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Located on top of a steep hill overlooking the Bosphorus, the Yıldız Palace (meaning the Star Palace) was the seat of Ottoman government and the residence of Sultan Abdülhamid II for 33 years (1876-1909). The property is a vast complex of pavilions and gardens surrounding the courtyards and designed in different styles.
The area of the palace complex was originally made of natural woodlands and used for hunting by sultans since the early sixteenth century. The first pavilion in this area was built during the reign of Sultan Selim III (r. 1789-1808), who built a kiosk with a rococo a fountain for his for his mother Sultan Mihrishah. At mid-century, these structures, except the fountain, were demolished. During the reign of Sultan Abdülaziz (r. 1861-1876), new pavilions and summer palaces such as Malta Kiosk, Çadır Kiosk and Çit Pavilion were built by the architects of Balyan family. When Sultan Abdülhamid (r.1876-1909) ascended the throne, he transferred the court from the Dolmabahçe Palace to the Yıldız Palace which remained the seat of government throughout his reign. He enlarged the area and ordered the landscaping of the property, requesting rare flowers, trees and plants from different parts of the empire and beyond. He also ordered the renowned Italian architect Raimondo D’Aronco to erect new buildings to the palace complex. During this period, the property became a large complex situated in 500.000 square-meter area comprising several governmental, residential, industrial and cultural buildings including numerous pavilions, kiosks, theater, museum, library, repair shops and carpenter’s shop, imperial porcelain factory and military barracks. During this period, the palace complex housed more than 12,000 people including workers in the factories and workshops, according to some accounts.
The palace complex, which is surrounded by walls, consists of three main courtyards: The first courtyard, which functioned as the administrative center, contains official apartments and service buildings, including Armory, Set Pavilion, Yaveran Chambers, Çit Pavilion, Carpenter's Workshop, Office of the Sultan’s Aides-de-Camp, Pharmacy and Library. The second courtyard, which was the center of private life of Sultan and his family, includes the Hasbahçe (Privy garden), Small Mabeyn Kiosk, Harem Buildings, Cihannuma Kiosk, Island Kiosk and the Theater. The third area covers the outer gardens. The Chalet Kiosk, the Malta Kiosk, the Çadır Kiosk, the Greenhouse and the Yıldız Tile Factory are located in this area. The large part of the palace gardens, what is now called the Yildiz Park and the pavilions located here are open to the public. The Yıldız Park is connected to the Çıragan Palace on the seashore with a bridge.
A brief description of the major components of the palace complex is as follows:
The Great Mabeyn Pavilion is one of the principal buildings of the palace complex. Commissioned by Sultan Abdulaziz in 1866 and built by the architects of Balyan Family, the two-storey building has an eclectic style at the exterior. The inner part, on the other hand, is embellished with the Turkish and Islamic style decorations. Having served as the administration headquarters of the state during the reign of Sultan Abdulhamid II, the kiosk was used for important receptions during the late Ottoman and early Republican periods.
Çit Pavillion, a single-storey building with a thin and long plan, was used to receive the visits of foreign statesman. It is located at the north end of the garden in front of the Great Mabeyn pavilion.
Yaveran Chamber, located at the other side of the Great Mabeyn Pavilion, was the offices of the military officers in charge. It is one of the buildings designed by architect Raymond d’Aranco.
Armoury is a longitudinal building with its Corinthian columns and murals in which the imperial weapon collections are displayed.
Small Mabeyn Pavilion was built in 1901 upon the order of Sultan Abdulhamid II for holding official meetings. The two storied building has also a garret known as Winter Garden. The kiosk is famous for its ceiling decorations, the handrails decorated with flower branches in the form of Art Nouveau style.
Island Kiosk is a residence designed by architect Raimondo D’Aronco with Art Nouveau style. It is known that the mansion was turned into a small zoo and the sultan used to watch the animals from there.
Hünkar Pavillion was built in Baghdad style with a magnificent ceiling decorations and used to the first summer pavilion of the Yıldız Palace.
Cihannuma Kiosk is three-storied building designed as a residence providing a beautiful panoramic view of Bosporus. The kiosk is called as Cihannuma (scenic) due to its panoramic view.
Private Bath of Sultan Abdulhamid II was also built by Raimondo D’Aronco. It was designed in accordance with Turkish and Western bath systems. Different from the traditional Turkish Baths, it is heated by central heating.
Palace Theater was built by the Sultan Abdulhamid II for the visit of German Imperial Kaiser Wilhelm II, together with the Chalet Kiosk in 1899. It is the only palace theater that survived till today. Italian and Turkish artists as well as foreign theater groups performed in this theater.
The Palace Library was created by the personal efforts of Sultan Abdulhamid II, bringing together a considerable amount of valuable books. Among the library’s collection, there are the albums of 36,000 photographs, that had been taken all over the world, reflecting of Abdulhamid II’s interest in photography. After the declaration of the Republic, the library and its furnishings were donated to the University of Istanbul to provide service there.
Şale Kiosk is one of the most important buildings of 19th century Ottoman architecture. The kiosk consists of three adjacent sections built at different times in a garden surrounded by high walls. The first section of the kiosk was constructed in 1880. With the additional building built by architect Sarkis Balyan in 1889, the kiosk was enlarged with rooms and halls. The third section known as Ceremonial Kiosk was constructed by Architect D’Aranco in 1898. The last two sections were constructed for German Emperor Wilhelm II for his visits to İstanbul. It is known that ceremonies were performed at this hall during the reign of Sultan Abdülhamid II. Except the dining hall reflecting the Ottoman taste, European style is dominant at the furnishing of the Kiosk.
The Malta and Çadır Pavilions, located at the outer gardens which is open to public with the name of Yıldız Park, were built in the time of Abdülaziz as s two-storey Baroque style buildings.
Yıldız Tile Imperial Factory was founded by Sultan Abdulhamid II (1876-1909) at the beginning of 1890’s. It has been one of first imperial factory. Following the damage at the earthquake in 1894 and the factory was reconstructed by Architect Raimondo d’Aronco with the technology and materials imported from Sèvres and Limoges factories in France. The porcelains manufactured at the Yıldız were primarily used for decorations of palaces, kiosks and pavilions of the late Ottoman Empire.
The Palace Museum is a large gallery in 90 meters length where the valuable were exhibited.
Hamidiye (Yıldız) Mosque was commissioned by the Ottoman sultan Abdülhamid II and constructed between 1884 and 1886 by Sarkis Balyan. The mosque was built on a rectangular plan and has one minaret. The design of the building is a blend of Neo-Gothic style and Ottoman motifs
Gardens: The Yıldız Palace complex has various gardens ranging from formal designed gardens to more naturalistic planting. The external gardens were surrounded by high walls during the reign of Abdülhamid II. A small artificial canal, large pools, fountains, summer houses and pavilions were set within the gardens. The inner gardens includes the Hasbahçe (royal garden) and the gardens of the Harem buildings. Sultan Abdülhamid displayed great interest in the garden of Hasbahçe and spent a great deal of money on the landscaping. The garden was designed in the form of romantic-picturesque style. Several exotic plants, flowers and trees were ordered from all over the empire and beyond. The landscape design of gardens was also made by the German, French and Italian experts invited by the Sultan. The main element of the garden is a pool named “Hamid”, looking like a natural river 300meter in length and 15-40 meter in width. There is a small artificial island in the middle of the pool and small kiosks located in different points of the garden.
Located in a 500.000 square-meter grounds overlooking the Bosphorus, the property is the last Ottoman palace complex consisting of numerous pavilions, kiosks, and other service and management structures built in the 19th and 20th centuries. It was not only used as the governing base of the Ottoman state, but also functioned as a recreational and residential compound during the reign of Sultan Abdülhamid (1876-1909). The Ottoman Empire was governed from the Yıldız Place for a period of 33 years. Although most of the pavilions date from the reign of Abdulaziz, it was during the reign of the Abdulhamid, the property transformed into “a small city” with its own postal service, factories, theater, museum, governmental and residential buildings scattered over a hillside of woods and gardens. The palace complex reflect the development of architecture and landscaped gardens of the late 19th century Ottoman Empire.
With its several small pavilions and kiosks, designed by the architects of Balyan family and Italian architect Raimondo D’Aronco, who was invited to the capital by Sultan Abdülhamid, the Yıldız Palace complex testifies architectural and artistic achievements of late Ottoman era including the use of European motifs bended with classical Ottoman Turkish styles. Although the design and decorations of the buildings reflect the influence of European styles on late Ottoman culture and art, the layout plan of the Yıldız Palace complex, retains essential elements of traditional Ottoman palaces. The design of the gardens of the palace complex was also made by European experts invited by Sultan Abdülhamid II to the capital. The complex also represents an important example of the adaptation of European building technologies and materials into the classical Ottoman forms.
Criterion (ii): Yıldız Palace complex displays the cultural fusion and local adaptation of European styles of architecture, art, and landscape design. Several small pavilions and kiosks of the Yıldız Palace complex, designed by the architects of Balyan family and Italian Architect Raimondo D’Aronco, contains eclectic elements of baroque, neoclassical and art nouveau styles. With its separate smaller buildings designed for separate purposes around several courtyards, on the other hand, the Yıldız Palace complex follows the traditional Ottoman palace design in Edirne and Topkapı, rather than monumental European palace complex during the late nineteenth century.
The imperial porcelain factory at the complex also reflects the integration of earlier Ottoman crafts with Western influences. Founded by Sultan Abdülhamid for revitalizing the traditional Turkish tile and ceramic art which have been developed in Anatolia for centuries; the technology and materials for the foundation of the factory were imported from Sèvres and Limoges factories in France. The craftsmen of the factory were also trained here, which reflected in the design of earlier artifacts produced in the factory. Sultan Abdülhamid also displayed great interest in the gardens of the palace. Several exotic trees, shrubs and flowers used for the landscaping of the Yıldız Palace were also brought from the different parts of the world. The gardens were designed by European and Turkish garden experts.
Criterion (iii): As a governmental base and a royal residence, the Yıldız Palace complex represents an exceptional testimony to political, social, cultural and artistic developments of the late nineteenth century Ottoman State. With its administrative and service buildings including pavilions, kiosks, factories, repair shops and carpenter’s shop, theater and opera house, museum and library; the complex of the Yıldız Palace resembles to a “small city”, envisaged by Sultan Abdülhamid as a model of the late Ottoman Empire reflecting his economic, social and cultural visions.
Criterion (iv): Yıldız Palace is the last example of traditional Ottoman Turkish palace architecture, which is a complex of pavilions and gardens scattered over a large area of hills and valleys. Enclosed by walls and divided into courts, the Yıldız Palace complex contains public buildings where government business was conducted as well as private pavilions, kiosks and landscaped gardens. The courtyards were separated from each other by passageways and gates. In addition to being a palace and governmental body, the property is also a museum an industrial park. The imperial porcelain factory, carpentry workshop, the sultan’s personal photography laboratory and the library are unique features of the palace complex.
The settlement, architectural layout, form of buildings and gardens of the Yıldız Palace, developed to its current form in the late 19th and early 20th century, has reached to today without any significant change. After the declaration of Turkish Republic, some of the buildings were handed over to the Ministry of Culture and begun to serve as a museum. The other sections of the complex have been assigned to different institutions including the Yıldız Technical University, the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality, the Department of National Palaces, and the Institute for Research in the History of Islamic Arts and Cultures. The complex continues to exhibit remnants of late-period Ottoman history.
The property is of such a size it offers a complete representation of late Ottoman palace features. None of the attributes within the property are under threat. All conservation activities carried out have paid due respect to authenticity of material, design and workmanship. The area has been protected by the Turkish Legislation for Preservation of Cultural and Natural Property, Law No.: 2863 amended, as a natural and historical conservation area declared by the Regional Council of Preservation of Cultural Heritage.
The Yıldız Palace complex can be compared with other late nineteenth century palaces and kiosks built by the sultans and members of his family, along the shores of the Bosporus, all reflecting the various European architectural styles then in favor in İstanbul. Among them, only the Dolmabahçe and Yıldız were the two principal governmental palaces of the late 19th century. The others such as Çırağan, Beylerbeyi, Göksu, Ihlamur, etc. were mainly used as summer houses, hunting pavilions, resting places. In addition to the function, the architectural principles and layout of the Yıldız Palace complex is very different from them. In contrast to these palaces, which were designed as a single building on the shore of Bosporus, the Yıldız Palace is a complex of palaces, pavilions, factories, museum, armory, and theatre scattered over a hillside of woods and gardens.
The Yıldız Palace was built in a more secluded and spacious setting than Dolmabahçe and other sea-side palaces. In terms of plan layout, the Yıldız palace follows the traditional Ottoman palaces, the Old Palace in Edirne and Topkapı Palace in İstanbul. Similar to them, the buildings of complex were designed around different courtyards encircled by high walls. The differences, however, include the construction date and design of the Yıldız Palace, which reflects late ninetieth century cultural and artistic fashions. The other feature that distinguishes Yıldız Palace from other Ottoman palaces is the gardens designed with a style of so-called “naturalistic English garden” formed by curved lines and use of artificial water that looked natural with ponds, shrubs, trees, and grotto.
Within the international context, the Yıldız Palace can be compared with a number of European imperial complex built during the 18th and 19th century, many of which are on the World Heritage List. Among them, the palaces in France are most relevant for the late Ottoman palaces. As it is well-known that Ottoman envoy Yirmisekiz Çelebi Mehmet visited Paris in early 18th century and brought back engravings and designs of palaces and summer resorts of French royalty from Paris that influenced the construction of late Ottoman palaces and kiosks. In this context, the Palace of Versailles (France, 1979), the principal residence of the French kings, provided Europe with a model of the ideal royal residence for over a century, so for the late Ottoman palaces as well. The other major European palaces that might have influenced the design and decoration of the late Ottoman palaces are Palace and Gardens of Schönbrunn (Austria, 1996), Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin (Germany, 1990, 1999), Royal Palace at Caserta with the Park, the Aqueduct of Vanvitelli, and the San Leucio Complex (Italy, 1997) Blenheim Palace (United Kingdom, 1987). In addition to the European palaces, the parallels of the late Ottoman palaces can also be found in the East. Among them, the Golestan Palace (İran, 2013), the seat of government of the Qajar family was built around a garden during the 19th century, has some similarities with the Yıldız Place as it displays the integration of Persian art and architecture with Western influences.
Although the Yıldız Palace complex shares some attributes with these palaces mentioned above, all of them have significantly different values in terms of architectural design, scale, date and context. To give some examples; unlike Baroque and Neoclassical European palaces, symmetry and geometric planning did not play a role in ordering the plan layout of the Yıldız Palace complex. Instead, they were designed individually and organically settled into the landscape. In contrast to European palaces which have a significant visual power, the Yıldız Palace has an introverted palace design consisting of a number of pavilions dispersed around gardens, encircled by the high walls. The more small scale buildings, modesty of the exterior of the buildings and the functionality of the palace gardens also made it different from formal European and Islamic layout and grand palaces of Europe.