçakoca and the movement and settlement of the uc gazisi (borderland warrior) Abdurrahman Gazi, his ally, from Kocaeli to the castle in Aydos on the hill across from Byzantium; this can be seen as the beginning of the Ottomans’ activities against Byzantium. The settlement of the Ottomans in Üsküdar, directly across from Constantinople, was realized with their victory after the Battle of Pelekanon in 1329.4 As a result of this victory, the Kocaeli region, from Hereke to Üsküdar, was added to the Ottoman lands and the Ottomans settled along the eastern coast of the Bosphorus up to the Black Sea.5 Orhan Bey allied with the Venetians and supported the Genoese in their sea battle (1352) against Byzantium, actively helping them protect Genoese Galata. Later, in 1357, when still a şehzade, Murad I conquered Rumelia with Lala Şahin; one by one they captured all the towns between Istanbul and Edirne. Finally, in the spring of 1361, Murad I conquered Edirne. The campaign in Thrace was an important development that reflected the future awaiting Constantinople. After establishing his throne, Murad I moved with his army to Rumelia in 1366 and started to take action against Byzantium. This development was the first direct Ottoman attack on Istanbul. The primary defense line that protected Istanbul from the west was that which extended along Büyük Çekmece-Silivri to Sazlıdere. Sultan Murad I captured the two Byzantine castles in Silivri, thus directly threatening Byzantium. These actions of Sultan Murad I should be mentioned as the first serious Ottoman military action that threatened Constantinople. Consequently, the First Battle of Kosovo (1389) demonstrated that the fate of Constantinople had already been determined. In fact, Yıldırım Beyazid, who ascended to the throne after his father, came to Istanbul and began a siege in 1394 that lasted eight years, already sealing the fate of Istanbul.6 The defeat of the large Crusader army that came from the west to help the city during the siege in the battle of Nicopolis (1396) signaled the end of the hopes of Byzantium. The Byzantine emperor, Manuel II, went to Europe in an effort to find help, while the emperor’s deputy in Istanbul and the patriarch began to make preparations to hand the city over to the sultan.7 What saved Byzantium was Tamerlane’s Anatolian campaign.

1- Sultan Mehmed II (Topkapı Palace Museum, no. H. 2153)

By means of his masterful diplomacy, the Byzantine emperor Manuel II played an effective role in the fight among the Çelebis during the Ottoman interregnum (1402-1413). Amir Süleyman, who settled in Edirne, maintained warm relations with the emperor, but Musa Çelebi, who eliminated Amir Süleyman and took Rumelia under his control, came as far as the city walls of Istanbul to punish Manuel. This was the second time that Istanbul was besieged by the Ottomans. Musa Çelebi was determined to get back the lands, especially Salonika, that had been given by a desperate Süleyman Çelebi to Byzantium. The siege of Istanbul was an indication of this aggressive policy he pursued against Byzantium. Even after he became sultan, Çelebi Mehmed maintained his friendship with Byzantium, which had played an important role in the elimination of his brother Musa Çelebi. In order to maintain these peaceful relations, Byzantine diplomacy even secured Sultan Mehmed’s promise to send his sons to Istanbul as hostages. Upon Byzantium’s provocations of his rivals,8 Murad II, who ascended to the throne in 1421, went to Istanbul with his army the following year. Even with cannons in his army, the siege, which continued the whole summer, did not produce any results.

2- The Scene from Tophane to Istanbul (Hlaire, Topkapı Palace Museum, no. 17 / 204)

3- Üsküdar, Selimiye, Fenerbahçe and Istanbul, Galata, the Golden Horn on the upper side (Topkapı Palace Museum, no. 17-24)

The call of the Byzantine emperor to the West, via the Papacy, for a Crusade campaign to seal the fate of the Ottoman State, and in particular the attendance of the emperor with a large group at the 1439 Florence Council, raised concerns among the Ottomans. The Ottomans accepted the Florence Council as a new Byzantine-Crusader threat and were determined to end Byzantium.9 In this respect, the year 1439 was a turning point for the fate of Constantinople. Eliminating the Byzantine city, combining the two parts of the state, i.e. Rumelia and Anatolia, and “eliminating this center of discord” (from Sultan Mehmed’s speech in Edirne) became a matter of life and death for the Ottomans and for the young Sultan Mehmed (his first sultanate was in Edirne in 1444–1446). The rivals of Çandarlı Halil Pasha, Sultan Mehmed’s lalas (tutors) and the distinguished soldiers Zağanos Pasha and Şahabeddin Pasha, constantly encouraged the sultan towards the conquest. Finally, Mehmed II conquered the city and laid the foundations of a new empire.

4a- Pages from Istanbul and Galata land registers dated 1455

4b- Pages from Istanbul and Galata land registers dated 1455

5- Sultan Mehmed II’s Imperial edict dated June 1475 regarding to prevent the damages given by a tiler furnace to neigboring farm (BOA, MF, no. 1/1)

6- The outer view of Hagia Sophia which was transformed into a mosque by Sultan Mehmed II (Fossati)

Istanbul during the Reign of Sultan Mehmed II: 1455 Istanbul and Galata Tahrirs (Survey Registers)

The tahrir of Istanbul that was prepared on the order of Sultan Mehmed in 1455 is the most important document showing the situation after the conquest.10 In the introduction to the section about Galata, it is stated that the tahrir was completed at the beginning of the month of Muharram in AH 860, or about two and a half years after the conquest. Only 128 pages of this manuscript, a photocopy, not the original, have survived today. Some of the final pages of the section on Galata are missing, and there are great gaps in the section on Istanbul, of which only thirty-seven pages remain. The entire section related to the northern parts of the city, situated on the eastern side of the line from Edirnekapı to the Küçük Ayasofya Mosque, which is on the coast of the Marmara Sea, is missing. In other words, the section related to Tekfur Palace, Fatih, and Beyazid, which were the most populated districts of the Golden Horn, is missing from the photocopy. Some of the missing sections, however, were found ripped from the original and placed in the başmuhasebe (chief accountant) register. Historian Kritobulos, who was close to Sultan Mehmed II, provides interesting details about the settling of the captured Greeks in the city:11 “The total number of Romans and foreigners, men, women, and children who died in the battles and during the invasion of the city, was stated to be four thousand. And a little more than fifty thousand people, about five hundred of whom were soldiers, were captured alive.” One-fifth of the captives, which was the share of the sultan, or one thousand men, together with their wives and children, were settled along the coast of the city harbor, “because they were sailors who had been known as stenties before. The sultan gave them homes and exempted them from taxes for a certain period of time.” The sultan’s first decision was “to settle the noblemen of his choice together with their wives and children. Then he gave them houses, lands and supplies and tried to help them in any way he could.”12 The noblemen, including Grand Duke Notaras, however, “were all executed upon the warning that they would not hesitate to plot for their personal interests and try to regain what they had before. Later he (the sultan) felt regret and punished his viziers Zaganos Pasha and Şahabettin Pasha, who had given him this advice.”13

7- The internal view of Hagia Sophia which was transformed into a mosque by Sultan Mehmed II (Fossati)

These records are supported by information found in the tahrir registers, which provide significant information about the settlement of the city. It is worth noting that two waves of immigrants came to the districts of the conquered city. The first immigrants came immediately following the conquest. According to the eyewitness Ottoman historian Tursun Bey, Sultan Mehmed II announced that rich or poor, all Turks who immigrated to the city by their own will could choose the house or mansion they wished and ownership would be given to them.14 Tursun Bey adds that many Turks who heard this announcement came to the city and took up the offer. It seems that this set into motion a migration in Anatolia and Thrace. Seeing no chance to survive in a destroyed city, the newcomers, however, soon left the city. Before setting out to Edirne in June 1453, Sultan Mehmed II ordered that five thousand households be brought to the city by September 1453. Special orders concerning the repopulation of the city were given to Karıştıran Süleyman Bey, the first subaşı (the police chief) of Istanbul. Meanwhile, during the summer of 1453, people were expelled from Galata and Silivri to Istanbul. The sultan returned to Istanbul in the fall of the same year and when he saw that his order about repopulating the city had not been as successful as he had expected, he took measures.15 He appointed Georgios Skholarios (Gennadios II) as patriarch on 6 January 1454 in order to encourage the Christians who had fled the city before the conquest to return and settle in Istanbul.16 After that, the sultan went to Bursa to punish “some of the local officers” for not being able to convince the people of Bursa to migrate to Istanbul. He ordered a certain number from the population of Bursa to be sent to settle in the town of Eyüp, outside of Istanbul.17 After staying in Bursa for thirty-five days, he returned to Istanbul and set out to Edirne in the winter of 1454–1455, as indicated in the survey register completed in December. Sultan Mehmed II must have given orders for the survey to be conducted before he went to Edirne.

8- The outer view of Zeyrek Mosque (Gurlitt)

9- The internal view of Zeyrek Mosque (Gurlitt)

The register, which gives details about the identities of the immigrants, also describes their settlement; it indicates that large immigrant groups settled in the Top-yıkığı, Sufiyan, Altımermer, and Samatya districts. In the Top-yıkığı district there were a total of 83 households: 3 Greek, 33 Muslim, and 45 Jewish. Before these immigrants, immigrants from Kocaeli (41), Eflugan (Kastamonu) (3), Bolu (3), İnönü (21), Kestel (a township in Bursa), Manisa, Borlu, Burgaz, Çorlu, and Tekfur Mountain (20), and Jews from Plovdiv (34) settled in these houses. The Samatya district, a district that provided a very large area for settlement, presents an interesting picture. All of the first immigrants coming from Kocaeli, Bursa, Balıkesir, Seferhisar, and Menteşe in northwestern Anatolia and from scattered places in Rumelia down to Gallipoli were Muslims. Three of the 13 Greeks in the district were locals from Istanbul and one of them was identified as a monk. The population of the district, however, displayed a different picture in the 1455 register. While almost all of the first Muslim immigrants are identified as refugees, it appears that the Greeks also joined the reverse migration to the city. A large Jewish group, consisting of 37 people from İzdin (Zituni), was settled in the houses left by the Muslims and others. It is stated that Muslim immigrants continued to live in the eight houses of the monastery. Two Greeks settled in a house that had been left by a man named Şahin from Bolu. There were no Jewish residents in the monastery houses.

Because the Isa-Kermesi district, which took its name from the church of the same name, maintained its Greek character, it presented an apparently different order than the others. Muslim immigrants coming from different parts of Anatolia, including Bolu, Yenice, Ayazmend, Ankara, and Boğaz-Hisar, lived in this district. Six of the Muslims settled in the houses in the courtyard of the Aya Dimitri Palologoz monastery. There were a total of nineteen Greeks, including eight kalogerya, one kalogeros, one priest, and four other Greeks, all of whom lived in the houses of the Mirlosi Monastery. This was the only district with a Greek majority and it is understood that most of the Greeks were members of the monasteries and churches located in the district. While Muslims from Çorlu and Thrace were in the majority (14 households) in the Altımermer District, there were Muslims from Bolu (2 households) and from a place named Çağa near Bolu (4 households) among those who left. The last group included a tanner, a fakih (jurist), and an akhi (a member of a Muslim guild). Some of them left only after receiving permission to do so, which shows that they did not completely leave the city. Most of the immigrants who left the city were identified as fugitives.

Greeks lived in only one of the twenty-seven monasteries listed in this section of the register. The rest of monasteries were either empty or occupied by Muslims. In the area covered by the section of the register that still exists, forty churches are listed. Most of them were within the walls of the monasteries and, like their houses, only two of them still belonged to Greeks.

The task to execute the register was given to Cübbe (Cebe) Ali Bey, the governor of Bursa at the time. He chose his cousin Tursun Bey, a famous historian during the period of Sultan Mehmed II, to help with this task.18 Tursun Bey describes the general aim and background of the register as follows: “After the conquest of the city, the sultan gave the ownership of a house left by its previous owner to those who willingly moved to the city. Upon this, the people, rich and poor, rushed into the city and settled in the houses. Then the sultan enacted another edict ordering the registration of all these houses and the charge of an appropriate mukata‘a (rent) for them. This was because what had been granted to the immigrants as property were the buildings. The land on which these buildings stood belonged to the Hagia Sophia waqf and thus tenants had to pay a rent. It seems that Hagia Sophia was important to Sultan Mehmed II. The day he entered the conquered city, he declared Istanbul to be the capital and Hagia Sophia to be the Cami-i Kebir (Great Mosque) of the capital city. In 1457, he transferred all the religious structures of Byzantium, which had been opened for the use of Muslims, to the waqf of Hagia Sophia. These were the Pantocrator or Zeyrek Mosque and St. Savior Pantepoptes or Eski İmaret Mosque.19

Tursun Bey also wrote that: “Because of registration, many houses have changed ownership. For example, one man who could not afford the rent had to move to another place that he could afford. After the register was completed and presented to the sultan, it appeared that about 2,000 fuçi (100 million akçe) had been assessed. Soon after, however, the sultan donated the rent to his soldiers and his subjects and commanded that the properties with his imperial seal be given to them free of mukata’a.” Sultan Mehmed II used the method of forced migration to populate the capital city; in addition to Jews, he also had the people whom he enslaved during his military expeditions from regions such as Serbia, the Aegean Islands, and the Peloponnese settle in Istanbul and the villages around it. Those people were not allowed to leave. They had the status of kul, or prisoners of war, and could not get married to the reaya (tax-paying subjects). The Christians who were brought to Istanbul as exiles and settled in the city were mostly Greeks. Meanwhile, of course, the more the city was built up, the more Turkish and especially Greeks from the vicinity moved into it.

Those first population movements formed the beginning of the city’s development. The most important information about the physical state of Istanbul during these first settling attempts is provided by the 1455 register of Istanbul. According to this register, the dwelling units in the city, i.e. its districts, were:

  • Eski Balat
  • Avrantharya (Ayvansaray)
  • Balat
  • Badrak (Patrik)
  • II. Balat
  • Zağanos Paşa
  • Perokambiyo (?)
  • Kızlar Manastırı
  • Kron
  • Misivyani (Mesoyani?)
  • Liko Sprios
  • Lips
  • Kir Martas
  • Megalo Dhimestiko
  • Manastır Ayos Hristoferoz
  • Sofyan
  • Top-yıkığı
  • Kir Nikola
  • Ral Karmir
  • Kılıc
  • Istraduthna
  • Bâb-ı Silivri
  • Altımermer
  • Kastel-Hirise
  • Ipsomethya (Samatya)
  • İsa-Kermesi
  • Kızıltaş
  • Azebân
  • Büyük Balat.

(the section about the district of Hagia Sophia and its neighboring districts is missing)

These district names demonstrate that the Byzantine districts for the most part continued to be known by their old names in 1455. Some of these old names started to be translated into Turkish. Some districts like Top-yıkığı turned into districts that were densely populated by Muslims. Balat was a district where the Jewish expatriates settled. The name of the Zağanos Paşa district was changed after Zağanos Pasha was sent into exile (1455). The district of Azebân was an area where there was a dense settlement of the azap soldiers. Kastel-Hirise (Golden Gate) was the gate where the army entered the city and ceremonies were held there during the Byzantine period. Sultan Mehmed had a castle, the final defense point, and an inner castle of the city, known as Yedikule, built there. Because it was the most secure inner castle of the city, Yedikule was where the treasury was kept during the period of Sultan Mehmed II. In later periods, it became a castle in which state prisoners were incarcerated.

10- Fethiye Mosque (Gurlitt)

The 1455 register also provides details about the first official settlers in Istanbul. When the Ottomans conquered territory, they would appoint a military subaşı as the head of the local administration and a qadi (judge). The first subaşı was Karıştıran Süleyman Bey. Çakırcıbaşı Hamza was appointed in his place in 1455. Hamza Bey had provided valuable services during the conquest (he was later killed by Vlad the Impaler, known as Dracula, in 1462). Hızır Bey was appointed as the first qadi. On his way back to Edirne, Sultan Mehmed II ordered Hızır Bey to repair the sections of the city walls that had been destroyed by cannon fire. Hızır Bey’s report about the restoration of the walls, presented to Sultan Mehmed II after he returned Istanbul, has survived.20 In the 1455 register, it is apparent that some churches and monasteries were given to dervish groups. Âşıkpaşazade, a Sufi and historian, was allowed to establish the Âşıkpaşa zaviye (dervish lodge) in the Cibali district. It is also shown that some properties left from the Byzantine period in Istanbul and Galata were given to Âşıkpaşazade. Some property was also given to the scholar Mevlana Alaeddin Tusî, one of the favorites of Sultan Mehmed II. According to the 1455 register, the first Muslim settlers of the city were people from the military classes, such as the janissaries, azap (light infantry), topçu (cannoneers), and the hisar (fortress) soldiers. Similarly, the kapucubaşı (head of the palace guards) and imperial guards were resident in the palace. No rent was charged for buildings occupied by members from the military class.

In a way, the 1455 register reflects the physical characteristics of the Byzantine period. The city actually had a physical layout that was connected with the main route coming from the outside. The main road coming through Çekmece and continuing along the Marmara sea coast entered the city from Silivrikapısı. The Byzantines had built Silivri Hisar and another castle in Büyük Çekmece as the initial line of defense. Another main road reached the city from Edirnekapı. In the Ottoman period, caravans travelling by land routes would enter the city from this gate and come to the Grand Bazaar region. After Edirnekapı, the section of the road in the city known as the divanyolu was regarded as the most important şahrah (main road) in Istanbul.21 In later periods, the Halveti tekke and the richly adorned gardens of prominent members of state began to appear outside the city walls around those gates. During the Byzantine period, there were Byzantine and Armenian churches around Ayazma, outside the city walls. This tradition also continued during the Ottoman period. Ships came to the city primarily at the following ports: on the Golden Horn, the ports of Neorion (Eminönü) and Perama (Balıkpazarı); in Galata, the port of Yağkapanı, which was at the end of the Perşembe Pazarı; on the Marmara Sea, the old port of Theodosius-Eleptherios (which was later abandoned, today’s Langa Orchards) and the port of Iulianos, which was used as a covered dock and a galley port by the Ottoman navy. Most of the ships arriving from the Aegean Sea and Europe would dock at the Galata port, which was one of the ports for the Golden Horn. Olive oil coming from the Aegean Islands was imported through the port of Yağkapanı. The cellar records from the Genoese period are also mentioned in the register of 1455. The Golden Horn was important for Istanbul not only for fish, which was an important food source for the city, but also because of the ports in which sea transportation was concentrated. After the reign of Sultan Mehmed II, especially during the period of Sultan Süleyman I, Kasımpaşa Bay was transformed into a shipyard and naval base where the Ottoman navy was stationed. The settlement of the sailors and oarsmen in the region played an important role in the transformation of Galata. The palace of the Kaptanıderya (Grand Admiral) and ship workshops were located in the Tersane.22

The 1455 tahrir also provides information about the churches and monasteries of the city. As mentioned above, this gives quite informative data about Constantinople in the final century of the Byzantine period. Moreover, it also provides details that give an idea of Istanbul’s physical structure during the reign of Sultan Mehmed II.

11- Kariye Mosque (Gurlitt)

The following is a list of the churches recorded in the 1455 Istanbul tahrir:23

  1. The Church of Akşathiblos (located in the Ral Karmir district). This church is in the BozdoğanKemeri area and was later transformed into the Kalenderhane Mosque. Its name in Greek was theTheotokos Diakonnissa Church. According to the 1455 tahrir, this church alsocontained six houses and a small church. In this neighborhood, there was another church which wasturned into a local masjid by the Muslims.
  2. The Mirlos Monastery. Known as Myrelaiou in Greek, this monastery was located in the region of Langa; it later became the Bodrum Mosque. In the 1455 tahrir, it is referred to as the “Monastery known as Mirlos.” The three small churches in this monastery were left to the Greeks after the conquest.
  3. Istudhyo Monastery and Church (Mone tou Prodromou en tois Stoudiou). This monastery was in the Altınkapı (Yedikule) region and was given to Çakırcıbaşı Hamza Bey. The remnants of this monastery today are surrounded by walls and it constitutes an important historical monument. It was later converted into a mosque by Imrahor İlyas Bey, and was known as Imrahor Mosque.24
  4. The Girls Monastery (Andrei en ti Krisei). This was later transformed into a mosque by Koca Mustafa Pasha (1486).
  5. The Chora Church and Monastery. This is in the Balat district and its Greek name was Hristou tis Khoras. This monastery, located near the Tekfur Palace, has survived until today and is known as the Kahriye (Kariye) Mosque today. It was recorded in the 1455 tahrir as an abandoned monastery. This church and monastery were transformed into the Atik Ali Paşa Mosque in 1511.
  6. Kir Martas Monastery (Kyras Marthas Monastery). This is in the Kırkçeşme district, and was also known as Sekbanbaşı Masjid.
  7. The Lips Monastery (Mone tou Libos). This was turned into the Fenarî İsa Mosque in 1497.
  8. The Aya Marina Monastery. This was located in the Canalıcı district, across from the Fatih Mosque. There is another monastery in this district known as Mayametro.
  9. The Ral Kirmir Monastery. Located close to Kırkçeşme and Azaplar Bath House; according to the 1455 tahrir, it consisted of a church and three large houses.
  10. Four monasteries are recorded in the Kızıltaş district.
    1. Ayos Vasilos Monastery
    2. Pavselib Monastery (This monastery was known as Theotokon tes Pusolypes during the Byzantine period.)
    3. Hristholni Monastery
    4. Suyanitas (?) Monastery
  11. Prodhermez Monastery. There were about one hundred houses and two churches mentioned in connection with the monastery. This monastery was active at the time of the conquest.
  12. Aya Dimitri Church (Hagios Demetrios Kananu). This church remained empty after the conquest and Jewish families were settled into the houses around it. The church was mentioned as belonging to the Patriarchate in 1597. It was located directly behind the Patriarchate.
  13. Aya Narkiro Monastery (It is possible that this was the Agion Anargyron Kosma Monastery). This was in the Altımermer district. Greeks were settled around this monastery after the conquest.
  14. Ayos Hristoferoz Monastery (Agiou Christophoru). This small monastery was probably near the Lips district.
  15. Marul Monastery (Maroule). This was in the proximity of Edirnekapısı. Two small monasteries and five churches are mentioned in this district. This monastery later became the Mustafa Çavuş Mosque.
  16. Kir Nikola Monastery. This was in the region of the Kara Ahmed Paşa Mosque.
  17. Kılıç Monastery, also known as Xylinitou Monastery in Byzantine times. This was between Topkapı and Mevlevîhanekapı. There was atimarhane (hospital) connected to this church.
  18. Ipsomethia Monasteries. There were three monasteries outside Silivrikapı in the Balıklı region.
  19. There were two monasteries in the Büyük Balat district.
  20. 12- Yedikule and Istanbul (Gouffier)

  21. Hagia Theodosia Church. This was first used as a storehouse and in the sixteenth century was turned into the Gül Mosque. There is a legend that the last Byzantine emperor, Konstantinos XI, was buried in a room in this mosque.25

In later periods, when the Muslim population increased in the city and new Muslim districts were established, these local churches and monasteries were turned into mosques and masjids. S. Eyice gives a detailed list of the mosques, masjids, and other monuments of the Ottoman period which had roots in the Byzantine period.26

The following is a list of Byzantine churches in Istanbul that became mosques:

  1. Ayasofya Mosque (St. Sophia Church)
  2. Little Ayasofya Mosque (St. Sergius and Bacchus Church)
  3. Kalenderhane Mosque, Akataleptos Church (Diaconissa Church)
  4. Molla Güranî Mosque or Vefa Church Mosque (St. Theodore Church)
  5. Bodrum Mosque or Mesih Ali Paşa Mosque (Mirlos/Myrelaiou Church)
  6. Koca Mustafa Paşa Mosque or Sünbül Efendi Mosque (Andrei en ti Krisei Church)
  7. Sancakdar Hayreddin Masjid (Gastria Monastery)
  8. Manastır Masjid (In Topkapı-Aksaray)
  9. Fenarî İsa Mosque, Constantine Lips Church (Mone tou Libos Church)
  10. Zeyrek Chruch Mosque (St. Saviour Pantocrator Church)
  11. Şeyh Süleyman Masjid: Sheikh Süleyman turned this into a masjid during the reign of Sultan Mehmed II.
  12. Old Mosque (St. Savior Pantepoptes Church)
  13. Ahmed Paşa Masjid (St. John the Baptist in Trollo Church), in the Çarşamba district.
  14. Fethiye Mosque (St. Mary Pammakaristos Church)
  15. Kefeli Masjid (Manuel Monastery)
  16. Kasım Ağa Masjid: Together with Odalar Mosque, this masjid, in Edirnekapı close to Çukurbostan, must have belonged to a church.
  17. Kahriye (Kariye) Mosque (Atik Ali Paşa Mosque), (St. Savior in Chora/Hristoutis Khoras Church).
  18. Atik Mustafa Paşa Mosque (Koca Mustafa Paşa Mosque or Hazret-i Cabir Mosque) (St. Peter and Mark Church)
  19. Gül Mosque (St. Theodosia Church)

Churches that were destroyed or left in ruins are as follows:

  1. Yıldız Dede Tekke (In Bahçekapı)
  2. Acemi Ağa Masjid or Lala Hayreddin Masjid (St. Mary Chalcoprateia Church)
  3. Güngörmez Masjid (near the Sultanahmet district)
  4. Hamza Paşa Masjid (Peykhane or Tahta Minareli Mescid)
  5. Balaban Ağa Masjid (Aksaray-Laleli-Saraçhane)
  6. Sekbanbaşı İbrahim Ağa Masjid (This structure was partially destroyed during the construction of Atatürk Boulevard in 1934.)
  7. Hayderhane Masjid(Between Aksaray and Saraçhane; this structure no longer exists.)
  8. Ese (İsa) Kapı Masjid (Also known as İbrahim Paşa Masjid or Monastery Masjid)
  9. Etyemez Tekkesi Masjid (Mirza Baba Masjid), in the Etyemez district
  10. İmrahor İlyas Bey Mosque (St. John the Baptist of the Studion Church)
  11. Arabacı Bayezid Masjid (Arabacı Bayezid turned this into a masjid)
  12. Sivasî Tekke Masjid (It is reported that this structure was in the Sultan Selim district in Çukurbostan. During the era of Bayezid II this was given to Sheikh Muhiddin [1514].)
  13. Hoca Hayreddin Masjid (This was in Fatih near the Mesih Paşa and was also known as Üç Mihraplı Masjid.)
  14. Şüheda Masjid (In Karagümrük)
  15. Odalar Mosque or Kemankeş Mustafa Paşa Mosque (This structure was in Karagümrük, but no longer exists). This mosque must have been in the Kefeli District. Until 1636, it was in the hands of the Christians, but in 1640, after a growth in the Muslim population in the area, the structure was turned into a mosque by Kemankeş Mustafa Pasha.)

Church-mosques located along the coast of the Golden Horn were:

1) Toklu İbrahim Dede Masjid (St. Thecla Church)
2) Sinan Paşa Masjid (also known as Kızıl Masjid. This was located near Ayakapı and was transformed into a mosque by Kapudan Sinan Pasha).

13- Sultan Mehmed II (Bellini) (1480)

By turning the Byzantine monuments in Istanbul into Muslim houses of worship and supporting them with rich waqfs, these buildings survived to modern times. If they were not supported with waqfs, it would not have been possible for these monuments to have remained standing until today. Zeyrek Mosque and others, including Ayasofya Mosque, have been restored and their maintenance is carried out by the General Directorate of Museums and the General Directorate of Waqfs.

Mehmed II’s Reconstruction of Istanbul

14- Istanbul, Galata, and the walls surrounding the city (16<sup>th</sup>Century) (Hünername)

After the conquest, Mehmed II added the title of kayser (caesar) to his titles of hakan, sultan, halife, and padişah. As stated in contemporary Italian sources, after conquering Istanbul and declaring it the payitaht (capital city), Mehmed II began to see himself as the heir to the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire. Sultan Mehmed II adopted the plan to conquer all the lands around Konstantiniyye that had once been under the authority of Byzantium and to connect them to Istanbul via strong ties of centralization. For example, in addition to Anatolia and the Balkans, his efforts to add the Southern Crimea and Southern Italy (both of which had been subject to Byzantium) to his territory are remarkable. Strategically, the conquest of Istanbul and the control of the straits, Anatolia, and the Balkans, as well as of the Black and Aegean Seas, meant the full and real foundation of the Ottoman State.

After the conquest, Mehmed II adopted the title Sultânü’l-Berreyn ve Hâkânü’l-Bahreyn, or “the Sultan of the Two Lands and the Ruler of the Two Seas.” In order to turn Istanbul into a safe area connecting Anatolia and the Balkans and to secure the routes connecting the two continents, Sultan Mehmed II had castles built in Sultaniye (Çanakkale) and, across from this on the other side of the Bosphorus, in Kilidülbahr. Additionally, by building the Rumelia Castle before the siege, Sultan Mehmed II was able to protect Istanbul against possible attacks from the Black Sea and to control the traffic between the two shores with the castles of Rumelia and Anatolia. By means of these fortifications, for the first time Turkish dominance over the straits was fully established. As Sultan Mehmed II organized his military expeditions to create a centralized state that controlled “the Two Lands and the Two Seas,” one of his other main concerns was to develop Istanbul into a metropolitan city that was in keeping with this empire and which was truly a capital city. He took a series of measures to provide the necessary substructure for people from all sects to come, settle, and earn their living in the city, without discrimination. Just like Ottoman Bursa and Edirne, which had been overshadowed by Byzantium until that time, the new capital Istanbul was rebuilt in a planned way in the developed Ottoman urbanization tradition. The common belief is that Muslim and Ottoman cities were places of residence that were left to themselves and populated in an unplanned way. However, the detailed information given below proves the opposite. Ottoman cities developed around a core which consisted of places of worship, administrative centers, and the market.

In the large Ottoman cities, the construction of the Bedesten, which was considered to be the core of the marketplace and commercial life, was decided upon in 1456. In later years, as trade developed, Mehmed II had the Sandal Bedesten (which is the auction building today) built for silk fabrics. Again, as in all major Ottoman cities, according to the plans there were markets on the streets that ran parallel to the four roads emerging from the four gates of the Bedesten. Among these markets, the most “noble,” according to Eastern understanding, were built closest to the Bedesten. The one built farthest away was the flea market (bitpazarı), where used goods were sold. All of these markets formed the Grand Bazaar (today’s Kapalıçarşı, or literally “covered market”). In 1489, there were 641 stores (33 shoemakers, 33 leather sock makers, 44 skullcap makers, 50 carters and tailors, 76 jewelers, and others). After this, the number of stores grew to exceed 1,000 and they were collectively covered; it was in this way that Grand Bazaar developed.

15- Eyüp District, 16<sup>th</sup> century (Lorichs)

The water facilities that brought water to the mosques and to the people of Istanbul were considered to have a charitable function. To this end, Sultan Mehmed II repaired the Byzantine aqueducts and built the famous Kırkçeşme (Forty Fountains). As for the establishment of the districts around the focal areas in the plans, the following process was observed: the groups coming by their own free will or who were sent to the city would first be settled in an empty part of the city, where they would be referred to as a cemaat (community). For example, the Jewish cemaats exiled from Spain and Italy were settled in areas with different names, such as Katala, Çiçilya (Sicily), and others, but, in time, every cemaat formed a district around a place of worship, or the members of the community would move to other Jewish districts that already existed in the city. After the phase of being a cemaat, the integration with the city folk took place over time. From an administrative perspective, during the foundation period, Sultan Mehmed II’s Istanbul was divided into three large administrative districts, namely the qadiships of the suriçi (intra muros) of Istanbul, Galata, and Eyüp (Haslar). Each qadiship was divided into subsections called nahiye (township) under the management of the qadinaibs (deputy qadis). Nahiyes were formed from mahalles (neighborhood units or districts) governed by the imam of the local mosque and a kâhya (kethüda or warden/guard) who represented the public. Private citizens, not the state, took the lead in the development of the mahalles. A mahalle would develop around a masjid that had been built by a wealthy member of society, a tradesman, or a merchant. In accordance with the prevailing privacy rule in Islam, the state would not directly interfere with mahalles, where private lives continued; the services in the mahalles would be carried out by the imam or kethüda.

Sultan Mehmed II first established the Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia) Mosque complex and infrastructure facilities. Then, in 1463, he ordered the construction of a mosque and a Sultanic mosque complex (külliye) in Istanbul under his name, in keeping with Ottoman traditions and rules for establishing a city. In short, these facilities constituted the Ottoman core which would provide all kinds of religious, social, and economic services. The places where these facilities were established within the suriçi often continued to perform the functions that they had during the Byzantine period. For example, in the Byzantine period, certain services were provided on the Mese that were similar to those provided in the region of the Bedesten and Grand Bazaar in the Ottoman period. The emperors’ Hippodrome became the At Meydanı where general entertainment and ceremonies, such as weddings, circumcisions, or javelin contests, were held. Unkapanı, in the Golden Horn port area, used to perform similar functions in the Byzantine period.

16- The binding cover of Sultan Mehmed II’s Endowment Deed (Archives of Directorate General of Foundations)

17- The first pages of Sultan Mehmed II’s Endowment Deed (Archives of Directorate General of Foundations)

The Eyüp district, which was beyond the city walls, however, was established as an entirely Turkish town. In time, a typical Ottoman town developed around the mosque complex, including a tomb, mosque, and an imaret (soup kitchen) built by Sultan Mehmed II next to the grave of Abu Ayyub (Eyüp Sultan), one of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad. The first residents of this neighborhood were immigrants from the city of Bursa. Abu Ayyub was considered to be the holy protector of Istanbul. Just like the cities founded near the graves of saints in Europe during the Middle Ages, the town of Eyüp has become a place of pilgrimage for Muslims from all around the world and thus gained its unique identity.

In 1459, on the order of the sultan, viziers established similar imarets in other districts of the city. Nahiyes in Istanbul developed around these imaret-külliyes. After the period of Sultan Mehmed II, the primary complexes of the imarets built during the period of Sultan Beyazid II were the Mahmud Paşa Külliye, Murad Paşa Külliye, Gedik Ahmed Paşa Külliye, Mustafa Paşa Külliye, Çandarlı İbrahim Paşa Külliye, and Hadım Ali Paşa Külliye. In various quarters of the city, complexes that provided the services of a mosque, a college, a school, a soup kitchen, or other religious and social services were established; by the 1500s, there were twelve nahiyes in Istanbul. Suriçi Istanbul, which covered an area of thirteen square kilometers, cannot be defined as a classic city that developed around a center. Istanbul mostly developed within the wide area around the major külliyes that had been built by the sultan or his viziers in various nahiyes. As there was a large külliye in the middle of every nahiye, mahalles developed around a mosque, church, or synagogue. Therefore, külliyes reflected a patrimonial–hierarchical order in the establishment of the city. No vizier could build a larger social complex than that of the sultan. The mosques built by commoners were the masjids in mahalles. If one is to look for a central region in Istanbul, this is the Golden Horn port area and the marketplace around the Grand Bazaar. The Golden Horn region, where food and other supplies came in by sea and where there were large kapans (or Arabic qabban, wholesale marketplaces), and the Grand Bazaar, the final destination of the caravans coming from Edirnekapı, were connected to one another by parallel roads. The stores were positioned on each side of the roads. As in the Byzantine period, this region was the most active shopping region of Istanbul and thus played the role of city center during both the Ottoman period and today.

18- The entrance gate of Grand Bazaar on the Nuriosmaniye Mosque side. Above the gate is the Ottoman State Emblem with Sultan Abdulhamid II’s imperial signature and the epigraph of bazaar’s renovation written by Calligrapher Sami Efendi after 1894 Earthquake.

It appears that the residential area in Islamic cities was composed of two sections, as in other ancient cities. The social and economic life of the city was concentrated in the section where the large temple or grand bazaar was situated. This section was planned and organized. Beyond this section were randomly established neighborhood units where the general public lived. It is likely that historical Ottoman Istanbul, with its population of two hundred thousand spread over twelve nahiyes, essentially emerged during the reign of Sultan Bayezid II. During this period, suriçi Istanbul was the main metropolitan area, while Galata, Eyüp (Haslar), and Üsküdar, the final stop for caravans coming from Asia, were affiliated townships. In the nineteenth century, Galata-Pera made serious development towards the north and overshadowed Istanbul. The old coastal summer districts extending from Üsküdar and Kadıköy up to Pendik were only able to unite, and thus gain the appearance of a city, between 1950 and 1990. These developments could never eliminate the centrality of the Istanbul-Galata marketplace, which had emerged in the Golden Horn port region in the fifteenth century.

19- Fesçiler Gate of Grand Bazaar (Calligrapher Sami Efendi)

It can be seen that the foundations of Turkish Istanbul were laid down by Mehmed II. As pointed out in a vakfiye, “Hüner bir şehr bünyâd etmektir, Reaya kalbin âbâd etmektir” (the skill is in building a city and thus winning the hearts of the public). These words summarize the consciousness and aims of the Ottoman urbanization tradition which was founded on the waqf institution.

Istanbul’s Covered Bazaar and Bedesten: The City’s Shopping Mall27

Immediately after the conquest of Istanbul, Sultan Mehmed II followed the example of his Middle Eastern predecessors about the reconstruction of the destroyed city. In order to ensure the Muslim population could live in accordance with their beliefs, the physical appearance of the city needed to have Islamic characteristics. This was why an Ulu Camii (great mosque), in other words a religious center, was built as the focal point of the city. Next to this mosque, waqfs were established with the aim of fulfilling religious responsibilities. Among these institutions were imarets and hospitals. In order to meet the expenses of these institutions, other institutions, marketplaces, and bazaars were established, also based on the principles of waqfs. These revenue-generating institutions were also designed to meet the social and economic needs of the Muslim population.

20- Grand Bazaar (Allom)

Thus, in conjunction with the Middle Eastern understanding of state and society, the social structure of the city followed an example that had been established and developed over the centuries. The population of the city was divided into three categories: the upper class, which was affiliated with the palace and included the ulama and askeri classes, the merchants, who were occupied with domestic and foreign trade, and, finally, tradesmen and craftsmen. The latter two classes, known as the reaya, were manufacturers and tax-paying subjects. These classes were distinguished from one another not only by their economic activities, but also by their legal status. Craftsmen were subject to formal market regulations known as hisbe. Raw-material supply and production were controlled and the prices fixed by the state through the qadis. Merchants were exempt from the hisbe regulations that applied to the tradesmen, who were encouraged to accumulate wealth in other ways.

Merchants were divided into two groups: qa’id (or qa’in, residents) and saffar (commuters). The Bedesten was the workplace for the resident merchants and was situated in the marketplace. For the saffar, there were inns and caravanserais to lodge in. The Bedesten was the center of the entire commercial zone. Likewise, near those places, there was a hanut (series of stores) where the craftsmen worked. Every craft had a certain place and order in the market (in the covered bazaar, tradesmen’s shops were situated on the four roads leaving the Bedesten). This organization formed the market known as the çarşı or suq. These two main groups, i.e. merchants and craftsmen, defined the social and economic characteristics of all Ottoman cities in particular, and of Muslim cities in general. Slaughter houses, tanneries, oil and paint factories, etc. were situated in the appropriate areas of the city (such as Unkapanı, Yağkapanı, etc.) in order to provide the raw materials and services needed by the craftsmen, while wholesale marketplaces met the public’s needs for flour, fruit, honey, oil, fish, vegetables, salt, coal, horses, and slaves.

Sultan Mehmed II decided to construct the Bedesten in 1456; this structure was completed in the winter of 1460. One of the sources at the time, Kritobulos, defines the Bedesten as follows: “The Bedesten was a pleasant and large marketplace near the city center and the palace [the old palace at Forum Tauri]… it was protected by strong walls from the outside and divided into wide and beautiful sections on the inside.”

21- Aerial View of Grand Bazaar

22- Grand Bazaar’s Layout dated 1885-1886 (Istanbul University, Rare Books and Special Collections Library, Maps Section)

During the Byzantine period, a basilica in which valuable goods were traded existed in this area, located on the Mese and near the Forum Constantini. However, it appears that the Bedesten and the Grand Bazaar were constructed to the west of the Byzantine basilica. This supposition is supported by waqf records which state that the Bedesten and Grand Bazaar were constructed by Mehmed II. In respect to its architectural features, the Bedesten in Istanbul also followed the bedesten tradition that had been established in other Ottoman cities before 1453. It represents the peak of the development of this architectural style.

The first Bedesten building in Istanbul was known by various names. In the waqf records from the period of Sultan Mehmed II, it is referred to as Dârü’l-bezzâziye or Bezzâzistan. In later periods, it was also called Eski Bedesten, İç Bedesten, or Cevâhir Bedesteni. From records dated 1520, and from the records of the Hagia Sophia waqf, we learn that another bedesten was built for wool merchants. This new bedesten was to the east of the old one and had sixty stores inside and twelve stores outside. Later, a larger structure with twenty domes in which silk (sandal) was traded took the place of this bedesten. This Sandal Bedesteni, which is currently used as an auction hall, was the largest bedesten in the Ottoman territory. The old bedesten specialized in jewelry, fur, valuable textiles, and weapons.

The stores around the Bedesten increased over time. According to an Arabic vakfiye dated 1473, there were 124 sandıklı dükkan (storerooms), and various craftsmen worked in the seventy-two stores situated along the outer wall. According to the vakfiye, the organization of the stores was as follows: the Sûku’l-kazzâzîn (silk merchants market), kavukçular (quilted turban merchants) market, bitpazarı (flea market), kavaflar çarşısı (shoe market), saraçalar çarşısı (saddlers’ market), and hallaçlar çarşısı (cotton- or wool-carding market).

23- Grand Bazaar (Bartlett)

According to a vakfiye dated 1489, the Bedesten had 126 stores inside and 782 stores outside, or a total of 908 stores. According to records dated 1520, before being destroyed by a fire in 1516, there were 126 sandıklı dükkan and 15 corner stores in the Bedesten. As a result of its reconstruction after the fire, there were 140 sandıklı dükkan and 28 corner stores in the Bedesten.

The table below summarizes this development:




Before the 1516 Fire

After the Fire


124 sandık

126 sandık

128 sandık

126 sandık 15 corner

140 sandık 28 corner

Market Stores




ykl. 1.000


Fires destroyed the Old Bedesten and the Grand Bazaar many times. On 16 August 1516, the Bedesten and a thousand stores around it burned down, and in 1520 most of the tradesmen went bankrupt. The dates of the fires that destroyed the Bedesten and the bitpazarı are as follows: 25 April 1546, 19 April 1588, 20 November 1652, 4 December 1701, and 27 April 1750. Following the great fire of 1701, the Bedesten was rebuilt. According to E. H. Ayverdi, the main structure of the fifteenth-century Bedesten—its walls, domes, and gates—were preserved during the reconstruction.

These two bedestens were the richest and most pleasant, elegant, and cosmopolitan places in Istanbul. In parallel with an increase in the demand for stores in the Old Bedesten, rents also increased. The competition for the stores was so high that someone could easily sell his rights for his store in the Bedesten for 5,000 guruş—about 3,500 gold pieces. A new shopping center where European goods were sold emerged in Beyoğlu (Pera) in the 1840s. This area began to be preferred by the affluent members of society and the Old Bedesten began to lose its central position in the commercial life of the city. Charles White, an English traveler in the region, gives detailed information about the markets and crafts in Istanbul in the 1840s as follows: “The good-will [money paid for a store] of some shops in the Sandal Bezestany, when trade was brisk, sold as high as 30,000 piastres, and this was also at a time when money was worth double its present value. Now, from the decline of business, arising from the change of dress and the general introduction of European printed cottons and other cheap imitations stuffs, the value of the best shops, situated near the entrances, has fallen to 20,000 or 15,000 piastres.”

The result of this was that many of the non-Muslim merchants left the Old Bedestan to market their wares in Beyoğlu, thus leaving it in the hands of Muslim merchants. According to a tahrir register dated 1520, Muslims were active in 123 of the 168 stores in the Bedesten, while non-Muslims rented 34 of the stores. The remaining five corner stores and one sandik were empty. Beytü’l-malcılar (those who were in charge of the properties that had been transferred to the state treasury due to an absence of heirs) owned two of the corner stores. One of these was at the disposal of the beytü’l-mal emini (overseer of the public treasury) and the other was at the disposal of the kazasker kassâmı (official responsible for establishing inheritance shares). In another corner store, the remainders of the revenues of the Ayasofya waqfs were preserved.

According to survey registers dated 1489 and 1520, the distribution of non-Muslims in the Old Bedesten was as follows:


















The increase in the Jewish population is related to the migration of Jews from Spain, Italy, and Portugal to Istanbul after 1492.

In the 1520s, Muslim store owners belonged to the following social classes:

Bey (Notables)


























This table indicates that twenty-seven of the tradesmen of the Old Bedesten were from the administrative class. In addition to beys and ulama, there were two janissaries from the regiments of topçu (artilleryman) and yayabaşı (infantry). Thirteen çelebis, or the children of the ruling class, can be seen in the tahrir register dated 1520. Members of the prominent classes probably did not personally occupy the stores, instead using slaves or emancipated slaves for such work.

24- Beyazit Gate of Grand Bazaar

25- Topkapi Palace, First Yard (Hünkarname)

Among the other members of the Bedesten tradesmen were the mültezims (tax-farmers), waqf mütevelli(trustees), and muhtesibs (market inspectors). Tax-farmers and waqf trustees usually invested their capital in interregional professions.

Professional merchants were known as hoca. They constituted the largest group in the Bedesten. Hocas would invest their capital in the caravan trade and they used their slaves for commercial journeys. Hocas, the most important merchants, migrated from Edirne, Bursa, and Ankara to Istanbul after the conquest and made great contributions to the economic life of the city, not only with their commercial activities, but also with the religious waqfs, mahalles, and business centers that they established. In the Old Bedesten, seven merchants were craftsmen: three sahafs (booksellers), one watchmaker, one coppersmith, one carpenter, and one tailor.

There was also one female store owner named Gülnar Bacı. In the following tahrir registers, women are frequently encountered among the craftsmen and merchant store owners in the Bedesten. It is interesting to note that they were particularly occupied with the female slave trade. One Efrenc attracts attention as a foreigner among the non-Muslims in the old list. There are Arabs and Persians among the Muslim merchants from foreign lands. Spice traders from Damascus and Aleppo and silk traders from Iran played significant roles in Ottoman commercial life during this period. In 1520, the names of the Arabs and Persians who owned stores in the Old Bedesten were as follows: the Arabs were Muhibüddin, Abdülkadir, Ali, Yusuf, Abdülfazl, and Kadı İbrahim; the Persians were Kasım, Zeynüddin, and Mahmud b. Hacı Şemseddin Gilanî. Ottomans encouraged foreign merchants to settle in the capital city.

The Bedesten was under the supervision of the waqf authorities. However, the merchants of the Bedesten were united under the organization of a lonca (guild). According to Evliya Çelebi, the Bedesten was directly managed by an elected guild composed of sheikhs, nakibs (wardens of a guild), duacıs (prayer reciters), and a kethüda (kahya or steward). There were also three hundred dellals (middlemen) working inside the Bedesten and two hundred outside it, and seventy pasban (night watchmen) who patrolled the building. Two hundred porters worked in the Bedesten (the numbers provided by Evliya Çelebi, however, are seriously exaggerated). In the vakfiyes of 1496, the number of night watchmen listed is only four.

26- The early state of Fatih Complex founded by Sultan Mehmed II (the structure destroyed by 1766 Earthquake and existed before the present complex which was built in its place.) Two shores of Golden Horn and the Walls (Lorichs)

Due to the importance of their task, dellals and night watchmen were appointed by an imperial edict and were under the constant supervision of public officials. A sponsor was required for candidates for such positions. The kethüda was responsible for making sure the guild members worked as they should and that they obeyed the orders of the sultan. When disagreements emerged, the guild members would appeal to the qadi in the yard of Mahmud Paşa Mosque. As a rule, the qadi would report the case to the sultan and wait for his orders before taking any steps.

The Bedesten operated from the early hours of the morning until noon (until late afternoon during the month of Ramadan). At noon, a watchman would call the people to perform their prayers and then, in order to be sure that no one was left, he would patrol inside the Bedesten. When someone wanted to sell something, first he would go to the head dellal and tell him the minimum amount that he would accept for the sale of his goods and then the dellal would make arrangements for the sale. The seller’s goods would be taken by one of the dellals and sold for the highest price by auction. Half of the dellals would try to sell the goods inside the Bedesten by auction, while the other half would apply the same method of sale by walking around the Bedesten.

When valuables were brought to the Bedesten for safekeeping, an inventory was prepared and the valuables would be entrusted to an emanetçi (trustee or caretaker). In return for his services, the emanetçi would charge a small fee from the owner of the valuables. If the owner of the valuables did not return, the valuables would become the property of the Bedesten. After a regulation enacted in 1843, such unclaimed valuables began to be the property of the state.

27- Istanbul, Galata and Pera (Bruyn)

The Grand Bazaar was designed as a complementary section to the Bedesten. On each one of the four large streets that emerged from the Old Bedesten and on the streets that ran parallel to them, shops and stores were built for the tradesmen and merchants. While the number of those stores was 782 in 1489, this number went up to 849 in 1496 and 1,011 in 1520. While the rental revenue from those stores was 15,395 akçe in 1489, it rose to 34,153 akçe in 1520. Because the rental revenues of the stores belonged to the waqf of Hagia Sophia, the mütevelli of this waqf was directly responsible for inspecting these stores.

The bitpazarı always maintained its unique identity. Describing it in the 1840s, Charles White says that used apparel was sold here and records that the retired janissaries and imperial guards were the majority of the sellers. The sellers in the bitpazarı provided credit with interest ranging from 10 to 20 percent. The bitpazarı had its own kethüda and dellals. According to White, the number of street vendors outside the flea market was much higher than the number of regular tradesmen inside it.

There were other commercial centers and buildings around the Old Bedesten and the Grand Bazaar. There was a large block known as Mahmud Paşa Dükkânları, consisting of 220 stores on the eastern side (if one adds the stores in front of and behind this block, the number of stores was 265). On the southern side, there was a caravanserai known as the Rooms of Süleyman Paşa or Esir Pazarı (Slave Market), while on the western side there were the Bodrum caravanserai, horse market, and bow and arrow manufacturers’ market.

Crafts related to horses and riding formed one of the major braches of Ottoman industry. Before Sultan Mehmed II built his mosque (Fatih Mosque) and Sultan Pazarı (Sultan’s Market), which were to be the new commercial center, on the eastern side of the Old Bedesten, the horse market and stores selling things related to horses existed. When the Saraçhane (saddlers’ market), consisting of 110 stores, was constructed near the Sultan’s Market in 1470, Sultan Mehmed II gave the monopoly of saddle manufacturing and similar crafts to the Saraçhane guild. In a tahrir register dated 1493, it is mentioned that there were 146 Muslim saddle manufacturers working in the Saraçhane, some of whom were janissaries.

According to Osman Ergin, the Grand Bazaar used to cover a 30,700-square meter area in the 1940s and there were three thousand shops in this area. The rooms situated in the inns were also used as workshops and stores. Thus, the number of stores was close to four thousand. There used to be twenty-one inns around the bazaar. Most of those inns were connected to the streets of the Bazaar and, thus, they became a part of it. There were five prayer houses, one school, seven water fountains, one well, and one water fountain with a pool in the bazaar. There were 18 exits from the Grand Bazaar.

The Imaret-Külliye System within the Structure of the City

The system of imaret worked as the basic institution in the construction of the Turkish–Islamic city. Imaret (known today as külliye) was the core of the külliye, and consisted of a mosque, madrassa, a school for children, an imaret (kitchen) which distributed bread and food to the poor, and a tabhane (hospital). It was the imaret that provided fundamental social services by offering a place of worship, supervising religious education, carrying out charitable activities, and educating children. People who came and settled in the city preferred doing so in a place around an imaret. Thus, the imaret played a central role in the emergence of new mahalles. The city of Istanbul was founded around such imarets. From the period of Sultan Mehmed II until around 1500, twelve nahiyes emerged around prominent imarets. These were Hagia Sophia, Mahmud Paşa, Ali Paşa, Ibrahim Paşa, Sultan Bayezid, Ebulvefa, Sultan Mehmed, Ali Paşa, Murad Paşa, Davud Paşa, Koca Mustafa Paşa, and Topkapı.

I. The township of Hagia Sophia, which was connected to Topkapi Palace, was the first one. It included a wide area around the Hagia Sophia Mosque. Atmeydanı, Darphane, Büyük Sarnıç (Yerebatan Sarnıcı or Basilica Cistern) were within the borders of this nahiye. As the Grand Mosque of the city, Hagia Sophia was the place where state ceremonies were held. Sultan Mehmed II endowed large sources of revenue in order to support the mosque and the imaret.28 The status of Hagia Sophia as the Ulu Camii of the city and its waqfs were important for providing continuous maintenance. Thus, this thousand-year-old church has been able to survive until today with the help of continuous support and maintenance. Sultan Mehmed II allocated the jizya revenues collected from all non-Muslims in Istanbul to Hagia Sophia. In addition, he endowed the rents of many shops and trade centers, as well as the revenues of many villages around Istanbul, to support the Hagia Sophia Imaret and to repair the mosque. The Hagia Sophia Mosque vakfiye, dated 1489–1491, stated that, depending on the year, the yearly revenues varied between 790,000 akçe and 698,000 akçe (between forty-five and fifty akçe at this time was the equivalent of one Venetian gold coin). In addition to jizya, the Hagia Sophia waqf revenues came from a number of different sources. Caravanserais in the neighborhood of the Mahmud Paşa Bath House, the Bodrum Caravanserai, the Slave Market, bedesten stores in the market, kitchens in Istanbul, Unkapanı (wholesale flour market), Tuzkapanı (wholesale salt market) in Balıkpazarı, boza (a beverage made of fermented millet) shops, wholesale fruits market, 2,067 stores, and many other similar places generated revenue for the waqf. The Hagia Sophia’s waqf also included Mehmed II’s imaret in Eyüp, 486 houses in various marketplaces, the bath house in the Altınmermer district, revenues from a candle factory, muytaphane (rope factory), cenderehane (launderers), and revenue-generating properties in Galata and Üsküdar. Revenues from many other mosques were added to the Hagia Sophia waqf in following periods. A special architect was appointed to carry out repairs on Hagia Sophia. In short, Hagia Sophia was an imaret with rich revenue sources. The revenues of the waqfs were spent in a variety of ways, including on those who worked at the Hagia Sophia Mosque, the Kalenderhane Madrassa, and mosques in various parts of Istanbul. A significant part of the waqf revenues was reserved for the repair costs of the Hagia Sophia and Zeyrek mosques. In the 550 years after 1453, about 2,500,000 gold pieces were spent for the repairs of Hagia Sophia.

In 1457, Sultan Mehmed II transferred all the Byzantine buildings left to the state treasury to the Hagia Sophia waqfs under the name of sultani. In a tahrir register dated 1492, a total number of 1,438 houses with rental revenues were recorded.29 In addition to these houses, many others had been in ruins since the conquest, and even before the conquest. Many houses left from Byzantium were occupied by members of the military and religious classes and were not included among the waqfs. Many houses were granted to people via a document known as a mülkname.

II. Sultan Mehmed II might have planned his own Fatih Külliye when he ordered his viziers to establish külliyes in various parts of the city in 1459. He built the mosque and külliye on the land of a devastated Byzantine church on a hill overlooking Istanbul. The construction began in February 1463 under the supervision of architect Sinan-ı Atik, also known as Azadlı (emancipated) Sinan and Sinanüddin Yusuf. In the vakfiye dated 1469, his father’s name is recorded as Abdullah el-Atik (the term atik means emancipated slave) and there is no doubt Sinan was an emancipated Greek slave. Since the period of Sultan Murad I, Ottoman sultans assigned the task of constructing many important külliyes to Greek architects. Architect Sinanüddin Yusuf’s gravestone indicates that he died in 1471. In the Ottoman tradition, a madrassa (college) would be established under the supervision of the başmüderris (head professor). Sultan Mehmed II gave this task to the famous mathematician and astronomer Ali Kuşçu (and this appointment shows what Mehmed II thought about the general philosophy of this madrassa) and he appointed another free-thinking mathematician, Mullah Lufi, as the head of his library. Sultan Mehmed is known to have been interested in Islamic philosophical issues, and courses of logic and kelam (Islamic theology/philosophy) were taught at the Fatih Madrassa. The Fatih Külliye was much larger than the külliye-imarets built by the pashas. Mehmed II’s historian, Tursun Bey, states that Fatih Mosque was not inferior to, but even superior to Hagia Sophia.

28- “Mehmed II was a sultan who not only transformed the Ottoman State into an empire but also turned Istanbul into the center of the sultanate.”

The oldest vakfiye belonging to the külliye is dated 1472. There were eight madrassas on each side of the mosque. These madrassas can be considered to have been specialized madrassas in which religious sciences were taught at the highest level. In this context, they were known as Mûsile-i Sahn (lit. Bearer of the Court) or Sahn-ı Semân (Court of the Eight Madrassas). Each of the madrassas consisted of nineteen rooms and an eyvan (place of instruction). There were eight madrasas known as tetimme that were under these high-level madrassas. Tetimmes were schools that prepared students for higher madrassa education. In addition to madrassas, the külliye had a darüşşifa (hospital), mekteb (school), and muvakkithane (clock room). In addition to the main rooms which served religion, the areas that hosted travelers and distributed food to the poor were also important. For travelers, there were areas such as a tabhane (hospital), aşhane (kitchen), and ahur (stable). The term imaret began to be commonly used for such structures. The tabhane for travelers had fourteen rooms and consisted of a cellar, kitchen, and rooms where the managers stayed. In later periods, the tabhane began to be used as a madrassa. A masjid was also built there for personnel and travelers. In addition to the külliye, a bath house, four balahane (guest houses), and gardens and water wells were situated around the külliye and connected to it by eight gates.

As for the charitable units that financially supported the külliye, these were stated in the vakfiye as: (1) fields in villages and farms, (2) musakkafat: revenue generated from buildings such as caravanserais and shops, and (3) taxes reserved for the waqf.

29- Inside the Walls and Galata (Vavassore)

The facilities such as saraçhane (saddlers’ market) and atpazarı (horse market), situated around the Fatih Mosque, also generated revenue for the waqf; these were the main buildings that contributed to the development of the Fatih district. In addition, in the area from the Fatih district to the Golden Horn, houses were built for members of the ulama. In this way, a new city unit that covered a wide area appeared around the mosque. The imaret of Fatih should be widely regarded as the district of Fatih. It was due to this imaret that Fatih Mosque and the facilities around it started an important era in the reconstruction of Istanbul. The following facilities should specifically be mentioned among the waqfs of the Fatih Mosque:

  1. The Bedesten and the bazaar at the center of the Kapalıçarşı: 849 shops.
  2. Sultanpazarı, near Fatih Mosque: 286 shops and 32 rooms.
  3. The market near the Mahmud Paşa Imaret within the Fatih Mosque vakfiyes: in total 265 shops.
  4. Saraçhane Market, the large saraçhane near Canalıcı Church.
  5. Beğlik Shops: 35 waqf shops close to the saraçhane.
  6. The market near Kadıasker Dolabı: 8 shops.
  7. Eleven shops near Kadıasker Bath House.
  8. Ten shops near the Old Rooms where acemi janissaries resided.
  9. Market in Hoca Pîrî Mahallesi: 26 shops.
  10. The market consisting of eight shops in Sekbanbaşı Yakup Mahallesi in the neighborhood of Darbhane; in time this place turned into a center where the public gathered.
  11. Twelve shops near Yedikule.
  12. Six shops outside Kirişhane Tower.
  13. Unkapanı Market, close to Sabunhane, Başhane, Mullah Zeyrekzade’s house and the shops that were adjacent to Son of Âşıkpaşa, el-Hâc Ahmed’s house: 31 shops.
  14. Market in the Sarı Temurci mahalle, where there was also a Jewish population: 21 shops.
  15. Kinigos (the Golden Horn) Gate Market: 22 shops.
  16. Debbağhane (Tannery) Market, outside the city walls on the seacoast: 27 shops.
  17. Sallahhane, close to the sea: 32 shops.
  18. Hagia Sophia Market.

102 people worked at the Fatih Mosque, 168 people in the madrassa, 30 people in the hospital, and 45 people in the imaret. The cabis who worked in the collection of revenues, construction masters, and workers should be added to these numbers. In addition to this group, a total of about 383 people, including scholars, children, and disabled soldiers were also financially supported. The total amount of such financial support could be as much as 202,291 akçe a year. Every day, 3,300 loaves of bread would be distributed and 1,117 people would eat in the imaret. Thus, the imaret of Fatih constituted the vital focal point of the social and economic life in this section of the city.

30- Istanbul from Sarayburnu to Beşiktaş (Pertusier)

In his thirty-year-long sultanate, Mehmed II was a sultan who created not only an empire, but also the capital city of Istanbul. He was the person who established the city of Istanbul and founded the urban infrastructure of centuries-long Turko-Islamic civilization in Istanbul. A Turko-Islamic city was divided into two main sections: The market area (the trading zone), where the people shopped, was the section where people set up their stores and places of trade without any religious discrimination and where Muslims and non-Muslims worked together. The second section of the city was the area where people lived. In that section of the city, everybody lived around the mosque, church, or synagogue they were affiliated with. The mahalle was a socio-religious unit that contained religious functionaries and kethüdas. Foreigners and those who were occupied with harmful activities were not allowed to come and settle in the mahalle. In respect to its social structure, this section of the city had completely different features than the market section. The region from a line that stretched from Eminönü along Yemiş Pier to Kapalıçarşı-Divanyolu formed the trade zone. Caravans coming from Edirnekapı would bring their goods to the Grand Bazaar. The goods would be stored in the cellars of the bedesten and the shops of the market and travelers would stay in the inns that were located around the market. The mosque and courtyard of the market were also in this region. This region has preserved its core role in the economic life of Istanbul up until today. The old Genoese city located behind Yağkapanı Port in Galata would be developed as a second market zone on the opposite side of the city.

The Development and Growth of Istanbul during the Reign of Sultan Mehmed II

The reconstruction activities during the reign of Sultan Mehmed II were improved upon by his successors and the city gained its important central identity as the capital of an empire. The obvious development in the physical appearance of the city can easily be seen in the twelve nahiyes that had emerged around its imarets by 1500. In every nahiye, imams worked at mahalle mosques; over time, people gathered around the mosques and masjids—it was this that led to the development of the mahalle. This process was known as şenlendirme (enlivening). The following table illustrates the development of mahalles in each nahiye before the sixteenth century (it does not include the records of non-Muslim mahalles):

Nahiye (Township)








Mahmut Paşa




Ali Paşa




İbrahim Paşa




Sultan Beyazıt








Sultan Mehmet




Sultan Selim




Murat Paşa




Davut Paşa




Mustafa Paşa








Ali Paşa








30 percent of the mahalles listed in the table above were established during the reign of Sultan Mehmed II, 50 percent were established during the reign of Sultan Beyazid II, and 15 percent were established between 1512 and 1546. There is no correlation between population growth and the number of mahalles, because the population of the established mahalles increased over time. The densely and sparsely populated regions were reflected in plans of Istanbul penned by foreigners. The section of the city from the eastern side of the Langa Orchards down to Unkapanı was the most densely populated area in the sixteenth century. As in the Byzantine period, the coasts of the Golden Horn were heavily populated regions. Veli Can and Piri Reis show in their plans (sixteenth and seventeenth centuries) that the part of the city within the suriçi was fully inhabited. The regions of Yedikule, Bayrampaşa Stream, Yenibahçe, and Langa Orchards were sparsely populated areas. From the records of waqfs, the following list can be made:

Number of Waqfs

From the period of Sultan Mehmed II until 1521


Between 1521 and 1547


Between 1547 and 1579


Between 1579 and 1596


The following is a list of the founders of mosques and masjids that constituted the core of the mahalles in the sixteenth century:

Scholars and Sufi Masters


Merchants and Money Lenders




Palace Aghas






Other Janissary Aghas








Among the founders of waqfs, it was the members of the military class and religious functionaries who seemed to attach greater significance to establishing these institutions. In this way they could gain social and political standing, as well as creating a source of income for their descendants by establishing family waqfs.

31- The settlements inside and outside the walls and Istanbul houses (Lorichs)

The sixteenth century witnessed new developments. There was a significant growth in the populations of the previously established mahalles. In place of mahallemasjids, new masjids and mosques were built and, in the spaces opened by this process, new mahalles emerged. In particular, new mahalles emerged along the Bayrampaşa Stream towards the city walls and outside the walls. In the Galata region, the city grew along the Golden Horn coast and on the Tophane hillside. In addition, new mahalles such as Fındıklı, Cihangir, and Kasımpaşa were born. The Hassa Mimarlar Odası (Imperial Corps of Architects),30 which was similar to an academy of architects under the authority of the palace, provided the centers for the establishment of new mahalles by building new mosques and imarets, particularly during the period of Koca Mimar Sinan. In this way, with the establishment of new magnificent imarets, the sixteenth century represents a new era in the development of the city. Rüstem Pasha holds a distinguished place among statesmen in establishing mosques, bedestens and marketplaces. He spread such activities across the empire, establishing one bedesten in Galata and one in Egypt. Before that, Pîrî Mehmed Pasha established an imaret (1517–1523) consisting of a mosque and madrassa in the Zeyrek mahalle. He also built inns for his waqfs and generated 6,000 gold coins for them.

By constructing the Süleymaniye Mosque and establishing its related waqfs, Sultan Süleyman I opened a new page in the history of the city’s development. The following were included in his waqfs: a madrassa, hospital, and imaret built by Koca Sinan, located in the Süleymaniye region near the mosque, and an Avretpazarı (female slave market) in the Aksaray region. The revenues from an inn, bath house, storeroom, and slaughterhouse as well as from shops and stores in various parts of Istanbul belonged to his waqfs. These generated about 1 million akçe (8,400 Venetian gold pieces) in revenues a year. Sultan Süleyman I founded a magnificent imaret on Divanyolu in the name of his son Mehmed, who died at a young age (1544–1548). Sultan Süleyman I built a mosque and madrassa in the Fındıklı district in memory of his other son, Cihangir, who also passed away at a very young age. In the area that remained barren due to fires, Süleyman entrusted his imaret to Koca Sinan. The construction of the Süleymaniye Mosque and Imaret began in July 1550 and was completed in October 1557. There were no less than eighteen rooms in the buildings around the mosque. In addition to the tombs of Sultan Süleyman and Hürrem Sultan, Koca Sinan built four madrassas and a darü’l-hadîs (school teaching the hadith) around the mosque. A hospital, darü’z-ziyâfe, and tabhane were among the facilities attached to the külliye. Smaller buildings included a building for mülazims (lieutenants), a library, a pharmacy, and a sıbyan mektebi (primary school). Also part of the imaret were houses close to the mosque used for the servants of the mosques and for educating scholars. Across from the madrassas was a market consisting of an inn and several shops. In the same way, the palace of the janissary agha was associated with the imaret. All types of information about the masters and workers who worked on the construction of the mosque and their daily wages were included in the comprehensive registers for the inşaat emin (overseer of the construction). The emin was appointed to provide and record the expenditures and revenues involved in the organization of these types of large imarets and other facilities. For five years, hundreds of Muslim and Christian construction-master craftsmen played a role in the project. Of the 3,523 people working on the construction, 51 percent were Christians and 49 percent were Muslims. Crafts related to ironwork and water channels were primarily carried out by Christian craftsmen. Stonework, calligraphy, glasswork, and lead work were mostly the products of Muslim artisans. 45 percent of the workers were connected to the palace and 55 percent of them were free workers. Acemioğlanları and slave rowers were employed in the construction.31 According to the register records prepared during the period of Sultan Murad III, the yearly revenue of the Süleymaniye waqf was 5,277,759 akçes (about 888,000 Venetian gold pieces). Eighty-one percent of this revenue came from villages in Rumelia. There were 748 attendants at the imaret and their yearly salaries amounted to approximately one million akçes.

32- Galata Cemetery, Galata Tower, Sarayburnu and Harem (Topkapı Palace Museum)

The regions along the city walls (the Top-yıkığı neighborhood) and Bayrampaşa valley appear to have been important residential areas during the period of Sultan Mehmed II. Another developing region was the district of Edirnekapı. The section between Mesih Paşa Külliye and the neighborhood of Tercüman Yunus Bey in Balat were also important residential areas in this region. The Kara Ahmed Paşa Külliye and Arapemini Defterdar Mustafa Mosque Külliye were among the monuments built by Koca Sinan in Topkapı in the sixteenth century. Another developing region was the hill where the Sultan Selim Mosque and madrassa were located. In this region, the following imarets were established during this period: the Hürrem Çavuş Mosque, Kapudan Sinan Paşa Mosque and madrassa, Koca Mimar Sinan Mosque, Yeniçeri Kâtibi Mosque, the tombs of Grand Vizier Lutfi Pasha and his wife Şahhuban, and fountains and bath houses. The Mahmud Ağa Palace was also located in this region.

Silivrikapısı is another important place of habitation where külliyes were located. Located there were the Külliye of Hadım İbrahim Pasha (1551), a madrassa, and a school, as well as three bath houses.

The new mosques constructed along the coasts of the Marmara Sea and along the city walls on the Golden Horn show the development in these regions. These new mosques included the Mahmud Ağa Mosque in Ahurkapı, the mosque of İbrahim Pasha in Kumkapı, mosques in Langa, the Sokollu Mehmed Paşa/Esma Hatun Mosque near the port of Kadırga, and the madrassa, dervish lodge, and Süleyman Subaşı Mosque (a work by Koca Sinan) in Unkapanı.

The period of 1540–1588 can be referred to as the period of Koca Sinan. All the mosques and külliyes built in this period were either works by him or by architects who worked with him. Sinan and the other hâssa (imperial) architects were trained at the Mimarân-i Hâssa, which functioned like an academy. Buildings by Sinan include 43 mosques, 52 masjids, 49 madrasas, 7 darü’l-kurra (schools teaching Qur’anic recitation), 28 palaces and mansions, 3 hospitals, and 6 inns.32 Other important works attributed to Koca Sinan are Zaloğlu Mahmud Paşa Mosque (1551) in Eyüp, Defterdar Mahmud Çelebi Mosque (1541), Şah Sultan Mosque, Kılıç Ali Paşa Mosque in Tophane (1580), Muhittin Çelebi and Cihangir mosques in Fındıklı, Kadıasker Mahmud, Molla Çelebi Külliye (1565), Sinan Paşa Mosque in Beşiktaş (1555), Çavuşbaşı Mosque in Sütlüce, Mihrimah Mosque in Üsküdar (1548), Şemsi Ahmed Paşa Mosque (1580), and Old Valide (Nurbanu) Sultan Mosque (1583), Kasım Paşa Külliye in Kasımpaşa and Piyale Paşa Külliye on the outskirts of Okmeydanı (mosque, madrassa, school, tekke, water fountain, and bath house, 1573).

The slaughterhouse and tanneries that provided the needs of the city were established outside the walls in the Yedikule region. According to Evliya Çelebi,33 there were 7 masjids and 300 tanneries in the area. These tanneries had the right to buy the skins of animals slaughtered in Istanbul.34

Starting in the second half of the sixteenth century, new mahalles developed outside the city walls, towards the towns of Eyüp, Otakçılar, Nişancıpaşa, and Çömlekçiler. The mahalle of Takyeci İbrahim Ağa (1595–1596), outside Yenikapı Merkez Efendi Mosque and Zaviye (1551), Malkoç Mehmed Efendi’s Mevlevihane (1597) were primary places of development outside the city walls. The Sultanahmed Mosque (1609–1617) in the Hippodrome and Valide Mosque in Eminönü (also known as the New Mosque), constructed 1597–1663, should be mentioned among the large külliyes of Istanbul from the later periods. Valide Turhan Sultan’s tomb is in the garden of this mosque and the Mısır Çarşısı (Spice Bazaar) was established as a market to generate revenue for the mosque.

The Nuruosmaniye Külliye (1748–1756) and Laleli Külliye (1760–1764) contain mosques built under the influence of eighteenth-century Europe. Instead of imarets and hospitals, cheaper buildings, such as libraries and sebil (water fountains) were preferred during this period. The külliyes built by the Köprülü family in the seventeenth century include those of Kara Mustafa Pasha (1690), Amcazade Hüseyin Pasha (1700), Çorlulu Ali Pasha (1708), Damat İbrahim Pasha (1720), and Seyyit Hasan Pasha (1745); these are all situated near the tomb of Köprülü Mehmed Pasha. A mosque, a madrassa, a school, and a fountain are included in these külliyes. The mahalles of Hekimoğlu Ali Pasha (1733–1735) and Koca Mustafa Pasha (1733–1735), located along the coasts of Üsküdar and the Bosphorus, are where the Kösem Valide Sultan, Gülnuş Sultan, Sultan Abdülhamit I (1778) and Mihrişah Sultan (1795) külliyes, all examples of earlier külliyes, can be found. It is also worth mentioning that important külliyes were built within the suriçi by 1700. During the reign of Sultan Süleyman I, there were wide empty areas that had not been opened for settlement. There were no dwellings in the area between Süleymaniye Mosque and the Golden Horn. In that area, housing was sparse and there were many gardens. In the seventeenth century one of these, Yenibahçe, close to Edirnekapı, was a pastureland for hundreds of horses. Similarly, the area between Silivrikapısı and Yedikule, Ağa Çayırı, as well as the area between Samatya and Davutpaşa in the Bostan-Yeri area, the Langa Orchards, the Kadırga Orchards, and Cündî Square were important vacant spaces. Large cisterns left from the Byzantine period were found in the Altımermer, Edirnekapı, and Sultan Selim districts. The large garden around the Old Palace and the yards of the large külliyes were also places that had not been opened for settlement. In the nineteenth century, a hundred-thousand-man army could fit in these empty areas.

33- An Istanbul mansion and its hostesses (Amsterdam, Rijks Museum)

There were coffee houses and sometimes open markets in the yards of mosque külliyes and in the woodlands. Old forums remained from the Byzantine period; some of the important ones were: Forum Constantini in Çemberlitaş, Forum Tauri in Beyazid Square, Avretpazarı Square, Forum Arcadii, Forum Bovis in Aksaray, and Atmeydanı (Ancient Hippodrome), the square of the rebellions and ceremonies. Atmeydanı was the largest open space in Istanbul. As it was a place for entertainment, it was also a place for training. Avretpazarı, a place where only females could shop, disappeared over time. Archery exercises were carried out in Atmeydanı, Langa Square, and Cündî Square. These were also places of entertainment and it was forbidden to build gardens and houses there.35

It can be seen that the basic foundations of Turko-Muslim Istanbul, with its 182 mahalles, had been laid down by the end of the period of Sultan Mehmed II. The number of mahalles rose to 219 by 1456; in 1634 development had taken place, with 292 mahalles and 12 communities. 1672 witnessed a decrease in the number of mahalles to 253 Muslim and 24 non-Muslim mahalles. In 1871, there were 284 Muslim mahalles, 24 Greek mahalles, 14 Armenian mahalles, and 9 Jewish mahalles within the city walls; the number of mahalles outside the city walls rose to 256. These mahalles were in the regions of the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus, Üsküdar, and Kadıköy.

34a- Istanbul from Sarayburnu to Beşiktaş (Montagu B. Dunn, Panaroma of Istanbul, 1855)

34b- Istanbul from Sarayburnu to Beşiktaş (Montagu B. Dunn, Panaroma of Istanbul, 1855)

34c- Istanbul from Sarayburnu to Beşiktaş (Montagu B. Dunn, Panaroma of Istanbul, 1855)

34d- Istanbul from Sarayburnu to Beşiktaş (Montagu B. Dunn, Panaroma of Istanbul, 1855)

As the basic settlement unit, the mahalle reflected a very important characteristic in respect to the social structure. The mahalle was a unit organized within itself. It was not only a unit with roots, but also with religious and cultural affiliations. This was a unit for social life and solidarity. The symbol of the mahalle was the mosque, the masjid, or the church or synagogue. The maintenance of those religious buildings was the responsibility of the people of the mahalle. These structures were usually known by the name of the person who had established them. In every mahalle there was a school and a water fountain. Affluent hemşehri (people from the same town) would support these institutions financially with waqfs. Official posts regarded the mahalle as a unit with certain responsibilities before the state. The mahalle as a whole was responsible for maintaining order and ensuring payment of taxes. For example, avarız, or the extra taxes which periodically had to be paid, were one of the issues for which the mahalle as a whole was responsible. Many mahalles would establish a fund supported by a waqf to pay the avarız tax. Eight to ten families in a mahalle would be counted as a unit, known as an avârız hanesi. Wealthy members of society and waqfs would support this fund and it would provide loans to the poor at low interest. Those who worked as an intermediary for the state in a mahalle were well-known, high-ranking personalities of society, such as tradesmen, kethüdas, or trustees of waqfs. The people of each mahalle were responsible for the total order. Outsiders were not accepted as part of the mahalle. In order to be a member of a mahalle, one had to be a resident of that mahalle for at least four or five years. The people of the mahalle acted as guarantors for one another. In this way, criminals were prevented from intermingling with the people of the mahalle. Because of this independent unity in the mahalles, in 1578 there was even a suggestion put forth to build walls between the mahalles.36 Every mahalle had a night watchman and residents of the mahalle either carried out that task in turns or hired a pasban. According to an imperial edict dated 1695, every mahalle was required to hire three night watchmen. They would patrol the city at night with lanterns and arrest intruders. In short, the night watchman occupied an important place in the life of the mahalle. At one time, every mahalle was also required to hire two or three street sweepers.

Usually, the houses were centered around the mahalle masjid or other place of worship. Mahalles that developed around a sultan’s or pasha’s külliye constituted the major townships and were called nahiye.37 The mahalle masjid would usually be built by someone from the military class or a tradesman or merchant. Nahiyes and mahalles in Istanbul were recorded in detail in two vakfiye that have survived to this day.38 As a result of such planning, the city formed around mosques and masjids and developed as an Islamic city in areas where there was a Muslim population. In Istanbul and Galata, the discovery of the graves of the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad and the building of mosques near them granted those mahalles the privilege of being sacred places.39 Similarly, many mahalles carried the names of well-known dervishes, for example, Sheikh Ebulvefa, Sheikh Akşemseddin, Sheikh Sevindük Halvetî Kovacı Dede, and Sheikh Mehmed Resmî. It should also be remembered that Mehmed II called this city “Islambol” (the city of Islam). As a statesman, however, he never showed bigotry for the sake of Ottoman society’s safety and development and he encouraged and protected the Greek and Jewish communities in the city. According to Islamic law, Christians and Jews were ahl-i kitab (people of the book) and had dhimmi (protected person) status, living in their mahalles as a community under the protection of the Muslim state. Janissary garrisons were deployed in various large cities in order to ensure the safety of the Christian and Jewish mahalles. Dhimmi Christians and Jews worked side by side in the market in an environment of fellowship and even celebrated some festivals together. The Ottoman state, which had its roots in the tradition of the Central Asian Turkish-Muslim states, was also bound by the principles of Turkish state law. In addition to Islamic sharia laws, for the safety and continuity of the state, örfi (traditional) state codes were in effect. Thus, the Ottoman state should be considered as a Muslim state as well as a Turkish one.

35- Istanbul houses, streets and residents (Topkapı Palace Museum, no. 3412-16)

The imam of the mahalle mosque or masjid represented the mahalle in communications with the offices of the state. The imam received ferman and then announced them to the public via the münadi (public crier). The mahalle imam was responsible for ensuring that the orders contained in the imperial edicts were enforced. When necessary, he would appeal to the representatives of the state and the qadi for help. The mahalle muhtarlığı was instituted only after 1826.

When a church was transformed into a mosque (for example, Pammakaristos Church in 1591), steps would also be taken to increase the number of Muslims in the neighborhood. Vacant lots and houses would be sold only to Muslims. As mentioned by Evliya Çelebi and Eremya Çelebi, every mahalle would maintain its customs and if residents practiced a particular craft, this would be protected.

Within the mahalle order of the city, streets and roads also had special characteristics. In the city plans drawn up by Vavassore, the main streets of the city are apparent.40 These streets did not appear in the Hünernâme, which was written towards the end of the sixteenth century. The main streets of the Byzantine period generally stayed the same. As in the Byzantine period, the Divanyolu, which went to Edirnekapı, was the most important street of the city, measuring about 3–3.5 meters wide. Examining the city plan, it can be seen that it reflects the plans of Eastern cities in the Middle Ages. Streets zigzagged and there were many dead ends. Possibly, the roads within the mahalles were not determined according to a plan. E. H. Ayverdi’s İstanbul Haritası (Istanbul Map)41 shows that the old streets were maintained. After great fires, when the mahalles were reorganized, the old zigzagging roads were preferred; however, the people of the mahalle made an effort to use the large main streets for their own homes. The narrow roads, without light or air circulation, did not allow passage to vehicles. Transportation of goods was carried out either by sea or via the gates in the city walls or ports along the coast of the Golden Horn.

The roads began to be paved in the middle of the sixteenth century. According to Evliya Çelebi, in the middle of the seventeenth century in the districts of Istanbul, Eyüp, Tophane, and Kasımpaşa, the roads were paved with stones. The maintenance of such streets was the responsibility of the merchant kethüdas. This was carried out under the supervision of şehiremini (the prefect), mimarbaşı (chief architect), or suyolu nazırı (superintendent of waterlines). The main streets belonged to the state. Cleaning the streets was the responsibility of the house and shop owners or waqf trustees. For the cleaning and maintenance of the main streets, acemioğlanları and other military units were employed. Later, the position of sokak süprüntücüsü (street sweeper) was established and fell under the supervision of the çöplüksubaşısı (superintendent of waste). A group of about five hundred workers, called arayıcı, who were under the command of the subaşı, would collect the rubbish into baskets and throw it into the sea. These baskets would usually be dumped into bokluk (dung holes) in Langa or somewhere near Tahtakale. The state would often issue edicts for street maintenance. According to the records of the sixteenth century, a curfew after evening prayer was declared. No preparations were made for the lighting of the streets, so everyone who went out on the streets at night would carry their own lanterns. Street lighting first came into use in Beyoğlu in 1856 and gas lamps were used on Istanbul streets in 1879. The dirtiness of the streets was one of the problems frequently mentioned by travelers. Urbanization measures, such as opening up dead-end streets and the organization of major streets and squares, were put into action only after the 1865 Hocapaşa Fire.

The state issued special regulations concerning buildings, sanitation, and roads. These regulations were the responsibility of the şehiremini, hassa mimarbaşı and suyolu nazırı, and they were supervised by the qadi and subaşı. All these regulations were later transferred to the Ebniye-i Hâssa Müdürlüğü (The Directorate of State Buildings).42 Following the conquest, Sultan Mehmed II declared that “the buildings and land of the city is mine [i.e. the treasury’s].” This is why the construction of all types of buildings was under the control of the state. Before starting construction, an explanation had to be made to the state treasury explaining how the land had been acquired and whether it had been miri (land belonging to the state) or waqf property. If the land belonged to a waqf, permission had to be obtained from the state. The mimarbaşı (chief architect) had the authority to issue permission for construction. The dimensions of the building were also under the supervision of the mimarbaşı.43 If a building was constructed without permission, the result could be as severe as capital punishment. The state was especially concerned with issues such as controlling land, fire hazards, precautions taken against drought, and protecting the city walls, mosques, and waqfs. According to an ordinance dated 1559, from the era of Koca Sinan, buildings could be no higher than two floors and could not extend to the edge of the road. Many ordinances were issued after the sixteenth century addressing related issues. After the great fires, structures close to public buildings and inns were required, by imperial order, to be constructed from stones and bricks. Most of the houses in Istanbul were made from cheap material or wood; during the Byzantine period, buildings higher than two floors were rare. The mansions of pashas and palaces were excluded from those ordinances. These types of large buildings, which passed from the Byzantines to the Ottoman State, were known as drapez. In 1687, the French King Louis XIV stated in his plans to capture Istanbul that “since the buildings in Istanbul are made out of wood, all those buildings will be burned down and the Turkish residents of the city will be expelled to deserts.”44

36- The outer view of Sultan Mehmed II’s tomb

In order to facilitate entry from the gates of the city walls, it was ordered in 1558 that the houses and shops close to the walls be demolished. Because the amount of water coming to the city was limited, special permission from the sultan was required to build new palaces and bath houses. Workers who came to the city to look for work were only allowed to stay in rooms known as bekâr odaları (bachelors’ rooms) and these were under strict control. Starting from the second half of the sixteenth century, the number of immigrants to Istanbul began to increase and the yards of large mansions were used for construction of new houses or bekâr odaları. Strict regulations were issued about the non-Muslims living in the city and they were not allowed to build a house near a mosque or masjid; their houses could not be higher than nine zira‘ and were to be made from stone. They were not allowed to build bath houses. Muslims were banned from selling lands to dhimmis and non-Muslim foreigners. In this regard, there were, however, complaints about fraudulent sales. These limitations were abolished in the nineteenth century; as the construction of houses more than two stories in height was banned, people would expand their houses by using false excuses and building extensions known as çardak (pavilion), bâlâhane (upper room), tahtapuş (raised platform on a roof), cihannüma (roof terrace), and çatı-ara(attic). The Tanzimat regulations lifted the bans for both Muslims and non-Muslims. Because of the frequent epidemics in the city, non-Muslims started to build houses outside the city walls towards the Golden Horn and Bosphorus.

37- The internal view of Sultan Mehmed II’s tomb

The types of houses in Istanbul fall into the following five categories:

1) Hücre, oda: These types of houses were either located separately or together around the same area. They would usually be built as houses that generated revenue for the waqfs and single people would stay in them, hence the alternative name bekâr odaları. Such buildings were not seen in the public mahalles. Workers would also sometimes rent rooms in an inn. Around 1540, the annual rent of a bekâr oda was around one hundred akçes. In 1672, twelve thousand such rooms were reported.

2) Mahalle houses: The general public usually lived in houses made from wood or mud bricks. In Anatolia, they usually lived in houses made from wood, mud-bricks, or bricks, with a yard and an inner court. Until recently, these types of home could be seen in Hisariçi, Bursa. The construction cost of such a house was around one hundred gold pieces in the middle of the sixteenth century.

3) Houses with gardens separated from the surrounding area: These consisted of a house situated behind a garden, with a stable, furnace, bath, and cellar (serdâb=mahzen) standing next to it; there was usually a mill, housing for slaves, a hen house, a recreational garden, a well or a fountain, and a çerâğlık where a fire continuously burned.45 Larger houses, known as Hâne-i kebîr, were rare.46

4) Konaksandköşks (kasr): The palaces or mansions of high ranking state officials and large merchants consisted of many houses within a large yard with two sections. Such mansions can be regarded as the larger versions of the houses described in the second point above. All mansions were surrounded by high walls and were divided into two parts: the harem (section for women) and the selamlık (section for receptions/men). Siyavuş Pasha’s famous palace was reported to contain three hundred rooms.

38- A sunset in Istanbul, Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia Mosque

In the yards of such palaces, there were kitchens, furnaces, baths, and stables, as well as a school for içoğlans (pages). In addition, the premises included shops for the production of furniture, presided over by master craftsmen. In the gardens of these large mansions, there were artistically important buildings.47 The palaces of high-ranking pashas would often become the sultan’s property when they pasha passed away. The sultan would give these palaces to ladies of the palace or other high-ranking individuals. Sources indicate that by the middle of the seventeenth century there were about 120 mansions such as these and approximately another 1,000 that belonged to prominent citizens and merchants. Most of these palaces were built during the reign of Sultan Süleyman I around the areas of Hagia Sophia and Süleymaniye.

5) Yalıs (waterside mansions) belonging to the sultan and other high-ranking officials: Such mansions were situated outside the city walls with well-kept gardens and woods in the districts along the Bosphorus, including Karaağaç, Pîrî Paşa, Kasımpaşa, Kâğıthane, and Üsküdar. Over time, the number of these mansions rose and they developed into mahalles.48 Those yalı which were surrounded by groves were used as summer houses and often hunting areas were included. These mansions also served as shelters to escape from epidemic outbreaks. One of the famous Sultanic palaces in this style was the Beşiktaş Palace. Sultans would spend the night there after their Bosphorus trips. In the nineteenth century, large mansions and cottages replaced Beşiktaş Palace. In the eighteenth century, sultans contributed to the establishment of new mahalles by giving or selling lands from the gardens or groves that belonged to them. Beylerbeyi Township is an example of one such mahalle.

The determinant role of the population structure is important in Istanbul’s mahalle system. Along with its high Muslim population, Istanbul was also a city with a significant number of non-Muslims. According to records from 1592, the non-Muslim populations were classified in six groups: Greeks, Armenians, Jews, Christians who had come from Karaman, Franks, and the Greeks of Galata. The churches and synagogues of non-Muslims functioned under the protection of the state. Except for the Catholic Church of Caffans, no Catholic church was allowed in Istanbul. Catholic churches were usually found in Galata, and those that belonged to the Franks survived thanks to the protection provided by capitulations. Among non-Muslims, Greeks and Armenians mostly inhabited the coasts of the Marmara Sea, the Fener-Balat district around the Golden Horn region, and the Rumelian side of the Bosphorus.49

After defeat at the Lepanto Sea Battle in 1571, Christians were subjected to hostile treatment by the Muslim community. The idea of making the city’s population exclusively Muslim was discussed. Certain sharia rules and limitations, such as requiring them to wear certain types of clothes or not allowing them to use horses or slaves, were implemented upon non-Muslim subjects. Under extraordinary circumstances, such as the arrival of the Venetians in the Dardanelle Straits and their threat to Istanbul in 1656, the Muslim public began to turn against the non-Muslims. This was why non-Muslims mostly settled in the mahalles along the sea coasts and in the nineteenth century, the Greeks and the Jews migrated to Galata where Europeans (Levantines) resided.

In times without tension, religion did not cause any problems between the Muslim and non-Muslim population of Istanbul. According to dhimmi law, they were under the protection of the state. Religious communities were referred to as millet or taife. They were active in the market, side by side with Muslims. In addition to financial and economic conditions, it is obvious that sharia rules and regulations about ahl-i kitab reinforced tolerance. The government took precautions to protect non-Muslims from attacks by certain groups, such as madrassa students and acemioğlans. The Istanbul Turkish dialect was the common language among all the groups and non-Muslims generally dressed like the Turks. Religious and ethnic differences rarely harmed the community feeling and identity of Istanbul. At times when bigotry arose, imperial edicts were issued concerning the rules on non-Muslims’ dress code and the ban against using horses or slaves.

In the same way that the Istanbul Turkish dialect was the common language, there was also a sort of common Istanbul lifestyle and culture. Non-Muslims could freely practice their religion in accordance with their religious laws and customs under their respective religious establishments: Greeks under the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, established by Sultan Mehmed II; Armenians under the Armenian Patriarchate; and Jews through the Office of the Chief Rabbi. The Greek patriarch had a higher status compared to the other religious leaders. The religious leaders were not independent and enjoyed their authority only through the imperial berats (imperial diplomas) granted to them by the sultan, allowing them to apply their own religious laws.50 The Greek patriarch of Istanbul was accepted as the leader of only the Orthodox community living in Ottoman lands. Non-Muslims used to go to the qadi about matters related to their daily lives.

In this respect, Ottoman archival records and the qadi registers leave no place for doubt. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, however, there were claims, especially among the Greeks, that the so-called religious leaders represented the independence of their religious community. In Ottoman terminology, the word millet means a religious group. The patriarch could not carry out ecumenical duties outside the Ottoman Greek community. The Ottoman code (Düstur, First order, v. 2, p. 902–938) Regulations for Greek Patriarch determined the place of the Greek Church within the state. Although religious leaders were elected by their religious communities or the council of their religious functionaries, they received their authority over non-Muslim citizens only and absolutely from the berat granted by the sultan. As observed by N. Jorga,51 after the conquest of Istanbul, a Greek Fener aristocracy emerged in Istanbul. These eleven Greek aristocratic families had a distinguished position. Through contracts with sea trade and tax farming, they accumulated large amounts of wealth. The voivode of Wallachia and Moldova started to be elected from among the members of these families. The Greek families of Fener also played a very important role in tax farming. In trade, especially in Black Sea and Aegean trade, they played a significant role by providing provisions for Istanbul and transporting various items such as salt, wheat, olive oil, and fish. Those rich maritime Greek families mostly lived around Yeniköy on the Bosphorus. The rich Greek families had strong connections with Europe and sent their children to European universities for education, creating a distinguished group raised in the humanist tradition. This group was to be the first to represent the revolutionary ideas of Europe among Ottoman citizens. Greeks who were highly educated and knew other languages worked as translators for the state in international negotiations.52 The Greeks would lead the way in the Greek awakening and struggle for independence in the eighteenth century. According to the 1833 census, the Greek religious community in Istanbul had a male population of 50,343 members.

The Turkish-speaking Orthodox community from Karaman settled as a separate community around the Yedikule region. Eremya Çelebi (mid-seventeenth century) states that they had settled in Narlıkapi, both inside and outside the city walls. They constituted a rich social group that worked as master jewelers. Armenians elected their patriarch for the first time in 1461. The patriarch’s office was near the city walls in Sulu Manastır. Part of the Armenian community consisted of a thousand families living in Samatya. When the settlement developed in Kumkapı in the seventeenth century, the patriarchate moved there. Other Armenian communities were in Yenikapı, Kumkapı, Balat, and Topkapı; the Armenian community living in Galata had been there since the time of the Genoese. There were also Armenian families living in Beşiktaş, Kuru Çeşme, and Ortaköy. Armenians at this time controlled the silk trade between Iran, Turkey, and Italy and became rich from this trade. In addition, many Armenians prospered by activities in tax farming and banking. The Armenians took charge of the minting office in the nineteenth century, which was a very important position in state finance. Those rich families tried to influence the patriarchate, causing a division in the Armenian society. Some of them embraced Catholicism and created an Armenian-Catholic community in the seventeenth century. This Catholic community was made up of rich and well-educated Armenians who were occupied with trade. According to the 1806 census, there were 1,000 members in this group. In the 1833 census, the Armenian millet had a male population of 48,099 in Istanbul and neighboring towns.

Those who converted to Islam from non-Muslim communities were not small in number. Müslüman akçesi made contributions for new clothes for the converts and the converts would be toured in the market on horseback. Costs were covered by a fund kept by the Imperial Council. Ottomans were careful to avoid forceful conversion. There are many examples of Muslim men married to non-Muslim women. Such marriages were encouraged. Conversion because of marriage was not rare. Concubines and slaves usually embraced Islam. When one considers that in the seventeenth century the population brought from the north as captives through the Black Sea alone was as many as twenty thousand (according to data from the Moscow state archives), one sees this played a great role in the increase in the Muslim population. Many black slaves were brought from Africa through Sudan-Egypt to the Ottoman center. The system of gulam played an important role in the Islamization of the slaves. Slaves who had been emancipated occupied a significant place in commercial life and among the tradesmen; these individuals were known as azâtlu, ‘atîk, or mu‘tak.

In addition to the civilian Muslim and non-Muslim elements, one of the significant groups in the city consisted of the officials, civil servants, and soldiers who were defined by the general name askeri. Although those who were in service to the palace and janissary corps were not shown as part of Istanbul’s population, they had a very important place in the life of Istanbul. Their numbers at different dates were as follows:

Date (AH/AD)

Palace Personnel

Kapıkulu Soldiers

Navy and Arsenal



Together with the janissary soldiers 12,800















12. 971





Approximately 19.000





According to this table, the number of kapıkulu increased roughly five times over the course of the sixteenth century. While the number of janissaries was 15,000 in the 1597 military expedition, it rose to 37,000 in 1609. A significant part of the janissary corps was deployed in the castles throughout the country as guards. At later dates, their numbers rose. 20,000 out of 49,500 janissaries lived in Istanbul. In 1672, during the period of Köprülü Mehmed Pasha, the number of janissaries was 18,150, while the total number of the kapıkulu corps was reduced to 34,825.53 It is estimated that there were 40,000 janissaries in Istanbul and 60,000 in the castles and other cities in the eighteenth century. Most of the people in this number were those in the privileged position of janissary-tradesman. There were janissaries occupied with trade and crafts in the marketplace as early as the reign of Sultan Mehmed II, and their number rose over time. There were large increases in daily wages as a result of the debasement in the akçe’s value. The janissaries who were engaged in crafts were known as râcil, beşe, or cündî. Such janissaries engaging in production enjoyed special privileges. Most importantly, they were exempt from muhtesib inspections.

Christian boys who were conscripted to be brought up in the janissaries (devşirme acemioğlan) occupied an important place in the social life of Istanbul. They numbered about 3,000 in the earliest years of the Ottoman State; in 1555 they numbered 7,000. These boys were employed in construction and used as workers in the sultan’s gardens. They worked for very low wages. From time to time they took part in uprisings in the city. Usually, all of the janissary corps deployed in Istanbul would only join the military expeditions which were led by the sultan. When this happened, prices in the market rose and scarcity followed. Janissaries who also worked as craftsmen had to close their shops when they joined military expeditions. As a result, the sultan’s commandership was not desired by many.

Istanbul, with a population of more than half a million, was the largest city in Europe in the sixteenth century. Various religious-ethnic groups played leading roles in the formation of Istanbul’s social and cultural life. Sephardic Jews who had come from Spain brought new techniques in the woolen fabric industry and in the middle of the sixteenth century the Mendes banking family led an unprecedented development in Ottoman finance. Like the Jews, the Armenians also gradually came to the fore in international trade, banking, and money exchange. The Armenians had an important place in Ottoman cultural life. It was an Armenian who wrote the most detailed work about the poet Fuzuli. Eremya Çelebi, who represents the Ottomanized Armenian, created fundamental sources that described life in Istanbul. In short, together with the Turkish-Muslim majority of Istanbul, the city’s non-Muslim townspeople were also among those who formed the real population of Istanbul through their participation in its cultural and economic life.


1 In addition to the fundamental sources by A. G. Paspates, R. Janin, A. M. Schneider, and finally C. Mango and W. Müller-Wiener, in the symposium (Constantinople: The Fabric of the City) organized at Princeton University in 1988, prominent scholars made important contributions to understanding the city’s plans during the Byzantine period (Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 2000, no. 51)

2 Ahmed Refik [Altınay], Hicrî On İkinci Asırda İstanbul Hayatı, 1100-1200, Istanbul: Devlet Matbaası, 1930, p. 185.

3 Halil İnalcık, Kuruluş Dönemi Osmanlı Sultanları: 1302-1481, Istanbul: Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı İslam Araştırmaları Merkezi (İSAM), 2010.

4 İnalcık, Kuruluş Dönemi Osmanlı Sultanları, pp. 45-50; Halil İnalcık, “Aydos Kalesi”, Aydos Kalesi ve İstanbul’un Fethi Sempozyum Bildirileri: 28 Mayıs 2011, ed. Uğur Demir and Mehmet Mazak, Istanbul: Sultanbeyli Belediyesi, n.d., pp. 11-18.

5 For these developments, see: İnalcık, Kuruluş Dönemi Osmanlı Sultanları, p. 56.

6 İnalcık, Kuruluş Devri Osmanlı Sultanları, p. 113-117.

7 J. W. Barker, Manuel II Palaeologus: 1391-1425, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1969.

8 İnalcık, Kuruluş Dönemi Osmanlı Sultanları, pp. 133-136.

9 Halil İnalcık, Fatih Devri Üzerinde Tetkik ve Vesikalar, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1954.

10 Halil İnalcık, The Survey of Istanbul, 1455, Istanbul: Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, 2012.

11 Kritovoulos, History of Mehmed the Conqueror, translated by Charles T. Riggs, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1954.

12 Kritovoulos, History of Mehmed, p. 83.

13 Kritovoulos, History of Mehmed, pp.84-88; for the favors that Mehmed II gave to the Greeks in the following periods, see: Halil İnalcık, “The Status of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch”, Essays in Ottoman History, Istanbul: :Eren Yayıncılık, 1998, pp. 204-206.

14 Târîh-i Ebü’l-Feth: The History of Mehmed the Conqueror by Tursun Beg, edited by H. İnalcık and R. Murphey, Minneapolis and Chicago :Bibliotheca Islamica, 1978.

15 See Halil İnalcık, “İstanbul”, EI2, IV, 224-226.

16 George Sphantzes, The Fail of the Byzantine Empire: A Chronicle, edited and translated by Marios Philippides, Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1990, p. 134: “The sultan also announced that those who left our city before the siege would be treated and helped in restoration of their houses and distribution of the estates in accordance with their ranks and religions as if nothing had happened if they returned back to their homes.”

17 For Eyüp, see: Halil İnalcık, “Eyüp Projesi”, Eyüp: Dün / Bugün: Sempozyum, 11-12 Aralık 1993, presented by Tülay Artan, Istanbul: Tarih Vakfı Yurt Yayınları, 1994, pp. 1-23.

18 Halil İnalcık, “Tursun Beg, Historian of Mehmed the Conqueror’s Time”, WZKM, 1977, no. 69, pp. 55-71.

19 See the section on Churches and Monasteries below.

20 İnalcık, The Survey of Istanbul, pp. 633-635.

21 For the gates on the city walls, see: Mehmed Ziya, İstanbul ve Boğaziçi, II vol., Istanbul: Maârif-i Umûmiye Nezareti, 1336.

22 For shipyards, see: İdris Bostan, Osmanlı Bahriye Teşkilâtı: XVII. Yüzyılda Tersâne-i Âmire, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1992.

23 İnalcık, The Survey of İstanbul, pp. 488-500 (The fact that this register is incomplete should not be overlooked.)

24 İnalcık, The Survey of Istanbul, p. 491.

25 For the locations of the churches and monasteries in Byzantium, A. Berger’s plan in “Streets in the Constantinian Town” (Dumbarton Oaks Paper, plan no. 4) provides a reliable topography.

26 Istanbul: Petit Guide A Travers les Monuments Byzantins et Turcs, Istanbul: X. Milletlerarası Bizans Tetkikleri Kongresi Tertip Komitesi Neşriyatı, 1955. Also see Süleyman Kırımtayıf, Converted Byzantine Churches in Istanbul: Their Transformation into Mosque and Masjids, Istanbul: Ege Yayınları, 2001.

27 Halil İnalcık, “The Hub of the City: The Bedestan of Istanbul”, International Journal of Turkish Studies, 1979-80, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 1-17.

28 Ahmet Akgündüz, Said Öztürk and Yaşar Baş, Üç Devirde Bir Mabed: Ayasofya, Istanbul: Osmanlı Araştırmaları Vakfı, 2005.

29 BOA, MAD, Ayasofya Evkafı Tahrir Defteri, no. 19.

30 For the academy of imperial architects see Şerafettin Turan, “Osmanlı Teşkilatında Hassa Mimarları”, TAD, 1963, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 157-202.

31 Süleymaniye Vakfiyesi was published by Kemal Edip Kürkçüoğlu (Ankara: Vakıflar Umum Müdürlüğü, 1962).

32 Ömer Lütfi Barkan and Ekrem Hakkı Ayverdi (ed.), İstanbul Vakıfları Tahrîr Defteri: 953 (1546) Tarihli, Istanbul: İstanbul Fetih Cemiyeti İstanbul Enstitüsü, 1970.

33 Seyahatnâme, Istanbul: İkdam Matbaası, 1314, vol. 1, p. 391.

34 For a list of the slaughter houses in 1607 in Istanbul, see Ahmed Refik [Altınay], Hicrî On Birinci Asırda İstanbul Hayatı, 1000-1100, Istanbul: Devlet Matbaası, 1931.

35 Among the recently published works on the development of Istanbul, two books penned by art historians—Doğan Kuban, İstanbul an Urban History: Byzantion, Constantinopolis,Istanbul, Istanbul: The Economic and Social History Foundation of Turkey (Türkiye Ekonomik Ve Toplumsal Tarih Vakfı), 1996 and Çiğdem Kafescioğlu, Constantinopolis/İstanbul, University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2009—as well as a third, Tarih Boyunca İstanbul Semineri: 29 Mayıs-1 Haziran 1988 (prepared by Mübahat S. Kütükoğlu, Istanbul: İstanbul Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi Tarih Araştırmaları Enstitüsü, 1989), introduced new sources. The volume on the history of Istanbul published in Türkiye AraştırmalarıLiteratür Dergisi (2010, vol. 8, no. 16) also consists of research and sources on the history of Istanbul.

36 Ahmed Refik [Altınay], On Altıncı Asırda İstanbul Hayatı, 1553-1591, Istanbul: Devlet Basımevi, 1935, p. 144.

37 Barkan and Ayverdi (ed.), İstanbul Vakıfları Tahrîr Defteri.

38 ibid.

39 Rahmi Serin, Maneviyat Bahçesinin Gülleri: İstanbul Evliyaları, Sahabe Kabirleri, Istanbul: Pamuk Yayıncılık, 1998.

40 For the G. A. Vavassore’s plan dated 1480 and the plans in the later periods, see: Kafescioğlu, Constantinopolis/İstanbul, p. 154.

41 Ekrem Hakkı Ayverdi (ed), 19. Asırda İstanbul Haritası, Istanbul: İstanbul Fethi Derneği İstanbul Enstitüsü, 1958.

42 Osman Nuri Ergin Mecelle-i Umûr-i Belediyye, Istanbul: Matbaa-i Osmaniye, 1338, vol. 1, pp. 981-983.

43 For such a document of permission, or isticaze, see: Semavi Eyice, “Elçi Hanı”, TD, no. 26, p. 130.

44 Faruk Bilici, XIV. Louis ve İstanbul’u Fetih Tasarısı, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 2004.

45 Barkan and Ayverdi (ed.), İstanbul Vakıfları Tahrir Defteri, no. 732, 380, 1037, 1111, 1237, 1648.

46 İbrahim Hakkı Konyalı, Mimar Koca Sinan, Istanbul: 1948, p. 33.

47 Sedat Hakkı Eldem, Köşkler ve Kasırlar, Istanbul: Devlet Güzel Sanatlar Akademisi, 1969; Kemal Altan, “Siyavuş Paşa Kâsrı”, Arkitekt, vol. 5, no. 9, p. 268.

48 Eremya Çelebi Kömürciyan, İstanbul Tarihi: XVII. Asırda İstanbul, translated by H. D. Andreasyan, Istanbul: İstanbul Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi, 1952.

49 For the regions and non-Muslims in 17th-century Istanbul, see: Eremya Çelebi, İstanbul Tarihi.

50 Halil İnalcık, “The Status of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch under the Ottomans”, Turcica, 1991, no. 21-23, pp. 407-436.

51 Byzance après Byzance, Bucarest:: Association Internationale d’Etudes du sud-Est Européen, 1971.

52 J. Gottwald, “Phanariotische Studien”, Leipziger Viertelsjahrschr. Südosteuropa, 1941, no. 5, pp. 1-58.

53 Silâhdar, Târih, ed. Ahmed Refik, II vol., Istanbul: Devlet Matbaası, 1928, vol. 1, pp. 499-580.

This article was translated from Turkish version of History of Istanbul with some editions to be published in a digitalized form in 2019.

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