I. Avlu (Alay Meydanı)

The First Courtyard is reached through the Imperial Gate. This courtyard, where various ceremonies and processions were held, was the only part of the palace open to the public. The Deâvî Pavilion, of which only the foundation has survived to the present day, was located near the Gate of Salutation (Bâbüsselâm or “Middle Gate”) and was where the public conveyed their written petitions to the palace. On the left side of the courtyard stand the church of Hagia Eirene (Aya İrini) and the Royal Mint (Darphâne-i Âmire). It was also here that the Firewood Storehouse, the Wickerworkers’ Headquarters, and the Patriarchate were located; the remains of the latter can be seen behind the administrative building and sentry station which were built at the end of the 19th century. On the right side of the courtyard stood the Ministry of Finance; the Palace Hospital; bakeries producing bread and simit for the palace; the Mosque of the Royal Bakery; and employees’ residences. There was also a water tower that contained a fountain and was built in the time of Sultan Mahmud II (r. 1808-39). One of the most interesting structures remaining in the First Courtyard is the Executioners’ Fountain, which can be seen on the right of the Gate of Salutation; here, purportedly, executioners would wash their hands following an execution. It was also in this area of the courtyard that the palace woodsheds were located. In this courtyard, there are two small gates opening onto the Royal Garden: on the Golden Horn side is the Kozbekçileri Gate; on the Sea of Marmara side is the Gate of the Boot. The most important and oldest structure in the courtyard is the Byzantine church of Hagia Eirene, built in the 6th century to serve as the church for the Patriarchate. Following the construction of Topkapı Palace, Hagia Eirene was used as an armory. Later, during the time of Fethi Ahmed Pasha (1802-58), it was converted into the Archaeology Museum, serving in this capacity until 1894, when the Archaeology Museum was moved to the building it currently occupies and Hagia Eirene became a military museum. When the court moved out of Topkapı Palace in the 19th century the palace workshops where fine arts were carried out, were initially converted into the Royal Mint where imperial coins were pressed.