Well one aspect of the Topkapi palace I drew a veil over and that was the issue of the sacred relics in the Sacred Safekeeping Rooms.
In Ottoman times only the chosen could enter the third court where the rooms are and then only the chosen of the chosen could enter these rooms on special occasions. You know that you are up against it when you find that you aren’t allowed to take photos (and since I didn’t have my phone with me only a large camera I was stuffed – I have “borrowed” these pictures from the Jules and Shell blog which I imagine were taken on a phone). Now anyone can go in it but we are asked to show decorum in this holy of holies and so I went in.
The rooms are seemingly filled with sacred relics from seemingly the early islamic period and the old testament period. Now, I have no idea about the provenance of the Islamic items – the tooth of Mohammed, several pieces of hair, his cloak, his swords (interesting that last one). I will leave these up to others to discuss their provenance.
What I really had to stop myself laughing about were the other items.
The staff of Moses – a stick several feet long with a broken off branch towards the top.
Then there was the cooking pot of Abraham. I mean who came up with that idea? Did they have a spare pot they found out the back of the store?
There was the sword of King David (known as the prophet David in Islam) – remarkable that his sword look so.. well you know.. 16th century Ottoman. I just never had thought that this would be the case. It makes me look at my view of history all over again!
Then my favourite – The hat of Joseph – I never realised that ancient Egyptians wore hats that looked like Ottoman turbans – did you? What a major discovery – all those films of ancient Egypt and all those people wearing headgear on Egyptian hieroglyphics? They were obviously wrong – they wore turbans.
And because the Topkapi is a museum and the dates for when the museum believes the exhibits to be from correspond to the known dates of these Old Testament characters – then they must be right mustn’t they? I mean there is all that testing that can be done. Checking when things were actually made.
The items were gained by the Sultans at the beginning of the 16th century from Egypt which they had just conquered. So in about 1517 they were taken to the Sultan’s palace in Istanbul.
Now excuse me – but what???????????????
It is so obvious that these items are just part of the medieval tradition of relics which (relating back to some of my recent posts here and here) re-enforced the sense of Imperial power. What better way of saying that God has backed your rule than by saying that you are the keeper of the sacred relics. As the Ottoman Empire took over the Byzantine one they presumably wanted to legitimise their rule (just as Old Testament usurpers told people they had been told by God to do this).
So, are these relics from the Old Testament period? This is number 13 in my series of TQTWTAIN (Theological questions to which the answer is no). These are so obviously relics that were whipped up somewhere and churned out.
By the way the last one in this series seems to still be going strong with over 60 comments now! Not always pretty reading but hey!