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  • Writer's pictureYunus Emre Institute

İshak Paşa Palace

Updated: Dec 18, 2019

Located in the Doğubeyazıt district, just east of Ağrı, there is a magnificent palace fit for a king. Past the stone gateway, this palace hosts hundreds of rooms overlooking a beautiful view of the Ararat, Pamuk, and Ziyaret mountain ranges. It is over three hundred years old and the splendor of its architecture is incomparable, so why is it hauntingly empty? İshak Paşa Palace is a must-see landmark that takes tourists back to the days of the Ottoman Empire and confounds anyone who sees it with its chilling abandonment.

The history behind İshak Paşa Palace is complicated since it was an ambitious structure that changed hands for years. It took a century to complete the palace and its construction started in 1685 under Çolak Abdi Paşa of the Cildirogullari dynasty. The construction of the palace occurred very slowly under generations of Cildirogullari rulers since there was little construction technology during this time. İshak Paşa was another member of the family who gained the position of a vizier in 1723, and was appointed the governor of Tbilisi the next year. Subsequently, his grandson, Hasan, was the governor of Çıldır in 1760. Later, another İshak became the governor of Çıldır and finally completed the long process of the palace’s construction which is dated on the entranceway as the Islamic year 1199, or 1784-1785 CE.

Experts think that the last Paşa who inhabited the entire palace was Mahmut since he has the only tomb in the burial chamber and died in 1805. His successor, Behlul moved from the palace to the fortress when the Russians invaded during the Russo-Ottoman War of 1828. The Russians occupied the palace for just one year but they took the gold plated doors of the entrance and documents from the library back to Russia, which was a devastating loss. The palace went through additional hardship after a large earthquake damaged the fortress and the palace’s interior in 1840. The next Russo-Ottoman War erupted in 1877 and Russian troops occupied it until World War I which lead to its abandonment thereafter.

The architectural design of the palace resembles an Ottoman capital city palace but on a smaller scale. The palace is built around two courtyards, the first has two rooms on either side which are the most damaged part of the palace and were stables for the horses of visiting guests. The second courtyard provides access to the most important areas of the palace like the mosque, the men’s quarters, the assembly hall, and the women’s quarters. Additionally, there was a bakery, soup kitchen, dungeons, baths, many private rooms and a primitive central heating system that flowed throughout the palace which was cutting edge at the time. The palace was constructed with white stone from the surrounding villages and black stone was hauled from Mount Ararat on the backs of animals. The palace is notable for its different styles of architecture with Seljuk influences, Ottoman influences, and European influences specifically Gothic and Baroque. There are so many eclectic styles of architecture because it took such a long time to complete so architects had enough time, resources, and inspiration to add different cultural influences to the palace. The history and the unique design of this palace should put it at the top of any tourist’s list when they visit Ağrı.

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