Preindustrial public and state granaries were utilitarian buildings, but they were also instruments of food security regimes, representing a government's promise of abundance for its people. In the early modern period such granaries became widespread across Asia, Europe, and European colonies, ranging from territorial storehouse networks to monumental civic buildings near city centers. In Reserved Abundance: State Granaries of Early Modern Istanbul, Namık Erkal discusses Ottoman Istanbul's state granaries, using primary textual and visual sources to trace the type's evolution from modified, repurposed buildings (e.g., shipsheds and bathhouses) to purpose-built storehouses. He also evaluates the forms and importance of storage systems such as encased single-layer and double-stacked wooden grain bins. Erkal defines the capacities, dimensions, and variations of Istanbul's granaries, maps their locations in relation to major urban functions and locales, and compares them with similar buildings within and outside Ottoman domains.
An essential measure of governmental legitimacy and good governance in preindustrial societies, whether city-states or empires, was public food provisioning—most crucially, the supply of grain.1 In many cases, governments stored and conserved large reserves of various grains in monumental public or state granaries located in regional and metropolitan centers. As described by historian Dominik Collet, these granaries “occupied a strongly contested field, divided between the state and private actors, military and humanitarian interests as well as fiscal and charitable policies.”2 Further, while their economic feasibility depended on the availability and circulation of reserves between times of paucity and times of plentitude, the granaries' efficient operation was predicated on architectural solutions for handling the weight of grain and such risks as fermentation, rot, and pests. More than utilitarian architecture, state granaries represented food security regimes, founded on the fear of famine and the promise of abundance.
Throughout the early modern period, especially in Europe, grain storehouses were civic architecture, often monumental. During the Little Ice Age (1300–1850), devastating famines occurred periodically and worldwide, and grain scarcity frequently brought state intervention. Emerging food security regimes—from Ming and Sung China to the Mamluk Sultanate and the Republic of Venice—built state granaries of various kinds.3 European city-states of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries located their public granaries near central civic squares, as seen with Venice's Magazzini di Terranova, or Terranova Granaries (1341), Florence's Orsanmichele (1380–1404), and Nuremberg's Mauthalle (1499–1502). Architecturally, these were similar to other public edifices, such as town halls, market halls, and fortifications (Figure 1).4 By the eighteenth century, public granaries in Europe were sometimes substantial, aesthetically refined buildings designed by celebrated architects; good examples include the Papal Granary in Rome (1700–1721), by Carlo Fontana; the Grenier d'Abondance in Lyon (1722–28), by Claude Bertauld; and the Palazzo dei Granili in Naples (1779–90), by Ferdinando Fuga (Figure 2).5 Ideas about public granaries moved from Europe to its colonies, where syncretic types related to local vernacular architectures soon emerged; examples include the Alhóndiga de Granaditas in Guanajuato, New Spain (1793–1809), and the Golghar in Patna, Bihar, India (1784–86), by Captain John Garstin (Figure 3).6 However, with the widening acceptance of free trade and the decline of governments' role in public provisioning, early modern state granaries were not long-lived, and most were eventually converted to new uses, such as army barracks, municipal halls, and prisons. By the mid-nineteenth century, new granaries had become increasingly utilitarian in design—the creation of such structures was regarded as a task for engineers, not architects.
This essay presents the case of early modern Istanbul, a city whose great scale and commodity demands caused historian Fernand Braudel to call it an “urban monster.”7 The Ottoman Empire was highly attentive to the provisioning of its urban centers, and to issues of food security in general. Istanbul, one of the world's largest cities in this era—with about 250,000 residents during the mid-1500s and half a million by the early eighteenth century—consumed vast quantities of wheat, barley, millet, and rye.8 The city was supplied with grain through a complex web of provincial ports connected to inland production centers on the Black Sea, the Marmara Sea, and the eastern Mediterranean. Yet the threat of famine was ever present, leading the Ottoman state to regulate the grain trade and closely monitor its reserves.9 Food security was crucial to the economy and well-being of early modern Istanbul, affecting society at all levels. Known as “the gate of felicity” (Der-saadet), the city depended on abundant and affordable grain to feed its citizens.
Although grain provisioning in Istanbul has been much discussed, literature on the architecture of the city's granaries is scarce.10 Ottoman state granaries were generically called anbar (storehouses) or mahzen (magazines), with additional terms sometimes marking their status—for example, anbar-ı âmire, beylik anbar, and mirî anbar, all variously connoting “imperial storehouse.” During the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries there was no single architectural typology for Ottoman state granaries. This is not surprising, as the Ottoman architectural repertoire was based on a few recurring themes, such as large halls with domes or hipped roofs (mosques, bedestenler, covered khans, bathhouses, munitions factories) and rows of domed rooms with arcades surrounding open courtyards (caravansaries, khans, madrassas).11 In provincial cities like Rodosçuk (Tekirdağ) and Selanik (Thessaloniki), grain was stored in market buildings with or without courtyards, or in cells set on commercial streets near the port.12 Today, this sometimes makes it difficult for historians to differentiate granaries from other local building types. The best-known regional granaries were in the Levant and Egypt, where climatic conditions were quite different from those in Istanbul, and granaries differed accordingly. Levantine and Egyptian models were possibly based on pre-Ottoman precedents and local architectural traditions, such as the grain storehouses (bã'ika) of Damascus and the Granaries of Joseph (Ânbâr-ı Yusûf) in Cairo, built to sustain pilgrims on the hajj.13
By the eighteenth century, the Ottoman state began to standardize the architecture of its granaries. In Istanbul and the provinces on the western Black Sea and the Danube—major sources of grain for the capital—the state sought to improve its grain provisioning system and expand its granary facilities. By the century's end, the first purpose-built state granaries were constructed. Yet no complete early modern state granaries still stand in present-day Istanbul, and none are fully represented in known historical sources. This essay will reconstruct the city's state granaries through an examination of surviving architectural evidence and textual and visual sources found in various archives.14 Reconstruction drawings based on this evidence will support the analytical descriptions.
Unsurprisingly, a key focus for state granaries was storage space. Historically, there were several types of grain storage, most common of which were loose bulk, storage in cloth sacks, and storage in bins made of clay, stone, or wood. Storage type played a greater role in determining a building's capacity than did the building's total volume. That is, a granary with a large volume and a low-lying bulk storage system might hold fewer reserves than a granary with a smaller volume and well-designed grain bins. In the case of Istanbul, building construction and restoration registers in the State Archives of Turkey provide ample information about granary interiors and storage systems after the early eighteenth century. These registers provide a basis of comparison for discussing granaries in other cities of the empire and beyond.
Istanbul's early modern state granaries developed through three stages that coincided with changes in the governance of public grain provisioning systems. The first involved the imperial grain trusts and their storehouses of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The second stage pertained to the Imperial Naval Arsenal, main location of Istanbul's state granaries during the eighteenth century. The final stage was that of the Grain Inspectorate (1793–1839). These stages overlapped, and buildings such as the Unkapanı Magazine and the Barley Storehouse functioned throughout all three periods. Most significant were the Öküzlimanı Granaries, built in 1797–1802.
Granaries of the Imperial Trusts, Mid-Fifteenth to Late Seventeenth Centuries
Until the late eighteenth century, the center of grain trade in Istanbul was the Golden Horn (Haliç). This deep natural harbor allowed large vessels, including grain ships (usually three-masted frigates), to dock without the need for major port infrastructure.15 Yet a few monumental structures did line the seafront there. The water's depth and strong currents eroded the seabed, so landfills were difficult to build and maintain. Consequently, maritime walls were built at some distance from the water's edge. The spaces between the docks and walls (called surönü or kule-i zemin) on either side of the Golden Horn were used for customs quays owned by the Hagia Sophia mosque's endowment. The imperial government oversaw individual customs quays for various imports, such as dry and fresh fruits, fish, tallow, vegetables, wood, and grain. Upon arrival at the quays, goods were checked, measured, priced, taxed, and then distributed to retailers and wholesalers.16 Until the mid-sixteenth century these quays presented a tight-knit fabric of official and quotidian buildings. This complex, vibrant place was the center of Istanbul's grain trade.
From the mid-sixteenth to the late seventeenth centuries, grain supplies entering the Golden Horn were organized through four imperial trusts (mirî emanet) (Figure 4). One was the official grain-weighing and distribution center, Unkapanı (or Kapan-ı Dakîk). The others were the state granaries, also known as the Bahçekapı granaries because of their proximity to the Bahçekapı, the first maritime gate one entered when approaching the city through the Golden Horn. The Bahçekapı granaries consisted of the Wheat Trust (Gendüm Buğday Emaneti), the Barley Storehouse Trust (Arpa Anbarı Emaneti), and the Cellars Trust (Kilar Emaneti).17 About 90 percent of grain imports went to Unkapanı, while the three granary trusts split the rest. The Ottoman government itself did not store most of this grain, but rather distributed it from Unkapanı to the city's bakers and millers—the final link in the supply chain—for storage and use.18 These tradesmen were required by law to hold six months' worth of grain reserves at any given time.19 This arrangement was advantageous for the state because it reduced the need for state-run storage infrastructure. However, it was a burden for tradesmen and merchants, and it sometimes caused conflict between them and government officials.20 State granaries, meanwhile, stored grains for use by royal, religious, and military institutions, but not the general public.
The main imperial grain trust, Unkapanı, was located at the innermost point of the main port, along the southern side of the Golden Horn (Figures 5 and 6). This was a major center of grain provisioning to the bakers' and millers' guilds, standing for four hundred years at the same spot, with little change to its architecture from the mid-fifteenth to the mid-nineteenth century.21 Fronted by a public square, Unkapanı consisted of two main buildings: the Tradesmen Council House (Divanhâne or Çardak) and the Unkapanı Magazine (Unkapanı Mahzeni). The Council House was a modest wooden structure of two floors, with shops below and offices around a hall (sofa) above.22 Located here were the Chamber of Grain (lonca), where the bakers' and millers' guilds met, the office of the commissioner (emin), and the seat of the office for public order (muhtesib or naib). Imported grain was weighed and registered here before being moved to the Unkapanı Magazine nearby.
The Unkapanı Magazine was not a granary per se but an enclosed holding zone and market hall where customs and distribution activities occurred. It was the larger of the two buildings, and it dominated the local waterfront. Constructed in the early sixteenth century, it was rebuilt later in the century by the celebrated court architect Sinan.23 With masonry walls and a high, lead-covered hipped roof, its square plan measured 29.5 by 32.8 meters, the longer side facing the Golden Horn.24 Shops were attached to its outer walls facing the wharf and a mosque. Other elevations were blank, apart from a single entrance on the eastern side. Typologically, this building resembled an enclosed khan or caravansary.25 Records indicate that it was used for short-term storage, with grain stored in cloth sacks (seklem).26 Mentioned in architect Sinan's autobiographies as ümm-ül mehâzin, “the mother of all magazines,” its footprint occupied just 900 square meters. Thus, even when completely filled, its storage capacity would not have exceeded 2,000 tons of grain (70,000 kile).27 Accordingly, the circulation of grain imports through this building must have been swift. In this way, the Unkapanı Magazine, a depository of flowing merchandise, differed from other state granaries where reserves were stored for significantly longer periods.
These other sites—the Bahçekapı granaries—were located at the entrance of the Golden Horn, near the Topkapı Palace, center of the Ottoman state and home to the sultan and his court (Figure 7). Two of the granaries, the Barley Storehouse and Cellars Trusts, were directly connected to the Topkapı Palace administration, while the other, the Wheat Trust, was overseen by the office of public order. These facilities stood just east of the Bahçekapı maritime gate on the Golden Horn, on the shoreline between the Great Maritime Customhouse (Eminönü) and the royal palace of Topkapı.28 This thin stretch of land was totally transformed after the 1870s with the construction of the Sirkeci Railway Terminal and modern quays. It is therefore difficult to differentiate the Bahçekapı granaries from other structures based on the visual sources available, or to ascertain the buildings' exact dimensions.
The three Bahçekapı granaries were variations on basic Mediterranean storehouse models going back to antiquity and running through the Byzantine era (apothëke).29 Long, rectilinear buildings, they had thick walls with small clerestory windows and hipped roofs with ventilation shafts or openings. They were placed parallel to but slightly lower than the city's defensive walls (Figure 8).30 The Barley Storehouse and the Wheat Trust buildings were almost identical and located on the Golden Horn at Vezir İskelesi, the major point of access for envoys visiting the grand viziers or the Topkapı Palace. This quay belonged to the office of the comptroller of barley (arpa emini, emîn-i şaîr, or emîn-i cev), which was responsible for providing barley and straw for the imperial stables, state elites, and the army. Although its prestige had declined by the eighteenth century, during the seventeenth century this office was, in effect, a sort of ministry of grain provisioning, a direct outcome of the Ottoman court's growing involvement in the grain trade.31 Like Unkapanı, the comptroller of barley's office operated from the same location and within essentially the same architectural facilities for hundreds of years, from the mid-sixteenth to the early nineteenth century.
The Barley Storehouse was a seemingly impenetrable building, described by the seventeenth-century Ottoman explorer Evliya Çelebi as “a small citadel,” with a single metal door on its north, or water, side. In a restoration inventory dated 1820, its dimensions are noted as 14 by 30 meters.32 Inside, a narrow catwalk accessed by stairways at both ends crossed the building's full length. This catwalk likely aided the loading of grain into the storage bins below. A second and smaller storehouse stood behind the main building, the capacity of which was approximately 1,300 tons (50,000 kile). The Wheat Trust granary, meanwhile, converted to a straw storehouse in the seventeenth century, had similar dimensions and capacity. Neither of these granaries displayed obvious indicators of royal ownership, either in adornment or in architectural style. Like the Unkapanı Magazine, they were quotidian buildings, and any state power they conveyed came solely from their location near the sultan's palace and from their relatively large scale (as compared to other nearby or similar structures).
Istanbul's largest granary before the late seventeenth century was the Wheat Trust's Leaded Magazine (Kurşunlu Mahzen), located in Galata across from Bahçekapı (Figures 9 and 10). A conversion of the former Byzantine Fort of Galata (Kastellion), this was originally a rectangular bastion with an undercroft.33 When the Genoese fortified this section of Galata in the early fifteenth century, they added a tall circular tower to the building's northeastern corner. After the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, Sultan Mehmed II renamed the fort the Imperial Magazine (Mahzen-i Sultani) and used it to store gunpowder. Indeed, the use of fortifications as storehouses is an old practice, as evidenced in the Theodosian Code of the fourth–fifth centuries.34 The Ottomans used fortifications to store ammunition, salt, grain, and other valuable commodities. The Citadel of Seven Towers (Yedikule), for example, dominating Istanbul's southwestern edge, was used to store millet to feed livestock destined for the slaughterhouses nearby.35
The Imperial Magazine in Galata became a granary in 1556, near the end of Suleiman the Magnificent's reign (1520–66).36 This coincided with the start of a major drought, which caused authorities to increase the number of storage facilities in the capital city.37 According to the chronicler Selânikî, the city's rising population, changes in the grain supply system, and increasing food demands by the military all challenged food security.38 High-quality wheat was imported from the provinces, stored at the Leaded Magazine, and distributed daily.39 Biscuits were also stored there for the ships of the imperial navy. When the granary became overstocked, as happened in 1576–77, local bakers were forced to purchase the reserves.40
Like the Unkapanı Magazine and the Cellars Trust, the Imperial Magazine was converted from fort to granary by Sinan.41 Sinan's work involved enclosing the bastion with a high, lead-covered hipped roof, thus the granary came to be known as the Leaded Magazine. Resting on a crenellated parapet left over from the old fort and punctuated by several small windows, this hipped roof was the largest of its kind in Istanbul. The Leaded Magazine functioned as a granary until 1676, when it became a storehouse for the New Galata Customhouse; in 1752, the undercroft became a mosque, known today as Yeraltı Cami (the Underground Mosque). The existing perimeter walls and plan of this mosque provide evidence of the granary's original dimensions.42 Its short side was about 35 meters, and its long side about 45 meters. The undercroft, with a ceiling about 3 meters high, was a hypostyle space with eight bays—formed by large piers supporting cross vaults—on the shorter side and ten on the longer. This sturdily built space provided good insulation against dampness and a strong foundation to support ample loads from the 7-meter-high storage area above. Entrances near the western corner on the water side and the center of the northwestern side provided access. The granary interior probably had several stories, with wood floors and storage spaces on multiple levels. Depending on how the grain was stored (as bulk or in wooden bins), the Leaded Magazine's capacity would have ranged from 2,500 to 6,000 tons (97,000–230,000 kile).
The Leaded Magazine was a fortified granary, a stone bastion-like building that powerfully represented the state's public provisioning activities.43 Similar structures had appeared earlier during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in Europe, such as the purpose-built state granaries of Venice, the Magazzini di Terranova near Piazza San Marco—among the largest granaries of the early modern era.44 Behind their uniform, crenellated façade, the Terranova Granaries consisted of four identical blocks separated by narrow alleys (Figure 11; see also Figure 1). Each block had an entrance level, two upper stories, and a small attic floor. There were double stores, or magazzini, on every level, and twenty of them were used for grain storage. The Terranova Granaries had a capacity of 5,500 tons, which indicates that only a limited amount of their building volume was utilized, and that grain was piled as bulk on the floors without bins.45
Linked to the imperial palace, the Bahçekapı granaries and the Leaded Magazine served Istanbul for a hundred years, until the mid-seventeenth century. After that, the Ottoman court effectively moved for several years to Edirne, 260 kilometers to the west.46 The court's temporary removal from Istanbul likely reduced demand for grain there—a hypothesis supported by the fact that several new granaries were built under Ahmed III (r. 1703–30) when he returned the court to Istanbul. Under Ahmed III, the city's main grain reserves moved from the entrance of the Golden Horn to the inner harbor across from Unkapanı, making them more directly accessible to the city's residents.
Shipsheds Turned Granaries: The Imperial Naval Arsenal, Eighteenth Century
Historian Lynne Thornton Şaşmazer has described the early eighteenth century in Istanbul as a time and place where “commodity acquisition by the state expanded into civilian provisioning.” The old economy of subsistence, commodity supply, and redistribution left “little in the way of emergency measures in times of shortage and hardship.”47 This system was unsustainable under the new geopolitical realities of an Ottoman Empire in conflict and, eventually, decline, competing for resources and territory against the Habsburgs and the Russian Empire. The Ottoman state monopolized grain production in the Danubian Principalities, Moldavia and Wallachia, aiming to make the region the breadbasket of Istanbul. It also regularized and increased direct purchases of grain by appointed merchants (mübâya'acı) and provided emergency civilian supplies to the capital city.
Because the navy was responsible for operating grain-ship convoys, and because it was such a major grain consumer, it was put in charge of grain provisioning.48 The Imperial Naval Arsenal (Tersâne-i Âmire) was given charge of the city's reserves and tasked with building new state granaries. In the early eighteenth century, the Arsenal emerged as a major provisioning center alongside Unkapanı. Official purchases by appointed merchants were stored at the Arsenal as emergency civilian supplies. These were then released to the wholesale market only with the Imperial Council's permission. As official purchases increased, the Arsenal's granaries expanded.
With more than one hundred shipsheds and other buildings, the Imperial Naval Arsenal extended across 2 kilometers along the north side of the Golden Horn.49 By the early eighteenth century, as the Ottoman navy transitioned from galleys to galleons, the Arsenal was reorganized and partially rebuilt to adapt to new shipbuilding technologies. This effectively made the old shipsheds obsolete. The easternmost section of the shipyard, extending from the Meyyit landing in Galata to the mouth of the Kasımpaşa stream—called the Old Arsenal, or Tersâne-i Atîk—was selected as the site for the new state granaries (Figure 12).50 Here, old shipsheds became new storehouses.
Since antiquity in this region, shipsheds, called göz or çeşm, had typically been long, narrow enclosures with masonry walls on the longer sides, covered by gable roofs or, occasionally, vaults. These buildings, with slanted floors leading to the water and sidewalls following the slope, provided slipways for galleys. Shipsheds were built in rows, with circulation between them through arched openings in the long walls. Narrow, corridor-like spaces between the sheds provided storage space for rigging equipment. Turning a shipshed into a granary meant walling off the front and back façades and building wooden storage bins inside; these bins were called anbar or sanduk, words referring to storage spaces on ships and on farms. Like the shipsheds they grew from, these granaries were called göz or çeşm; most were parallelograms in plan and oriented with their narrow ends toward the water.
The successful conversion of shipsheds to granaries required the development of a bin system adequate for storing and preserving grain, and this presented significant challenges.51 A document from 1762 detailing the conversion of five adjacent sheds into a single granary—probably the one later called the Sıdkı Bey Storehouses, named for a comptroller of Arsenal granaries—describes this development.52 These particular shipsheds were 41 meters long; four were 10.5 meters wide, and one was 8 meters wide (Figure 13). The document notes the failure of earlier granaries in the Arsenal that had inadequate protections against dampness and in which the grain bins were set directly on the ground. The new project featured a raised floor, 1.1 meters off the ground, supported by a wood foundation with bins placed above. Extensive timber was required, some of which came from decommissioned navy ships. Each storehouse contained two compartments filled with wooden grain bins (each bin measuring 4.1 by 10.5 by 3.4 meters) placed on either side of a central aisle (2.2 meters wide) and covered by wood planks. The bins were supported by columns, beams, and braces to resist the weight of the grain, and their interiors were lined with wood and insulated with waxed cloth (muşamba). The gable roof of each storehouse was laid with tiles and outfitted with lead gutters, and each had its own wooden landing stage. The capacity of each storehouse was 880 tons, and the five together were capable of holding more than 4,000 tons (150,000 kile).
In 1784, large barracks (Kalyoncular Kışlası) were added to the Arsenal to house galleon crew members, and Kasımpaşa Bay was partially filled, which left some of the granaries inland. An engraving by the Spanish traveler Gabriel de Aristizábal shows the Arsenal at that time, with each granary possessing a large door and small windows at the gable end (Figure 14).53 The frigates floating nearby invoke the connection between grain ships and shipsheds turned granaries. The Arsenal's granaries were, in effect, land-bound grain ships, with stocks transferred from one container to another, from ships to granary bins.
In a survey conducted in 1793, the newly appointed grain minister, Ebûbekir Râtıp Efendi, noted that the capacity of the Arsenal granaries—with twenty-eight units in several groups, including the Sıdkı Bey Storehouses, Suluanbar, and Taşanbar—was 25,000 tons (1 million kile), each unit holding about 890 tons (35,000 kile).54 When the Arsenal granaries were full or under repair, portions of the Aynalıkavak Palace adjacent to the Arsenal could be used temporarily for grain storage.55
As the Arsenal granaries expanded, they increasingly became a source of government concern, emerging as sites of corruption, unnecessary overstocking, and even arson.56 State granaries and bread quality came to royal attention, as indicated by many letters written by Abdülhamid I (r. 1773–89) to his officials. The son of Ahmed III—who founded the Arsenal granaries and was dethroned following a 1730 rebellion fueled in part by high grain taxes—Abdülhamid I clearly recognized the importance of adequate grain storage and provisioning for the security of his nation and his rule.
Granaries of the New Order: The Grain Inspectorate, 1793–1839
Wars against the Russian and Austrian Empires during the last quarter of the eighteenth century ended the Ottoman monopoly on Black Sea trade and brought new challenges for the provisioning of Istanbul. During the reign of Selim III (1789–1807), commonly known as the New Order (Nizâm-ı Cedîd), grain provisioning for the capital city was restructured to increase efficiency, decrease losses, and create cash reserves sufficient to fund the state's broad and ambitious reform programs.57 In 1793, the Grain Inspectorate (Zahire Nezâreti) was founded; in terms of bureaucratic structure, this was the first modern Ottoman ministry. Two years later, the Grain Treasury (Zahire Hazinesi), a separate treasury devoted to the grain trade, was established.58 These actions resulted in significant increases in grain purchasing by the Ottoman state, accounting for as much as one-third to one-half of all grain consumed in the capital city.59 New granaries, built near existing ones between 1793 and 1802, became necessary when emergency civilian stores were doubled. However, some existing granaries were taken out of use even as new ones arose.
During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the Imperial Naval Arsenal became the first Ottoman government institution to adopt European scientific and rational standards and methods. In its oversight of state granaries, the Arsenal was charged with everything from ensuring architectural efficiency to the coordination of different governmental projects. While the Grain Inspectorate sought to maintain and expand its storage capacity, the Admiralty repurposed parts of the Arsenal for new shipyard functions, and these changes had negative impacts on the site's granaries. Between 1797 and 1801, the Arsenal's first dry dock was built, as were barracks that replaced existing storehouses on the Galata side. During work on the new dry dock, two of the five sheds of the Sıdkı Bey Storehouses were demolished, and one was converted to a ship-modeling house (endâzehâne).60 Materials from demolished granary buildings were used for new construction.
The only Arsenal building surviving from this period is the Masonry Storehouse (Taşanbar), also known as the Salt Storehouse (Tuz Anbarı) for the role it served after the 1860s.61 Originally, this building consisted of four side-by-side units measuring 11.5 by 40 meters each, with narrow alleys (2.2 meters wide) separating the two outer units from the inner ones (Figure 15).62 Above was a wooden walkway used for loading grain into the bins below. Unlike at the storehouses previously described, which utilized two separate compartments per shed, at the Masonry Storehouse grain stores occupied the full width of each bay. Until the 1810s the bays were divided into three units by wooden screens. Since these alone could not support the weight of the grain, they were replaced by buttressed masonry dividers.
The Arsenal granaries were now confined to an area north of the dry docks, and by the mid-1800s only ten storage units remained. A second granary attached to the south side of the Masonry Storehouse may have been the New Storehouse (Cedid Anbar) described in period documents. These and a few others appear in photographs produced in the mid- to late nineteenth century.63 By that time, these buildings' fronts had been transformed through the addition of shared entrance halls (Figures 16 and 17).
The urgency with which the new Grain Inspectorate worked to increase emergency supplies is illustrated by one of its first efforts: the conversion of two ancient buildings, a bathhouse and a caravansary, into granaries.64 The first of these, Çukurhamam, operated as a granary for fifty years and was unique in being the only state-run storehouse in the city not situated on the waterfront. Originally built in the second half of the fifteenth century, this large former bathhouse stood on a north-facing slope near the Fatih religious complex.65 Çukurhamam was badly damaged during an earthquake in 1766 and fell out of use as a bathhouse, but its location close to the grain market and to the millers of the Unkapanı district made it particularly suitable for reassignment as a granary.
Çukurhamam was destroyed during the second half of the nineteenth century, and its architecture is known only through descriptions left by the French architect and traveler Charles Texier, who visited the site in 1839 (Figure 18).66 The former bathhouse had been designed with two identical halves, one for men and one for women. Each featured a large, cubic entrance hall, a frigidarium (soğukluk), a tepidarium (ılıklık), and a caldarium (sıcaklık). Nearly every spatial unit was domed. With a footprint measuring approximately 1,600 square meters, Çukurhamam was identical in volume to the Leaded Magazine.
A construction document in the Ottoman Archives dated August 1793 shows early plans for the building's conversion from bathhouse to granary.67 Such a conversion would have involved building a raised wood floor that covered the full interior, and then, in each half of the building, transforming the old dressing rooms (camekan) of the frigidarium (which encircled the central hall on two floors) into double-stacked grain bins 11 meters in height, installing a walkway accessed by stairs atop these bins, and building additional storage bins inside the tepidarium and caldarium. This early version of the project was never realized because of economic considerations. Instead, the Çukurhamam granary operated as a dilapidated, makeshift affair whose design deficiencies led to the widespread damage of its stock. The Ottoman chronicler Ahmet Lûtfî Efendi, writing of the severe food shortage of 1829–30, noted that only after the main state granaries emptied did people resort to the decayed reserves from Çukurhamam: “stinking, rotten chunks of hardened millet, rye, and Indian corn.”68 Assuming that the grain was stored in bulk, the approximate capacity of Çukurhamam was 1,000–1,500 tons—far less than the 1793 project would have allowed.69
The Grain Inspectorate's second conversion project involved a caravansary near the Üsküdar landing, on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. Originally called the Kurşunlu Han, or the Leaded Khan, this was realized by Sinan in the 1540s as part of the Mihrümah religious complex.70 Called the Imperial Storehouse (Beylik Anbar) after its conversion, this was a 20-by-60-meter hall with masonry walls, small clerestory windows, and a lead-covered gable roof, its long side parallel to the waterfront. An old, purpose-built storehouse of a size and shape similar to the Leaded Khan stood directly across from it inside the original Mihrümah religious complex, and together these buildings symmetrically framed the central mosque and the surrounding waterfront square (Figure 19).71
Operating as a granary until the 1930s, the Imperial Storehouse was demolished to make room for the enlargement of the Üsküdar landing square. Its interior arrangements are unknown, but it was probably similar to other enclosed khans designed by Sinan, such as the Sultan Suleiman Caravansary in Büyükçekmece (mid-sixteenth century).72 These khans typically consisted of three rows of pillars supporting impressive wood trusses. Raised platforms on the long sides provided resting places for guests (Figure 20).73 Following its designation as a granary, the Imperial Storehouse operated for four and a half years without significant modification until its remodeling in 1797–98, part of the larger granary construction efforts then ongoing in Öküzlimanı (discussed below). Its remodeled interior was probably divided into three bays, like the Arsenal granaries—one used for circulation, the others for grain bins. Bin dividers are mentioned in period documents, but neither their width nor their height is specified.74 It seems highly likely that the column rows and raised platforms of the former caravansary defined the layout of the new granary.
The newly converted Imperial Storehouse was a larger version of sixteenth-century storehouses like the Bahçekapı granaries and the Unkapanı Magazine. It is notable that during the late eighteenth century, while Sinan's magazine in Unkapanı was still serving the wholesale market, a caravansary he produced for the Üsküdar waterfront was also being converted into a granary.
The Grain Inspectorate's conversion of old monuments into granaries focused on fitting wooden bins into existing structures, with little further architectural modification. As the case of Çukurhamam shows, this did not always work, and many converted granaries resorted to storing lower-quality but durable (i.e., rot-resistant) grains such as kokoroz (Indian corn). Such facilities were the last resort among the city's emergency stores, and their use demonstrated the level of scarcity of high-quality grains.
Treasury of Abundance: The Öküzlimanı Granaries
The main architectural achievement of the Grain Inspectorate was the construction of new, purpose-built granaries between 1797 and 1802. Located at Öküzlimanı (Oxen's Harbor, also known later as Paşalimanı, or Pasha's Harbor), these stood 700 meters north of the Üsküdar landing and the Imperial Storehouse (see Figure 4).75 Unlike earlier granaries, the new granaries stood on the Asian side of the Bosphorus rather than the European side. Historians have interpreted this move as motivated by the Grain Inspectorate's desire to provision Istanbul from the Anatolian provinces should Black Sea reserves be threatened (as they often were).76 Also, these granaries supplied the large army barracks built near Üsküdar for Sultan Selim's new army. The increasing prestige of this side of the Bosphorus, marked by the presence across Üsküdar and Öküzlimanı of the Beşiktaş Palace, summer residence of the court, might have been another factor. In any case, locating the new granaries there removed half of the city's emergency reserves from the wholesale market, Unkapanı, and the Golden Horn—near the city's main population center. Perhaps the government sought to distance the new state granaries from old institutions and practices—including demanding guilds and corrupt storekeepers—to a more remote and defensible place.
An official report from 1797 in the Ottoman Archives indicates that the move involved several of the major players in Istanbul's grain provisioning system: the Admiralty; the Grain Inspectorate; the court's head architect, Mehmet Arif Ağa; and other experts, including an engineer from the Arsenal.77 The granaries were designed, and a wooden model was presented to Sultan Selim for his approval. A former fruit orchard in Öküzlimanı was selected as the site, having been found climatically agreeable and suitable for the placement of eight storehouses and a new stone quay long enough for eight to ten ships. Each storehouse would hold 3,800 tons (150,000 kile) of grain, and together they would have a capacity equal to that of the Arsenal granaries.78 Each end of the quay would be marked by a surveillance-related structure: a double-story office (divanhâne) for the granary inspector (anbar emini) at the southern end and a police station at the northern end (Figure 21).79 Construction was divided into two stages: three storehouses would be built, along with foundations for three more, the latter to be completed at a later date.
The first three storehouses (known collectively as the Old Storehouse, or Anbâr-ı atîk) opened in 1798, and the second three (the New Storehouse, or Anbâr-ı cedîd) were finished in 1802. Space for two additional storehouses was reserved for future expansion, but these were never realized. Inscriptions for the gates of the Öküzlimanı Granaries were written by Sheikh Galip, a prominent poet of the era. In these, Galip celebrated Selim's benevolence as builder of granaries and provider of food for the city's people (cümle-i evkâtde mevcûd akvât); he asked that the Lord turn these storehouses into a “treasure of abundance” (kenz-ül berekât).80 In other words, a full granary was a treasure house, an empty one a mere shell.
The 1797 report identifies two architectural precedents for the new granaries in Öküzlimanı: the existing granaries at the Imperial Naval Arsenal and the granaries at Rusçuk, Wallachia (present-day Ruse, Bulgaria). The reference to the so-called three-storied granaries at Rusçuk points to the use in Öküzlimanı of the stacked-bin granary type, with separate levels for circulation and ventilation. Such a design also enabled the separation of grains according to type, storage duration, quantity, quality, and other factors.81
A map of Istanbul produced in 1815 indicates that the Öküzlimanı Granaries were “constructed by Monsieur Kauffer,” who was, in fact, the map's creator as well. François Kauffer was a French cartographer and engineer who helped plan several structures in Istanbul and the Ottoman provinces during the late eighteenth century.82 Kauffer might have been “the engineer from the Naval Arsenal” noted in the 1797 report on Öküzlimanı. He might also have been involved with the design of the Rusçuk granaries. Along with J. G. Monnier, Kauffer served the Ottoman state in fortifying Danube towns like Rusçuk, towns that were terminals for grain produced in that region.83 Historian Ayhan Han mentions the contributions of an anonymous French engineer to the construction of Rusçuk's granaries.84 This engineer, who proposed a stone granary with a wood frame, might well have been Kauffer, who claimed to have built granaries in his native France and to have studied granaries in other countries.85 The authorship of the Öküzlimanı Granaries was a topic of debate when these facilities first opened. According to Ulrich Jasper Seetzen, a German traveler who saw the recently completed granaries several times between December 1802 and February 1803, “The construction was realized partway by French, partway by Turks. But as we have heard French contribution was more.”86
European state granaries of the eighteenth century, specifically French ones, are well documented. Often monumental in their scale and form, they lacked the stacked-bin storage systems seen at Rusçuk and Öküzlimanı.87 Most were built of masonry, with large windows and ornamental refinements such as pedimented entrances. An excellent example is the Grenier d'Abondance in Lyon, designed to hold enough grain to feed that city's residents for a full year.88 This 130-by-18-meter building had two symmetrical wings on either side of a central staircase behind its entrance. Grain was stored in bulk in vaulted halls, piled as high as 70–90 centimeters. The Palazzo dei Granili in Naples, built in 1779 under Ferdinand IV, was another notable European granary (see Figure 2).89 With four stories and dimensions of 560 by 30 meters, it apparently had ample storage space. Some European state granaries did feature wood structures—including the Terranova Granaries in Venice and an unrealized eighteenth-century Prussian project for an ideal, multistory corn magazine—but these were similar to masonry ones in that bulk storage was limited to the lower levels, with ventilation openings above.90
Istanbul's Öküzlimanı Granaries are still standing, having been converted in 2011 to performance spaces for the companies of the Turkish State Opera and Ballet (Figures 22 and 23).91 Like the Arsenal granaries across the Bosphorus, they are long, attached buildings. Each of the six storehouse bays measures approximately 48 meters long with a square section (11.5 by 11.35 meters). Walls are of masonry construction with sandstone covering the waterfront façade. Windows open up the front and rear façades, while the lateral walls are blank.92
Öküzlimanı's Old Storehouse has a unified front façade, with each bay capped by a concealed hipped roof. The entrance level is accessed through a single two-story archway, which is framed with baroque-style inlaid marble ornaments. Above this are small square windows with stone surrounds. The New Storehouse is similar but with a few variations: each of its bays is defined by a fenestrated gable end, the windows are larger and rectangular, and the window surrounds have tympana. Unlike the baroque-style portal at the Old Storehouse, the New Storehouse's portal is neoclassical in style, with a marble pediment supported by two columns topped with composite capitals. Despite minor stylistic variations, both of these buildings represent their royal patronage through the regularity of their compositions and the richness of their details.
All that remain today from the Öküzlimanı Granaries' original architecture are these outer envelopes. However, a building survey of 1802, produced after the New Storehouse's completion, provides evidence of the granary's former interior arrangements (Figure 24).93 The building had three bays, each with its own door accessed from the small entrance hallway. The interiors were almost totally filled with wooden bins (each 4.5 by 6.85 by 4.87 meters) stacked one over another and standing on foundations of short brick pillars. The bins were placed on either side of narrow central aisles (1.5 meters wide), above which were wooden walkways on two levels, reached by winding staircases. This stacked-bin system was designed with the idea that grain reserves would circulate continuously. The bins were connected vertically by wooden pipes (kubur), which allowed reserves to be circulated from the upper to the lower units. Made of wooden beams, columns, and nailed braces, the units were lined with wood. There were twelve double-stacked bins on each bay, and seventy-two bins per building.94 The New Storehouse had a capacity of 2,700 tons (one-third less than estimated in the 1797 report).95 The 1802 survey makes no mention of covers for the upper bins, an absence that sometimes led to grain rot.96
The Öküzlimanı Granaries represent the integration of innovative and traditional features. The proportions of each storehouse unit, the width of the bays and length of the compartments, as well as their placement in rows, are similar to what we find at the Arsenal granaries. The raised foundations and the division of compartments into smaller bins—where grain reserves were separated according to type, place of origin, quality, and storage duration—are other shared features. The earlier shipsheds turned granaries thus initiated arrangements that became standard in later, purpose-built granaries such as those at Öküzlimanı. But Öküzlimanı's design featuring double-stacked bins accessed by walkways on three levels was a novelty, one that doubled storage space within the same footprint.
Like the architecture of other Ottoman New Order institutions, the Öküzlimanı Granaries blended long-standing local building traditions with new ideas, including fashionable European architectural styles. In the case of granaries, this meant reconciling maximum storage capacity with the sometimes inconvenient or inefficient formal and symbolic requirements of modern state institutions. Yet the multistory state granaries of early modern Europe and the Ottoman Öküzlimanı Granaries differ markedly in their ratios of building volume to storage capacity (Figure 25). However attractive the architecture of European exemplars may have seemed, Öküzlimanı's compact, double-stacked bin system provided far greater capacity than Europe's low-lying bulk storage systems. Archival records show that the Öküzlimanı Granaries held three times as much grain as Venice's Terranova Granaries within a similar architectural volume.
In the decades following the establishment of the Grain Inspectorate and construction of the Öküzlimanı Granaries, these institutions confronted multiple food security challenges. The Ottoman state fought for survival against both external and internal forces, suffering great losses of territory, secession struggles, coups, civil upheaval, and other problems. Unmolested for centuries, Istanbul now was almost constantly under siege: in 1807 by the British commercial blockade, in 1827–28 by Russian incursions on Thrace and the Bosphorus, and in 1833 by Kavalalı Mehmed Ali's army in Anatolia. And yet, while there were grain shortages, and while the grain and the bread made from it were often of dubious quality, Istanbul was sustained by its state granaries.
These granaries ran into frequent problems, however. Emergency reserve amounts were generally sufficient, but management was often lackadaisical. Rotation of grains, crucial to preventing spoilage, was poorly organized. Although the state moved half its grain stores from Unkapanı to Öküzlimanı, market forces continued to affect official purchases, and wasteful overstocking continued. The Grain Inspectorate was infested with corruption, while increasing government intervention in the grain trade made officials vulnerable to public discontent, especially during times of scarcity. When Selim III, founder of the Grain Inspectorate, was dethroned, scarcity of grain and inferior-quality bread were blamed. Mobs attacked Öküzlimanı, sparing the granaries but burning down the police station.
Despite all of this, the New Order's food security efforts were generally effective. The granaries outlasted the Grain Inspectorate and served Istanbul until the mid-nineteenth century, when state grain provisioning was abolished and the market privatized.
The state granaries of early modern Istanbul represent an important case of food security governance. Beginning in the sixteenth century, grain imports in Istanbul were directed toward the wholesale market in Unkapanı and, through this, to the city's bakers' and millers' shops and ultimately to the citizens of the metropolis. The system faced serious challenges, including the possibility of losing the scattered grain reserves to fire while they were stored at flimsy shops, scarcities caused by military action and demands, and natural calamities.
Yet the city, center of an empire rich in alternative grain resources, could have fed its people even without a local state granary infrastructure. In hard times, it could draw upon the reserves at grain production centers nearby, at Bursa or Rodosçuk, for instance. When, during the first decades of the seventeenth century, the imperial provisioning system was plagued by severe droughts and provincial rebellions, the state did not restructure the capital's food security regime. Instead, the capital simply consumed more resources from the provinces, even though this caused still more unrest throughout the empire. “The climate of rebellion,” as environmental historian Sam White has noted, changed the ecology of the empire but had little impact on the architecture of grain provisioning in Istanbul.97
Before the eighteenth century, Istanbul's state granaries were essentially large storehouses serving the army, the royal court, religious institutions, and state officials. During the eighteenth century, the imperial food provisioning system was transformed. The traditional system of storage by bakers and millers continued, but the state now kept public emergency supplies in large granaries at the Imperial Naval Arsenal. The government emerged as a major grain purchaser and wholesale market player. Grain provisioning began to occupy the state on a large scale, becoming part of the daily brief of the Imperial Council and the sultans. The management of emergency supplies in state granaries became a criterion for the government's success.
The hastily built shipshed granaries of the eighteenth century displayed the vulnerability of this food security regime and the precariousness of the government that ran it. Thus, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, public grain provisioning in Istanbul was consolidated and institutionalized under a separate ministry of grain, with its own treasury. Income from this ministry was a major source of funds for ongoing state reforms, and so the state and the nation's food security governance became inseparable. The great age of state granaries in Istanbul had begun, and government-supplied grains now accounted for up to half of the city's consumption. Between 1793 and 1802 the Grain Inspectorate increased reserve capacity by converting derelict buildings into granaries and by building new storehouses. Over the next four decades, the Grain Inspectorate exemplified New Order bureaucracy at its best.
That bureaucracy's meticulous records of food security governance and building operations tell us much about the era's architectural culture. Early modern Istanbul's state granaries—from the early elongated magazines and enclosed khans to the converted shipsheds, bathhouses, and caravansaries to the multistory purpose-built granaries—represented the Ottoman Empire's efforts to conserve, convert, and hybridize its architecture and to develop its food storage system in innovative ways.
This article has underlined the importance of understanding grain storage systems and their impacts on state granary architecture and the resources it represented. Istanbul's granaries of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were often relatively small in scale and formally unassuming, yet they were built around highly compact and condensed systems of grain bins. Their exterior scale and form—possibly suggestive of low production and limited resources—concealed their efficiency, capacity, and contained wealth.98 This was a major difference from the granaries built in early modern Europe, the architectural splendor of which frequently veiled inefficient storage systems. Istanbul's granaries demonstrate why attention to unpretentious architecture and all-but-visible infrastructure is so important. The humble architecture of these granaries indicated neither incompetence nor backwardness but rather adaptation and efficiency, and the promise of abundance.