A seventeenth-century examination of the organization of the interior and rooms of Istanbul houses, without going into detail, can be found in a record (Bâb Mahkemesi) dated 1691. In this record, descriptions and definitions of a sizeable mansion can be found. On a parcel of land that includes two houses, each house had three floors; one house is defined as hariciye (external) and the other dahiliye (internal). This record is particularly important because it includes all the characteristics that are to be found, at least partially, in other houses.1 Due to the fact that such structures have not been able to last until the present day, the importance of records increases even more.

Before examining the contents of this record, it is necessary to examine the hierarchy that exists in common with such records. In the definition of a menzil in the record, two houses, being one internal and one external, are mentioned; such a distinction can often be seen in Ottoman documents. In some documents, the menzil is described as birunenderun (outside the enderun) and içli-dışlı (internal-external). In some cases, one level of the house is separated into two. As can be seen from their names, hariciye is a spatial organization more open to the public domain whereas dahiliye is defined as the reserved and private spatial organization. For instance, social places, such as the mabeyn chamber, which is a great, gilded chamber, a divanhane and coffee room are in the hariciye. This is particularly the case in large mansions, where the rooms of domestic laborers and servants to the superior classes are included in the hariciye.

A registry record dated February 22, 1691 describes the house of the janissary agha Mahmud Pasha’s son, Mehmed Bey. The transcription of the record will be given after being summarized here. According to the document in question, the house was located in the Çavuş Mescidi neighborhood, and was surrounded by the estate of Fahri bint Kasım Agha on one side, and the estate of Çorbacı İbrahim Agha on the other; the other two sides were bordered by roads. The interior building consisted of three floors. On the top floor was a cüneyne room, three large chambers, a small chamber, a great hall, a corridor and a restroom; on the middle floor was a bath, a camekân room, a kitchen, cellar, a beş bâb room, a hall and a restroom; on the ground floor there was a cellar, a three-storied vault, a kitchen, a restroom, a water well, a water tunnel, and a garden with fruit trees and other trees. The exterior building also had three floors, with a mabeyn chamber and a cellar in which there was a treasure room being on the top floor, three rooms, a restroom, a corridor and a pavilion; on the middle floor were six rooms, a restroom and a corridor; in the center was a horse barn, a storehouse, a kitchen and a gatehouse and a fevkani (upper level), with a kitchen and an estate range below this. These included a cellar and a restroom, garden and a water well and the house was entrusted to Mehmed Bey, along with the household goods and utensils.

Here something regarding the summary of the registry record should be examined. Three floors were mentioned for the house on muhavvata-i hariciyesi: Tabaka-yı ulyâ, vustâ and sulfa. After tabaka-yı vustâ (middle level) another middle place is mentioned: “… a restroom and corridor in the center of the house, a horse barn, a storehouse…” In the original copy of the registry record, this word is recorded as vustâda (in the middle). At this point, guesswork needs to be made. It is possible to say that the garden and the water well could not have been placed in the vustâda, that is the center, or the word vustâ does not mean a floor of the house in the same way we use it today. Therefore, there could have been two different levels being referred to when talking about the ground floor. The first level is between the ground level (garden level) and the middle level. There is a horse barn, storehouse, kitchen, gatehouse and fevkani, that is, another kitchen, at this level. This level might be an additional building next to the main building built on a slope, or a little higher level due to the level of the garden, with a few stairs leading up to it. At the ground level, is a cellar under the fevkani kitchen, a restroom, a garden and a well for water. In reality, such structures were very common in Ottoman Istanbul houses. The strict architectural structure of modern apartments was not applied to Ottoman houses. There could be a number of different levels in the same house. Moreover, there might be places on the same floor that were on different levels. It is noteworthy that in the registry records the term tabaka (layer) is used to define the floors and maybe this choice records a flexibility in the terms of the interior levels in Ottoman houses. The original text of the mentioned registry record is the following:

Mahmud Pasha’s son Mehmed Bey’s Pledging of His House and Farm for a Debt

Mehmed Efendi, son of Mustafa, who was appointed to record the event below, went to the house of İzzetli Mahmud Pasha, son of Mehmed, the former Janissary agha who lives in the neighborhood of Çavuş Masjid and set up a court in the presence of the Muslims listed below. The aforementioned Mehmed Bey, in response to the müste’men (a reliable foreigner) Petro, son of Targadi, who was the partner and client of Zak, son of Libos from the Flemish merchants who lived in Galata, of his own free will stated: “From the aforementioned Zak I have purchased 3,000 zira of çuka (broadcloth) known as mahur at a price of 3.5 kuruş per zira, making a total of 10,500 kuruş to be paid over a period of 181 days. Because of this I am in debt to this person for 4,200 gilded gold coins, to be paid on the date the debt matures. In return for this, I give my own house as collateral to Fahri, the daughter of Kasım, who resides in the same neighborhood; this consists of two structures, dahilî and haricî and one house of three floors, which is bordered by the property of Çorbacı İbrahim Agha on one side and by a public road on the other two sides. There is one small room, one big room, a hallway, toilet on the upper floor of the inner section; on the middle floor is a hamam, a camekân room (dressing room), five rooms, a kitchen, larder, hall and toilet; on the lower floor is a larder, a three-storied cellar, a kitchen, toilet, well, and a garden with fruit trees and decorative trees. On the upper floor of the dış (exterior) building there is a mabeyn room, three rooms, a toilet and a hallway; on the middle floor is a barn, a storehouse, a kitchen, the doorman’s room, a two-storied kitchen, with a larder below,, a toilet, a garden and a well. I gave the property in question as collateral, along with the furnishings, cushions and copperware. After I have vacated this house, she took it as collateral. Moreover, the goods that were in my farm, which is in the village of Küçük Kılıçlı, in the region of Silivri, which is connected to Eyüp, were inventoried one by one and I gave these as collateral as well.” When this was accepted Mahmud Pasha’s steward, Ahmed Agha, son of Abdullah acted as guarantor for 700 of the 4,200 gold coins, 800 were guaranteed by the mühürdar (keeper of the seal) Şahin Agha, son of Abdullah, 400 by Ebubekir, the divan efendi, 170 by Hacı Murad son of Ali, 170 by the vekilharç (steward) Mehmed Agha, son of Hızır and 170 by the treasurer Ahmed Çelebi, son of Hasan. Later, Mehmed Bey said to Mustafa Agha, son of Abdullah, “If I am unable to fulfil my debt in 181 days and take my goods out of their pledge, the house and farm in question, and all the goods and agricultural equipment will be sold for their value, the money allocated for the farm and the fields in my possession will be taken and my debt will be paid with this money; I appoint Mustafa Agha as my representative.” The matter was recorded in the place of Ömer Efendi, and İbrahim Çelebi, son of Ömer and Mehmed son of Mustafa came to the court and stated that this account was accurate and this was recorded in this register.

Cemaziyelevvel 23, 1102.
Witnesses: …


1 For the original register records given here and a summary of the same, see: Rasim Erol et al. (prepared by), İstanbul Kadı Sicilleri İstanbul Mahkemesi 12 Numaralı Sicil (H. 1073-1074/M. 1663-1664), edited by Coşkun Yılmaz, Istanbul: Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı İslâm Araştırmaları Merkezi (İSAM), 2010, record: 1075 [109b-1], vol. 16, no. 791-793. The summary of the aforementioned record is given in another text in this chapter: Turan Açık and Halil İbrahim Düzenli, “XVI-XVII. Yüzyıl İstanbul Evlerinden Örnekler”.

2 Hüseyin Kılıç v.dğr. (haz.), İstanbul Kadı Sicilleri Bâb Mahkemesi 54 Numaralı Sicil (H. 1102/M. 1691), ed. Coşkun Yılmaz, İstanbul 2011, kayıt: 25 [4a-3], c. 20, s. 67.

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

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