Galata Palace Corps and Madrasa, 1481–1868
Founded in the early years of the reign of Bayezid II, the Galata Palace Corps was an educational institution where students of Enderun, the palace institution, received their primary and secondary education. As is well-known, the Enderun students were chosen from among devshirme students who attended the Edirne Palace School, İbrahim Paşa Corps, İskender Çelebi Palaces, or the Galata Palace Corps. These students were referred to as “acemioğlanlar” (rookies or cadets).
In order for them to adapt to the Ottoman Empire in every field, these boys received language education, primarily Turkish, Arabic, and Persian. They were trained according to their talents in music, calligraphy, and horse riding, as well as traditional sports such as javelin throw and archery at the abovementioned schools. Among those who successfully completed their education, some were selected to attend Enderun while others were assigned as kapıkulu (“servants of the Porte”). In this respect, Galata Palace Corps had been the most important source of the Ottoman Empire for a very long time, and it owed its success to the discipline achieved within its internal organization. The corps included three barracks of 200 people each and a mosque, Turkish bath, and clinic. It was run by 22 “Agha” (chiefs and commanders), one of whom was the head commander (Bashagha).
The corps also included a surgeon, a doctor, a pharmacist, a clerk, a baker, a bath attendant, a laundryman, and an imam. The teaching staff of the school comprised teachers whose salaries were paid by the palace; seven silver coins (akche) per day were provided. Along with competitions and sports activities conducted regularly every afternoon, the liveliest days were the student–parent meetings that were held every Tuesday. In the 17th century, some students participated in the kapikulu revolt that emerged as a result of internal unrest within the empire and insufficient funding, after which time, the Galata Palace corps and İbrahim Paşa Corps were dissolved.
The corps reopened during the reign of Ahmed III (1703–1730) in 1715 and was subordinated to Silahtar Agha. The corps was divided into three classes: junior, middle, and senior. As the school began to regain its previous significance, the sultans began to award the corps. Accordingly, a rich library was formed, with hundreds of books that were sent from the palace during the reign of Mahmud I (1730–1754). However, education experienced a brief interruption, which had continued smoothly until then, due to the Tophane Fire in 1820.
The school was rebuilt in stone during the reign of Mahmud II (1808–1839), yet dissolved in 1834 when Enderun was abolished. Some buildings were allocated to the Imperial Medical School (Mekteb-i Tıbbıye), and the rest were used as barracks. By 1865, preparatory classes of all military schools (navy, military academy, medical school, and the school of engineering) in Istanbul were brought together under this same roof.