BY ÖZGE ŞENGELEN
Fountains were not just for filling pitchers with water. In the past, fountains used to have communal places where people would engage in pleasant conversations over flowing water.
Although the main purpose of a “çeşme” (fountain in Turkish), which derives from the word “çeşm” in Persian, is to carry and deliver water, the fountain was a means of communication in Türkiye. They were also structures where people used to perform art sketches that carried traces of history.
Although these precious structures bearing traces of history appear in almost every city of Türkiye, the fountains of Istanbul, the city with the most fountains in the world, are very famous.
Especially in the Ottoman period, following the conquest of Istanbul, the fountains built to meet the city’s water needs appear as iconic artwork today. The fountains, which exhibit unique architecture and calligraphy, almost defy time. These structures, especially in districts of the historical peninsula such as Beşiktaş, Eyüp, Fatih and Beyoğlu, are the pearls of Istanbul.
So, now I would like to introduce you to some of these historical pearls from the Ottoman Empire.
Located in Istanbul’s Tophane Square, this fountain is the third largest fountain in Istanbul. It coincides with the transition period from the classical Ottoman style to the Western style and is one of the finest examples of the 18th-century rococo architecture movement.
Built by the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud I, plant motifs were used to decorate this fountain, which is one of the monumental square fountains built for accessing clean drinking water. The fountain is decorated with plant motifs in accordance with the style of the period in which it was built. The stone decoration includes fruit trees in pots and images of flowers in vases. These motifs are arranged like a series of rows toward the rectangular frames, the sides and inside the niche.
Tophane Fountain, also known as the Sultan Mahmud I Fountain, awaits its visitors as one of Istanbul’
The German Fountain, dazzling with its majesty in Sultanahmet Square, is one of the most touristic squares of Istanbul. It was constructed in Germany to commemorate the second anniversary of German Emperor Wilhelm II’s visit to Istanbul in 1898 and was a gift to Sultan Abdülhamid II. This fountain has two inscriptions, one in Ottoman Turkish and the other in German.
The fountain, whose parts were made in Germany and later assembled in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet, was designed in line with the Neo-Byzantine style and decorated with gold mosaics. Made of syenite, one of the hardest stones in the world and difficult to sculpt at the time, this fountain will be the best backdrop for your Istanbul souvenir photos.
Adding a unique atmosphere to Sultanahmet Square, the German Fountain resembles an open-air museum with many historical artifacts from the Byzantine and Ottoman periods, and awaits its visitors as one of the favorite fountains of Istanbul.
Sultanahmet’s Sultan Ahmed III Fountain
Standing between the two most important historical buildings of Istanbul, Sultan Ahmed III Fountain was commissioned by Sultan Ahmed III upon the suggestion of Damat Ibrahim Pasha.
The fountain, which was built on the site of a Byzantine Fountain named Perayton and reflects the Turkish rococo architecture, is located between the entrance gate of Topkapı Palace, one of the most popular historical structures of Istanbul, and Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque.
Hekimoğlu Ali Pasha Fountain
Hekimoğlu Fountain, located in Kabataş Pier Square, was built to meet the water needs of Beyoğlu, Galata, Tophane and Fındıklı districts. It still preserves its beauty with the restoration works carried out in 1987, 2007 and 2008. The fountain has two inscriptions: One facing the sea and one facing the street.
Hekimoğlu Ali Pasha Fountain, one of the most beautiful examples of the transition period to Turkish baroque, is one of the most dazzling charity fountains from the Ottoman Empire.
Üsküdar’s Sultan Ahmed III Fountain
The Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, which is also a precious work, can be seen from the back of this fountain, which attracts attention with its beauty and elegance similar to a figurine, located opposite the Üsküdar Ferry Port.
Sultan Ahmed III Fountain was built to meet the water needs of those passing through the Bosporus and comprises eight taps, four of which were fashioned for drinking and four for filling water containters. Sultan Ahmed III and Nevşehirli Damat Ibrahim Pasha wrote the inscription on the coast side of the fountain, which is one of the symbolic works of Üsküdar and has four facades like all square fountains.
Sultan Mahmud II Fountain
Located in Sümbül Efendi in Fatih, one of the oldest settlements in Istanbul, Sultan Mahmud II Fountain was of course commissioned by Sultan Mahmud II. The fountain, located near the outer wall of the Fevziye Küçük Efendi Mosque, had replaced another fountain at the same spot that was destroyed.
Hırka-i Şerif Mosque Fountain
Ottoman Sultan Abdulmejid I commissioned the Hırka-i Şerif Mosque in 1850 to preserve the Blessed Mantle of the Prophet Muhammad, which was given as a gift to Uwais al-Qarani, known as Veysel Karani in Turkish, a seventh-century Islamic figure from Yemen loved by the Turks.
This fountain was built on the lower wall of the mosque. The face of the Hırka-i Şerif Fountain, one of the historical fountains of Istanbul, is covered with marble. The fountain, which has a frame decorated with relief patterns, also draws attention with its Ottoman monogram.
It is said that there are over 1,000 historical fountains in different parts of Istanbul. These historical structures can be found all over the magnificent city. Even though some of them are among the modern city structures and intertwined with the metropolis, when you come across them, they wink at you in all their glory and traces of history.