Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi), regarded as one of the oldest towers in the world and one of Istanbul’s symbols, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Temporary List in 2013. One of the most significant buildings that make up Istanbul’s silhouette, Galata Tower, was also known as Galata Fire Tower because it served as a long-term fire watchtower.
The original Galata Tower was erected in 507–508 AD by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. On the north side of Istanbul’s Golden Horn, in the Galata citadel, stood the ancient Tower of Galata, also known as “Megalos Pyrgos,” or the Great Tower. The massive chain, which had been extended across the mouth of the Golden Horn to keep enemy ships out of the harbor, came to an end at the tower at that time. A mechanism for raising and lowering the chain was built into the tower. Contrast this tower with the current Galata Tower, which is still standing and situated at the highest and northernmost point of the Galatian citadel.
In 1348–1349, the Genoese rebuilt the current tower. The majority of the walls and the first tower were destroyed by the Byzantines when the Genoans conquered Galata in the 1300s. In the end, they rebuilt every bastion and wall. They also laid the groundwork for the current tower and rebuilt the Galata Tower, which was at the top of the walls. As a result of a cross on its cone, the tower was given the name “Christea Turris” (Tower of Christ), and over time it came to represent this small Latin society.
By giving the key to Fatih Sultan Mehmet on the morning of May 29, 1453, the Ottomans were given control of the Galata Tower following the conquest of Istanbul. The handover of Galata was finished on Friday, June 1, according to the inscription carved into the marble at the entrance, which reads: “On the morning of Tuesday, May 29, 1453, the Genoese presented the keys of the Galata colony to Fatih Sultan Mehmed.” Between the years 1445 and 46, the tower was raised. Architect Murad bin Hayreddin restored it after an earthquake in the 1500s damaged it. III. A bay window is later added to the tower’s upper floor after repairs are made during the Selim era. II. Mahmut rises two more floors above the tower, and the top of the tower is covered with the well-known cone-shaped roof cover after the tower suffered another fire in 1831. The structure was last fixed in 1967.
The Design of the Galata Tower
The round, arched window above the door served as the soldiers’ observation point. After the high ground floor, the building has nine floors. The cylindrical body’s windows are circular arches made of bricks. The profiled moldings that surround the cylindrical body draw attention to the development of the final two floors that are immediately below the cone roof. Under the cone-shaped roof, there is an observation balcony with a metal-ornamented network encircling the floor. On the lower floor, round arches supported by deep niche piers and windows with circular arches made of brick can be found.
Today, it is noted that the building’s third floor and above have a Genoese character, while the floors below have an Ottoman character. The building underwent renovations by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and on October 6, 2020, Istanbul’s Independence Day, it reopened as a museum with exhibition spaces.
Ahmed the wise and his first flight without an engine
Hezarfen Ahmed Çelebi, who was born in Istanbul in 1609 and died in Algeria in 1640, was among the first people in history to successfully fly using specially designed and created wings that resembled birds. In 1632, Ahmed “Hezarfen,” also known as “the man who knows everything,” leaped from the Galata Tower, crossed the Bosphorus, and landed in the neighborhood of Üsküdar Doganclar on the Asian side. He is said to have drawn inspiration from both Leonardo Da Vinci and the Muslim-Turkish scholar “Smail Cevher,” who worked on these issues long before him. Before his famous flight, he also did tests in Okmeydan, Istanbul, to see how strong his wings, which looked like those of birds and were made by studying how birds fly, were.
The Ottoman Empire and Europe were greatly affected by Ahmed Elebi’s flight event, which Sultan IV Murad also admired. At first, Sultan IV. Murad was very intrigued by Ahmed Çelebi and, according to Evliya Çelebi, even made him happy with “a bag of gold” while watching this flight from the Sinan Pasha Mansion in Sarayburnu.
“First, he practiced by using the wind’s force to fly eight or nine times over the pulpit of Okmeydan. Then, with the aid of the south-west wind, he flew from the very top of the Galata Tower (in modern Karaköy) and landed in the Doganclar Square in Üsküdar as Sultan Murad Khan (Murad IV) watched from the Sinan Pasha mansion at Sarayburnu. Murad Khan then gave him a sack of gold coins as a reward for his achievement and remarked, “This man is uncanny: he is capable of doing anything he wishes.” To surround oneself with such people is wrong. He kept his word and banished Ahmed to Algeria, where the scientist stayed until his passing.
Evliya Elebi (1611–1682).
A tunnel passing through the center of the sphere at a depth of four meters was found during the excavation work done in 1965 to strengthen the tower’s foundation. This stone tunnel, which is 70 cm wide and 140 cm high, is believed to have served as a covert escape route during the Genoese era. Deformations and rockfall were discovered in the tunnel after descending about 30 meters. Human skeletal remains, four skulls, ancient coins, and an inscription were all discovered during the same excavation. Authorities concluded that the skeletons belonged to prisoners who attempted to dig a covert exit from the tower, which served as a dungeon during Kanuni’s (Suleiman the Magnificent’s) 1494–1566 reign and perished by being buried alive.
Demolition of the Galata Tower Surroundings
Galata Tower’s neighboring structures, such as the courtyard surrounding it, the fortification walls extending towards the shore, the Turkish cemetery, the gates on the walls, and the ditches on the walls, were destroyed and filled in by Şehremaneti VI, a Levantine dynasty, to make room for Levantine homes to be constructed there. In the area beneath and around the tower, the wooden homes in the Turkish architectural style that can be seen in vintage engravings and even photographs were destroyed, and styleless masonry homes and apartments took their places.
What to See and Do
A wealth of monuments, experiences, and sights can be found in the Galata Tower Museum area, a popular spot for social gatherings and a bustling cultural center in the heart of New Town that will make your stay in Istanbul unforgettable. Galata has it all, from historical sites to malls and cafes. Discover more to get a detailed rundown of the places you must see and enjoy while you’re here.
The Galata Bridge, or Galata Köprüsü (Turkish pronunciation:), spans Istanbul’s, Golden Horn. The bridge has been mentioned in Turkish literature, theater, poetry, and novels since the end of the 19th century, in particular. Since the early 19th century, many bridges have connected Eminönü in the Fatih district and Karaköy in Beyoglu. The current Galata Bridge is merely the most recent of these. The current bridge was constructed in 1994 and is the fifth to be located there.
The northern shore of the Golden Horn city of Galata, formerly known as Karaköy, inspired the name of the bridge.
Bridging the Golden Horn’s past
In this picture of ancient Constantinople, you can see Justinian the Great’s first bridge over the Golden Horn. It is near the Theodosian Land Walls at the northern end of the city.
At the western end of the city, close to the Theodosian Land Walls, Justinian the Great’s reign saw the construction of the first bridge over the Golden Horn.
To allow their troops to move from one side of the Golden Horn to the other, the Turks constructed a mobile bridge in 1453, before Constantinople fell. They did this by docking their ships side-by-side across the water.
Leonardo da Vinci created the Golden Horn Bridge in 1502.
Sultan Bayezid II requested blueprints for the current bridge between 1502 and 1503. Leonardo da Vinci created an unprecedented single-span bridge across the Golden Horn that would have been the longest in the world if it had been built. It used three well-known geometrical principles: the pressed-bow, parabolic curve, and keystone arch. The Sultan, however, did not approve of the ambitious design.
After another Italian artist, Michelangelo turned down an offer to design a bridge over the Golden Horn, the plan to build one was put off until the 19th century.
The first-ever civil engineering project based on a Leonardo da Vinci sketch was built in 2001 when contemporary artist Vebjrn Sand built a scaled-down replica of the artist’s bridge design close to Oslo, Norway.
Mahmud II (1808–1839) ordered the construction of a bridge between Azapkap and Unkapani earlier in the 19th century. On September 3, 1836, this bridge, also known as the Hayratiye (Beneficiation in English), was inaugurated. Deputy Lord High Admiral Fevzi Ahmet Pasha completed the project with the personnel and resources of the nearby Kasimpasa Naval Arsenal. The History of Lutfi states that this bridge was roughly 500–540 m (1,640–1,770 ft) long and constructed on connected pontoons.
At the request of the Valide Sultan, the mother of Sultan Abdülmecid, the first Galata Bridge was built in 1845 at the waterway’s mouth out of wood (1839–1861). It was given the name Cisr-i Cedid (the “New Bridge”) (the “Old Bridge”) to distinguish it from the earlier bridge higher up the Golden Horn, which became known as the “Cisr-i Atik.” It was also referred to as the Sultan Valideh Bridge in Baedeker’s guidebook. It was still in use after 18 years.
Sultan Abdülmecid I built the New Bridge, and he was the first to cross it, according to an inscribed couplet by poet Ibrahim Sinasi on the bridge’s Karaköy side. The French captain Magnan and his ship, the Cygne, were the first to pass beneath it.
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