Thursday, January 19, 2017


Yedikule, Zeytinburnu - Istanbul - Turkey

GPS : 40°59'37.0"N 28°55'24.0"E / 40.993611, 28.923333

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Yedikule is a neighbourhood of Fatih, Istanbul, Turkey. It is named after the seven towers of Yedikule Fortress that surround the neighbourhood (Yedi kule means "seven towers" in Turkish). The first fortress behind the Golden Gate began being built during the reign of John I Tzimiskes and was completed under Manuel I Komnenos. That fort (Kastellion) had five towers, and was hence also named Pentapyrgion. It was destroyed after the first fall of the city to the Fourth Crusade, and rebuilt only in 1350 by John VI Kantakouzenos.

The new fort featured five octagonal towers, and together with the two marble towers of the Golden Gate, seven in total, becoming known as the Eptapyrgion "Seven Towers". In 1391 however, John V Palaiologos was forced to raze the fort by Sultan Bayezid I, who otherwise threatened to blind his son Manuel, whom he held captive. Emperor John VIII Palaiologos attempted to rebuild it in 1434, but was thwarted by Sultan Murad II.

The towers and ramparts surround Istanbul from southwest is called Yedikule Castle or Yedikule Dungeons. Theodosius I had made a triumphal arch, this arch had been the entrance door of the city in 412, Theodosius II had added two towers at left and right sides of the arch. Generally emperors coming from a triumph passed through the door that led to the biggest street of the city. The front and belt of the door are gilded; hence the door is called as “Yaldızlı Door” (Gilded Door). Kantakuzenos IV added one more tower near each of the tower. In the 15th century the height of the middle fairway was reduced to 4 m to 8 m and this fairway was closed.

After the final capture of Constantinople, Sultan Mehmed II rebuilt the fort in 1457, again with seven towers (four on the Inner Theodosian Wall - towers eight to eleven - and three larger ones behind), as the Yedikule Hisar (Turkish for "Fortress of Seven Towers"). During much of the Ottoman era, it was used as a treasury and state prison. Amongst its most notable prisoners was the young Sultan Osman II, who was imprisoned and executed there by the Janissaries in 1622.

It is like the Bastille in Paris, or London Tower. It's first duty was to receive the combattants returning from the war, who passed below its Triumphal Arch. Like all Triumphal Arches, this monument had a high entrance in the centre, and two smaller arcades, one on either side, that can still be seen. Naturally the large arcade in the middle was reserved for the emperor's use. It is supposed that the monument was built in 380 by Theodosius after his victory over Maximus. At present after the important restorations carried out by the Turks, Yedikule has the following appearance :

From outside, that is in front of the walls and outside the city, looking from the road which passes directly in front, there is a cutting followed by a strip of land (second slope); built behind this by the Byzantines, on a low inclined wail, with two impressive marble columns, there is a gateway beneath an arcade resembling, with its cylindrical shapes and coloured arches, a model castle for children.

The name of this gate is Altın Kapı, the Golden Gate, or Aurea Porta of the Byzantines. The reason for this name is not known. Perhaps on account of its inscriptions in gold, perhaps because it was the most beautiful gate of the city. Byzantine historians relate that there was a statue of Theodosius the Great at this gate, destroyed in the 8th century during an earthquake. A group of four bronze elephants and a cross were destroyed in the same way during the 9th century under Manuel II in another earthquake.

In 708 Pope Constantine entered by this gate with great ceremony. According to usage and custom emperors returning from the wars entered the city by this gate. It is here that the men of state, the Greens and the Blues, and then the people came to receive the returning emperor. Behind, after a space of ground, were the real walls of the city and in the centre the Triumphal Entrance Gate of which we spoke earlier. With its two fortified towers, square in shape and faced with marble, rearing up before, it was a truly impressive sight.

The wall where the triumphal arch was, was the west wall. Behind, on the northern, southern and eastern facades, the Turks built three towers and a high wall and tranformed this gate into a fortress with an interior courtyard. Since with the towers already built by the Byzantines this made seven towers, the Turks called the place Yedikule, the Seven Towers. The first tower behind the entrance was built on the orders of Sultan Mehmet II in 1468, after the conquest of the city.

This fortress served later two different functions, quite opposite in their nature, but illustrating the small importance of human life - the treasury and the prison! Men who had fallen into disgrace were imprisoned here. Those condemned to death were beheaded here, and their heads thrown into the sea. The young Sultan Osman II, having tried to introduce reforms, was deposed by the janissaries in 1622 and assassinated here.

When the Ottoman Government was at war without some other power, the representative of that power was imprisoned here. Entering by the town gate, you can find in the rooms and cells of the left hand tower writings in Latin and German inscribed on the walls by the foreigners who stayed here. Among these was the Russian Obreskow who was locked up in 1767 and remained there for many years, only to be released at the intercession of the French Ambassador. The Consul General of Yanya, Ponqueville, and later on the French Ambassador Ruffin knew the inside of these prisons but we do not know at whose instance they were released.

The historical buildings past Yedikule in the triangular area between the rear of the city walls and the coastal road that goes to Sarayburnu are these : The classical mosque between the walls you see, when going down the country road parallel to the walls from Topkapı to Yedikule, belongs to Ibrahim Pasha. It was built by Sinan in 1551. It underwent a restoration in 1763.

Yedikule Fortress and the Dungeons” were built by the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II. BC, in the 5th century’s first two quarters on the right of coastal road while going to Bakırköy district from Sarayburnu of the historical peninsula. During the Byzantine period, the construction had four towers and with the conquest of Istanbul three towers were added by Fatih Sultan Mehmet and it started to be called as “Seven Tower Fortress and Dungeons”.

Armory Tower (Northern Pylon)
The tower had been used as an arsenal and a prison for a long time during the Ottoman period. For this reason, the tower has been names as “Armory Tower”.

Flag Tower
Flag tower is positioned on the “Golden Door” at the entrance of “Seven Tower Fortress and Dungeons”. In ancient times, flag fluctuation was on the tower so it has been named as “Flag Tower”.

Sultan Ahmet III Tower
The tower couldn’t arrive until today because of dozens of earthquakes. It has been called as “Sultan Ahmet III Tower” because he supported to repairs.

Dungeon Tower (Tower of the Inscriptions)
The tower is one of the two towers used as a prison. “Yanan Kasır Pavilion” (Burning Pavilion) is placed next to the tower and it was damaged by a fire.

Top Tower
This tower is located next to the “Burning Pavilion” again. The tower was used as a dungeon in the Byzantine era.

Tower of the Treasury
With the conquest of Istanbul by Fatih Sultan Mehmet, treasury of the Ottoman Empire had been kept in this tower until Sultan Murat III’s period, so name of “Treasury Tower” was given to the tower.

Young Osman Tower (South Pylon)
After Sultan Osman II (Young Osman) had taken the throne, the outbreak of the “Janissary Revolt” started. This uprising couldn’t be finished, so Young Osman was taken as prisoner and held in the tower by Janissaries then he was murdered. For this reason, the tower took the name “Young Osman Tower”.

Golden Gate
The Golden Gate (Porta Aurea) was the most splendid gate of the Walls of Constantinople. At the colossal entrance, the "Small Golden Gate" was on the first outer wall, while the Golden Gate itself was at the second wall. It was used as the main entrance to the city by the emperors after a victory. The ceremonies took place along the Mese street up to the Augusteion. The Golden Gate was a triumphal arch whith a triple arcade containing a higher and larger central archway.

The Gate was protected by two strong towers on each side. There were inscriptions on either side of the central archway. The holes into which the gilded metal letters were inserted can still be seen today. The archways were reduced as a measure against the attacks coming from Thrace. It was converted into a fort which was surrounded by a wall protected by towers during the Ottoman period. Its name Yedikule (Seven Towers) comes from the seven towers it consists of.

Following the walls from south to north, the Golden Gate (Greek: Chryseia Pyle; Latin: Porta Aurea; Turkish: Altınkapı or Yaldızlıkapı), is the first gate to be encountered. It was the main ceremonial entrance into the capital, used especially for the occasions of a triumphal entry of an emperor into the capital on the occasion of military victories or other state occasions such as coronations. On rare occasions, as a mark of honor, the entry through the gate was allowed to non-imperial visitors: papal legates (in 519 and 868) and, in 710, to Pope Constantine.

The Gate was used for triumphal entries until the Komnenian period; thereafter, the only such occasion was the entry of Michael VIII Palaiologos into the city on 15 August 1261, after its reconquest from the Latins. With the progressive decline in Byzantium's military fortunes, the gates were walled up and reduced in size in the later Palaiologan period, and the complex converted into a citadel and refuge.

The date of the gate's construction is uncertain, with scholars divided between Theodosius I and Theodosius II. Earlier scholars favored the former, but the current majority view tends to the latter, meaning that the gate was constructed as an integral part of the Theodosian Walls.[59] The debate has been carried over to a Latin inscription in metal letters, now lost, which stood above the doors and commemorated their gilding in celebration of the defeat of an unnamed usurper :

Haec loca Theudosius decorat post fata tyranni.
Aurea saecla gerit qui portam construit auro.

English Translation
Theodosius adorned these places after the downfall of the tyrant.
He brought a golden age who built the gate from gold.

Curiously, the legend has not been reported by any Byzantine author. However, an investigation of the surviving holes wherein the metal letters were riveted verified its accuracy. It also showed that the first line stood on the western face of the arch, while the second on the eastern. According to the current view, this refers to the usurper Joannes (r. 423-425), while according to the supporters of the traditional view, it indicates the gate's construction as a free-standing triumphal arch in 388-391 to commemorate the defeat of the usurper Magnus Maximus (r. 385-388), and which was only later incorporated into the Theodosian Walls.

The gate, built of large square blocks of polished white marble fitted together without cement, has the form of a triumphal arch with three arched gates, the middle one larger than the two others. The gate is flanked by large square towers, which form the 9th and 10th towers of the inner Theodosian wall. With the exception of the central portal, the gate remained open to everyday traffic. The structure was richly decorated with numerous statues, including a statue of Theodosius I on an elephant-drawn quadriga on top, echoing the Porta Triumphalis of Rome, which survived until it fell down in an earthquake in 740.

Other sculptures were a large cross, which fell in an earthquake in 561 or 562; a Victory, which was cast down in the reign of Michael III; and a crowned Fortune of the City. In 965, Nikephoros II Phokas installed the captured bronze city gates of Mopsuestia in the place of the original ones. The main gate itself was covered by an outer wall, pierced by a single gate, which in later centuries was flanked by an ensemble of reused marble reliefs.

According to descriptions of Pierre Gilles and English travelers from the 17th century, these reliefs were arranged in two tiers, and featured mythological scenes, including the Labours of Hercules. These reliefs, lost since the 17th century with the exception of some fragments now in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, were probably put in place in the 9th or 10th centuries to form the appearance of a triumphal gate. According to other descriptions, the outer gate was also topped by a statue of Victory, holding a crown.

Despite its ceremonial role, the Golden Gate was one of the stronger positions along the walls of the city, withstanding several attacks during the various sieges. With the addition of transverse walls on the peribolos between the inner and outer walls, it formed a virtually separate fortress. Its military value was recognized by John Kantakouzenos VI (r. 1347-1354), who records that it was virtually impregnable, capable of holding provisions for three years and defying the whole city if need be.

He repaired the marble towers and garrisoned the fort with loyal Catalan soldiers, but had to surrender it to John  Palaiologos V (r. 1341-1391) when he abdicated in 1354. John V undid Kantakouzenos' repairs and left it unguarded, but in 1389-90 he too rebuilt and expanded the fortress, erecting two towers behind the gate and extending a wall some 350 m to the sea walls, thus forming a separate fortified enceinte inside the city to serve as a final refuge.

In the event, John V was soon after forced to flee there from a coup led by his grandson, John VII. The fort held out successfully in the subsequent siege that lasted several months, and in which cannons were possibly employed. In 1391 however, John V was compelled to raze the fort by Sultan Bayezid I (r. 1382-1402), who otherwise threatened to blind his son Manuel, whom he held captive. Emperor John VIII Palaiologos (r. 1425-1448) attempted to rebuild it in 1434, but was thwarted by Sultan Murad II.

After the final capture of Constantinople in 1453, Sultan Mehmed II built a new fort in 1458. By adding three larger towers to the four pre-existing ones (towers 8 to 11) on the inner Theodosian wall, he formed the Fortress of Seven Towers (Turkish Yedikule Hisarı, in Greek: Heptapyrgion). It lost its function as a gate, and for much of the Ottoman era, it was used as a treasury, archive and state prison. Among others, the ambassadors of states currently at war with the Porte were usually imprisoned there.

Among its most notable prisoners was the young Sultan Osman II, who was imprisoned and executed there by the Janissaries in 1622. The last Emperor of Trebizond, David Megas Komnenos, Constantin Brâncoveanu of Wallachia with his family, King Simon I of Georgia and a number of leading Ottoman pashas were also among those executed there.

During the Napoleonic Wars, the fortress was the prison of many French prisoners, including the writer and diplomat Francois Pouqueville, who was detained there for more than two years (1799 to 1801) and who gave an extensive description of the fortress in his Voyage en Morée, à Constantinople, en Albanie, et dans plusieurs autres parties de l'Empire Othoman, pendant les années 1798, 1799, 1800 et 1801. The last prisoner was held in the Yedikule as late as 1837.

Except for the initial 11 and last 4 sentences, all of the 1961 Nobel Prize for Literature winner Ivo Andrić's novel Prokleta avlija (translated into English as Accursed and/or Damned Yard) happens in Yedikule Prison (link on the Andrić Foundation site).

A masjid (small mosque) and a fountain were built in the middle of the fort's inner courtyard, which also contained the houses of the garrison, forming a separate city quarter. The houses were torn down in the 19th century, and a girls' school was built in their place. The outer gate was re-opened in 1838, and the fort's towers functioned as gunpowder magazines for a while thereafter, until the whole facility was turned over to become a museum in 1895. An open-air theater has been built in more recent years, and is used for cultural festivals. Like its namesake in Jerusalem, the way to the Golden Gate is now obstructed by a Muslim cemetery.

According to one of the many Greek legends about the Constantinople's fall to the Ottomans, when the Turks entered the city, an angel rescued the emperor Constantine Palaiologos XI, turned him into marble and placed him in a cave under the earth near the Golden Gate, where he waits to be brought to life again to conquer the city back for Christians. The legend explained the later walling up of the gate as a Turkish precaution against this prophecy.

Marble Tower
Mermer Kule (marble tower) is the last tower of the walls between the Golden Horn and the Marmara Sea. The junction with the maritime walls was protected by a small castle.

In the south-western corner of the city, just beyond where we ended our last stroll in Samatya. Here the sea-walls along the Marmara joined the land-walls, anchored to them by the Marble Tower, the handsome structure which standing on a little promontory by the sea. This tower, 13 metres square at its base and 30 metres high, its lower half faced in marble, is unlike any other structure in the whole defence-system, and may have been part of an imperial sea-pavilion.

Indeed the ruins beside it seem to indicate that it was part of a small castle. Beyond the tower there are the sunken remains of a mole which must have been part of the castle harbour. A short way in from the shore highway, immediately to the north of the first tower of the inner wall, we see one of the ancient gateways of the city. This is called the Gate of Christ because of the laureate monogram XP above it. In the long stretch of the Theodosian walls there were only ten gates and a few small posterns.

Towards the Marmara end of the land ramparts is the Yedikule Fortress- literally Seven Towers. Constructed in the middle of the Golden Gate by Sultan Mehmed II, three new towers were added to the original Byzantine towers to form a five-sided structure. Never used for military purposes, it instead acted as an Ottoman Treasury until the reign of Sultan Murad III (1574-1595). It is most famous, though as a prison of both foreign and native captives. Sultan Osman II met his death here, as did many unfortunate foreign ambassadors.

Seven Tower Fortress and Dungeons is the largest “outdoor museum” of Istanbul also it is visited by local and foreign tourists with great interest. Restored in 1959, the castle is now open as a museum and also hosts festivals and concerts.


WEB SITE : Yedikulehisarı Museum

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Phone : +90 212 584 8933 / +90 212 263 5305

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you, this blog helped me greatly on a school project! Keep up the good work!