Kapalicarsi or the Covered Bazaar is the collective name given to two bedestens and the series of vaulted commercial streets that surround them, located between the Nuruosmaniye and Bayezid Mosques north of Divanyolu, the main road traversing the historic peninsula heading towards Edirne (Adrinople). It is located at the northern edge of a larger market neighborhood that occupies the southern hillside of the Golden Horn where commercial ships arrived with their loads. From here, the merchandise was distributed to the hans and wholesale markets for distribution throughout the city. Some of these raw goods made their way up the hill to the artisan workshops of the covered bazaar whose streets are named after its artisans: slipper-makers (terlikciler), shoe-makers (kavafcilar), mirror-makers (aynacilar), wash-cloth makers (keseciler), fez-makers (fesciler), comforter-makers (yorgancilar), silk-thread makers (kazazcilar), polishers (perdahcilar), fur-makers (kurkculer), just to name a few.

At the heart of the Ottoman bazaar are two bedestens, or domed masonry structure s designed for safe storage and sale of luxury goods, that were built by Mehmed II (1451-1481) following the conquest in order to revive trade and provide income for the newly converted Hagia Sophia Mosque. Byzantium also had a central market with streets allocated to trades and crafts; however, its exact location and its state at the time of the Ottoman conquest are not certain. It is equally difficult to identify what stood on the site prior to the Ottoman reconstruction. The two bedestens, built less than fifty meters apart facing two different directions, were quickly surrounded by shops and vaulted arcades; scholars estimate that the bazaar had reached a third of its current size by the end of Mehmed II’s rule.

The covered bazaar has gone through many fires and earthquakes, following which it was rebuilt and expanded in an ad hoc fashion. Markets surroundings the bedestens were destroyed by fire in 1546, 1589 and 1618. A fire in 1652 originated in the Old Bedesten and a conflagration destroyed the entire city including the markets in 1660. In 1695 and 1701 fires originated again in the Old Bedesten; the wooden vaults of the surrounding streets were converted to masonry in the following restoration. The fire of 1750 damaged the market and was followed by janissaries looting the site. Repairs were conducted after the 1766 earthquake and fires of 1791 and 1826. Mahmud Celaleddin Pasa (1839-1899), the Minister of Public Works under Abdulhamid II, re-organized the covered market after the 1894 earthquake damaged its structure and vaults. Its size was reduced through removing vaults and detaching hans and new gates were installed on major routes. The structure was reinforced with iron and the vaults were decorated with arabesques. Repairs were conducted in the five years following an earthquake in 1954 and the interior was repainted in 1980. Today, the bazaar retains its 1894 boundaries enclosing 61 streets in an area of 30.7 hectares.

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