Located at the historical peninsula of Istanbul, the German Fountain can be found at the northern end of the Hippodrome in Sultanahmet. Constructed as a present from German Emperor Wilhelm II in 1898, it represents one of the most beautiful monuments in Istanbul.
Istanbul’s historic peninsula is surely one of Istanbul’s highlights and offers many interesting sights including the city’s landmarks Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Not far from those imposing structures you can find the German Fountain (Alman Çeşmesi) located at the northern end of the Hippodrome. Together with its magnificent dome it stands as an important symbol of the close relationship between the Ottoman Empire and Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. During that time, Germany increasingly gained political influence in the Middle Eastern sphere, which would last until the Ottoman German alliance in the First World War. The fountain was built in 1898 to remember the visit of the German Emperor Wilhelm II in the same year.
An imperial visit in 1898
During his emperorship, Wilhelm II, German Emperor and King of Prussia, visited several countries in the Middle East starting in Turkey on 18 October 1989. Reason for this was to create a German sphere in the Middle East where Germany could sell its industrial goods. This was also of importance to the Ottoman emperor Sultan Abdulhamid II since his empire was in need of financial help from the European nations after the war with Russia in 1877/78. Thus, the Sultan did his utmost to impress his German counterpart. In celebration of his visit, old Constantinople was turned into a large construction site: Sultan Abdulhamid II commissioned new streets to be build, city walls to be patched and ruins to be whitewashed. Ultimately, the visit of a coroneted friend did not happen often.
After a huge ceremony at the riverbanks of the Bosporus to welcome the German Emperor and his wife, the Sultan gave them opportunity to experience five days of living the dream of 1001 nights. The imperial couple was offered the finest dishes served on golden tableware, generous presents and exclusive entertainment. Wilhelm II was deeply impressed by the Sultan’s efforts and thus wanted to thank him in a special way. As remembrance of his visit to Istanbul, Emperor Wilhelm II commissioned the German architects Spitta, Schoele and Carlitzik as well as Italian architect Anthony to draft and construct a beautiful fountain for Sultan Abdulhamid. It was manufactured in Germany and then sent to Istanbul where it was compounded at its current location. According to an Ottoman inscription on the fountain, the construction started already in 1898. The initial plan was to inaugurate the fountain on 1 September 1900, the day of Abdulhamid II’s 25th throne anniversary. However, due to a delay in the construction period the fountain was only inaugurated three weeks later.
Neo-Byzantine architecture and golden Mosaics
The fountain is composed of a dome, which is carried by eight porphyry columns positioned on marble socket. Its design is strongly influenced by German Neo-Renaissance but also contains aspects of earlier Ottoman fountains. Undoubtedly, the fountain’s most beautiful aspect is its copper dome. Its inside is covered with golden mosaics incorporating colorful stones and geometric motifs. At the southwestern side of the fountain, eight steps lead to the inside. The remaining sides are decorated with water dispensers made of brass. A bronze tablet indicates the gratefulness of the German Emperor: “Wilhelm II Deutscher Kaiser stiftete diesen Brunnen in Dankbarer Erinnerung an seinen Besuch bei seiner Majestät dem Kaiser der Osmanen Abdul Hamid II im Herbst des Jahres 1898” (Wilhelm II, German Emperor, donated this fountain in grateful remembrance of his visit to the Ottoman Emperor Abdul Hamid II in fall 1898).