Babı Hümayun / The Imperial Gate

This gate, built as the main entrance on the palace’s Hagia Sophia side in the time of Sultan Mehmed II (the Conqueror), bears above it an inscription in Arabic by `Ali ibn 3 as-Sufi, which reads as follows: “By the grace and assent of God and with the aim of establishing peace and tranquility. This auspicious citadel was built and erected in the blessed month of Ramadan in the year 883 [November-December 1478] at the command of the son of Sultan Murad, son of Sultan Mehmed Khan, the sultan of the lands and the emperor of the seas, the shadow of God extending over men and djinn, the deputy of God in the East and in the West, the champion of the water and the land, the conqueror of Constantinople and father of that conquest Sultan Mehmed, may God make his reign eternal and exalt his abode above that of the highest stars in the firmament.” Above the Imperial Gate, verses 45-48 of the Qur’an’s Surah al-Hijr are inscribed in müsennâ (“doubled”) script, in which the writing is “mirrored”. This inscription is important both in terms of the beauty of its calligraphy and in terms of the significance of the verses-which read, in part, “Enter in peace and security!” (udkhuluha bisalamin aminina)to the Ottoman conception of royalty. On the other side of the gate, just above the calligraphic seal (tuğra) of Sultan Abdülaziz (r. 1861-76), is inscribed a portion of verse 13 of Surah as-Saff: “Help from God and a speedy victory. Give thou good tidings [O Muhammad] to the believers!” (nasrun min Allahi wa fathun qaribun wa bashshiri almumina); this was also the verse recited by the Janissary marching band (mehterân) prior to a charge. The Imperial Gate underwent frequent alterations over the years and in old prints a small pavilion is visible above the gate. This pavilion was used for the observance of processions and the safekeeping of inheritances, but was destroyed by fire in the year 1865.