Nurbanu Sultan

Afife Nûr-Banû Vâlide Sultân

Reconstructed scene of a Vâlide Sultân and her attendants in her apartments at Topkapı Palace
Born Cecilia / Olivia Venier-Baffo or Rachel or Kale Kartanou
Páros, Cyclades Islands, The Most Serene Republic of Venice
Died 7 December 1583
Resting place The tomb of Sultan Selim II located in Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Known for Valide Sultan
Religion Judaism or Catholicism at birth, subsequently converted to Islam after her capture
Spouse Ottoman Sultan Selim II
Children Ottoman Sultan Murad III
Parents Nicolò Venier and Violanta Baffo or another Jewish or Kerkyraen family

Afife Nûr-Banû Sultâna or Devletlu İsmetlu Afife Nûr-Banû Vâlide Sultân Aliyyetü'ş-Şân Hazretleri (Daulatlu Ismatlu Afife Nûr-Banû Validā Sultâna 'Aliyāt ûsh-Shân Hazrātlāri) (née Olivia / Cecilia Venier-Baffo[1] or Rachel[2]) or Kale Kartanou (ca. 1525 – 7 December 1583) was either a Venetian of noble birth or a Spanish Jew.[3] She was the mother of Sultan Murad III of the Ottoman Empire and his de facto co-regent as the Valide Sultan for nine years from 1574 until 1583.


Biographical theories

The resting place of Afife Nûr-Banû Valide Sultan is located in the mausoleum of her husband Ottoman Sultan Selim II in Hagia Sophia at Sultanahmet in Istanbul, Turkey.
The Mimber of The Hagia Sophia Mosque, the burial place of Afife Nûr-Banû Valide Sultan.
The burial place of Afife Nûr-Banû Valide Sultan is located inside the tomb of Ottoman Sultan Selim II in Hagia Sophia at Sultanahmet in Istanbul, Turkey. (The exterior view)

Currently, there exist three living theories about the ethnic roots of "Sultanâ Nûr-Banû".

Cecilia or Olivia

According to Venetian records, Cecilia or Olivia was presumably the natural daughter of Nicolò Venier, a Lord of Páros, by Violante Baffo. She was the niece of the Doge of Venice, Sebastiano Venier. She was captured when the Turks conquered the Cyclades island of Páros, where she was born, during the 1537 war, abducted from there and taken to the royal harem of Ottoman Prince Selim II in Istanbul, where she was renamed "Afife Nûr-Banû".


According to the Ottoman records, her birth name was Rachel, her mother was Violante Baffo, and her father was a Jew who used to live in Spain. This theory is deduced from the letters of Sultâna Safiye sent to The Most Serene Republic of Venice with her signature "Baffo, mother of Mehmed III".

Kale Kartanou

Recent investigations revealed that a third theory about the ethnic origins of "Sultana Nûr-Banû" may exists, as well. The island of Kerkyra was substantially flourished during the Venetian administration. She withstood two famous sieges by the Turks. The first of these took place in the year 1537. She was conducted by the world-famous Kapudan-i Derya Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha. The story tells how long and terrible the siege was, but the Turks finally compelled to withdraw. They did not go empty-handed, however. They led off as slaves thousands of the inhabitants, men, women, and children. These Kerkyraeans were brought to the market of Constantinople, where they were publicly sold at auction, after a proclamation was heralded that whosoever desired to buy at a low price good Christian slaves could be suited in the Kerkyraean captives. Moustoxydes, a Kerkyraean who in the last century was noted as a historical investigator, narrates the following characteristic though unproven and somewhat inconsistent story. He says that among these ill-starred slaves was one who afterward became famous. Her name was Kale Kartanou. She and her mother and brother were carried off. They were separated in captivity and noone knew the fate of the others. Years afterward the mother was redeemed by some Christian, and wandered back to her native Kerkyra. The brother of Kale also succeeded in gaining his liberty, and returned. But Kale when carried off was a mere child seven years old. She was brought to the palace and kept there, and became the property of Sultan Selim, and the mother of his successor on the throne of Constantinople. In the Ambrosian library of Milan there is still preserved an official copy of a letter which was forwarded through Venetian diplomats to Kale Kartanou, after she had become sultana, a letter from her mother asking that the sultana take her to Constantinople. Together with this letter is preserved a note from the sultana, ordering certain officials to aid her mother in reaching Constantinople. We have no information as to whether the mother actually succeeded in again seeing her daughter or not. The wisdom of Kale was regarded as wonderful, and became proverbial in Constantinople. Being carried off so young, she did not keep her Christian faith, at least openly. But a tradition states that she baptized her son, through a dim remembrance that it was proper to do so.

Afîfe Nûr-Banû as a Sultâna

Nurbanu Sultan is buried in the mausoleum of Sultan Selim II located at The Hagia Sophia Mosque in Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey. (The interior invocation area)

Nurbanu became the most favored consort of Ottoman Sultan Selim II, who was put on the throne in 1566, and the mother of Ottoman Sultan Murad III. When Selim II died in 1574, she concealed his death and hid his corpse in an icebox until her son Murad arrived at Istanbul from the Province of Manisa, where Murad was the governor. Twelve days later, upon Murad III's accession to the Ottoman throne, Nûr-Banû acquired the title of Valide Sultan.

Foreign politics of Sultâna Nûr-Banû

Venetian records claims that Nûr-Banû became the Valide Sultan to her son Murad III managed the government together with the Grand Vizier Sokollu Mehmet Pasha, who acted as co-regent with the sultan in the Sultanate of Women. Her intermediary to the world outside the harem was her "kira", Esther Handali. "Kira" was so popular means of communication with the outside world when Nûr-Banû was the Valide Sultan that the two women were said to have been lovers. She corresponded with the queen Catherine de' Medici of France. During her nine years of regency (1574 - 1583), her politics were so pro-Venetian that she was hated by the Republic of Genoa. Some have even suggested that she was poisoned by a Genoese agent. In any case, her demise was a suspicious death at her Palace in the Yenikapı Quarter, Istanbul on 7 December 1583 ( On the 21st day of the month of dhu l-qa'da, 991 of the Arabic calendar ). Moreover, it has been said that Nûr-Banû was related to Giorgio Baffo, as well as to Safiye Sultan, who was born Sofia Baffo, married to Nûr-Banû's son Murad III, and consequently became the next Valide Sultan of the Ottoman Empire when her son Mehmed III acceded to the throne. On the other hand, the Ottoman records claim that the Republic of Venice became too dependent on the Ottoman Empire during the regency of Sultâna Afife Nûr-Banû because her policies were extremely pro-Jewish.

Charitable Establishments and Philantropical Activities of Sultâna Nûr-Banû

During her nine years of regency, Afife Nûr-Banû Sultana ordered the renowned Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan to build The Atik Valide Mosque and Külliye, a multi-purpose complex of buildings centered around the mosque and composed of madrasah, darüşşifa, khanqah, caravanserai, and Turkish bath at the district of Üsküdar in Istanbul, where previously a "Jewish bath" was located at. The construction of the Külliye was completed and put in commission at the end of 1583, just before the demise of Afife Nûr-Banû Valide Sultan on 7 December, 1583. She was buried at the mausoleum of her husband Ottoman Sultan Selim II located inside The Hagia Sophia Mosque at Sultanahmet in Istanbul, Turkey.


  • Goodwin, Jason, Lords of the Horizons, (1998) - page 160
  • A.D. Alderson, The Structure of the Ottoman Dynasty. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1956.
  • Almanach de Gotha: annuaire généalogique, diplomatique et statistique, Justes Perthes, Gotha, 1880-1944.
  • Burke's Royal Families of the World, Volume II: Africa & The Middle East, Burke's Peerage Ltd., London, 1980.
  • Yılmaz Öztuna, Devletler ve Hanedanlar, Turkiye 1074-1990, Ankara, 1989.
  • Osman Selâheddin Osmanoğlu, Osmanli Devleti'nin Kuruluşunun 700. Yılında Osmanlı Hanedanı, Islâm Tarih, Sanat ve Kültür Araştırma Vakfı (ISAR), Istanbul, 1999.
  • Emine Fuat Tugay, Three Centuries: Family Chronicles of Turkey and Egypt, Oxford, 1963.


  1. ^ Cultures in Colors, Valeria Heuberger, Geneviève Humbert, Geneviève Humbert-Knitel, Elisabeth Vyslonzil, page:68, ISBN 3631368089, 2001
  2. ^ The Private World of Ottoman Women, Godfrey Goodwin, Saqi Book, ISBN 0863567452, page:128, ISBN 3631368089, 2001
  3. ^ History of the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey, Volume 1 By Stanford J. Shaw

External links


Preceded by
Ayşe Hafsa Sultan
Valide Sultan
1574 - 1583
Succeeded by
Safiye Sultan