Monday, January 23, 2017


Rumelihisarı, Sarıyer - Istanbul - Turkey

GPS : 41°05'05.6"N 29°03'24.3"E / 41.084886, 29.056750

 photo rumeli_fortress112.jpg


Rumelihisarı is a fortress located in the Sarıyer district of Istanbul, on a hill at the European side of the Bosphorus. It gives the name of the quarter around it. It was built by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II between 1451 and 1452, before he conquered Constantinople. The three great towers were named after three of Mehmed II's viziers, Sadrazam Çandarlı Halil Pasha, who built the big tower next to the gate, Zağanos Pasha, who built the south tower, and Sarıca Pasha, who built the north tower.

It consists of three large and one small towers, connected by a wall reinforced with 13 small watchtowers. With cannons mounted on its main towers, the fort gave the Ottomans complete control of the passage of ships through Bosporus, a role evoked clearly in its original name, Boğazkesen "cutter of the strait". After the conquest of Constantinople, it served as a customs checkpoint and a prison, notably for the embassies of states that were at war with the Empire. After suffering extensive damage in the 1509 earthquake, it was repaired, and was used continuously until the late 19th century.

It was built by Sultan Mehmed II in four months beginning in the spring of 1452 across the waters from the Anatolian Fortress (Anadoluhisari or Güzelce Hisar) built by his grandfather Sultan Bayezid I (1389-1402). The aim was to establish control of the waterway at this narrowest point of the strait (660 m) where ships would need to approach the shore to avoid the strong currents. A batallion of four hundred soldiers were stationed at the fortress (hisar) beginning in 1452, and prevented the passage of ships with canon fire during the siege of Constantinople. It is hence, also known as the Boğazkesen or the Controller of the Straits.

Rumelihisarı is situated at the narrowest point with 660 m of the Bosporus strait, just opposite of the Anadoluhisarı on the Anatolian side, another Ottoman fortress which was built between 1393 and 1394 by Sultan Bayezid I. The place was chosen to prevent aid from the Black Sea reaching Constantinople during the Turkish siege of the city in 1453, particularly from the Genoese colonies such as Caffa, Sinop and Amasra.

Sultan Murad II (1404-1451), who wanted to ferry his army across the Bosporus, encountered difficulties due to the blockade of the Byzantine fleet. The necessity of a fortress opposite of Anadoluhisarı was well known to the Ottomans. At this place, there was a Roman fortification in the past, which was used as a prison by the Byzantine and Genoese. Later on, a monastery was built here.

In preparation for the conquest of Constantinople, Sultan Mehmed II (1432-1481), son of Sultan Murad II, started to realize the construction of the fortress immediately following his second ascent to the throne in 1451. He refused the plea for peace of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI (1404-1453), who understood the intention of the Sultan.

The construction began on April 15, 1452. Each one of the three main towers were named after the Pashas who supervised their construction, which were later named after them. The sultan personally inspected the activities on the site. With the help of thousands of masons and workers, the fortress was completed in a record time of 4 months and 16 days on August 31, 1452.

Historical documents show that the site was vacant except for the remains of two cisterns and that Byzantine ruins in the vicinity were used to supply stone for the construction. The fortress lost its strategic importance after the fall of Constantinople in 1453 when a second pair of fortresses was built further up the Bosphorus where the strait meets the Black Sea. The Rumeli Fortress became a storage facility and a prison for local and foreign diplomats.

It was repaired immediately after the 1509 earthquake and survived a 17th century fire. It was last repaired by the Ottomans during the rule of Selim III (1789-1807). A large fishing village, inhabited largely by Ottoman Turks who were settled there during the construction of the fortress, developed along the waterfront with seaside mansions built beginning in late 18th century. A new neighborhood (Hisariçi) was formed inside the fortress after it was abandoned in the 19th century. The oldest Ottoman cemetery on European soil is found adjoining the fortress to the south.

The fortress is a walled-in enclosure 250 meters long and 130 meters wide at its longest. It has one small and three large towers (kule) and thirteen small watchtowers (burç). Its total area is 31,250 m2. The towers are named after their vizier donors, who are also believed to have supervised the construction. The walls begin at the Halil Paşa Tower at the water's edge, travel diagonally up the hill to the Saruca Paşa Tower at the northwest peak, continue southward across a valley to the Zaganos Paşa Tower at the southwest peak and descend vertically down to the waters edge to the small Zaganos Paşa tower a hundred meters south of the Halil Paşa Tower.

There are three entrances, one next to each large tower; a shallower outer wall (hisarpeçe) protects the seaside entrance. The peripheries of the Halil Paşa, Saruca Paşa and the Zaganos Paşa towers are 23.3 meters, 23.8 meters and 26.70 meters respectively and their heights are 35, 33.3 and 25.30 meters excluding the conical roofs that once crowned the towers. The last two are round while the first is twelve-sided on the exterior. Inscriptive plaques in Arabic, referring to Zaganos Paşa were found at the southwest tower that is named after him and also at a smaller tower located at the southeast corner, at the water's edge.

The space within each tower was divided up with wooden floors, each equipped with a furnace (ocak); only the Saruca Paşa Tower retains its wooden floors. All towers, watchtowers and walls are topped with crenellations.

The fortress had wooden houses for the soldiers and a small mosque, endowed by Mehmed II at the time of construction. Only the minaret shaft remains of the original mosque, while the small mescid added in the mid 16th century has not survived. Water was supplied to the fortress from a large cistern underneath the mosque and distributed through three wall-fountains, of which only one has remained.

A battalion of 400 Janissaries were stationed in the fortress, and large cannons were placed in the Halil Pasha Tower, the main tower on the waterfront. After a short while, a Venetian ship coming from the Black Sea, which ignored the order to halt by the commander of the fortress, Firuz Ağa, was bombarded and sunk. The cannons were later used until the second half of the 19th century to greet the sultan when he passed by by sea.

After the fall of Constantinople, the fortress served as a customs checkpoint. Rumelihisarı, which was designated to control the passage of ships through the strait, eventually lost its strategic importance when a second pair of fortresses was built further up the Bosphorus, where the strait meets the Black Sea. In the 17th century, it was used as a prison. Rumelihisarı was partly destroyed by an earthquake in 1509, but was repaired soon after. In 1746, a fire destroyed all the wooden parts in two of the main towers. The fortress was repaired by Sultan Selim III (1761-1807).

However, a new neighborhood was formed inside the fortress after it was abandoned in the 19th century. In 1953, the neighborhood was removed by the order of President Celal Bayar and an extensive restoration work began on May 16, 1955, which lasted until May 29, 1958. Older photographs show a series of seaside mansions along the fortress walls, none of which have come to our day. Their place is taken today by a two-lane coastal highway that was built immediately outside the fortress walls in the 1960s.

Since 1960 Rumelihisarı has been a museum and an open-air theater for various concerts at festivals during the summer months. The Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge which spans the Bosporus is located close to the fortress, to the north. A museum was opened by the Ministry of Culture in the Saruca Paşa Tower following the restoration. An open-air auditorium was also built in the courtyard during this time. While this addition is often considered an innovative example of adaptive reuse, it is also criticized for having damaged the historic appearance of the fortress.


WEB SITE : Rumelihisarı Museum

E-Mail :
Phone : +90 212 263 5305
Fax : +90 212 265 0410

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