Arz Odası (Audience Hall)

The Audience Chamber, also known as Audience Hall or Chamber of Petitions (Arz Odası- Arz Dîvanhanesi), located right behind the Gate of Felicity and integrating with it through its eaves is the primary venue embodying the Sultan’s direct contact with the state administration. This is the place referred to as the High Office (makam-ı muallâ) in Sultan’s decrees.  Sultans used to receive ambassadors of foreign states in this chamber. It is also the venue where they ceremoniously handed in the Sacred Banner (Sancak-ı Şerif) to the commanders of expeditionary forces going on a military campaign. On Sundays and Tuesdays, i.e. the customary Audience Days (Arz Günleri) and also following meetings of the Imperial Council (Dîvân-ı Hümâyûn), Sultans held here private consultations with state officials.  The Audience Chamber is a classic example of Turkish style pavilion architecture, a vaulted structure consisting of a throne room and the ablution space next to it. It has two doors in front and one in the rear side. While the Sultans were only using the back door, the front door was used by state officials and ambassadors who were accorded audience by the Sultans.  Gifts presented by ambassadors were placed in front of the large window with iron bars in the middle of the main façade between the two doors and the Pişkeş (Gift) Gate to the left (Pişkeş Kapısı, Pişkeş meaning gift brought to a superior).The reign of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent was the most glorious period of the Audience Chamber. The structure underwent several repairs from the 16th through the 19th Century. Nevertheless the inscription in verse adorning the dome over the throne room indicates that it was initially built during the reign of Sultan Mehmet III (1595-1603). The lacquered ceiling of the jewels inlaid throne is decorated with floral motifs, between which is depicted the struggle of a dragon against a simurgh as a symbol of power. This throne chamber was saved with the least damage from the 1856 fire. However, the fireplace hood, the tiles on the surface of the dome and on the walls, the wooden windows and door wings ornamented with tortoiseshell and mother of pearl and all the items inside had been burned. (A picture of the ceiling of the throne with its Simurgh decoration.)Following the 1856 fire, the Audience Chamber was restored during the reign of Sultan Abdülmecit.  The structure that was renovated in Empire style by the architects and craftsmen who built the Dolmabahçe Palace reached our present-day with its decoration in Empire and Neoclassical styles. The monogram shaped marble relief inscriptions praising Sultan Abdülmecit situated on both sides of the door, were of course added following that restoration. The walls were coated during the 19th Century, with tile panels dated to the 16th Century. The fountain at the right of the entrance was commissioned by Süleyman the Magnificent. Above the gate used by the Sultans we find the monogram of Sultan Mustafa III (1757-1774) with a repair inscription. There is also an epigraph written in Sultan Mahmut II calligraphy above the afore-mentioned Pişkeş (Gift) Gate.