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Arms and Weapons

The weaponry used by the Ottoman army was manufactured in various workshops and stored in armories called cebehâne, where their maintenance and repairs would also be done. The first Ottoman cebehâne was established in Edirne. Following the conquest of Constantinople, Sultan Mehmed II converted the Church of Hagia Eirene in Topkapı Palace’s First Courtyard into a cebehâne, for which purpose this building would continue to be used until the late 19th century. In 1846, at the initiative of Fethi Ahmed Pasha, the Commander of the Cannon Foundry (Tophâne), the Church of Hagia Eirene was reorganized so as to form Turkey’s first museum, the Collection of Ancient Weapons and the Collection of Antiquities (Mecma`-ı Esliha-ı `Atîka ve Mecma`-ı Âsâr-ı `Atîka). The museum’s weaponry was kept here until Topkapı Palace began to be used as a museum in the early 20th century. These weapons would later form the basis of the Military Museum’s collections, which are among the richest such collections in the world.

Covering 1,300 years and consisting of 52,000 weapons of Arab, Umayyad, Abbasid, Mamluk, Persian, Turkish, Crimean Tartar, Indian, European, and Japanese origin, the Topkapı Palace Museum’s weaponry collection is also among the world’s premier weapons collections. The collection is made up in part of weapons transferred from the cebehâne and those used by the palace guards; however, the collection’s most noteworthy section consists of those weapons ordered by the sultan personally or specially made as gifts for him, which weapons are a part of the palace’s private collection. This collection includes weaponry owned by such sultans as Mehmed II, Bayezid II, Selim the Grim, Suleiman the Magnificent, Selim II, Mehmed II, and Ahmed I, as well as the weapons of such high-level dignitaries as grand viziers, pashas, and palace chamberlains; all of these weapons are eye-catching with their fine craftsmanship and decorations. An additional factor that contributed to the diversification of the collection’s highly artistic weaponry was the tradition of bringing to the palace the weapons of important figures that were obtained through plunder.