Karaköy, Beyoğlu - İstanbul - Turkey
GPS : 41°01'31.7"N 28°58'27.2"E / 41.025472, 28.974222
The Kamondo Stairs is a gorgeous spot that ties everything in Karaköy together. Donated by Abraham Camondo, a Sephardic Jewish banker, the baroque styled Camondo Stairs (or Camondo steps) offer a shortcut from Voyvoda Street to some of Istanbul’s most tony 19th century neighborhoods.
The name of the Camondo family is recorded in Ottoman documents after 1782 and it is thought to have been built by the Portuguese or Spanish Camondo Family. Banker Avram Camondo, born in Ortaköy in 1781, was one of the partners of the Dersaadet Bank, founded in 1845. The right of confiscation, not given to just anyone but given to only him by means of his friendship with Ottoman Sultan, enable him to confiscate the properties of the people in debt, who could not pay their credit debts, and he became rich in property.
He wanted to make reforms in education, and after facing the strong reaction of his community, the family acquired citizenship of the Kingdom of Italy in 1856. The banking jobs of the family were moved to Paris at the request of Avram and Nissi, grandsons of Avram Camondo, in 1869.
Avram Salomon, died in Paris in 1873, and was buried in his grave, built long before his death in Hasköy. The family business which had continued in Paris ended in 1940 with the German invasion. Many of the Camondo Family members, mentioned in the last years of the Ottoman Empire, died in Nazi camps.
Irene Camondo, the last member of the family, became a Catholic and survived she died after the war. This family is now extinct; the last descendants, Béatrice de Camondo with her two children (Fanny and Bertrand) and with her husband Léon Reinach were deported and murdered in Auschwitz from 1943 to 1945 during World War II. The name of family is living with the staircase, which was built between Bankalar Street and Banker Street in Karaköy between 1870 and 1880.
Camondo Merdivenleri (Camondo Stairs) in Galata (Karaköy - Istanbul) were a public service project donated by the Camondos, a wealthy Istanbul Jewish family. The stairs climb the hill from the Galata docks and Bankalar Caddesi (Avenue of the Banks) up to the fashionable 19th century neighborhoods where the Camondos built an imposing edifice to house a school.
These very special stairs have a hexagonal shape. It is said that this shape was arranged this way, so that if a child would slip while climbing down, the other bevel would prevent them from falling. These stairs were built to facilitate the transport of Camondo’s children to reach school and to cut down Camondos way to the Banks Avenue, built by them as well.
The Camondo Steps, a famous pedestrian stairway designed with a unique mix of the Neo-Baroque and early Art Nouveau styles, and built in 1860 by the renowned Ottoman-Venetian Jewish banker Abraham Salomon Camondo, is also located on Bankalar Caddesi.
The steps lead upstairs to the historic Rue Camondo (present-day Banker Sokak), a parallel side street where the ruins of the Genoese Palazzo del Comune (1316), built by Montano de Marinis, the Podestà of Galata, is located a few meters to the left (west) of the stairway, behind the façade of the 1880s Bereket Han office building on Bankalar Caddesi.
What makes this stairs very special is their hexagonal shape, which - it is said - was arranged so that if a child would slip while climbing down, the other bevel would prevent her or him from falling.
The Camondo family was a prominent European family of Jewish financiers and philanthropists. After the 1497 Spanish decree (that ordered the expulsion of all Jews who refused conversion to Catholicism) the family settled in Venice where some members became famous by their scholarship as well as by the services they rendered to their adopted country.
Following the Austrian takeover of Venice in 1798, members of the family moved to Istanbul where, despite the many restrictions imposed on all minorities, flourished as merchants. In 1802 the family founded the Isaac Camondo & Cie Bank, inherited by Abraham Salomon after his brother Isaac’s death in 1832.
Abraham Salomon prospered greatly, became the prime banker to the Ottoman Empire (until the founding of the Imperial Ottoman Bank in 1863) and financially contributed to the liberation of Venice from the Austrian Empire (for this, the King Victor Emmanuel II conferred upon him the title of count, with the privilege of transmitting it in perpetuity to the eldest son of the family). He died in Paris in 1873 but, in accordance to his wishes, his remains were returned to Constantinople and were buried in the Jewish cemetery at Hasköy, a neighborhood on the Golden Horn in Istanbul.
According to a plaque on the stairs: “Camondo Stairs had been constructed by the Camondo Family around 1870-1880 and repaired by the Beyoğlu Municipality Quincentennial Foundation.” The stairs are sculpturally interesting and in good repair.
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