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Istanbul Museums

Istanbul is a city which is the cradle of history and it has been the capital of the big Empires such as the Byzantines and the Ottomans therefore there are many museums where you can feel and appreciate the history.

Hagia Sophia is one of the most visited museums in the world and it has the most prominent monuments in terms of art and the history of architecture. It was even called “the eighth wonder of the world” by East Roman Philon as far back as the 6th century. The current Hagia Sophia is the third construction, made in a different architectural style, even though it occupies the same location as the previous two. The original building was constructed by the most important architects of the time (527-565), Anthemios (Tralles) and Isidoros (Miletus), under the order of Emperor Justinianos. The construction of Hagia Sophia started on February 23, 532. It was completed before long, approximately within 5 years and 10 months. It was opened to divine service with a great ceremony on December 27, 537. It was used as a church for 916 years but, following the conquest of Istanbul by Mehmed II, Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque. Afterwards, it was used as a mosque for 482 years until 1935 when Ataturk decided to convert Hagia Sophia from a mosque into a museum.


Topkapi Palace was not only the residence of the Ottoman Sultans, but also the administrative and educational center of the Ottoman State. Initially constructed between 1460 and 1478 by Sultan Mehmed II, the conqueror of Istanbul, and expanded upon and altered many times throughout its long history, the palace served as the home of the Ottoman sultans and the royal family and their court until the middle of the 19th century. In the early 1850s, the palace became inadequate to the requirements of state ceremonies and protocol, so that the sultans moved to Dolmabahçe Palace, located on the Bosphorus. But despite this move, the royal treasure and the imperial archives continued to be preserved at Topkapi, and— since the palace was the ancestral residence of the Ottoman dynasty as well as the place where the Holy Relics were preserved— Topkapi continued to host to certain state ceremonies. Following the abolishment of the Ottoman monarchy in 1922, the Great Topkapi Palace was converted into a museum on 3 April 1924, on the order of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Dolmabahce Palace was constructed by the order Sultan Abdulmecid (1839-1861) who was the thirty first Ottoman Sultan. The palace, whose construction started on June 13th, 1843, was brought into use on June 7th, 1856, upon completion of surrounding walls. The palace mainly consists of three parts, named as the Imperial Mabeyn (State Apartments), Muayede Salon (Ceremonial Hall) and the Imperial Harem. The Imperial Mabeyn was allocated for administrative affairs of the state, Imperial Harem was allocated for private lives of the sultan and his family and the Muayede Salon, placed between these two sections, was allocated for exchanging of bayram greetings of sultan with dignitary statesmen and for some important state ceremonies. Dolmabahce Palace, hosted 6 sultans at intervals and also the last Ottoman Caliph Abdulmecid Efendi from 1856 when it was put into service, until the abolition of the caliphate which took place in 1924. The palace was used as Presidency office between 1927-1949. Gazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of Turkish Republic, used Dolmabahçe Palace for his studies in Istanbul between 1927-1938 and died in this palace. The Palace which was partially open to protocol and visits between 1926-1984 was converted into a “museum” in 1984.

Its name is plural, since there are three different museums under the same administration: The Archaeological Museum, the Ancient Orient Museum and Tiled Kiosk Museum. The Istanbul Archaeological Museums, which is housing so many artifacts from various civilizations that had left their traces to different periods of the history, is one of the 10 most important world-class museums designed and used as a museum building. Additionally, it is the first institution arranged as a museum in Turkey.

The Basilica Cistern, also known as the "Sunken Palace" or "Yerebatan sarayi" in Turkish language was constructed by Justinian in 532 to supply water to the Byzantine Palace primarily. Underground waterway was used as a reservoir for storing water for the Great Palace and other buildings in the surroundings. Its length is 132 m , by 65m wide. There are 336 columns in the cistern. Most of the column capitals are in Corinthian and Doric Style. CHORA MUSEUM The Turkish word Kariye is derived from the ancient Greek word Chora which means outside of the city. It is known that there was a chapel outside of the city before the 5th century when the city walls were constructed. The first Chora Church was rebuilt by Emperor Justinianus (527-565) in place of this chapel. The church was destroyed during the Latin invasion (1204-1261) and not long after repaired in the reign of Andronikos II (1282-1328). It was expanded, an exonarthex was added to its western side and a chapel to its southern side, and it was decorated with mosaics and frescoes. The mosaics and frescoes in the Chora Museum are the most beautiful examples dating from the last period of the Byzantine painting of the 14th century. After continuing to serve as a church until the conquest of Istanbul in 1453, the building was converted into a mosque in 1511. It was converted into a museum in 1945, and during the restoration in 1948-1959 the mosaics and frescoes were uncovered and brought to the daylight.