Edirne Palace Gardens

 
Catalogue
Ottoman Gardens
City
Edirne
Country
Turkey
Dates
1417 1877
Authors
Nurhan Atasoy;
Seyit Ali Kahraman

Description

Following the conquest of Edirne in 1365 and the destruction of the Byzantine palace, it was necessary to build a new palace. However, this building was not completed until 1417. It was later called the Eski Saray (Old Palace), following the construction of the Yeni Saray (New Palace) in Kavak Meydanı, near the Sultan Selim Mosque. It was extended by Musa Çelebi, a son of Yıldırım Bayezid, and surrounded by a 15-meter-high wall. Old Edirne Palace was renovated by Süleyman I, who converted it into a kind of institute to educate his pages, for whom he had dormitories built.

Although Edirne became the new capital, Bursa Palace was used as well as Edirne Palace until the reign of Murad II (1421–1451). When writing about Edirne, Evliya Çelebi notes that there was neither vineyard nor garden within its walls. He describes the three rivers of Edirne as follows:

There are three rivers at Edirne. The first is the Tunca situated to the north of Edirne. Its primary source is in the Torbakotran Mountains on the borders of the provinces of Kızanlık and Niğde from where it flows south past the town of Kızanlık through the city of Edirne around the Sultan’s Garden and under the Saraçhane Bridge to the Mihal Bridge. Next the river Arda, coming from the . . .  mountains to the south of Edirne, joins the river Tunca at the Mihal Bridge. The third, the River Meriç, comes from the Samakov Mountains to the west of Edirne, where there are four lodges, and the Köstence and Ihtıman mountain ranges. This also meets the Tunca and the Arda at the Mihal Bridge, from where they flow together down to the sea. The river Meriç is of little benefit to Edirne; however, the Tunca and the Arda Rivers water the market gardens, gardens, and vineyards of the seventy islands that surround Edirne on all sides, and, in particular, the paradisiacal garden, the Hünkar Garden, an earthly Eden full of roses such as are at Meram near Konya. . . . The water of the river Arda is also pure and of use to the rose gardens and market gardens, though not to the city itself. These three great rivers flow under the Mihal Bridge and become a delta, which, when it floods, destroys hundreds of the vineyards and market gardens around the city. The area watered by these rivers makes Edirne Palace important for its gardens and the sport of hunting. (Seyahatnâmesi, 3:160a–b)

In 1450, Murad II had a new pavilion built on the banks of the river Tunca in the environs of the New Palace. During the construction of the New Palace, his son Mehmed II laid the foundations of the Üç Şerefeli Mosque in 1452. Kasr-ı Âli, the pavilion built by Mehmed II, later became known as Cihannüma. Mehmed II, in addition to planting thousands of trees near the palace, also built a bridge (Fatih Bridge) connecting the inner garden of the palace to the river Tunca and made landing-places paved with marble on the banks of the canals that flowed through the garden.

Concerning the construction of New Palace, Kritovoulos, in his biography of Mehmed II, writes:

While building a new palace in Istanbul, he also built a splendid new palace just outside the city walls and embellished it with beautiful stones and translucent marble. Special designs were created for this, and many of the carved reliefs were lavishly decorated with gold or silver or calligraphy in a sumptuous manner. He also created a wonderful large garden around the palace, full of fruit trees and various plant. On every side flowed streams of cold, clear water which could be drunk, and there were attractive groves and meadows. As well as these, there were cages for singing birds and the domestic fowls which wandered everywhere feeding freely. Moreover, there were many other varied ornaments and decorations in keeping with the sultan’s taste and for his enjoyment. The sultan designed all these in splendid profusion. (History of Mehmed the Conqueror, 22)

Süleyman I built waterways for Edirne Palace as well as bridges over the river and many additional buildings. An account book from his reign provides a wealth of information about the new constructions and ongoing restoration work: The sultan returned to Edirne from Istanbul in the course of the construction of the Yeni Saray. At the same time he built a splendid palace near Edirne on the other side of the Tunca River. The palace was built of well-cut stone and translucent marble. . . . Around the palace, he made a garden full of fruit trees and plants. Among other pleasing and enjoyable things, the garden contained herds of wild and domestic animals and flocks of birds. One of the most important of the buildings was the large barracks built in a court near the palace for the regiments of cavalry and infantry which were to guard the palace. In 1552, the sultan’s private gardens at Edirne were reorganized through the expertise of the chief gardener to the sultan, Sinan Ağa. While the gardens were being renovated plants, bulbs, and seeds were bought, but the account books do not specify which kinds.

In Evliya Çelebi’s account, Hünkar Bahçesi Sarayı (the palace of the emperor’s garden), the area from the palace up to the Saraçhane Bridge, was forested, while the southern side was grassland. The imperial garden was bound by the Tunca River and was not surrounded with thick walls as was the Old Palace. According to Evliya Çelebi, in former times, the king’s hunting grounds at Edirne were shady wooded groves full of roses. After the conquest, Murad Han made a place of prayer and relaxation for himself here away from the gaze of the people. Later, Koca Murad Han II, Mehmed II’s father, had high towered pavilions with highly decorated havernak arches built in this paradisaical garden on the banks of the river Tunca.

When engaged in wars with Germany, Süleyman I wintered in Edirne, where he could indulged in hunting. The palace was so full of buildings and constructions that the garden seemed a paradise. Evliya Çelebi continues:

On the northern outskirts of Edirne was an Ottoman garden full of tulips on an extensive, low-lying area of fertile soil, surrounded by the Tunca. On one side a grove, ornamented with willows, plane, cypress, poplar, and elm trees, rearing their heads toward the sky, stretched as far as the Saraçhane Bridge. This grove was filled to overflowing with all kinds of wild animals and birds. At the head of it on the southern side stretched a wide grassy plain, an open imperial gateway. Near this was the Adalet Kasrı [Kiosk of Justice] where, in the very center of a grassy area, a tall column surmounted by a golden ball stood confronting the sky. This ball was the target for all bowmen and expert musketeers who by demonstrating their skill to the sultan were rewarded. In an open space to the north of the garden were the imperial stables for various kinds of horses. However, this was not surrounded by towering walls. In fact, there was no need for these as it was surrounded on all sides by the vast Tunca River. The chief gardener with three thousand gardeners guarded the premises night and day. (Seyahatnâmesi, 3:160b–161a)

Rıfat Osman performed extensive research on Edirne Palace. Shortly after it burned down, he took down accounts of the buildings, the ruins of which were still standing, from those who had known the place before it was destroyed. By collating this information with that from Ottoman sources, a fairly complete picture of Edirne Palace resulted.

 


The text for this entry is adapted from Nurhan Atasoy, Garden for the Sultan, 222–29.

 

Sources

  • Court Chronicle, 15th century
  • Travel Account, 16th century
  • Travel Account, 17th century