Istavroz Garden (MEGT)
Istanbul, Türkiye
Today Beylerbeyi has taken the place of Istavroz Garden, although this was still called by the latter name even after Beylerbeyi Palace was built here. Evliya Çelebi describes Istavroz Garden as follows: This was a place much beloved by Ahmed I. In 1613 he had the area turned into a garden where in the short space of forty days he had a house, a small mosque, and guardrooms built (Seyahatnâmesi, 1:140b). According to Eremya Çelebi, [Ahmed I’s] son Murad IV was born here. He also liked the place where there was a palace, garden, and a small mosque as well as a village of Turks. The church of the Holy Cross from which the place took its name had become a ruin (XVII. asırda İstanbul, 47).
During the reigns of Ahmed III and Mahmud I, Beylerbeyi became more talked of. At the beginning of eighteenth century, fountains facing the pool and a tiled and domed chamber near it, a dervish-cell, a hamam, a pavilion facing the pool, a large domed chamber facing the sea for the valide sultan, and upper and lower rooms for the sultan's wives were built.
Helmuth von Moltke the Elder was received by Mahmud II at Beylerbeyi Palace, which he describes as follows:
The sultan used this palace in summer. It was situated in a beautiful area of the Bosphorus on the Anatolian side. On the right, one could see the white towers of the castle and almost all of the Bosphorus as far as Büyükdere, and on the left were Üsküdar, Beyoğlu, and Galata as well as the white minarets and dark cypresses of Istanbul and Sarayburnu. Beylerbeyi was a widespread building painted yellow and, like all the other palaces, made of wood, with countless windows, one above the other. A gilded door led to a garden in the the Turkish style with flowerbeds enclosed in box hedges and paths strewn with seashells. Goldfish swam in the fountain pool surrounded by pyramidal cypress and orange trees. Behind these there were beautiful conservatories and terraces with pavilions. But these were all enclosed within high walls. This wall was painted green but still made one feel hemmed-in. The windows on the Bosphorus side were screened and had thick latticework in front so that it was impossible to see in but one could see out. The windows of the harem were double-screened and the third floor of the palace had screens to the very top. While I was looking at this beautiful scene, the sultan came out of the harem on to a kind of verandah and summoned us from the window. (Mektuplar, 112)
Julia Pardoe gives a summary of the palace garden:
A marble gate, terminating the terrace in the direction of the city, admits the visitor into a garden bright with flowers, and redolent of perfume; where fountains for ever fling their delicate jets of water against the sky, with a soft and soothing music well suited to the spot; and where birds of gorgeous plumage wander at will, as rainbow-tinted as the blossoms amid which they sport. . . .
We have now only to notice the extensive and princely gardens, which rise, terrace above terrace, to the very summit of the mountain which overhangs the palace. Each terrace is under the charge of a foreign gardener, and arranged according to the fashion of his own land; but the finest portion of the grounds contains a noble sheet of water, called the Lake of the Swans, whose entire surface is frequently thickly covered with these graceful birds, of which the Sultan is fond, that he sometimes passes hours in contemplating them as they glide over the still water; . . . Boats, gaily gilded and painted, are moored under the shadows of the magnolias, willows, and other beautiful trees which form the framework of the lake; and about fifty yards from the bank stands a pretty, fanciful edifice, called the Air Bath,—an elegant retreat from the oppressive heats of summer; whose roof, and walls, and floor, are alike formed of marble, wrought in marine devices; and whose fountains, trickling down the walls, pour their waters over a succession of ocean-shells, marine divinities, sea-weeds, and coral reefs; and keep up a constant current of cool air, and murmur of sweet sound, perfectly charming. . . .
A gilded kiosque glitters amid the group of cypresses and plane-trees by which the last height is crowned; and the artist has ably portrayed the magic beauty of the scene which is mapped out beneath him as he stands beside the boundary-wall of the palace garden. The undulating shores, belted with houses, and sheltered by richly-wooded hills,—the castle-crowned rocks,—the gleaming sails of the passing vessels upon the channel,—and, far away, the ‘storm-tossed Euxine,’ lashing its billows as if in scorn against the fortress-barriers that bristle its shores—all combine to form a picture well calculated to arrest the eye of the painter and the admiration of the tourist. (Beauties of the Bosphorus, 57 and 59)
Istavroz Garden later lost its splendor until Abdülaziz built the Beylerbeyi Palace on the same place in 1864.
Today, when looking down from the Bosphorus Bridge, one can see how a wall separates the men's and women's quarters at Beylerbeyi Palace. Each level of the terraced garden has views of the Bosphorus and is more beautiful than the other with its flowerbeds and animal sculptures. On the top terrace is a large pool measuring 40 x 70 x 3 meters. Here, Sultan Abdülaziz had cages of deer, lions, doves, and birds. The cage of the lion which the sultan had trained himself was here and he would play with it when at Beylerbeyi. It is thought that the name of this place changed from Istavroz Garden in the eighteenth century when, according to İnciciyan, it took the name given to the area where the mosque stands today, formerly the site of the seaside house of the Greek, Beylerbeyli Mehmed Paşa, who was put to death by Murad III; however, it continued to be known as Istavroz even after Beylerbeyi Palace was built there. When Abdülaziz built the new palace at Beylerbeyi he had foreign landscape gardeners design the grounds.
 The text for this entry is adapted from Nurhan Atasoy, Garden for the Sultan, 315–16.

Source: Travel Account, 17th century

-Nurhan Atasoy, Seyit Ali Kahraman


Evliya Çelebi Seyahatnâmesi: Topkapı Sarayı Bağdat 304 Yazmasının transkripsiyonu (Open in Zotero)

İstanbul tarihi: XVII. asırda İstanbul (Open in Zotero)

A Garden for the Sultan: Gardens and Flowers in the Ottoman Culture (Open in Zotero)

Eski Türk bahc̦eleri ve özellikle eski İstanbul bahc̦eleri (Open in Zotero)

Türkiyeʾdeki durum ve olaylar üzerine mektuplar, 1835-1839 (Open in Zotero)

The Beauties of the Bosphorus (Open in Zotero)

originally published at: Atasoy, Nurhan, and Seyit Ali Kahraman “Istavroz Garden.” Middle East Gardens Traditions. Dumbarton Oaks, December 1, 2014. Archived at:

Istanbul, Türkiye
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Dates of attested life: 1613-
Date of entry of information: August 2007
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Istavroz Garden
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