Khan Palace in Bakhchisaray



The Palace Square

a litography by Carlo Bossoli, 1856

A decorative inscription on the walls of the Golden Room (a chamber inside the Living Block) calls the Palace poetically “a string of sea pearls”. This is more than just a fine metaphor. The planning of the architectural ensemble of the Palace may really resemble a necklace: various constructions, courtyards and gardens are placed around the large Palace Square like a string of beads; the Square is the compositional centre of the Palace.

Nowadays a large part of the Palace Square is occupied by a shady park, but in the times of the Khanate there were not any trees on it, and the Square looked like an open parade-ground where solemn ceremonies were held.

Special garden terraces are laid by the southern side of the Square. As the Square could be looked through all its length, the gardens on terraces transformed a hill slope behind the Palace into a magnificent landscape background on which expressive constructions of the Palace were much acceptable to the eye.

Darbehane Qapı  

- the northern gate

Two ways through two gates lead from the Square to the streets of Bakhchisaray. All visitors of the Palace enter the residence of the Crimean monarchs through the northern gate. Since the 17th century the Khan mint was placed somewhere in the housing area at the hill slope opposite this gate and that's why the main gate of the Palace were called Darbehane Qapı, that mean the Mint Gate. Buildings adjoining to Darbehane Qapı were a place for door-guards ( qapı halq ). These troops, a Crimean analogue of Ottoman janizary, were armed with fire-arms. The guards were mostly recruited from the Circassian tribes of the dependencies of the Crimean Khanate on the Northern Caucasus.

The name of the southern gate – Bağça Qapı or the Garden Gate – showed its location by a wide garden area to the south from the Palace. No doubts, there should be also some premises for guards in that building, but it is difficult to judge about the original look of these constructions as they have been significantly changed in the 19th century.

Texts © Oleksa Haiworonski, 2004