Jump to content


Balyan Family

  • Please log in to reply
10 replies to this topic

#1 Vigil



  • Banned
  • PipPipPip
  • 665 posts

Posted 08 March 2004 - 12:34 AM

Until the 17th century, architects serving at the Ottoman Empire were either Muslim or had adopted Islam later in life. Most probably, as the result of the reform movement architects from the minorities gained popularity and among them the western educated Balyan family has a distinct place in architecture of the Ottoman Empire. Members of this Armenian family built various palaces, kiosks and summer palaces for the Sultans, which like Sinan’s are among the most famous Ottoman structures. They have used western architecture technique and designs however have not disregarded the traditional Ottoman-Turkish fundamentals. The most important and largest construction the Balyans have built was Dolmabahçe Palace, which is considered to be one of the finest 19th century palaces in the world. The palace carries major characteristics of western architecture however especially with the Ottoman-Turkish elements it does not exactly fit any western style.
Four generations of architects from the Balyan family served six Ottoman Sultans over the course of 100 years. These imperial architects built prolifically in Istanbul and its environs, marking the landscape with land marking artworks. Most are still in use and registered as historical monuments by The Turkish Republic.

Following are some of the artworks of the Balyan family

Krikor Amira Balyan
Old Seaside Palace, Old Beşiktaş Palace, Çırağan Palace. Arnavutköy Validesultan Palace, Aynalıkavak Kasrı, Istanbul Mint, Tophane-Nusretiye Mosque, Selimiye Barracks and Davutpaşa Barracks.

Senekerim Balyan
(? – 1833)
Beyazıt Fire Tower (Beyazıt Kulesi)

Garabet Amira Balyan
Dolmabahçe Palace, New Çırağan Palace, Yeşilköy Hünkar Kiosk, Old Yıldız Palace, Ortaköy Mosque, Armenian Hospital, Beyoğlu Surp Yerrortutyun Church, Kumkapı Surp Asdvadzazin Church, Mimar Sinan University (former cannon forming) building at Tophane, Beşiktaş Surp Asdvadzazdin Armenian Church

Nikogos Balyan
Ihlamur Pavilion, Küçüksu Pavilion, Dolmabahçe Mosque

Sarkis Balyan
Çırağan Palace, Beşiktaş Akaretler buildings, Galatasaray High School, Malta Kiosk, Beylerbeyi Palace

Last Updated : 25.12.2003

Edited by Vigil, 31 May 2004 - 03:37 AM.

#2 Takoush



  • Banned
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,025 posts
  • Gender:Female

Posted 05 November 2005 - 06:55 AM

The artsy and super creative Balyan's are the pride of Armenians. We indeed have to pay homage to the Balyan great family.

Edited by Anahid Takouhi, 05 November 2005 - 09:40 AM.

#3 Zartonk



  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,764 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Մարդկության ու ճշմարտության միջև

Posted 05 November 2005 - 10:58 PM

You might as well say EVERYTHING in the Empire. The Dolabahce Palace is an amazing edifice.

#4 Armat


    A R M A T

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,914 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 06 November 2005 - 08:53 PM

I bought a thick book on Balyan family.I was blown away just how many great architecture was created by them.

#5 Yeghishe_Charents


    Junior Member

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 10 posts

Posted 10 September 2006 - 02:34 PM

hey armat i was wondering where you got that book on since i cant find any on them , btw i got relatives by the last name of balyan smile.gif

#6 kayserili


    Junior Member

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 1 posts

Posted 12 December 2008 - 04:57 PM

hello fellow armanians i am turkish but i do regret the killing on bothe sites during 1915 the reason i am writing here is that i want tho know what is happened and to read about the tragic things that happened during the war one thing is sure the balyan familly had it roots in the city of kayseri what is also my city in turkey

Greetings to all of my fellow countrymen and i mean all of them not just the turks

#7 Johannes



  • Nobility
  • 2,911 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Alép, Syrie

Posted 13 December 2008 - 05:02 AM

QUOTE (kayserili @ Dec 13 2008, 01:57 AM)
Hello fellow Armenians I am Turkish but I do regret the killing on both sites during 1915 the reason I am writing here is that I want to know what is happened and to read about the tragic things that happened during the war one thing is sure the balyan family had it roots in the city of kayseri what is also my city in turkeyGreetings to all of my fellow countrymen and I mean all of them not just the Turks

You are welcomed Kayserili,

Thank you for the kind words, but, if you please, let me tell what i think...

There is no two sides, but one side, which is the Turkish state; the exterminator, and its' isolated Armenian citizens, from Edirne to Bayazid.

#8 hyethga



  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 399 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:The Far side of the Moon

Posted 16 December 2008 - 10:23 PM

Do the Armenian Balyans of this world have anything to do with the Balians from Western Europe? Perhaps some sort of "xarneling" during the Crusades?

#9 Yervant1


    The True North!

  • Super Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 15,409 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 30 September 2016 - 09:47 AM

The Balyan Family: Armenian masters behind Ottoman architecture

The Balyan family was one of the most well-known Armenian families during the Ottoman era. Family members served as imperial architects for years and are remembered as the masterminds behind many palaces, mosques and barracks like the Dolmabahce Mosque and the Beylerbeyi Palace, Daily Sabahwrites.
An Armenian family coming from the province of Kayseri was the origin of nine craftsmen consecutively, and they left their marks on many buildings in Istanbul and its surroundings during the 18th and 19th centuries such as palaces, mosques, churches, mansions, waterfront residences, barracks, schools, hospitals, towers, fountains, weirs and theater halls.

The Balyan Family developed a unique architectural style by blending Europe’s baroque and imperial styles with Oriental ornamental style. Apart from passing down their knowledge and experience from one generation to another, the Balyan Family succeeded in modernizing themselves and making sure they were not forgotten.

Not many people who perform their prayers at the mosques in the Bosporus are aware that some of these mosques have been built by an Armenian.



#10 Yervant1


    The True North!

  • Super Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 15,409 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 03 October 2017 - 12:24 PM

The Armenian Weekly
Oct 3 2017
The Untold Stories of Turkey: An Armenian Island on the Bosphorus

By Raffi Bedrosyan on October 3, 2017



What makes Istanbul beautiful is the Bosphorus ,dividing the city between Europe and Asia. And what makes the Bosphorus beautiful is a series of architecturally magnificent palaces, mansions, and mosques.

Most of these architectural masterpieces on both sides of the Bosphorus are created by one Armenian family of architects: the Balyans. This article will explain the little-known history of the only island in the Bosphorus and its connection to the Armenians, specifically to the Balyans.


View of Constantinople and the Bosphorus, by
Ivan Aivazovsky – Oil of canvas, 1856 (Photo: Sothebys)

Some three generations of Balyans served the Ottoman Sultans in the 18th and 19th centuries, building a multitude of palaces, mosques, barracks, schools, and clock towers for the Ottomans. The Balyans also built churches, schools, and mansions for the Armenian communities all over the Empire, but mostly in Istanbul, and specifically along the Bosphorus.

Among the most notable Bosphorus works by the Balyans are the Palace, Mosque, and Clock Tower of Dolmabahce; Beylerbeyi Palace; Ciragan Palace (now a luxury hotel); Kuleli Military School (used as an orphanage by the British Army after WWI to gather thousands of Armenian orphans rescued from Turkish and Kurdish homes); Ortakoy Mosque; Kucuksu Palace; and several other mansions. The Turkish Tourism Ministry and official guides refrained from identifying the architects of these buildings as the Armenian Balyans until the 2000s and instead mentioned an Italian architect called “Baliani.”


Sarkis Balyan

While the Ottoman Sultans ordered the Balyans to build one palace after another, they started to pile up enormous amounts of debt and had to declare bankruptcy in 1876. The Chief Architect of the Empire, Sarkis Balyan, was owed large sums of money as well, and Sultan Abdulhamid decided to give Balyan the only island in the Bosphorus as compensation against his debt. The island was just a formation of rocks across from the village of Kurucesme, right in the middle of the Bosphorus.

Sarkis Balyan decided to build a summerhouse on these rocks to enjoy with the love of his life, his wife Makruhi Dadyan, the daughter of another famed Armenian family in the service of the Ottoman Empire as suppliers of gunpowder and armaments. Unfortunately, Makruhi died young soon after, because of tuberculosis ,and Sarkis started living in seclusion on the island.

The island became known as Sarkis Bey Island, a meeting point for Sarkis Balyan’s intellectual and artistic friends. One of his guests was famed Armenian-Russian painter Ivan Hovhannes Aivazovski, who always stayed on this island whenever he visited Istanbul. Some of his famous seascape paintings were created there.

Sarkis Balyan passed away in 1889, and, unfortunately, the island was not maintained by his heirs. The government took over the island and started using it as a coal depot for the steamships crossing the Bosphorus. In 1940, the heirs of Balyan were successful in having the island returned to their ownership, but they ended up selling the island in 1957 to Galatasaray Sports Club, one of the most prominent sporting institutions in Turkey. The island was renamed Galatasaray Island and expanded with swimming pools and sports facilities. In 2006, it was leased to a private entity for further expansion with several restaurants, as a high society entertainment center. In 2017, much of the expanded facility was demolished by the pro-Islamic government; at present, there are proposals to build a mosque on the original Sarkis Bey Island.


Dolmabahçe Palace as seen from the Bosphorus (Photo: David Con Fran)

The Bosphorus is connected to Armenians in many other ways. Robert College, the oldest American college outside the United States, was founded in 1863 on the European shores of Bosphorus by Christopher Robert, a wealthy philanthropist, along with missionary Cyrus Hamlin.

Hamlin had learned Armenian to communicate with the first students of the boarding school: Armenian boys. The school expanded rapidly and became a leading educational institution in Istanbul, eventually adding a university with many faculties. Until WWI, most of the students were minorities—Armenians, Greeks, Bulgarians, and Jews. Unfortunately, the Armenian Genocide claimed several Armenian graduates of Robert College, along with the rest of Armenian intellectuals. Prominent Armenian journalist Teotig (Teodoros Lapchinjian), who compiled a list of the Armenian intellectual victims in his 1919 book Memorial to April 24, mentions at least 10 Robert College graduates murdered by execution or massacre.


The Balyan Family Mausoleum (Photo: Daily Sabah)

I will conclude with a personal anecdote. I was also a high school student at Robert College. Our Phys Ed teacher was Abbas Sakarya, the first Turkish wrestling champion who had won international gold medals, the first accredited gymnastics coach, the first founder of a swimming academy, and an all-around sports legend in Turkey. He was a very strict, severe man who never cracked a smile.


Abbas Sakarya

Robert College held annual Bosphorus Crossing swim races from the Asian to the European side. The width of the Bosphorus Strait is about a mile, but with the treacherous currents one has to swim double or triple that distance during the crossing. Along with dozens of other university and high school students, I also participated in the race and ended coming in second among the high school students. Mr. Sakarya congratulated me and, along with a rare smile, whispered into my ear: “Abris,” in Armenian (“bravo”).

At the time, I thought he might have used that word as a complement because he knew I was Armenian. But, years later, near his death at age 97, I found out that this Turkish legendary sportsman and teacher was in fact a hidden Armenian from Bursa—and an orphan of the Genocide.

There are many secret and untold stories about Armenians in Turkey. Turks may not know or may not want to know them, but they must be told.


#11 Yervant1


    The True North!

  • Super Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 15,409 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 10 December 2017 - 11:19 AM

Armenpress News Agency , Armenia
December 7, 2017 Thursday

New book reaffirms Armenian ethnicity of master architects behind
Istanbul's look

YEREVAN, DECEMBER 7, ARMENPRESS. Hundreds of buildings have been built
in Istanbul by the Balyan family.

For many years Turks were denying the fact that the Balyans were
Armenians, but today, this fact is being accepted already in Turkey

Ashot Grigoryan’s “Treasures of the gardens of the Armenian People:
Balyans” book once again affirms the Armenian ethnicity of the Balyan

Head Scientific-Secretary of the A. Tamanyan National Museum-Institute
of Architecture Ashot Grigoryan told ARMENPRESS that collecting an
archive about Armenian architects in foreign countries has been on the
museum-institute’s agenda.

“Upon collecting materials on architects who lived or still are living
in Turkey, it turned out that there is a big gap about the Balyan
architect generation. The Balyan’s were very famous architects in
Turkey, but their Armenian ethnicity was rejected for many years”, he

The book shows facts, how the Balyan’s appeared in Istanbul, who they
were, whether or not it was a coincidence that Armenian architects
were also working in Istanbul even before the Balyans. “And it turned
out that before the Balyans, architect Sinan was working in Istanbul,
and Turkey again denies his Armenian background”, he said.

Grigoryan says materials about the Balyans were found in Italy upon research.

Grigoryan said the Balyan’s have hundreds of works in Istanbul, both
Ottoman and Armenian buildings. “These are palace and military
buildings, residential homes, towers, bridges, dams. The Balyan’s are
also the architects of many districts. They also built churches and
hospitals for the Armenian community. Nearly 90% of their buildings
are preserved today”, he said.

Grigoryan says the DolmabahçePalace of Istanbul is among the most
famous works of the Balyans.

0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users