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Making an Entrance

The Crown Princes' Lodge and the heyday of Ottoman Orientalism

The gate guarding the Ottoman Ministry of War – today’s Istanbul University – is an eloquent example of the Orientalist style that took both East and West by storm in the 19th century. In the gate’s shadow stands the Princes’ Lodge, once the refuge of high-born officers on parade day, now an exotic refectory where professors of Istanbul University enjoy lunch. By Berrin Torolsan. Photographs by Monica Fritz

  • The interior of the Princes' Lodge by Monica Fritz

The elaborate triumphal arch on Beyazit Square is one of the least celebrated landmarks in Istanbul’s Old City. This 19th-century Orientalist confection stands in operatic contrast to the austerely grand Beyazıt Mosque that faces it – a classical Ottoman masterpiece whose minarets have peered over the Grand Bazaar since 1506.

Today the triple-arched gate marks the entrance to Istanbul University, and from it the road leads through an acre of wooded park to the main campus building, housed in the Neoclassical splendour of what was originally the Ottoman Empire’s Ministry of War.

The crenellation on the gate’s clock towers hints at its original role, and 1865, the year of its construction, is inscribed in a flourish with the Victory verse from the Koran over the horseshoe arch.

In the same year, two splendid lodges were built on either side of the triumphal arch to serve the ministry, with its Moorish horseshoe arches echoed in the windows. On the left is the Mounting Lodge (Biniş Kasrı), where the Sultan and other grandees were received, stepping down to a mounting block at the base of the stairs. The building later became the residence and private office of the Rector.

On the right is the Şehzadeler Kasrı, the Lodge of the Crown Princes, many of whom had a military education and held ranks in the army. Here they could retire during military parades and drills. Their place was later taken by university professors, who could enjoy lunch in a marvellous timewarp. For the architectural historian, the gate and its two lodges constitute a rare period piece, cast in the Orientalist style that impressed its eclectic character on the 19th century – a feverish combination of traditional Andalusian, Indian, Ottoman and Persian elements to create an instantly recognisable composite arabesque style. The style’s origins lie in the “turqueries” of the 18th century, but the vogue took off in the 19th with the international trade fairs staged in the imperial capitals of Europe: the Great Exhibition in London’s Crystal Palace, held in 1851 in Hyde Park; 1867’s Exposition Universelle in Paris; and Vienna’s Weltausstellung (World’s Fair) of 1873…

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Issue 64, 2022 30th Anniversary Issue
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  • Roman Roads

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Buy the issue
Issue 64, 2022 30th Anniversary Issue
£12.00 / $15.33 / 495.16 TL
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