Apart from its natural beauty, Istanbul has hosted different cultures and civilizations throughout its history. It follows that the city also accommodates a great historical and cultural wealth. Following its conquest, and after becoming the capital city of the Ottoman State, Istanbul’s historical and cultural repertoire was reshaped and blended with the Turkish and Islamic culture. The Ottomans changed every part of the city, and Istanbul gained a magnificent look, which was admired by the whole world thanks to its monumental structures and extensive public works. A number of institutions certainly contributed to this change and transformation, but the most prominent was the institution of the foundation.

When analyzing urban history and services within the Islamic world, foundations are at the forefront of the bodies we encounter. Foundations are more than charitable institutions; they are multi-faceted and multi-functional service institutions that provide infrastructure and funding for the services required by settled life and the organization of urban services. This is made all more clear by taking Ottoman urban development into consideration. The Ottoman people attached a particular importance to the institution of then foundation and thoroughly benefitted from the foundation for urban development and urban services. In all, the institution of the foundation had a central place in the Ottoman urban development.1

In his book on the history of Ottoman municipal works, Mecelle-i Umûr-ı Belediyye (Review of Municipal Affairs), Ergin frequently mentions the foundation and its practices, emphasizing their importance in terms of municipal services.2 Not only foundations formed several other institutions required by cities formed, but also the financial resources required for their efficient practice were raised through foundations. When analyzed in this regard, it is clear that a significant amount of the municipal services required by cities had been supplied by the foundations leading up to 1856, when the first Ottoman municipalities were established. Until then, activities pertaining to ministries that had been established in the nineteenth century, particularly the Ministry of Education, had been carried out by the foundations.

1- Ayasofya and Sultanahmet Mosques

Foundations were significant sites and sources of vitality and identity in Ottoman cities. The necessary infrastructure of urban life was in large part formed by foundations, which also directly or indirectly met many basic requirements of cities and other settlement areas. It would not be an exaggeration to claim that foundations were fundamental to the composition of Ottoman cities; had they been omitted or their services disregarded, there would hardly remain much of a city or urban development’s essence. The intervention, therefore, of Ottoman administrators to foundations was typically met with serious opposition and was subject to severe criticism. Opponents claimed that malfunctioning foundation services would not only harm cities themselves but cause numerous problems within social, political and religious life.3

Foundations were active in a very wide area and met the needs of Ottoman society by covering almost all aspects of daily life. The financial resources required to act across such a wide arena were brought together through voluntary contributions in the form of foundation funds. Wealth generated from commercial and industrial activities—which grew within a social order that rejected luxurious consumption and extravagance—and income from urban landholdings were both entrusted to foundations in order to benefit the whole of society instead of certain segments of it. In this broad sense, the institution of the foundation, inasmuch as it aims to serve the people, is a structure that transforms savings, wealth and rents into services. Foundations have an institutional characteristic as a result, which in a way socializes the wealth of a city. This voluntary socialization process leads to a constant flow of resources into the foundation system from nearly every social sphere; everyone from the highest-ranking administrator to the lowest earning individuals donated resources in accordance with their power and facilities. People helped society meet its requirements by transforming their properties into a foundation’s resources, whether in the form of direct deposits while alive or through wills upon death. Although the resources allocated to foundations decreased during political and economic crises, foundations generally expanded and accumulated throughout Ottoman history. In some cases, extremely wealthy foundations came into being, serving across all fields.

In accordance with data from sixteenth century, shares within the Ottoman financial system are broken down as follows: the central treasury comprised 51 %; the timar4 system 37 %; and the foundation system 12 %. Some studies suggest that when foundations of all sizes are taken into consideration, the financial scope of the foundation system goes beyond these estimations. We can accordingly suggest that the foundation system had a share of 12 % to 50 % of the Ottoman financial system, depending on the time and region5. As the center of the state, Istanbul was certainly the city that received the biggest share of this immense wealth.

2- The binder of the Endowment Deed of Fatih (The archive of the Directorate General of Foundations, Case no. 1371/1-1)

Foundations and foundation services were also significant in terms of Istanbul’s development. When analyzed in thorough detail, foundations come to appear at the center of social and economic life within the Ottoman city, Istanbul included. The city was virtually embroidered by thousands of foundations, large and small, and foundation structures ornamented nearly every corner of it. Istanbul was subject to the highest care and attention in all respects because it was the capital city of the Ottoman state; it was repeatedly improved upon during this era, through both construction and reconstruction. Thousands of foundation structures contributed to both the city’s identity and its silhouette, sitting modestly of course in comparison to its more monumental structures. The Ottoman era was also a time of immense investments, which were made in the name of making Istanbul livable and respectable as a capital city. The city’s every need was met steadily across the service sector by both infrastructure investments and foundations along with the magnificent structures each of which is a separate masterpiece. As a result, the city’s identity grew to fit the mission it had throughout Ottoman history.

3- The Endowment Deed of Fatih (The archive of the Directorate General of Foundations, Case no. 1371/1-1)

4- The endowment deed of Haseki Hürrem Sultan (Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum, no. 2194)

The history of foundations in Istanbul is quite rich and diverse. Each one of the thousands of foundations that served the city, and primarily those established by dynasty members and statesmen, is rich enough to be sole subject of study. The role of foundations is particularly worth investigating along the lines of Istanbul’s socio-economic development. The range of services offered by the foundations, the various fields in which they operated, and their contribution to the improvement and historical development of the city, all have a separate place within Istanbul’s urban history.


According to the historical literature, Istanbul underwent a serious recession in the period before its conquest. Inner turmoil had resulted in a significant decline in population both during and after the Latin invasion; this was exacerbated by fire and earthquakes. The city was adversely affected from political instability and economic collapse that had resulted from both internal disturbances and conflicts experienced within Byzantium. The literature suggests that Istanbul was worn-out and, in some areas, in ruins during the conquest. Considering the destruction caused by the conquest as well, it is possible to claim that the Ottomans took over a city in ruins when they conquered Istanbul. A significant segment of families based in Istanbul in fact temporarily left the city in the wake of the Ottoman conquest. Sultan Fatih commenced a comprehensive public initiative to change this situation; he tried to increase the city’s population by encouraging new settlements and provided great investments to render the city a capital fitting for the Ottoman State.

5- Süleymaniye Endowment Deed (The archive of the Directorate General of Foundations, Case no. 52)

6- The sultanate signature of Sultan Süleyman I on his endowment deeds (The archive of the Directorate General of Foundations, Case no. 52)

Owing to investments and public work activities, Istanbul gained the appearance of a Turkish-Islamic city swiftly following the conquest. The city was divided into districts, and mosque complexes commissioned by sultans or viziers served as the focal points for each district. There were as well, however, neighborhoods which were formed around masjids commissioned by communities. Foundations in this regard were central in the city’s development. Structures such as arcades, inns, covered bazaars, scale platforms, shops, and various workshops—all of which aimed to meet the city’s needs—were in use because of foundations. These ranged from complexes commissioned by sultans to masjids found in neighborhoods and were established through a natural hierarchy.6

7- Prefect Ali Bey b. Abdurrahman’s endowment deed in Istanbul dated 1569

8- The city of Istanbul at the beginning of 17<sup>th</sup> century (Halkondil)

The largest share of Istanbul’s improvement resulted from foundations established directly by Sultan Mehmed II himself and his favorite statesmen. Many of the structures that existed during the Byzantine era were utilized through the Hagia Sophia Foundation, and the city’s infrastructural needs and service institutions were organized through large investments, such as the Fatih Complex. The Ottomans implemented changes on two levels accordingly. On the one hand, structures that had been in ruins were improved and re-functionalized, and on the other thousands of new structures were constructed and put into service. Structures such as Rumelihisarı Mosque, Çuhacı Hanı Mosque, Debbağlar Mosque, and Anadoluhisarı Mosque, all of which had been built at diverse areas of the city before the construction of the Fatih Mosque, became affiliated with the Hagia Sophia foundation.

The Hagia Sophia Foundation was established by Sultan Mehmed II following the conquest and became one of the richest foundations in the city. The foundation established for Hagia Sophia, which was converted into a mosque and supplemented with a madrasa and library, was among the first and most important of Istanbul’s foundations. The Hagia Sophia Foundation differed from other foundations due to the rich and abundant real estate it occupied. Osman Ergin claims that the trustee of The Hagia Sophia Foundation had an authority on almost all of the buildings in Istanbul. As a matter of fact, the registry book of The Hagia Sophia foundation, which was completed in 926 (1519), demonstrates this richness clearly.7

Analyzing the Ayasofya Vakıfları Tahrir Defteri (Hagia Sophia Foundation Registry Book) reveals a detailed list of the foundation’s real estate and information about its assets and revenues. According to this source, real estate belonging to the Hagia Sophia Foundation in Istanbul was divided into ten revenue collection regions. Nine of these areas those have been analyzed and a table has been formed to represent them below. The revenue received from the properties, which amounted to 3,758 in total, was 105,212 silver coins according to these figures. Considering that the scope of the Tenth region -which was not included in the study- was equivalent to the total of the remaining nine regions, it is evident that the assets and revenues of Hagia Sophia Foundation must have been almost two-fold of the shown figures.

Table 1- Hagia Sophia Foundation’s real estate according to the Ayasofya

Vakıfları Tahrir Defteri dated 926/1519*

Type of the real estate






Dervish lodge (+Corner)










Ground (Storeroom of the shops in the downstairs)


Pîşhun (Counter placed in front of the shops)














* The information of the table has been re-arranged.

** Cattle heads were sold in head-houses.

Source: Ulviye Baş, “Ayasofya Vakıfları Tahrir Defteri”, MA thesis, Marmara University, 2002, p. 246.

A lot of structures commissioned by Sultan Mehmed II (the Conqueror) in Istanbul were also included as part of the Hagia Sophia Foundation’s assets. Among these structures were the Kapalıçarşı (Grand Bazaar) and Bedesten (Covered bazaar), Bodrum Kervansarayı (Bodrum Caravanserai), Eski Kervansaray (Old Caravanserai) in Tahtakale, Unkapanı, Tuz Ambarı (Salt Storehouse), Mumhane (Candle Workshop), Sabunhane (Soapmaker), Cenderehane (Pressing house), Debbağhane (Tannery), Selhhane (Skinning-house), Boyahane (Dye-house), Muytaban Kârhanesi (Weaving-shop). These structures contributed to the urban economy and formed an important source of income for the foundation. 8

Certain churches and monasteries located in Istanbul were also included among Sultan Mehmed’s foundations following the conquest. These began to serve as mosques and madrasas. The most prominent of these as the Pantocrator Monastery and Church, which was an important hub of science during the Byzantine era; today it is known as Zeyrek Mosque. The old Pantepoptes Monastery was transformed into the Eski İmaret Mosque that stands up to now, and the Kalenderhane Mosque underwent a similar transformation. The need for madrasas had been met by these structures until the Fatih Mosque and its madrasas were built. In this regard, the Arap Mosque located in Galata was another significant building. As one final example, the Kariye was included in foundations of Atik Ali Pasha, who was one of the grand viziers of Bayezid II, and was converted into a mosque.

The Fatih Mosque and Complex, commissioned by Sultan Mehmed II, was not only an important breakthrough in terms of the improvement of the city, but its madrasas, built around the mosque and called Sahn-ı Seman (Eight-yard), proved to be vital institutions of higher education within the Ottoman education system. It is possible to identify the real estate assigned to provide income for the foundation within the foundation charters issued for the mosques and complexes Fatih commissioned in his own name. Among the buildings and projects registered in one of foundation charters were 1,130 houses, 2,466 shops, three inns, 54 mills, 57 chambers, 26 cellars, four bathhouse, seven burgos, two scale platforms and nine gardens. Another charter issued for the Fatih Mosque includes seven churches, 1,063 houses, 2,300 shops, 17 bathhouse, 227 chambers, 148 cellars, five inns and 48 mills. The sum of the items on the first charter is 3,815, while the second charter amounts to 3,778. Accordingly, both comprise 7,593 items, although this figure does not include those structures located out of Istanbul or in Thrace9. This information is significant because it demonstrates the important contributions of foundations established by Fatih to the development of the city, and further relates to the scope of the revenues assigned to the foundation.

The mosque was located in the center of the Fatih Complex, while the madrasas known as Sahn-ı Seman were located around it. The complex also accommodated a tomb, guesthouse, hospital, and bathhouse. All services offered by this complex, the facilities of which have not wholly survived to the present day, were funded by the revenues of the real estate listed in detail within the foundation charter. The mosque personnel of the Fatih Complex amounted to 102 people; the figure for the madrasas was 168, 45 for the soup kitchen, and 30 for the hospital. When the 21 foundation debt collectors and ten personnel responsible for the restoration and maintenance are added to this figure, it can be observed that 383 personnel were employed in total. Moreover, the poor, theologians, and veterans received various payments from the foundation. The soup kitchen distributed 3,300 loaves of bread and meals for 1,117 persons every day.10

Barkan states that the annual revenue of Sultan Mehmed’s foundations was almost 1,500,000 silver coins, excluding the tithe tax and wheat and rice revenues of the villages. He also states that Hagia Sophia foundations had a revenue of around half of this amount. 83 % of the revenue of Sultan Mehmed’s foundations was received from about 57 villages around the regions of Çorlu, Tekirdağ and Kırklareli. Moreover, the revenues of 12 bathhouses located in Istanbul were also included in this figure. The revenues of Hagia Sophia foundations were further composed of the rents from 2,360 shops, 1,300 houses, two caravansaries, 30 boza-houses, 23 head-houses and 2 bathhouses in the Istanbul districts of Üsküdar and İstanbul.11

9- Sinan b. Memi’s endowment deed in Istanbul dated 1601 (BOA EV.VKF, no.2171)

10- Sultan Ahmed I’s endowment deed (Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum, no.2184)

11- The sultanate signature on Sultan Ahmed I’s endowment deed (Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum, no. 2184)

Public work activities following the conquest were not only composed of Hagia Sophia and Fatih foundations. A great mobilization for the improvement of the city was initiated during Fatih’s period, and certain districts of the city were divided between the statesmen and subsequently improved. Numerous statesmen, serving at various ranks, also contributed to public work activities carried out across the city during and following the conquest. A lot of structures that had been in ruins were improved as part of these initiatives, and began to operate through new functions. Istanbul was thoroughly transformed as investments poured into it during this period, and new settlement areas were established in addition to the old and districts and neighborhoods. Numerous foundation structures were formed to meet the need for the infrastructure and required services throughout the city. The majority of the names of these districts and neighborhoods, which are in use even today, belong to the districts formed during Fatih period. The district names we encounter within the foundation registry books belonging to Istanbul and the number of neighborhoods and foundations in each district are presented in the Table 2.

According to Barkan, 207 mosques, 27 schools or madrasas, 32 bathhouse and 12 inns and covered bazaars were built in Istanbul following the conquest. Moreover, thousands of houses, shops and similar buildings were built by the foundations to accommodate the personnel required for the operation of these facilities and to acquire income.12 The following statement, derived from the beginning of the Hagia Sophia foundation’s registry book demonstrates remarkably the intensity of the foundation investments carried out in Istanbul. While describing the location of the Bezzâziye-i Kübrâ (Great Draper), one of the revenue sources of the Hagia Sophia Foundation, it is stated that:

According to the records of the officer known as the debt collector of Kûşe Palace, it is bounded by the Sultan foundations of kalânisiyye shops [cone and cap sellers], Hoca Hamza Foundation, Dâye Hatun Foundation and Deceased Molla Hüsrev Foundation on the east; the above-mentioned Molla Hüsrev Foundation, Mustafa Bey Foundation, Üstâd Sinan Foundation, Mercan Ağa Foundation, Deceased Molla Muslihuddîn al-Yarhisârî Foundation, Hayreddin al-Hayyâm Foundation and Abdüsselâm Bey Foundation on the north; Çakır Ağa Foundation, Nureddin al-Emin Foundation, Bâyezid al-Asfer Foundation, Şemsü’l-Mütevellî Foundation (known as Körükçübaşı), Hacı Devvâs Foundation, Deceased Sheikh Muhyiddin al-Kocavî Foundation, Hoca Dursun Foundation and Molla Hüsrev Foundation on the west; and Üstâd Sinan Foundation and the Sultan foundation shops on the south.13

As the citation puts forward, the names of 16 separate foundations were mentioned to describe a single location. This example clearly demonstrates the richness of foundations in Istanbul.

Eyüp Mosque and its neighborhood became an area, outside of the city walls, where significant foundation investments were carried out following the conquest. Fatih commissioned a tomb over the grave of Abu Ayyoub al-Ansari, and a mosque, madrasa, soup kitchen and bathhouse were additionally built. Numerous support structures were built in and around Eyüp Mosque, which soon became the spiritual center of Istanbul. Rich foundations were formed in support of these structures. The mosque commissioned by Zal Mahmud Pasha and the complex composed of the tomb, primary school, public fountain, fountain and graveyard commissioned by his wife Şah Sultan attracts special attention among these structures. The Eyüp district accordingly became an area that attracted attention in terms of the richness of foundation structures. The Eyüp Mosque and Complex were particularly subject to the interest of statesmen and the complex reached its current form through supplements and refurbishments during the following years.

Tablo 2- The number of districts and neighborhoods in Istanbul

(inside the city walls) according to the foundation registry books


Number of neighborhoods

Number of foundations

Registration date: 953/1546

Number of foundations

Registration date: 1005/1596





Mahmud Paşa




Atik Ali Paşa




İbrahim Paşa




Sultan Beyazıt








Sultan Mehmed




Sultan Selim




Murad Paşa




Davud Paşa




Koca Mustafa Paşa








Atik Ali Paşa








Source: İnalcık, “İstanbul”, DİA, vol. 23, p. 225.

Foundation investments, which can be considered to be of relatively humbler and smaller size, continued in Galata and Üsküdar throughout this period. Among these investments we can count smaller mosques and open-air prayer places, some of which were built before the conquest in and around the Anatolian and Rumelia Fortresses or within the neighboring small settlements. In a similar way, small-size foundation structures existed around Galata and Beyoğlu, areas wherein non-Muslim populations constituted the majority. Foundation structures were only built in these areas later on, opening as they did only as Muslims settled in the neighborhood. The number of foundation structures began to increase in and around these areas thanks to the formation of new neighborhoods following the gradual settlement of the Muslim community. In this respect, development took place in and around Kasımpaşa, Galata (Karaköy and Tophane) and -in a relatively later period- Beşiktaş. The construction of structures such as Dolmabahçe Palace, Çırağan Palace and Yıldız Palace increased the rates of nearby settlement and, accordingly, investments in local foundations.

Sultans and Foundations

Foundations of the members of the dynasty are encountered within every Ottoman city. The improvement of conquered settlement areas by their conquerors, and their embellishment with foundation structures, was pursued as a tradition by which Ottoman sultans abided. Some cities benefitted from these investments because of their renown as religious centers, like Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem, or because they were capital cities at one point in time, such as Bursa and Edirne. Istanbul, meanwhile, developed as a center for science and as the center of the state. As a result, the city uniquely benefitted from foundation investments. Foundation investments in Istanbul accordingly were not limited to those of the Fatih period. They continued in accordance with the development and requirements of the city throughout subsequent periods as well. As a natural consequence of this, the structures known as imperial foundations attract particular attention in Istanbul. And the structures that occupy central and domineering roles in Istanbul’s identity are mostly composed of these buildings and facilities.

From the Mehmed II period until the Sultan Süleyman I period, these foundation investments were primarily concentrated within the city walls. Following Fatih, important foundation developments including the building of the second Beyazıt Mosque and Complex and the Yavuz Sultan Selim Mosque and Madrasa. The Şehzade Mosque and Complex and Süleymaniye Complex are among the important foundation structures built within the city walls during the Sultan Süleyman’s period. The Süleymaniye foundations, which were the most important complex of the city, are of particular importance for this study.

12- Istanbul from Süleymaniye to Valens Aqueduct (Lewis)

The Süleymaniye Complex was commissioned by Sultan Süleyman I (the Magnificent) to the Architect Sinan and in addition, the mosque included facilities such as madrasas, hadith-house, Quran recitation house, school, hospital, guesthouse, soup kitchen, bathhouse, and tombs. Moreover, there existed numerous shops belonging to the foundation in and around the complex. 226 villages, 30 fields, two neighborhoods, seven mills, two fishponds, two piers, one meadow, two farms and two islands were among the resources allocated to provide income for the Süleymaniye Foundation. The sum of the revenue originally envisaged within the foundation charter was 894,576 silver coins. However, the revenue of the foundation reached 5,227,759 silver coins during Murad III’s reign, in accordance with a calculation carried out at that time. The foundation’s total revenue during the year of 993-994 (1585-1586) is 9,039,602 silver coins, taking into account the 3,341,733 silver coins in the reserve fund and an outstanding revenue from previous years of 420,110 silver coins. This revenue was mostly acquired from the Rumelian villages. Payments made to the 748 personnel of the complex’s seven units amounted to roughly 1,000,000 silver coins.14

Among the foundations established by the women of the palace within the city walls during Süleyman’s period, those established by Hürrem Sultan and Mihrimah Sultan attract particular attention. The complex commissioned by Hürrem Sultan, located within the district presently called Haseki, includes the first mosque built by the Architect Sinan after he became the chief architect of the palace and a madrasa, soup kitchen, hospital, and primary school.15 The complex commissioned by Mihrimah Sultan in Edirnekapı is composed of an inn, arcade, mosque, madrasa, school, and fountain.

The dynasty foundations located out of the city walls, in the districts of, Eyüp, Galata, and Üsküdar, started to increase during Süleyman’s period. Investments both within and outside of the city walls continued during this period. Since Eyüp enjoyed a prominent position in terms of religious and political ceremonies, its foundation was meticulously constructed in accordance with this function starting from the Fatih period; it welcomed rich foundations throughout the following periods as well. The areas surrounding Kasımpaşa were developing as a settlement as well. The Muslim community was concentrated in the Galata district, while small-size settlements came into being throughout the coastline from the Golden Horn shore towards the north of the Bosphorus.

13- The binder of Neslihan Hanım’s endowment deed in Istanbul dated 1730(BOA EV.VKF, no. 21/10)

Üsküdar was one of the areas that benefitted most from the foundation investments. Üsküdar and its surrounding areas were subject to the particular interest of palace women, who were commissioned to improve its structures. The Mihrimah Sultan Mosque and Complex, located next to the shore, is noteworthy at first sight. The Atik Valide Complex, one of the Architect Sinan’s, was commissioned by Nurbanu Valide Sultan, the mother of Murad III, and hosts a mosque, madrasa, dervish lodge, primary school, hadith-house, Quran recitation house, soup kitchen, hospital and bathhouse. Also on the Üsküdar shore, the Yeni Valide Complex was commissioned in the name of Emetullah Gülnuş Valide Sultan, the mother of Ahmed III, and hosts a mosque, tomb, public fountain, prayer house, foundation, mosque fountain, primary school, soup kitchen, shops and reserved houses (quarters). A separate mosque, school and caravanserai commissioned by Gülfem Hatun, one of the wives of Süleyman I, was located at the center of Üsküdar and was relatively humbler than the rest.

The dynasty’s interest in the Üsküdar area continued throughout the following periods and new foundation investments were made. Selim III commissioned the Selimiye Military Barracks and a mosque, prayer-time house, primary school, bathhouse and reserved houses (quarters); Selimiye dervish lodge, with the houses and shops included in the resources of the foundation, located on a wide area and served the barracks and the surrounding settlement areas. Beylerbeyi Mosque, which is also called Hamid-i Evvel Mosque, was commissioned by. Abdülhamid I in the name of his mother Rabia Sultan, and can be counted among the significant foundation structures of the Üsküdar area. A primary school, two foundations and a bathhouse were commissioned in addition to this mosque, which is located on the Beylerbeyi shore. Mahmud II added a prayer house and a fountain to these structures.

The palace’s interest in the interior part of the city walls of Istanbul never declined and numerous foundation structures continued to be built at various locations. The Sultanahmet Mosque and Foundation is the most remarkable of all. The Sultanahmet Complex hosts a hadith-house, Quran recitation house, primary school, tomb, fountain, public fountain, hospital, soup kitchen, various shops, bazaar and bathhouse and houses and cellars in addition to its mosque. Some sections of the complex, which attract attention due to its architecture, faded away over the years for several reasons. The Hamidiye Complex commissioned by Abdulhamid I also hosted a mosque, soup kitchen, primary school, public fountain, fountain, masjid and madrasa in addition to a bazaar. Its soup kitchen and primary school were demolished in time and Dördüncü Vakıf Han (Fourth Foundation Business Center) was built in their place. The Laleli Complex was built during Mustafa III’s reign and contained a mosque, soup kitchen, fountain, public fountain, tomb, inn, madrasa, prayer house and reserved houses (quarters). The Nuruosmaniye Complex is one of the last structures built within the city walls. This complex was commissioned by Mahmud I but named Nuruosmaniye since it was opened by Osman III after Mahmud I’s death. It hosts a mosque, soup kitchen, madrasa, library, tomb, public fountain, and fountain. The library of the complex attracts a lot of attention due to its precious and rich collection.

The construction of Yeni Mosque started in 1597 in the name of Safiye Sultan, who was the mother of Mehmed III and the wife of Murad III. But since Safiye Sultan was sent to the old palace following Ahmed I’s accession to the throne, the structure was left incomplete. Construction was re-commenced by Turhan Hatice Sultan, the mother of Mehmed IV, and was finally completed in 1663. Hatice Sultan commissioned a tomb, Quran recitation house, primary school, public fountain, and fountains in addition to the mosque. Mısır Bazaar (Spice Bazaar) was also commissioned by Hatice Sultan as a part of the Yeni Mosque Complex as a source of income for the foundation.

A masjid located at Cağaoğlu was rebuilt and dedicated in the name of Ahmed III’s daughter, Fatma Sultan. Water was supplied for the numerous fountains in the area through culverts in Üsküdar commissioned by Fatma Sultan and İbrahim Pasha. The other daughter of Ahmed III, Zeynep Sultan, commissioned a primary school, public foundation, tomb and reserved houses (quarters) in addition to a mosque located across from Gülhane Park. Pertevniyal Valide Sultan, the mother of Sultan Abdülaziz, put into service a complex composed of a school, library, prayer-time house, public fountain and fountain in addition to the Valide Mosque in Aksaray. The foundation and charity work carried out by Bezmialem Valide Sultan, the mother of Sultan Abdülmecid, in Istanbul is also very significant. The Gurebâ-yı Müslimîn Hospital (Hospital of the Poor Muslims) and Vakıf Gurebâ Hospital (Hospital of the Foundation for the Poor), both established in her own name, enjoyed a prominent role in terms of health services at the time. She additionally established the Valide School in 1849, an important institution in terms of education history. Also counted as part of her legacy are the Dolmabahçe Mosque, the Bezmiâlem Valide Sultan (Gurebâ Hospital) Mosque, and Valide fountains.

The mosques and other foundation structures constructed along the Bosphorus and throughout the shore emerged in relatively later periods. Nusretiye Mosque, also known as Tophane Mosque, was among the first of the notable structures built along the European shore of the Bosphorus. When this mosque, which had been commissioned by Selim III, was burnt in 1823, Mahmud II commissioned Nusretiye Mosque in its place. Mecidiye Mosque, widely known as Ortaköy Mosque, was commissioned by Sultan Abdülmecid in Ortaköy in 1270 (1853) and today remains one of the city’s most symbolic structures. Yıldız Mosque, which was built right next to the palace to serve as Abdülhamid II’s ceremonial mosque, was one of the most important structures of the last period.

The foundation structures commissioned by the Ottoman dynasty are certainly not only composed of those mentioned above. Numerous charity works, for example, were carried out across various areas. A variety of structures such as soup kitchens, monumental fountains, culverts, arcades, inns, and bathhouses constitute another segment of the dynasty’s initiatives. It is not possible to cite them all due to the limitations of this study, but some additional structures can be found listed under relevant headlines in a later section of this study that analyzes foundation services.

Foundations Established by the Statesmen and People

Among the founders of the foundations there are individuals from almost every social strata. The Ottoman individuals endeavored to establish foundations in accordance with their financial capacity; since establishing foundations became a traditional practice, thousands of foundations were put into service. Accordingly, the number of foundations established in Istanbul amounts to several thousands. Naturally, wealthy people were among the founders of foundations. In fact, the founders of foundations were mostly statesmen (members of the army). Nevertheless, ordinary people also joined in these charity efforts; nearly everyone endeavored to establish a foundation, no matter how humbly, in accordance with their capacity.

The numerous statesmen who undertook several positions at the Ottoman State, and played an important role in its outcome, also attracted attention by the foundations they established. Charity work and the establishment of foundations are two of the results of the Ottoman administrative approach. One of the fundamental principles of Ottoman administrators was “terfih-i ahvâl-i ricâl”: to improve the welfare of the people. One of the main policy instruments applied to maintain this principle was to meet the needs of the people at the place through establishing foundations. Therefore, the number and scope of the foundations established by the high officials, theologians, and scholars serving at several ranks of the state, in addition to the members of dynasty, are remarkable.

Table 3- Founders of complexes according to the Tahrir Defteri for Istanbul


Theologians, scholars, and sheikhs


Merchants and jewelers




Palace masters






Sultan’s military officers










Source: İnalcık, “İstanbul”, DİA, 23, p. 227.

14- Sultan Mahmud I’s imperial edict dated January 1731 about appointment of an inspector to Haramayn al-Sharifayn endowments in Istanbul within the knowledge of the inspector of Haramayn (BOA MF, no. 49)

15- The binder and the first page of Hanife Hatun’s endowment deed in Istanbul dated 1754 (BOA EV.VKF, no. 24/3)

When state officials established a foundation, they preferred to do so in their hometown, the location of their post, or Istanbul. The Ottoman capital has been rich in this regard as a result. It is possible to name many theologians and scholars, commanders and sheikhs among the state officials who founded foundations, not to mention the senior officials such as viziers, heads of financial departments, chancellors, grand admirals, sheikh al-Islams, and military judges. The size of the foundation depended on the founder’s seniority in rank. Apart from a few exceptions, this custom resulted in foundations whose scope was usually in proportion with the social status and wealth of its founder. Table 3 lists the number of the complexes in Istanbul and the distribution of the founders of these complexes across various positions.

Many settlement areas across Istanbul bear the name of those who established foundations. Among the viziers who had foundations in Istanbul, and whose name is in use at their locations are: Mahmud Pasha, Davud Pasha, Atik Ali Pasha (Çemberlitaş and around Karagümrük in Fatih), Rüstem Pasha, Sokollu, Köprülü, Damat İbrahim Pasha of Nevşehir, Haydar Pasha (in Kadıköy), Sinan Pasha (in Beşiktaş), Bayram Pasha (in Bayrampaşa), Kasım Pasha (Beyoğlu, Kasımpaşa), Piyale Pasha (between Okmeydanı and Kasımpaşa), Atik Mustafa Pasha, Koca Mustafa Pasha, Hekimoğlu Ali Pasha, Nişancı Mehmed Pasha, Pîrî Mehmed Pasha, Amcazade Hüseyin Pasha, Zal Mahmud Pasha, Şemsi Pasha (in Üsküdar). For example, Pîrî Mehmed Pasha commissioned a mosque and madrasa at Zeyrek; a mosque at Mercan; a mosque and a public guesthouse at Molla Güranî; a complex at Silivri composed of a mosque, a madrasa, and a soup kitchen, while also devoting an inn around the covered bazaar, another inn at Galata and numerous shops at Tahtakale and Balıkpazarı for use by his foundations. These were in addition to his rich foundations in the city of Adana. Each of those mentioned above established rich foundations respectively.

Figures on the foundation structures cited in the work Osmanlı Kaynaklarına Göre İstanbul (Istanbul According to Ottoman Sources) are as follows. This work mentions 500 mosques, 462 of which are located within the city walls. In addition to these, there are 324 mosques in Eyüp, Hasköy, Kasımpaşa, Galata, Tophane, Beşiktaş, Boğaziçi, Üsküdar, and Kadıköy. The number of the dervish lodges belonging to various religious orders is cited as 305, 321, and 259 at different points in time. In a list, dated 1919, cites 338 dervish lodges. The number of bathhouses within Istanbul was 75.

As a conclusion, it is appropriate to mention some remarkable founders of foundations and their works. Mehmed Vusulî Efendi (d.1590), for instance, was a theologian, scholar, a judge in Istanbul, and a military judge in Anatolia. He commissioned the Architect Sinan to build the Fındıklı Mosque, which was to be composed of a complex on the shore with a bathhouse and primary school. Similarly, people such as Molla Fenarî, Molla Güranî, and Molla Hüsrev, all of whom were distinguished as Ottoman theologians and scholars, had foundations and charities in areas of Istanbul which bore their names, including the public fountain and fountain commissioned by Sheikh al-Islam Arif Hikmet Bey in Üsküdar, the madrasa and library commissioned by Sheikh al-Islam Esad Efendi in Fatih, the mosque commissioned by Sheikh al-Islam İsmail Efendi also in Fatih, and the dervish lodge commissioned by Sheikh al-Islam Seyyid Mustafa Efendi in Eyüp. All of the structures demonstrate the interest put forward by theologians and scholars for the foundation institution. It is claimed that Ahî Çelebi Camii, located in Eminönü, was commissioned by Ahî Çelebi Mehmed b. Tabib Kemal who used to be the chief physician of Fatih Hospital.

The Ekmekçizade Madrasa in Vefa, which was commissioned by Ekmekçioğlu Ahmed Pasha, one of the heads of financial department of Ahmet I’s reign, has survived to the present day as one of the most beautiful examples of its kind. The Ertuğrul Dervish Lodge located in Beşiktaş and established by Sheik Hamza Zafir Efendi, who was one of the prominent members of the Şazeli Order, has also survived and remains a legacy of Abdulhamid II’s policies. The library commissioned by Chronicler Esad Efendi on Yerebatan Street can be cited as a different example.

In addition to those mentioned above, numerous foundations were established and complexes including mosques and dervish lodges were constructed by members of religious orders. In this regard, the most notable places in Istanbul are structures such as Merkez Efendi Complex, Aziz Mahmut Hüdayî Complex, Özbekler Dervish Lodge in Üsküdar, Yahya Efendi Dervish Lodge in Beşiktaş, Galata, Bahariye and Yenikapı Mevlevî Lodges, Hindîler Dervish Lodge and Emir Buharî Dervish Lodge. In addition to those, we can cite numerous large and small mosques, dervish lodges, and charity organizations at several locations within the city.

People contributed to the foundation system with thousands of relatively smaller-size foundations along with those founded by statesmen. There are various examples of large and small thousands of foundations such as masjids, fountains, bridges, wells, pavements, etc. We can argue that the members of the public who established foundations were composed of merchants, tradesmen, or other relatively wealthy people. It is important to mention that women composed a notable proportion among the founders of foundations. In fact, more than one third of the founders of foundations were women, which contests the argument that women were economically backward within the Ottoman society. On the contrary, women were very active in terms of participation within economic activities, owning property and wealth and utilizing their resources within foundations that offered social services. Additionally, individuals who enjoyed lower social positions than state officials had the opportunity to open cash foundations. Since cash foundations could be established by those who could not own real estate, it was possible to transform relatively modest savings into such a foundation.

When the resources of revenue and wealth changed hands due to economic and social transitions, this reflected in changes within the foundation system as well. We observe that different segments that enriched in time also found a place within the system. One of the finest examples of this is the mosque commissioned by Tütüncü (Tobacco-seller) Mehmed Efendi, who acquired great wealth when smoking and tobacco commerce became widespread. This kind of example relates that even if prominent features of Ottoman economics and society changed, the foundation-based approach maintained its predominance. This example also demonstrates in which direction the development of settlements grew in Istanbul. When the Anatolia side of the city gradually became a settlement area preferred by the wealthy of the city, new settlers in the areas of Kadıköy and Üsküdar formed institutions of foundations along with neighborhoods. The Ethem Efendi Mosque and the Zühtü Paşa Mosque in Kadıköy and the Altunizade Mosque in Üsküdar can be cited as examples of this phenomenon. Moreover, we also encounter with interesting examples that gained a legendary character in time in terms of establishing foundations. The Sankiyedim Mosque and the Takyeci İbrahim Ağa Mosque are the examples that could be mentioned in this regard.

Another aspect of Istanbul’s foundations that should be mentioned is foundations established by the non-Muslim community. This group contributed to the foundation system in the same manner as the Muslims did; they established various foundations to meet the domestic needs of their community and to serve society at large. Christians and Jews, whose security was ensured in exchange for tax payments, established foundations to meet the need for religious services and education. These include: foundations belonging to churches, monasteries, and synagogues; various funds and foundations formed by the non-Muslim tradesmen among themselves; and also foundations which met the needs of non-Muslim neighborhoods such as roads, pavements, fountains, culverts, etc. In this regard, the contribution of non-Muslim citizens to the foundation system also deserves elaborate research.

It is also necessary to mention the foundations formed by military unions or various professional associations in Istanbul, particularly those funded by tradesmen and military personnel. Tradesmen funds can be considered as a sort of solidarity fund established to meet the common and unique needs of tradesmen working in the same sector. These kinds of funds, which were usually formed as a foundation, provided various services for public in addition to tradesmen. The troop funds of janissaries were similarly organized. Each janissary troop established a fund to meet the needs of its members and similar services were carried out with its revenue. Other funds formed under the name of foundation existed as well. The cash foundations established for some groups, particularly in and around the palace, provided for the various needs of its base group. We can mention the cash foundations belonging to officials such as the masters of the gate of bliss16, who carried out several services within Enderun, Harem and Birun and had foundation charters carved on stones at Topkapı Palace. Their societies included the following and were typical of these sorts of foundations: chamber of pages for expedition, chamber of treasury, sappers society, dessert-house society, cookers society.


Wealthy members of all segments of society established foundations along with the sultans and statesmen in the Ottoman society, and the foundation system developed completely through voluntary contributions and provided services in all areas. Thousands of foundations came into being thanks to this system supported by a consumer approach that disliked luxury and wastefulness. All of these foundation investments contributed to the development of the city and to the satisfaction of its needs. They additionally gathered rent payments and channeled them towards several services that addressed the public needs.

Public Works, Urban Development, and Infrastructure Services

The complexes established as a foundation facility already formed a small settlement area with their buildings, large personnel, and their families. Urban development was also ensured through the neighborhoods that gradually developed around these complexes. Among the prominent complexes established in this regard are the Fatih, Yavuz Selim, Beyazıt, Süleymaniye, Sultanahmet and Haseki complexes and the Atik Valide Complex in Üsküdar. We can also include the complexes commissioned by certain statesmen, particularly viziers, which were elaborated above. Each of these complexes became the center of a settlement area and significantly contributed to the improvement of the area in terms of the development in Istanbul.

16- Ayasofya, New Valide and Nuruosmaniye Mosques (Lewis)

17- Sultan Mustafa III’s imperial edict dated 16 November 1762 about the continuation of tax exemption of the people of Ayasağa (Yeniköy) and Kağıdhane villages belonged to Cenderecizade Muhyiddin Çelebi Endowment (BOA MF, no. 137)

Complexes accommodated two types of structures. There were units which can be considered as charity providing services, including mosques, schools, madrasas, libraries, soup kitchens, fountains, public fountains, etc. These services were provided free of charge and the funding required for their operation was met through the foundation’s endowment. The allocations that ensured the sustainable operation of these services were called akarat (assets and revenues). The facilities counted among these assets and revenues, including inns, bathhouses, arcades, covered bazaars, bazaars, shops, mills, workshops, houses, and rooms provided revenue for the foundation and contributed to the improvement and development of the cities. They also provided the necessary infrastructure for required commercial and industrial activities. Foundations also founded and operated transportation facilities such as roads, bridges, pavements and piers and water facilities such as fountains, public fountains and culverts; these can also be counted among their charitable facilities. In this regard, we can claim that foundations provided all kinds of infrastructure services needed by people. Other facilities such as cemeteries and excursion areas can also be counted among these services. Within the Karacaahmet Cemetery, for instance, there were six dervish lodges and open-air prayer places, three mosques, seven fountains, two schools, one hospital, 11 calx-houses and several wells built at different dates. Many people, appointed for all of these foundations, worked to meet the various needs of the graveyard17. We know that Sheik al-Islam Veliyyüddin Efendi donated land, known as the Veli Efendi Meadow, in Bakırköy as an excursion area for people of Istanbul, and also commissioned a fountain at the same place.18

A remarkable example of public work activities by the foundations lies within the judiciary records of the Eyüp Court. According to this example, land outside of Eğrikapı, which belonged to the Sultan Beyazıt Foundation, was assigned for the use of the Cebecibaşı Ahmet Ağa Foundation and was divided the land into plots to be rented out for sixty years. The aim was to operate the land and to ensure security by forming a settlement area in the neighborhood.19 Construction was apparently allowed on the land by the foundation and the rent revenues were to be gathered to support of several services carried out to meet the needs of the newly established settlement area.

Ö. L. Barkan identified 207 mosques, 24 schools or madrasas, 32 bathhouses, 12 inns and covered bazaars that were built in Istanbul following the conquest. Foundations also constructed thousands of houses, shops and similar buildings to settle the people required to operate these facilities or to supply revenue.20 In the realm of construction, foundations were prominent economic actors in cities and they played a decisive role within both the construction and real estate sectors. As a matter of fact, the construction records of the Süleymaniye Complex, published by Barkan, identify the economic liveliness that came into being during the construction of foundation structures.21 Moreover, large numbers of people worked at foundation facilities as they were being constructed, which highlights the importance of foundations within the labor market as well. 496 personnel served in several departments of the Fatih Complex, while 457 personnel were employed at Hagia Sophia foundations. Similarly, those who worked on the construction of the Süleymaniye Complex numbered around 2,000 to 3,000 on any given day; the foundation charters state that 281 positions were allocated just for the mosque. Overall, it can be estimated that almost ten thousand people were employed by the thousands of both small and large foundations that existed across the city.

Public work activities began in Istanbul during the Fatih period and continued during Bayezid II’s and Sultan Süleyman I’s reigns as well. Kırkçeşme culverts were constructed along with the mosque and soup kitchens commissioned by Sultan Süleyman himself, his son, daughter, wives and other statesmen. In addition, thousands of foundations were established in Istanbul according to the city’s foundation registry books dated 953 (1546) and 1009 (1600).22 Table 4 demonstrates the figures of these two registry books. The figures on the table state that the foundation sector composed quite a lively field and the process of establishing foundations continued without interruption. The figures only covered the foundations located within the city walls; the large imperial foundations and foundations located in Galata, Eyüp, and Üsküdar were not included in this inventory.

The investments and activities carried out by the foundations in Istanbul continued throughout the following centuries as well. Foundation facilities, which were formed in accordance with social needs, undertook an important role for the development of the city. When this data is analyzed collectively, it is evident that foundations carried out large investments in Istanbul and a significant part of its real estate reserve had some connection with the foundations. This situation was subject to complaints particularly during the late periods and dominating aspect of foundations within the city’s real estate caused stagnation in the real estate market. Among those who complained about this situation were individuals who increased their wealth due to the changing economic structure, those trying to acquire a higher social position, and Western states looking for land for their missions.

When municipalities were established and modern style municipal works commenced, the infrastructure and public work activities carried out by foundations were gradually included as part of municipal duties. Hence, we can state that activity area of the foundations was narrowed down and adapted to the new administrative structure.

Residences, Shops, Arcades, and Workshops

We have already mentioned that houses and rooms used as residences covered an important place within the properties of foundations. While some of these lodgings were used as reserved houses (quarters) of the foundation employees, a significant part of them was rented to those in need in order to provide revenue for the foundation. Both rooms for single persons and inns for short-term accommodation and commercial services for visitors from outside of the city can be considered within this category, alongside the houses in which families resided. An examination of the charters and similar records of the foundations relates to that they were quite rich in this respect. The amount of foundation-held real estate was increased further since people transformed the houses they owned into foundations, mostly in form of family foundations.

In addition, it is necessary to mention the residences known as a Jewish-house or Greek-house, located in districts where non-Muslim citizens lived. These were used to house people belonging to a certain religion or sect, such as Jewish and Rum-Orthodox. Jewish-houses were apartment-style structures built to meet the housing needs of Jewish people who settled in Istanbul upon arriving from other areas, particularly Europe. Numerous Jewish-houses existed in the neighborhoods of Hasköy, Ortaköy and Kuzguncuk, some examples of which remain to this day. A significant part of these structures were built and put into service by foundations in conjunction with private initiatives. Some of those built by private hands were also transformed into a foundation. Therefore, we can argue that a significant part of the structures used as residences in Istanbul was built by foundations or became part of a foundation later on, thereby becoming affiliated with the authority of the foundations.

Another indicator of the development of the Ottoman cities is commercial and industrial infrastructure. Large arcades and covered bazaars attract attention as fundamental characteristics of Ottoman cities. Arcades and covered bazaars, uncovered bazaars, shops, and various workshops located at the literal and figurative center of economic activities in Ottoman cities occupied an important place with the properties of the foundations. We can also add commercial businesses such as inns, caravansaries, and bathhouses active within the service sector. A significant amount of these structures, some of which have survived and are still functional today, was commissioned by the foundations.

18- The endowment deed of Hacı Hasan Raif Efendi dated 18 February 1788, who was the head deputy of the Clerk of the steward of the office of the Grand Vizier (BOA EV.VKF, no. 22/32)

19- The endowment deed of Mustafa Efendi dated 1793, who was the clerk of Istanbul saddlers (BOA EV.VKF, no. 25/11)

Istanbul foundations invested significantly in these sorts of structures, which were regarded as a source of income. The aforementioned examples of the foundations at Hagia Sophia, Fatih, Süleymaniye and Yeni are striking in this regard. Mısır Bazaar, constructed to provide revenue for the Yeni Mosque foundation, continues its function as an important commercial center today. On the other hand, the Grand Bazaar used to be at the center for numerous professions in Istanbul, in terms of both production and commerce. The Grand Bazaar, which belonged to Fatih’s foundation, has been subject to several amendments throughout its history and only reached its final position by transforming into a huge commercial center complete with surrounding inns. A historical record dated 1304 (1886-1887) documents that the Grand Bazaar, or Büyük Çarşı (Great Market), consisted of two covered bazaars, 4,399 shops, 2,195 rooms and cells, 1 bathhouse, 497 closets, 12 safes, one mosque, ten masjids, two mosque fountains, one public fountain, 16 fountains, eight wells with pumps, one tomb, 73 zevak (?), 24 inns, and one school.23

It is also necessary to mention the various workshops, which along with the other examples listed provide income for foundations. Various production facilities such as mills, bakeries, tile-houses, and tanner-houses, which came into being as a result of the economic conditions of the day, were found among foundation workshops. A number of the tile workshops located between Hasköy and Kâğıthane belonged to the foundations. Foundations were interested in this kind of workshop particularly after the enactment of privileged monopoly practice. While some of these privileges were allocated at the beginning to newly-established foundations or foundations in additional need, they could also have been transformed into foundations by their owners later on. As a matter of fact, some of the tanner-houses in Üsküdar were counted among the foundations of the Atik Valide Sultan Complex commissioned by Nurbanu Valide Sultan.

Foundations also helped meet the requirements of urban life by investing in transportation infrastructure, such as roads, pavements, and bridges. Foundations were established particularly for the maintenance of roads, the restoration of the pavements, and both the maintenance and restoration of the bridges within Istanbul. Various examples are encountered in this regard. Foundation piers and boat businesses by foundations were carried out with particular force in Istanbul, along with the conventional foundation examples such as roads, bridges, and pavements. The records state that foundations also granted use of the Bosphorus to certain boats.

Another foundation service consisted of environmental sanitation. There are innumerable examples of foundations ensuring the sanitation and maintenance of foundation facilities, arcades and roads, and that domestic water reached fountains without being contaminated by sewage. We know that particularly large foundations employed personnel in this regard. Sources mention that there were personnel within the Fatih foundations responsible for the maintenance and restoration of foundation buildings, removing writings on the walls, and placing ashes over dirty roads to prevent contagious diseases. In addition, there were foundations established directly for these purposes. One court ruling called for the demolition of toilets built by private hands because they were located on a culvert of the foundation fountain commissioned by a Jewish citizen at Hasköy and were compromising the water source. This example highlights the role shouldered by the foundations in the sanitation of the city.

Education, Culture and Religious Services

All education institutions, from neighborhood schools to the highest education institutions (excluding Enderun School), were established by and operated with the support of foundations. This continued until the establishment of modern education institutions by the Ottoman State. All kinds of education services were financed by foundations without the budget directly allocating for education services. Further, madrasas offered specialized education such as hadith-houses, Quran recitation houses and medical schools, while mosques provided several education services which addressed public needs.

Istanbul was very rich in regards to education institutions formed by foundations. While Zeyrek served as the first madrasa following the conquest, Sahn-ı Seman madrasas commissioned by Fatih functioned as the highest education institutions for many years. Following the construction of the Süleymaniye Complex, its madrasas occupied the highest rank of the Ottoman education system. Hundreds of madrasas, large and small, were built within the city alongside these examples. Mübahat S. Kütükoğlu’s work titled 1869’da Faal İstanbul Medreseleri (İstanbul 1977)-Istanbul Madrasas Active in 1869) and XX. Asra Erişen İstanbul Medreseleri (Ankara 2000-Istanbul Madrasas That Have Survived to the 20th Century) illustrate this richness. According to Kütükoğlu, there were 131 madrasas in Istanbul, Eyüp, and Kasımpaşa in the middle of the seventeenth century. Hezarfen Hüseyin Efendi indicated that there were 126 madrasas in 1675, while 181 madrasas were identified during an inventory carried out in 1791. 166 active madrasas were identified within a list dated 1869, and 185 madrasas were mentioned in 1912.24 These figures do not include madrasas in the districts of Eyüp, Galata, and Üsküdar. Moreover, these lists did not cover schools in neighborhoods, which could be estimated to number in the hundreds.

20- Historic Peninsula in a Ramadan night

An inspection record dated 1206 (1792) identifies 2,046 rooms and 2,797 students at 179 madrasas located in Istanbul. According to curriculum records kept by the office of Sheikh al-Islam Ahmed Esad Efendi in 1302 (1886), there were 162 active madrasas in Dersaadet (The Gate of Happiness25). Curriculum records state the number and names of the students of each madrasa. For example, there were 659 student names at Süleymaniye madrasas; there were respectively 92 students at Darülhadis, 175 at Evvel Madrasa, 109 at Sânî Madrasa, 132 at Sâlis Madrasa, 84 at Râbi’ Madrasa and 67 at Mülâzımlar Madrasa.26 Similarly, the names of 176 primary schools were listed as primary schools. However, this figure does not cover the entirety of Istanbul’s primary schools.27

Some of the modern-style educational institutions established out of the madrasa system by the second half of nineteenth century were also organized as foundations. While there was an attempt to meet the costs of some of the new education institutions directly by the education budget, foundations were resorted to once again when treasury resources were inadequate. Educational needs were then met through the foundation resources by the Ministry of Foundations.

The infrastructure of religious and cultural services was composed of structures such as mosques, masjids, libraries, and dervish lodges. It is clear that Istanbul was a wealthy city by these metrics. A widespread network of religious services, comprised of thousands of mosques of all sizes neighborhood masjids covering all quarters of the city, and open-air prayer areas in the countryside, were established by the foundations. Moreover, several dervish lodges can be mentioned as active religious sites in nearly each neighborhood.28 Libraries, nevertheless, gradually became independent units, breaking away from the madrasas with which they were formerly affiliated. Numerous foundation libraries were established in Istanbul, accommodating thousands of works. Among the more prominent libraries are Nuruosmaniye Library, Köprülü Library, Ragıp Pasha Library, Kılıç Ali Pasha Library, Âtıf Efendi Library. These libraries were established as foundations to ensure sustainability in their services.29 It is also possible to mention foundation service units that carried out various functions, including prayer-time houses, within complexes. Beyazıt II’s Prayer-time House is one of the prominent examples in Istanbul.

Health Services

The institutions of darüttıp (medical-house) and darüşşifa (hospital) were specialized madrasas that offered medical training and offered medical services. A hospital was usually founded within a complex when it was constructed. The relevant foundation directly met the wages of the personnel employed at these hospitals, the board and lodging needs of the theoretical and applied medical training students, and the costs of medicine and treatment for patients. Foundation charters offer detailed information about the personnel employed by the medical institutions affiliated to the foundation and the services offered to the patients.30

Süleymaniye Hospital was one of the most prominent medical institutions operating in Istanbul. In addition to this facility, there were hospitals at Fatih, Haseki, and Atik Valide Complexes; in each case, all requirements were fulfilled by the relevant foundation. Vakıf Gurebâ Hospital was a foundation institution directly established to offer medical services. Gurebâ-yı Müslimîn Hospital or Vakıf Gurebâ Hospital, established by Sultan Abdülmecid’s mother Bezmiâlem Valide Sultan in her own name, came into being as a good example of a hospital that offered health services with a modern approach. This facility carried out its function for many years and was transformed into a university that specializes in medical services under the name of Bezmiâlem Vakıf University; it has continued to operate in accordance with its historical mission to the present day.

Foundations also undertook numerous social services in addition to the aforementioned services. The troop funds of the janissaries and tradesmen funds founded by the artisan unions were institutions that assisted members or their relatives in times of need and also provided funding for common social activities. As such, the aforementioned foundations carried out the function of a social security institution. There were also hundreds of foundations that met a specific purpose, including those giving pension from surplus revenues called zevâyid to the people in need , and others which assisted the unemployed and provided various forms of social help. Nurbanu Valide Sultan’s foundation, for instance, offered clothing assistance to poor students from schools in Üsküdar twice a year—once on Mawlid Night and once during the month of Ramadan. The purpose of the foundations established by İbrahim Pasha and Mustafa Agha b. Mustafa was to pay off the debts of those imprisoned because of their outstanding payments, thereby setting them free. The purpose of the foundation established by Ayşe Sıdıka Hanım, meanwhile, was to assist those who could not get married because of poverty. Soup kitchens offered food to those in need along with the foundation personnel.31 The amount of the meals supplied by the Fatih Soup Kitchen to the foundation personnel, madrasa students and guests, excluding the poor, was identified to be 1,117.32 Istanbul soup kitchens provided food for about 30,000 people daily in the eighteenth century. The Eyüp Soup Kitchen continues to carry out similar activities today. There are innumerable examples in this respect.

Table 4- Cash foundations established and operated in Istanbul in the sixteenth century according to registry books

Date of record

Asset and Properties



Assets, properties, and cash








Takeover from the former book









Established between 927-953 /1521-1546
















Takeover from the former book









Established between 953-986/1546-1578
















Takeover from the former book









Established between 986-1005/1578-1596
















Source: Barkan and Ayverdi, İstanbul Vakıfları Tahrîr Defteri, p. VIII, Chart no. 1.

Cash Foundations, Social Security and Funding Services

The foundations whose charter capitals -called asl-ı mâl- are partially or entirely composed of cash are called cash foundations. The income, acquired through the operation of the cash devoted to this kind of foundations, was utilized to finance services envisaged by the foundation.

As part of the foundation system, cash foundations contributed significantly to the development of Ottoman cities and helped meet their needs; they also had a particularly important function in terms of improving Rumelian cities. As a matter of fact, when cash foundations were to be banned during Süleyman’s period, the most important argument against banning them, which came from Bâlî Efendi of Sofia, was based on the role cash foundations undertook for the improvement of the Balkan cities. In his letters addressing the sultan and influential theologians and scholars, Bâlî Efendi stated that banning cash foundations would be harmful for the foundation system. He pointed out that this would not only destroy the infrastructure of Balkan cities but would also erode the state’s authority within the region.33

Bâlî Efendi’s very accurate point is understood more clearly when the services carried out by cash foundation are revealed. Cash foundations became an important part of the foundation system as an institution that met a need among the Ottoman public for cash and funding, particularly since the beginning of the sixteenth century. Cash foundations, which were valid alternatives to the high interests applied by the brokers called ribahor in spite of the interest ban enacted due to high demands for funding, also contributed to the development of the foundation services through the revenue they acquired.

21- The binder of the endowment deed of Mehmed Raşid Efendi, one of the instructors of Imperial Chancery of State, dated 1795 (BOA EV.VKF, no. 25/13)

22- Sultan Selim III’s imperial edict dated 21 July 1797 about renting timber merchants’ and large nail makers’ license (gedik) in Kırkkilise belonged to Valide Sultan Endowment (BOA MF, no. 476)

23- Sultan Selim III’s endowment deed (The archive of the Directorate General of Foundations, no. 168)

The avarız tax foundations established within the neighborhoods and artisan funds established by the tradesmen and troop funds established by the janissary troops were mostly composed of cash and were utilized to meet the financial needs to the neighborhood community, artisans or janissaries. They also met the various needs of the community that raised the money in the first place. Cash foundations, which can be considered as a sort of social security institution in this regard, covered an important part of the foundations located in Istanbul. The number of cash foundations operating in Üsküdar was identified to be 150 during Süleyman’s period.34 This figure was even higher inside of the city walls. Table 4, prepared with information found in registry books of Istanbul foundations, contains important information about the figures cash foundations reached in Istanbul and their place and proportion within the foundation system.

Table 4 shows that foundations composed solely of cash comprised more than one-third of all of the foundations registered within the record dated 953 (1546). Almost half of the foundations located in Istanbul were cash foundations if foundations composed of assets, properties, and cash are included into this figure. Cash foundations continued to be an important part of the foundation system, although these rates constantly changed.

Cash foundations enabled the foundation system to expand by enabling the transformation of relatively smaller savings into foundations and then real estate foundations. Cash foundations offered financial support to all kinds of services provided within the foundations system. An interesting example in this regard is encountered within the judiciary records of Hasköy. The tradesmen working at Hasköy Pier established a cash foundation for the toilets they had constructed around the pier. These toilets and their sanitation, maintenance, and restoration needs were met by the income of this foundation and served for many years.35 Table 5 covers the foundations located within the Baba Hasan Alemî neighborhood and contextualizes the role of cash foundations within foundation system more clearly.

Foundations and Water Facilities

Foundations also carried out water supply services and ensured the healthy transfer of water in Ottoman society. Water facilities had a special place among the foundation investments in Istanbul. Immense investments were carried out by the foundations to meet the water requirement of the city, which was a settlement area with poor water resources and which experienced serious water shortages from time to time. In addition to the monumental fountains and public fountains -which were also works of art- such as Tophane Fountain, Mahmut II Public Fountain, Ahmet III Square Fountain (Üsküdar) and Ahmet III Public Fountain and Fountain (Sultanahmet), the Bozdoğan Arch and thousands of other public fountains and mosque fountains embellished all quarters of Istanbul. It is possible to encounter historical fountains or remnants of them in almost every quarter even today. Large investments were required to construct the culverts that supplied water to these facilities and kept them in constant operation. In addition to these, numerous foundations were also encountered regarding digging wells and supplying water to places such as vineyards and gardens in need of irrigation.

The most remarkable water foundation located in Istanbul was the one commissioned by Kanunî Sultan Süleyman for the facilities that supplied water from Kâğıthane into Istanbul. A town and numerous villages and farms in Rumelia were listed as the source of income of the foundation in the foundation charter. When the revenue of these sources was inadequate the rest would be met by the surplus of the Süleymaniye Complex’s foundation.36

Numerous culverts were constructed by foundations established to supply water to Istanbul, and they also provided the resources required to keep them in operation. Kazım Çeçen’s works titled Halkalı Suları (Halkalı Waters), Taksim ve Hamidiye Suları (Taksim and Hamidiye Waters), Üsküdar Suları (Üsküdar Waters) reveal the complete details about the culverts commissioned by the foundations established by Ottoman statesmen since Mehmed II.37 When the maps and other details are evaluated as a whole, it is possible to understand how the water need of the city was met. In addition to this, Vakıf Su Defterleri (Foundation Water Books) and İstanbul Şer‘iyye Sicilleri Mâ-i Lezîz Defterleri (Istanbul Sharia Registers and Books of Delicious Water), published under the main title of İstanbul Su Külliyatı (Istanbul Water Corpus) by İSKİ (İstanbul Administration of Water and Sewage), are guides about the richness of this subject.38 These works put forward the foundation-water relation in Istanbul thoroughly and clearly demonstrate the details about the water supply to the city and the role of the foundations in this regard.

Bathhouses compose a different aspect of the relation between foundations and water. Bathhouses, mostly founded by the foundations, had an important place within the daily life and culture of Ottoman society. Bathhouses that were within the foundations were counted mostly as properties established to produce income. The foundation bathhouses, which were considered to be one of the most profitable businesses and usually operated through renting by auction, both met the sanitation needs of the public and composed important resources for the foundation services. We can state that Istanbul was rich in this respect as well. There was a bathhouse at almost each complex and there were also hundreds of bathhouses of all sizes across the city; there was at least one bathhouse in each neighborhood. The bathhouses located in Istanbul are especially emphasized when the works of Sinan the Architect are considered. Facilities such as the Süleymaniye Bathhouse at the Süleymaniye Complex, Çemberlitaş Bathhouse at the Atik Vâlide Foundations, and Haseki Bathhouse at the Haseki Complex are precious examples in this regard. The bathhouse located at the center, also the work of the Sinan the Architect and used as an arcade today, is important for both art history and also for social and political history; so too are the Atik Valide and Çinili Bathhouses, which were located in Üsküdar. Bathhouses were a key social site in Ottoman society, and they occasionally were centers of opposition movements. The Beyazıt Bathhouse, for instance, became renowned as the headquarters of the rebels during the Patrona Halil Riots.

Neighborhood Governance and Foundations

The main unit of Ottoman cities was the neighborhoods, and the governance of cities was based on this. Neighborhoods were also the main unit of tax collection. While measurement units called avarız hanesi39 were the basis of the definition of extraordinary taxes called tekâlîf-i örfiyye (custom tax) and avârız-ı divâniyye (imperial tax), the collection of these taxes were carried out in accordance with the neighborhoods.40

Table 5- Foundations established in the Baba Hasan [Alemî] Neighborhood, around Fatih Saraçhane in the XVIth century, according to the foundation registry books

Name of foundation

Date of establishment Hijri/AD

Date of record

Assets and properties



Baba Hasan [Alemî]



Room, two shades, dervish lodge, yard


Recitation of Quran fascicles


Room, two shades, dervish lodge, yard


Recitation of Quran fascicles

Mustafa b. Abdullah



22,000 silver coins

2,200 silver coins

Imam, muezzin, mat, carpet, oil lamp





Mirî Kapıcı Hacı Hüseyin b. Abdullah



Two ground floor houses, stable, cell, room, toilet, yard

480 silver coins

Reitation of Quran fascicles


Two ground floor houses, stable, cell, room, toilet, yard


Accommodation of children, recitation of Quran fascicles

Yusuf b. Davud



8,000 silver coin

800 silver coin

Two Recitation of Quran fascicles (imam and muezzin)





Hamza b. Abdullah



Two ground floor houses, toilet, water well, yard with trees

500 silver coins

Maintenance and restoration, two complete recitation of Quran a year (imam of the mosque)





Hesnâ bt. Abdullah



4,000 silver coin

400 silver coins

Half fascicles (imam and muezzin)





Aişe Hatun bt. Ahmed



Ground floor house, hall, shade, water well, yard

Accommodation of children, needs of the mosque


Ground floor house, hall, shade, water well, yard

Accommodation of children

Doğancı Sinan



2,500 silver coins

250 silver coins

Recitation of Quran





Hacı Sinan b. Abdullah







Ragged house, room, cell, bakery, water well, hall, toilet, yard


Accommodation of children, Recitation of Quran fascicles after the decline, oil lamp of the mosque

Hızır b. Abdullah, Eğri Hızır diye meşhur







Two ragged houses, water well, garden, yard, shade, toilet

Recitation of Quran fascicles (neighborhood imam)

Emine Hatun bt. Veli







20,000 silver coins

2,000 silver coins

Accommodation of children, Recitation of Quran fascicles (muezzin and Mehmed b. Mustafa) avarız tax (70 silver coins a year), restoration of the house devoted by Emine Hatun

Mehmed Çelebi b. Kirmastî







16,000 silver coins

1,600 silver coins

Recitation of three Quran fascicles (two by imam and muezzin), candle of the mosque and to light it, accounting, rest for the avarız tax of the neighborhood or for the poor

Hasan Çelebi b. Ali







9,000 silver coins

900 silver coins

Recitation of Quran fascicles (Baba Hasan Mosque imam and muezzin), rest for the accountant in necessary

Hüsrev Bey b. Abdullah es-Silâhî







Three ragged houses, stable, shade, garden, water well, two toilets


Accommodation of children, accommodation of the neighborhood imam after the decline, Reading of Quran fascicles

Benefşe Hatun bt. Abdullah







9,000 silver coins

900 silver coins

Recitation of Quran fascicles

Hacı Hüseyin b. Pîrî







20,000 silver coins

2,000 silver coins

Recitation of thirty-sixth surah of Quran (Alemdar Hüsrev Bey Mosque imam), Reading of Mulk surah, (Hüsrev Bey Mosque muezzin), complete reading of Quran, two fountains, twenty silver coins for oil lamp and to light it

Source: This table has been prepared with information presented under the “Mahalle-i Mescid-i Baba Hasan” headline of Barkan ve Ayverdi, İstanbul Vakıfları Tahrir Defteri, pp. 236-237 and Canatar, İstanbul Vakıfları Tahrîr Defteri, pp. 366-367.

In a similar way, neighborhoods were the main units to meet several common needs of cities, including expenditures for military troops during expeditions and for the allocation of similar common liabilities. Those who were responsible for allocating taxes among the residents of the neighborhood and collecting and paying the relevant officers were imams in Muslim neighborhoods and officers such as priests or community leaders in non-Muslim neighborhoods. This ensured that those living within the same neighborhood had a common feeling of responsibility and prepared the ground that they were in solidarity in financial affairs. Foundations came into being thanks to this solidarity within the neighborhoods.

Foundations established for neighborhoods undertook an active role in forming common living space for the community and meeting its infrastructural needs. In addition to the masjid of the neighborhood, the construction, maintenance, and restoration of facilities such as roads, fountains, and culverts were carried out by foundations established by wealthy members of the neighborhood. Foundations with adequate income were also founded to meet current expenditures and to ensure the sustainability of services and institutions. In this respect, masjids (churches or synagogues), schools, culverts, fountains, pavements, roads, bridges and similar facilities of the neighborhood were established by the neighborhood community and separate foundations were founded for their current expenditures, maintenance, and restoration.41 Avarız foundations, meanwhile, which were composed of mostly cash, undertook an active role in the payment of avarız taxes, met several needs of the neighborhoods, and provided funding for the members of the neighborhood when in need.42

24- The license of the trustees of Üsküdar Karadavut Paşa Mosque Foundation renewed on 16 April 1810 (BOA MF, no. 785)

25- Sultan Mahmud II’ imperial edict dated 29 March 1809 about the rules and regulations that the shoe makers working in Üsküdar Doğancılar square and the shoe maker shops in Yenikapı which belonged to Sultan Mustafa III’s Endowment (BOA MF, no. 685)

26- Sultan Mahmud II’s endowment deed (The archive of the Directorate General of Foundations, no. 1468)

This organization was widely observed across the Ottoman cities and towns and assigned neighborhoods as the main unit, Istanbul included. According to the foundation registry book dated 1009 (1600), the number of foundations established in some Istanbul neighborhoods reached almost 40-50. The number of foundations established within the Davut Paşa Neighborhood was 56.43 Information in foundation registry books concerning the Baha Hasan Neighborhood (today the Baba Hasan Alemî Neighborhood) located in Fatih, near Saraçhane, is examined to understand the types of functions undertaken by foundations established within neighborhoods.

Although the date of the foundation charter of Baba Hasan, who was told to be the standard-bearer of Mehmed II, is documented as 903 (1497) in the foundation registry book, the date on the inscription on the masjid is 857 (1453). Thus, we can state that the establishment of the mosque and the neighborhood took place right after the conquest. It is understood that the income of the foundation formed by Baba Hasan for the masjid he had commissioned, which survived until 1956, was inadequate and the needs of the masjid were met by the support of other foundations established within the neighborhood.44 According to the registry book records, the number of foundations established in the Baba Hasan Neighborhood was 16 throughout the sixteenth century. Four of the founders of these foundations were women. Members of the army such as treasury gatekeepers, hawkers, and throwers attract attention among the other foundation founders. Three of the founders of foundations were recorded as pilgrims, which was a quite high number for those times.

27- Sultan Abdülhamid II’s endowment deed (The archive of the Directorate General of Foundations, no. 181)

Some of the foundations established within Baba Hasan Neighborhood were founded to provide oil for the lamps of the masjids, light these lamps, provide objects such as mats and carpets, pay the wages of imams and muezzins, and have someone to recite the Quran (fascicle, whole Quran, surah of Yasin or Mulk). Moreover, services such as accommodation of young descendants of the founder of the foundation, payment of the avarız tax to the neighborhood, the maintenance and restoration of the devoted buildings and water supply were among the founding purposes of the foundations as well. While seven of those foundations were composed of various holdings such as houses and gardens, nine of them were cash foundations. The sum of the donated money to these nine cash foundations was 110,500 silver coins, and its annual revenue was 11,050 silver coins. This amount was actually a high figure for such a relatively small neighborhood.

This situation found in the Baba Hasan Neighborhood was true for the other neighborhoods of the city as well. Each district was usually established and developed around a masjid, and several needs were met by the foundation formed by the community of that neighborhood. This situation recurred at the level of the district, as it was formed at a wider scope around a complex where neighborhoods came together. The foundation registry book of Istanbul dated 1009 (1600) includes 226 neighborhood names in this respect, and the number of foundations established at that time was 3,225. This figure demonstrates that the average number of foundations in each neighborhood was more than 14.45 This proves how widespread the institution of foundation was across the city, and that the foundation was a common and efficient institution embraced by all segments of the society.


As the number of foundations increased, they offered a wide range of services and brought together several regulations about the administration of foundations. Several ministries, such as the Chief White Eunuch Ministry, the Grand Vizier Ministry, and the Sheikh al-Islam Ministry, were gradually founded to administer and supervise foundations, especially those established by members of the dynasty. The Ministry of Private Sites Foundations, which administered the foundations established for pilgrimages to Mecca and Medina, at first gained a structure to administer the larger foundations, primarily dynasty foundations. In addition to this, different ministries were founded for foundations affiliated with the judiciary offices of Istanbul, Galata, Üsküdar, and Eyüp. The number of ministries reached 12, including ministries such as Captain Pasha, Janissary Agha, Chief Keeper of Imperial Hounds, and Chief of Gardens. However, this disorganized structure of the administration and supervision of the foundations and corruption and violations led the Ottoman administrators establish alternative ministries for the newly established foundations.

The foundations administration was established independently by Abdülhamid I in 1188 (1774-1775) and was called Hamidiye Foundations. This administrative body, named Hamidiye Foundations and Affiliations after the foundations established by the women of the dynasty and some statesmen, gradually became an important department. A similar organization was implemented for Laleli Foundations, established by Sultan Mustafa III, later on. This administration, called Laleli Foundations and Affiliations, was merged with Hamidiye Foundations in 1788 and a single administration was thus in force. This department was prominent in terms of the administration of the foundations established by the members of the dynasty. The administration of the foundations established by Sultan Mahmud II was called Mahmudiye Foundations and was again affiliated with the Hamidiye Foundations after a period of time. In this regard, the number of foundations gathered together under the same administration with these three units, called Three Foundations, was approximately 50. The foundations under the administration of the Janissary Agha and Chief Keeper of Imperial Hounds Agha were also affiliated with this department following the abolishment of Janissary Corps. The need for an independent foundation administration arose following the increase in the number of the foundations, and the Ministry of Imperial Foundations was established on 12 Rabia I, 1242 (14 October, 1826) as a result.

The Ministry of Imperial Foundations, which was the first ministry of the Ottoman State and transformed into the Ministry of Foundations later on, was established to bring together the disorganized administration of the foundations, to eliminate violations and corruption, and to ensure that assets of the foundations were managed more efficiently. Moreover, the primary purposes of the ministry included the transfer of additional resources for foundation activities that had inadequate income and the restoration of historical foundation buildings.

The administration and supervision of foundations, which used to be managed by several state officials, were assumed by the Ministry of Foundations within five of its establishment.46 Independent foundations began to be affiliated with the Ministry of Foundations one by one beginning in 1834. While these foundations survived on paper, their activities were carried out by units established within the ministry in practice. Foundation operations were adversely affected by gradually increasing authority and enlarging bureaucratic organization. Foundation facilities were neglected and significantly damaged, while services were seriously disrupted since foundation money, kept by the ministry, was used for other purposes. The state’s budget deficits were covered by the incomes of the foundations gathered at the Ministry of Foundations.

İsmail Sıdkı penned a short booklet titled Hâtırât (Memoirs) that expressed the harm caused by the ministry against the foundations; the work suggested public participation within the foundation administration. He recommended that an administration of “Hayrât-ı İslâmiye” (Islamic Charities) was established for the administration of the community assemblies, like those of the non-Muslims. He further argued that it would be adequate to establish an inspection office that was to assume authority of supervision by itself and in place of Ministry of Foundations. As such, foundations would be administered more efficiently and productively.47

Both the impact of this change and the transformation foundations underwent since the first quarter of nineteenth century had massive impacts on Istanbul foundations. Foundation properties, which had been destroyed by fires and earthquakes throughout the previous periods but had been renovated, became victims of significant neglect during this period. Many real estate holdings that earned income for foundations were devastated and disappeared in time due to a lack of care. In addition to this, numerous structures such as fountains, bridges, schools, madrasas, masjids, and dervish lodges serving within the foundations also disappeared. This recession experienced within the foundation system had an impact on the physical infrastructure and the quality of life within Ottoman cities, primarily in Istanbul.

Mübahat Kütükoğlu’s research on Istanbul madrasas maintains that numerous madrasas disappeared at various dates or their buildings came to a ruined state that made them impossible to function. For example, it is stated that Abdülhalim Efendi Madrasa “was destroyed with its premises in 1914 and turned into a piece of land after the Fatih fire occurred on 13 June, 1918.” Ali Efendi Madrasa, meanwhile, “was observed in the state of burnt piece of land in 1914”. Similarly, it is observed “in the report prepared in 1914” that the Baba Mahmud Bekir Agha Hadith-house “was stuck between the houses and was in ruins, and it was seriously ruined in 1918”. In a similar way, it is documented that the Cafer Efendi Madrasa “was burnt during the great Fatih fire of 13 June, 1918”. The İshak Pasha Madrasa also “became unavailable and consisted solely of wreckage in the first quarter of the century because it was made of four rooms and had a timber structure”.48 Other examples can be found among service facilities such as fountains, dervish lodges, mosques, culverts or shops, arcades, inns, and bathhouses, which used to provide income for the foundations. Therefore, we can state that this process caused a similar level of destruction for all foundation works.

Another development that caused destruction of the foundations throughout this period was the new administrative organization of state governance and urban services. Numerous foundations lost their functions and disappeared in time; many services that used to be supplied by foundations were now supplied by newly formed state institutions or municipalities. Most of these newly formed institutions established by the ministries focused on education, health and public work activities and were constituted as public institutions, the costs of which were supplied by the treasury. Foundation structures had previously served in these fields and could not find a place for themselves within this new organization. Foundations were neglected due to the lack of demand and disappeared in time. Several pro-Western intellectuals, who embraced the growing influence of positivist and materialistic ideologies in state governance and bureaucracy, regarded the foundations negatively and contributed to the destruction of foundations. The negative attitudes of Western states regarding the foundations, derived from various reasons, were also a factor.

Foundations sustained their presence and services in spite of these adverse developments. Although they lost much of their significance due to developing political, economic, and social conditions, foundations continued to be active in the operation of religious and cultural services. New foundations were established where needed and people continued to establish foundations and carry out charitable activities in accordance with their resources. Hundreds of new foundations were established in Istanbul at the end of the nineteenth century and in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Foundations established within this period commissioned and put into service new charity structures while also endeavoring to restore and improve former foundation structures. Hundreds of foundation structures, which were nonfunctional due to several reasons, were improved and put into service again.

A newly emerging wealthy class also became prominent among the founders of the foundations as a result of the changing economic and social conditions. Research on the founders of foundations of the late period would be a study that would put forward the impact of the changes experienced by the Ottoman society on the economic conditions of the various segments of the society. Many people who became influential established hundreds of foundations that aimed to develop settlement areas such as Kadıköy and Beşiktaş.

Mustafa Nuri Pasha, who served as the Minister of Foundations during 1303-1307 (1886-1890), severely criticized this emergent foundation administration and claimed that foundations were being destroyed.49 Numerous mosques, masjids, tombs, madrasas, public fountains, fountains and culverts located in both Istanbul and elsewhere were restored during Mustafa Nuri Pasha’s time as minister. The ministry’s debts—which had been so severe that salaries were not paid—were cleared and non-functioning foundation properties were re-opened and rescued from demolition.50

A report submitted to the Vizierate with the budget for 1327 (1909-1910) by Hammadizade Halil Hamdi Pasha – Minister of Foundations during Second Constitutional Era- also summarizes the situation of the foundations and presents recommendations for their restoration.51 Halil Hamdi Pasha conducted fundamental changes within the organizational structure of the Ministry of Foundations during his time as minister, bringing forward novel arrangements to move the foundations out of their troubled situation. His recommendations included identifying former foundation lands in places such as Istanbul, Galata, Beyoğlu, Üsküdar, and Kadıköy and re-owning them by paying their price to acquire resources of the foundations and to return the rights of the foundations extorted by several institutions and the foundations transferred to the treasury. He also had some interesting recommendations, such as the transfer of the bridges built on the Golden Horn to the foundations. This proposal was justified by claiming that since the bridges had been resting on foundation lands on both sides of the sea, they should belong to foundations.52

Sheikh al-Islam Mustafa Hayri Efendi was of similar mind regarding foundations and was the Minister of Foundations for six years beginning in 1910; he worked very hard to improve foundations. Among the tasks carried out by his ministry was the establishment of a foundation museum and foundation printing-house, the commissioning of foundation inns, the construction of new buildings for Vakıf Gureba Hospital, and then enhancement of foundation libraries. The status and state of foundation buildings were assessed, and attempts were made to improve those of which were in ruinous condition. These arrangements were attempted in earnest by inquiring about the opinions of numerous statesmen concerning the improvement and administration of foundations.53 The most important initiative of the period was the suggested establishment of a bank for the foundations. This idea, which could not be realized at that time, was eventually enacted with the establishment of Vakıflar (Foundations) Bank during the Republican era in 1954.

However, due to the unfavorable conditions of that time, the expected outcomes of these initiatives were never met. It can be argued that Istanbul’s foundations were severely destructed and became unable to carry out their functions. This was due to both the ruinous effects of wars in the early 20th century and the collapse of Ottoman State. However, the number of foundation structures survived to the Republican era should be underestimated in spite of all of these losses. Most of those active today are within the fields of education, health, tourism, cultural, and commercial areas.


1 Osman Nuri Ergin, Türk Şehirlerinde İmaret Sistemi, Istanbul: Cumhuriyet Matbaası, 1939; Osman Nuri Ergin, Ömer Lutfi Barkan, “Şehirlerin Teşekkül ve İnkişafı Tarihi Bakımından Osmanlı İmparatorluğunda İmâret Sitelerinin Kuruluş ve İşleyiş Tarzına Ait Araştırmalar”, İFM, 1963, vol. 23, no. 1-2, pp. 239-296; Hilmi Ziya Ülken, “Vakıf Sistemi ve Türk Şehirciliği”, VD, vol. 9 (1971), pp. 13-37; Halil İnalcık, “Istanbul: An Islamic City”, Journal of Islamic Studies, vol. 1, (1990), pp. 1-23.

2 Osman Nuri Ergin, Mecelle-i Umûr-ı Belediyye, 5 vol., Istanbul: Arşak Garoyan Matbaası, 1322-35; ibid., 9 vol., Istanbul: İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyesi Kültür İşleri Daire Başkanlığı, 1995.

3 Tahsin Özcan, “Sofyalı Bâlî Efendi’nin Para Vakıflarıyla İlgili Mektupları”, İslâm Araştırmaları Dergisi, vol. 3 (1999), pp. 125-155.

4 Timar: The land allocated for administration, security and military preparation purposes.

5 For detailed information and figures regarding different time and regions see: Tahsin Özcan, Osmanlı Para Vakıfları: Kanûnî Dönemi Üsküdar Örneği, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 2003, p. 4; Bahaeddin Yediyıldız, “XVIII. Asır Türk Vakıflarının İktisadi Boyutu”, VD, vol. 18 (1984), pp. 5-41; Bahaeddin Yediyıldız, “Vakıf Müessesesinin XVIII. Asır Türk Toplumundaki Rolü”, VD, vol. 14 (1982), pp. 1-27; Timur Kuran (ed.), Mahkeme Kayıtları Işığında 17. Yüzyıl İstanbul’unda Sosyo-Ekonomik Yaşam: Vakıflar (1602-17), Istanbul: Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, 2011, vol. 5, p. 5.

6 Halil İnalcık, “İstanbul”, DİA, XXIII, 222-223.

7 Osman Ergin (ed.), Fatih İmareti Vakfiyesi, Istanbul: İstanbul Belediyesi, 1945, pp. 38-39. Also see. Defter-i Evkâf-ı Câmi-i Şerîf-i Ayasofya, İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyesi Atatürk Kitaplığı, Muallim Cevdet, no. 64.

8 İnalcık, “İstanbul”, vol. 23, p. 222.

9 Ergin, Fatih İmareti Vakfiyesi, pp. 15-16, 25-28.

10 İnalcık, “İstanbul”, DİA, vol. 23, p. 225.

11 Ömer Lutfi Barkan, Ekrem Hakkı Ayverdi (ed.), İstanbul Vakıfları Tahrir Defteri 953 (1546) Tarihli, Istanbul: İstanbul Fetih Cemiyeti İstanbul Enstitüsü, 1970, p. X; also see. Fatih Mehmet II Vakfiyeleri, Ankara: Vakıflar Umum Müdürlüğü, 1938.

12 Barkan and Ayverdi (ed.), İstanbul Vakıfları Tahrir Defteri, p. XI.

13 Baş, “Ayasofya Vakıfları Tahrir Defteri”, p. 13.

14 İnalcık, “İstanbul”, XXIII, 228; Yasin Yılmaz, Kanûnî Vakfiyesi Süleymaniye Külliyesi, Ankara: Vakıflar Genel Müdürlüğü, 2008, p. 77.

15 Nimet Taşkıran, Hasekinin Kitabı: İstanbul Haseki Külliyesi, Istanbul: Haseki Hastanesini Kalkındırma Derneği, 1972.

16 A gate within Topkapı Palace.

17 H. Necdet İşli, “Karacaahmet Mezarlığı”, DBİst.A, vol. 4, pp. 444-447.

18 Tahsin Özcan, “Veliyyüddin Efendi”, DİA, vol. 43, p. 41.

19 Baki Çakır et al. (ed.), İstanbul Kadı Sicilleri Eyüb Mahkemesi 3 Numaralı Sicil, Istanbul: Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı İslâm Araştırmaları Merkezi (İSAM), 2011, pp. 200-204.

20 Barkan and Ayverdi (ed.), İstanbul Vakıfları Tahrir Defteri, p. XI.

21 Ömer Lutfi Barkan, Süleymaniye Cami ve İmareti İnşaatı: 1550-1557, 2 vol., Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1972-79.

22 Barkan and Ayverdi (ed.), İstanbul Vakıfları Tahrir Defteri; Mehmet Canatar (ed.), İstanbul Vakıfları Tahrir Defteri: 1009 (1600) Tarihli, Istanbul: İstanbul Fetih Cemiyeti, 2004.

23 Semavi Eyice, “Büyük Çarşı”, DİA, VI, 512.

24 Mübahat S. Kütükoğlu, XX. Asra Erişen İstanbul Medreseleri, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 2000, p. 4.

25 One of the former names of Istanbul

26 Ahmet Nezih Galitekin, Osmanlı Kaynaklarına Göre İstanbul, Istanbul: İşaret Yayınları, 2003, p. 676.

27 For various lists on primary schools, see Galitekin, Osmanlı Kaynaklarına Göre İstanbul, p. 881.

28 Galitekin, Osmanlı Kaynaklarına Göre İstanbul.

29 See for foundation libraries founded during Ottoman era. İsmail E. Erünsal, Osmanlı Vakıf Kütüphaneleri: Tarihî Gelişimi ve Organizasyonu, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 2008.

30 For detailed research on medical institutions, related law and directives, hospitals and medical-houses in Ottoman society, see Coşkun Yılmaz, Necdet Yılmaz (ed.), Osmanlılarda Sağlık, 2 vol., Istanbul: Biofarma İlaç Sanayi ve Ticaret A.Ş., 2006.

31 İlginç Vakıflar, Ankara: Vakılar Genel Müdürlüğü, 2007, pp. 13, 32-33, 41.

32 Barkan and Ayverdi (ed.), İstanbul Vakıfları Tahrir Defteri, p. XI.

33 Özcan, “Sofyalı Bâlî Efendi’nin Para Vakıflarıyla İlgili Mektupları”, pp. 125-155.

34 Özcan, Osmanlı Para Vakıfları: Kanûnî Dönemi Üsküdar Örneği.

35 Tahsin Özcan, “Osmanlı Toplumunda Birlikte Yaşama Tecrübesi: Hasköy Örneği”, Din ve Dünya Barışı: Uluslararası Sempozyum, ed. Necmettin Gökkır and Recep Alpyağıl, Istanbul: İstanbul Üniversitesi İlahiyat Fakültesi, 2008, pp. 289-312.

36 See for the text and Turkish-English translation of the charter. İbrahim Ateş (ed.), Kanunî Sultan Süleyman’ın Su Vakfiyesi, Ankara: Kültür ve Turizm Bakanlığı, 1987, pp. 28-31.

37 Kazım Çeçen, Halkalı Suları, Istanbul: İstanbul Su-Kanalizasyon İdaresi, 1991; Kazım Çeçen, Üsküdar Suları, Istanbul: İstanbul Su-Kanalizasyon İdaresi, 1991; Kazım Çeçen, Taksim ve Hamidiye Suları, Istanbul: İstanbul Su-Kanalizasyon İdaresi, 1992.

38 Ahmet Tabakoğlu et al. (ed.), İstanbul Su Külliyâtı: Vakıf Su Defterleri Halkalı Suları, II vol., Istanbul: İstanbul Su ve Kanalizasyon İdaresi Genel Müdürlüğü Yayınları, 2001; Ahmet Tabakoğlu et al. (ed.), İstanbul Su Külliyâtı: Vakıf Su Defterleri Avrupa Yakası Suları, 3 vol., Istanbul: İstanbul Su ve Kanalizasyon İdaresi Genel Müdürlüğü Yayınları, 2002; Ahmet Tabakoğlu et al. (ed.), İstanbul Su Külliyâtı: Vakıf Su Defterleri Boğaziçi ve Taksim Suları, 2 vol., Istanbul: İstanbul Su ve Kanalizasyon İdaresi Genel Müdürlüğü Yayınları, 2003.

39 A tax unit composed of several houses.

40 See for detailed information about avarız tax, Ömer Lutfi Barkan, “Avârız”, İA, II, 13-19; Halil Sahillioğlu, “Avarız”, DİA, vol. 4, pp. 108-109.

41 See Özer Ergenç, “Osmanlı Şehirlerindeki Yönetim Kurumlarının Niteliği üzerinde Bazı Düşünceler”, TTK Bildiriler VIII, 1981, vol. 2, p. 1271.

42 See for detailed information about cash foundations, Murat Çizakça, Risk Sermayesi Özel Finans Kurumları ve Para Vakıfları, Istanbul: İslami İlimler Araştırma Vakfı, 1993; İsmail Kurt, Para Vakıfları Nazariyat ve Tatbikat, Istanbul: Ensar Neşriyat and İslami İlimler Araştırma Vakfı, 1996; Özcan, Osmanlı Para Vakıfları: Kanûnî Dönemi Üsküdar Örneği.

43 Canatar, İstanbul Vakıfları Tahrir Defteri, p. LXX.

44 Barkan and Ayverdi (ed.), İstanbul Vakıfları Tahrir Defteri, p. 236.

45 Canatar, İstanbul Vakıfları Tahrir Defteri, pp. XLIX-LXXVI.

46 İbnülemin Mahmud Kemal [İnal], Hüseyin Hüsâmeddîn [Yesar], Evkâf-ı Hümâyun Nezâreti’nin Tarihçe-i Teşkîlâtı ve Nüzzârın Terâcim-i Ahvâli, Istanbul: Evkaf Matbaası,1335, pp. 28-29.

47 İsmail Sıdkı, Memâlik-i Osmâniye’de Kâin Evkāfın Sûret-i İdaresi Hakkında Bazı Mütâlaâtı Hâvî Hâtırât, Istanbul: Selânik Matbaası,1324.

48 Mübahat S. Kütükoğlu, 1869’da Faal İstanbul Medreseleri, Istanbul: Edebiyat Fakültesi Matbaası, 1977, pp. 24, 28, 31-34, 67.

49 See Mustafa Nuri Paşa, Netâyicü’l-vukūât, edited by Neşet Çağatay, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1980, vol. 3-4, pp. 286-287.

50 Tahsin Özcan, “Mustafa Nuri Paşa”, DİA, vol. 31, 342-343.

51 Hammadîzade Halil Hamdi Paşa, Evkâf Hakkında Sadarete Takdim Edilen Lâyiha, Istanbul: Selanik Matbaası 1325, p. 3.

52 See Osman Ergin, Türk İmar Tarihinde Vakıflar, Belediyeler, Patrikhaneler, Istanbul: Siyasi İlimler Mecmuası, 1944, pp. 46-47.

53 See Mehmet İpşirli, “Hayri Efendi, Mustafa”, DİA, vol.17, pp. 62-64.

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