Gaspare Trajano Fossati
He was born on 7 October 1809 in Morcote in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino (Tessin) in Southern Switzerland. He is the son of a family of many architects and painters in his ancestors. Like his relatives, he studied at the Brera Academy in Milan, whose greatest feature was to teach young people how to build buildings in the Neo-Renaissance style, to be raised as an architect. Since this style was very popular in Russia in those years, young architects were planning to earn money by working there. He graduated from the Gaspare Brera Academy in 1827, and his work on “archive building for a capital”, which he prepared as a diploma project, was highly appreciated and awarded a gold medal.
Fossati roamed Italy in 1828-1831; Staying in Venice and Rome, he drew the reliefs of ancient historical buildings there and returned to Morcote in 1832. With the encouragement of his uncle Giorgio Giugliemo Fossati, who had been working in Russia for a while, he went to Petrograd in Northern Russia in 1832 to earn a living as an architect and decorator. He built some special palaces, churches and houses here since 1833.
XIX. At the beginning of the century, the embassy of the Russian Tsarism in Istanbul consisted of a very large wooden mansion in Beyoğlu, rising at the dominant point of the ridge between the Galata Mevlevihanesi and the neighboring Swedish embassy and Galata Palace, at the upper end of the Tunnel. In one of the major Beyoğlu fires, probably on 23 Safer 1247 (3 August 1831), the embassy building was also completely destroyed.
Encouraged by the end of the war of 1828-1829 in its favor, the Russian Czarism commissioned Fossati to build a more beautiful and more spectacular embassy palace in Istanbul than before. The project prepared by Fossati, who went to Istanbul on May 20, 1837, was approved by the tsar in February 1839 and the work began. Meanwhile, Gaspare Fossati, who took his brother Giuseppe with him, built a magnificent embassy palace here in the Neo-Renaissance or neo-classical style. The construction, which started in 1838 with preliminary preparations, was finished in 1845 with enough to be held for the opening ceremony.
However, its construction with all its details was completed only in 1849. Today, the building seen in a garden on the side of İstiklâl Street facing Marmara and used as the Russian consulate in Beyoğlu is this palace. When the building was first built, it was seen as an expression of the Russian tsarism’s ambitions over the Ottoman Empire and Istanbul, it was said as gossip among foreigners in Beyoğlu, where this magnificent structure was prepared as a residence for the Russian tsar who is believed to have the shores of the Bosphorus in the near future.
In the same years, Fossati also received other orders in Istanbul. Between 1841-1843, he rebuilt the San Pietro Church next to Voyvoda (now Bankalar) street in Galata. In 1845, he bought a property in Beyoğlu with his brother, and in 1846, considering the establishment of a darülfün for teaching according to the Western system, the construction of the building was transferred to Fossati upon the proposal of the Encümen-i Dâniş.
The construction of this magnificent darülfünun building, which rises right in front of Hagia Sophia, in an area of Istanbul with its imposing mass, took many years. It was not used as a darülfünun after it was finished. The first Ottoman Parliament gathered here in 1877. Assembly II. After being dispersed by Abdülhamid, it first became the Evkaf and then the Courthouse Ministry building. Istanbul Courthouse was built in the Republican period. It was finally destroyed by a fire on the night of December 3, 1933.
One of the buildings that Fossati built in Istanbul is a theater he ordered in 1846. This theater, which was built for Nahum on the building island opposite the Galata Palace, and, like all the buildings of that era, was completely wooden and richly decorated in a very flamboyant form, it did not last long. During the Great Beyoğlu fire, he burned down on 11 Rabi ‘al-Awwal in 1287 (11 June 1870).
In the same years, Fossati was ordered to build an archive building in the courtyard of the Sublime Porte. Thus, he had the opportunity to work on the subject he prepared as a diploma project. He built the domed building on the right inside the wide fringed door opposite the Alay Mansion to preserve the archive of the Sublime Porte. In order to protect the documents from fire hazard, the stairs, floor coverings and even the door wings of the building were made of iron at the Istanbul Shipyard.
The most important work undertaken by Fossati in Istanbul has been the repair of Hagia Sophia to a great extent. Sultan Abdülmecid, for some reason, did not give this job to the famous Balyan family, who did all the construction of the Ottoman Empire at that time, and deemed it appropriate for a Western architect to do it. The tender was held in 1846. First, a simple repair that would require 26,000 pouches was considered. However, in 1263 (1847), the inheritance of Şeyhülislâm Mekkîzâde Mustafa Asım Efendi, whose wealth was lost because he died without a child, was allocated to this work. In this repair, where 800 workers worked, the building was reinforced in terms of architecture, as well as its interior and exterior decoration, and some additions were made. In order to keep this very old building alive, Fossati fixed the twelve columns that had slipped from the plumb in the galleries, filled the big cracks in the dome, and took supportive measures for this part.
In addition, he cleaned and polished the marble coverings on the walls of Hagia Sophia and completed the missing parts with plaster. However, when the vaults and arches were sorted out, old Byzantine mosaics emerged from under the whitewash layers. When Fossati came across the first mosaic, he invited Sultan Abdülmecid, and upon the request of the sultan to reveal these paintings, he had the mosaics cleaned. During the work done in the meantime, the ornamental mosaics were left open, only the missing parts were completed with paint, and the Christian signs in between were covered with paint. Piers were set up inside the building, embroideries were renewed, new oil lamps were installed, and revzins, the work of a Turkish master, were placed in the windows of the qibla wall. The enormously rounded eight plates written by Kazasker Mustafa İzzet Efendi inside the mosque were hung on the main platforms to hold the places of the previous square plates.
The additional construction of Fossati in Hagia Sophia is the Kasr-ı Hümâyun and its continuation inside the mosque, opposite the Sultan Ahmed Fountain, near the Bâb-ı Hümâyun. This pavilion, made for the sultan to rest for a short time when he comes to Friday prayer, looks like a small palace space with its interior decoration. Italian artist Antonio Fornari, husband of Fossati’s sister Bianca, embroidered hand embroidery here, while also embroidering a picture of Mecca and Medina on the walls of the great hall of the pavilion, which is illuminated from the top. Only one of these is available today. Fossati also replaces the sultan’s loge, which is located inside the mosque to the left of the mihrab and whose wall is covered with beautiful tiles.
He built a new sultan’s loge, which was adorned with elements taken from the Byzantine architecture of the 20th century and formed a protrusion as a mansion sitting on columns. The madrasah of Hagia Sophia, which belongs to the period of the Conqueror, is the XIX. He rebuilt it in the 21st century style, and also built a muvakkithâne adjacent to the side courtyard door. The foundations of the madrasah, which was demolished in 1935, have been unearthed in recent years. The honeycomb of the brick minaret was raised a little by adding a frieze with garlands where the cone begins, thus ensuring that it is at the same height as the other minarets. Fossati collected the grains of the spilled mosaics and made a medallion of them, made by one of the masters, Lanzoni, with a monogram of Sultan Abdülmecid. Semavi Eyice found this tugra coincidentally in a warehouse of Topkapı Palace, and only after a great deal of effort he had it placed on the wall next to the main entrance of Hagia Sophia.
Fossati’s work in Hagia Sophia was completed on July 13, 1849, and the mosque was opened with a grand ceremony on the first Friday of Ramadan in 1265 (July 27, 1849). On this occasion, a commemorative medal was issued for the British engraver and photographer J. Robertson.
A Prussian architect named W. Salzenberg, who came to Istanbul while the works in Hagia Sophia were continuing, in January-May of 1848, while getting the opportunity to examine the historical building thoroughly with the help of the built piers, he also drew the patterns of the mosaics unearthed. However, Fossati planned to publish these mosaics in a large colorful album and asked the Russian tsar for 6000 rubles.
When the tsar sent only one ring as a gift, this time Fossati put the mosaics aside and prepared an album showing the interior and exterior views of Hagia Sophia and printed it in London in 1852 with the grant he received from Sultan Abdülmecid. This work, which has twenty-five colored plates inside, was published with a very fancy title page stating that it was created with the help of the sultan, with the sultan’s signature on it. 36 × 53 cm. A facsimile of this one-size album was produced in 1980 in a very small size. However, for some reason, this edition does not include the front page expressing gratitude to Sultan Abdülmecid. Shortly after the release of Fossati’s album, in 1854, Salzenberg also printed the paintings of Hagia Sophia mosaics in a large album, and this incident led to a polemic that extended to diplomatic conflicts.
While Fossati was continuing the construction of a new darülfünun building in front of Hagia Sophia, he was also building mansions and mansions for the notables of the state. He built a mansion for Grand Vizier Reşid Pasha in 1847, a house for Kamil Bey in 1850, a new building for the Dutch embassy and a mansion for the Ottoman Foreign Ministry (it is possible that this was the residence of Keçecizâde Fuad Pasha in Kanlıca, which was burned later). In 1856, he proposed to lay a train line from Pangaltı to Büyükdere in Harbiye and announced the cost and schedule of this. In the same year, he built the embassy palace in Cağaloğlu district, which is used for the same purpose today, for the Iranian State.
Although Fossati built some military buildings (water reservoir and kitchen) in Maslak, a hospital in the Bâb-ı Seraskerî, a police station in Eminönü, the Telegrafhâne-i Âmire building next to the Alay Mansion with his brother, none of them exist today. Only one of the tomb projects designed for Grand Vizier Reşid Pasha in the graveyard of Beyazıt Mosque was implemented and the tomb building seen today is one of Fossati’s designs. Fossati prepared a memorial project for Gülhane square upon the declaration of the Tanzimat Edict, but this project could not be implemented.
Gaspare Fossati returned to his hometown Morcote in 1858 and settled in Milan in 1862. Upon the news of the burning of Sarayburnu beach in 1863, he wrote a letter to Sultan Abdulaziz and offered to build a new palace in the same place. Gaspare became Italian in 1869 with his brother Giuseppe. Morcote at home furnished with items brought from Turkey died September 5, 1883 and was buried there
Gaspare’s brother Giuseppe de Ticino was born in Morcote in 1822. He graduated from the Milan Academy in 1839 and went to his brother’s side in the same year to assist in the construction of the Russian embassy building in Istanbul. Between 1845-1846, he built the Catholic Cathedral of Saint Esprit on the slope of Dolapdere, and from 1847 he helped his brother in the repair of Hagia Sophia.
He built mansions on the Bosphorus in 1855 and for Omer Pasha in 1858 with Bugorides, the Bey of Samos. He returned to Morcote in 1859 and offered projects to reconstruct the region after the Hodjapaşa fire in 1865. Giuseppe Fossati also died on March 1, 1891. Growing up in the shadow of his older brother Gaspare, Giuseppe does not seem like a brilliant painter and architect according to his designs and projects. The archive material left by both has been moved to the archive in Bellinzona in Southern Switzerland and is there today. All documents in this archive were overhauled by Semavi Eyice on 25-27 June 1967.