Nurbanu Sultan

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Afife Nurbano Sultan
Apartments Valide Sultan Topkapi March 2008pano.jpg
Reconstructed scene of a Valide Sultan and her attendants in her apartments at Topkapı Palace
Born Cecili Venier-Baffo, or Kale Kartanou, or "Rachel Marie Nassi"
Páros, Cyclades Islands, Republic of Venice
Died 7 December 1583 (aged 58)
Resting place
The tomb of Sultan Selim II located in Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Ethnicity Italian
Known for Valide Sultan
Religion Judaism converted to Islam
Spouse(s) Selim II
Children Esmehan Sultan
Murad III
Şah Sultan
Fatma Sultan
Parents Nicolò Venier and Violanta Baffo or Joseph Nassi

Nurbano Sultan (fully Devletlu İsmetlu Afife Nûr-Banû Vâlide Sultân Aliyyetü'ş-Şân Hazretleri; Ottoman Turkish: نور بانو سلطان, ca. 1525 – 7 December 1583) was the favourite consort and later wife of Sultan Selim II of the Ottoman Empire, mother of Sultan Murad III, and de facto co-ruler as the Valide Sultan for nine years from 1574 until 1583. She was either a Venetian of noble birth or a Spanish Jew.[1] Her birth name may have been Cecilia or Olivia Venier-Baffo,[2] or Rachel Marie Nassi.[3]

Biographical theories[edit]

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

Cecilia or Olivia[edit]

According to Venetian records, Cecilia or Olivia was presumably the natural daughter of Nicolò Venier, a Lord of Páros, by Violanta 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".

Rachel Marie Nassi[edit]

According to Ottoman records, Rachel Marie was the sister of Joseph Nassi, who was in a very close relationship with Nurbanu's husband. Being a Jewish, she gave priorities to the Jewish people of Istanbul and Manisa.

Time as a Sultana[edit]

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[edit]

After Nûr-Banû became the Valide Sultan to her son Murad III, she effectively managed the government together with the Grand Vizier Sokollu Mehmed Pasha, who acted as co-regent with the sultan during 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, she died 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 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 highly dependent on the Ottoman Empire during the regency of Sultâna Afife Nûr-Banû because her policies were extremely pro-Jewish.

Charitable establishments and philanthrophy[edit]

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. ^ Stanford J. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey, Volume 1. page 178
  2. ^ Valeria Heuberger, Geneviève Humbert, Geneviève Humbert-Knitel, Elisabeth Vyslonzil, Cultures in Colors, page 68. ISBN 3-631-36808-9, 2001
  3. ^ Godfrey Goodwin, The Private World of Ottoman Women, Saqi Book, ISBN 0-86356-745-2, ISBN 3-631-36808-9, 2001. page 128,

External links[edit]

Ottoman royalty
Preceded by
Ayşe Hafsa Sultan
Valide Sultan
15 December 1574 – 7 December 1583
Succeeded by
Safiye Sultan