Culturel Heritage and İstanbul


To affirm the values accepted as the common heritage of all humanity, to promote and transfer them to future generations, to establish public awareness to attend to aforementioned common heritage and the perpetuate disappearing cultural and natural properties UNESCO adopted “The Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage” at its 17th General Conference held in Paris in 1972. Türkiye ratified the Convention on 14 February 1983.
Natural formations, monuments and sites which held international importance therefore worthy of recognition and protection are inscribed as “World Heritage”. Following a procedure starting with the application of states which has ratified the convention to UNESCO and completed with the evaluation of experts from International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICONOS) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) nominated properties are inscribed the status according to the decision made by World Heritage Committee. One of the 19 properties that are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List from Türkiye is “Historic Areas of İstanbul” which is inscribed in 1985.
İstanbul is represented on the UNESCO World Heritage List by four main areas: Sultanahmet Archaeological Park (including Hippodrome of Constantine, Hagia Sophia, Hagia Irene, Little Hagia Sophia and Topkapı Palace), Süleymaniye Conservation Area, Zeyrek Conservation Area and Land Walls Conservation Area.

Walls of Istanbul

The walls surrounding Istanbul were built starting from the 7th century and were destroyed and rebuilt four times. Its last construction was after 408. II. During the time of Theodosius (408-450), the walls of Istanbul extended from Sarayburnu along the Golden Horn coast to Ayvansaray from this side and along the Marmara coast to Yedikule, from Yedikule to Topkapı, from Topkapı to Ayvansaray.[151] The length of the walls is 22 km. The Golden Horn walls are 5.5 km, the land is 6.5 km, and the Marmara Walls are 9 km.
Land walls consist of three parts: moat, outer wall, inner wall. The ditches have become agricultural areas today. It is adjacent to the wall and 50 m. There are 96 bastions on the side of the land walls at intervals, many of which are collapsed and cracked. These bastions are mostly square in plan and 25 meters high, on a 10-meter protrusion from the city walls extending throughout.

Golden Horn

Haliç (Golden Horn as westerners call it) is a bay of Istanbul. The word Golden Horn means bay at the mouth of the river. According to Greek legend; Megarians named it Golden Horn for Keroessa, the mother of their king White. Colonization also started here during the Byzantine period. It was also the maritime center of the Byzantine Empire. The walls along the coast were built to protect the city from a naval fleet attack. At the entrance of the Golden Horn, there was a wide chain extending from the city to the northeastern end of the old Galata Tower, to prevent the entry of unwanted ships. This tower was extensively destroyed by the Latin Crusaders during the 4th Crusade in 1204. But the Genoese built a new tower next to it. This tower is called the famous Galata Tower 1348 Christea Turris (Tower of Christ). During the Ottoman period, it was a region where a dense Bektashi population lived. Many Bektashi lodges such as Karaağaç lodge, Karyağdı Baba lodge, Giresunlu lodge were in this region.

Topkapı Palace

Topkapı Palace is the oldest and largest of the palaces in Istanbul that have survived to the present day in the world. Its location is the acropolis hill, which overlooks the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus and the Marmara Sea, and is the first founding place of Istanbul. It is a complex with 700,000 m2 of private land, at the farthest point of the historical Istanbul triangle peninsula, surrounded by 5 km long walls. Topkapı Palace, which resembles a small city rather than a palace with this feature, has been used for more than 500 years. Later, when the sultan moved to the newly built Dolmabahçe Palace, the palace was left neglected for a long time. The palace was restored to its former glory thanks to the restoration carried out during the Republican Era. Items belonging to the sultan are exhibited in the palace, which is currently used as a museum. Among the most valuable pieces of the museum collection are Muhammad’s cardigan, tooth, footprint and sword. These objects were brought from Cairo during the reign of Yavuz Sultan Selim. Another valuable piece is the world-famous Khashoggi Diamond. Topkapı Dagger is another valuable item exhibited in the museum.

Galata Tower

It is a tower built in 528, located in the Galata district of Beyoğlu, Istanbul. You can enjoy a panoramic view of the city from the tower. It was built by the Byzantine emperor Anastasius. The tower, which was later largely destroyed by the 4th Crusades in 1204, was built as the Tower of Christ in 1348 by the Genoese as an addition to the Galata Walls. It is observed that the first three floors of the Galata Tower bear Genoese traces, while the following floors bear Ottoman traces. The 16-line eulogy on the inscription at the entrance of the tower, II. Due to the restoration made during the reign of Mahmud II. It was written for Mahmut. With the file „Castle and Walled Settlements on the Genoese Trade Route from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea“, which includes the Galata Tower, the Galata Tower was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Temporary List and the World Heritage Tentative List in Turkey in 2013. Galata Square, one of the most lively places today, is also next to the tower.

Taksim Square

Taksim district and square are named after watermen in the Ottoman Empire; The water was given to the people because it was the land they divided up.
The district, which was a narrow area lined with old houses before becoming a square, took its current appearance over time after it was transformed into a square and expanded. The Republic Monument and its surroundings in the middle of the square are today used as a ceremonial place and function as a meeting place. A nostalgic tram runs from the beginning of the Square to the Tünel.
The Republic Monument, which has become the symbol of Taksim Square, was built by the Italian sculptor Pietro Canonica and was placed in its place in 1928. The construction of the monument took 2.5 years and was made using stone and bronze. It is a statue that depicts Atatürk and the new order in a figurative manner for the first time among the monuments of the Republic period.

Hagia Sophia Mosque

Hagia Sophia (meaning: „Holy Wisdom“; Greek: Ἁγία Σοφία, romanized: Agia Sofia), formerly known as the Church of Holy Wisdom and Hagia Sophia Museum or today officially known as Ayasofya-i Kebîr Câmi-i Şerîfi (Holy Grand Hagia Sophia Mosque), is in Istanbul. It is a mosque, old basilica, cathedral and museum. It was a basilica-planned patriarchal cathedral built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in the old city center of Istanbul’s historical peninsula between 532 and 537. After the conquest of Istanbul by the Ottomans in 1453, II. It was converted into a mosque by Mehmed. It was taken into renovation work with the decree published by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1934. In 1947, with the decision of the Council of Ministers, it was decided to turn it into a museum. Excavation and renovation works were started and it served as a museum from 1947 to 2020. In 2020, its museum status was canceled and mosque status was given.
Hagia Sophia is a domed basilica type building that combines the central plan in architectural terms, and is considered an important turning point in the history of architecture with its dome passage and carrier system features. In addition to being both symbolic and pivotal for Christians, it is a touristic and spiritual center of attraction.
The word „Aya“ in the name Hagia Sophia means „sacred“. The word „Sofia“ comes from the Greek word sophos, meaning „wisdom“.[6] Therefore, the name „Hagia Sophia“ means „Holy Wisdom“ or „Divine Wisdom“, referring to Jesus of Nazareth, and is considered one of the three attributes of God in Christian theology. It is stated that approximately 10,000 workers worked in the construction of Hagia Sophia, directed by Isidore of Miletus and Antemius of Tralles, and Emperor Justinian I spent a great fortune for this work. A feature of this very old building; Some of the columns, doors and stones used in its construction were brought from buildings and temples older than the building.
During the Byzantine Empire, Hagia Sophia had a great wealth of „sacred relics“. One of these relics was the 15-meter-high silver iconostasis. Hagia Sophia, the church of the Patriarch of Constantinople and the center of the Eastern Orthodox Church for 1000 years, was built in 1054 by Patriarch Michael I and Pope IX. He witnessed his excommunication by Leo, and this event is generally considered the beginning of the „Schisma“, that is, the separation of the Eastern and Western churches, one of the most important events in the history of Christianity.
In 1453, the church was built by Ottoman Sultan II. After it was converted into a mosque by Mehmed, the mosaics containing human figures were not destroyed (those that did not contain them were left as they were), they were only covered with a thin plaster and remained under plaster for centuries, thus being able to escape natural and artificial destruction. While the mosque was converted into a museum, some of the plaster was removed and the mosaics were brought to light again. The Hagia Sophia building seen today is also known as the „Third Hagia Sophia“ because it is actually the third church built on the same location. The first two churches were destroyed during the riots. The central dome of Hagia Sophia, the largest dome of its time, collapsed once during the Byzantine period (on May 7, 558), and has never collapsed since the Ottoman chief architect Mimar Sinan added buttresses to the building.

Sultan Ahmet Mosque

Sultan Ahmet Mosque or Sultânahmed Mosque was built by Architect Sedefkâr Mehmed Ağa on the historical peninsula in Istanbul by the Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I between 1609 and 1617. Mosque; It is called the „Blue Mosque“ by Europeans because it is decorated with blue, green and white Iznik tiles and the interior of its semi-domes and large dome are decorated with mostly blue hand-drawn works. When Hagia Sophia was converted from a mosque to a museum in 1935, it became the main mosque of Istanbul.
In fact, together with the Sultanahmet Mosque complex, it is one of the largest works in Istanbul. This complex consists of a mosque, madrasahs, sultan’s mansion, arasta, shops, bath, fountain, public fountains, tomb, hospital, primary school, almshouse and rental rooms. Some of these structures have not survived to the present day.
The most important aspect of the building, both architecturally and artistically, is that it is decorated with more than 20,000 Iznik tiles. Traditional plant motifs in yellow and blue tones were used in the decorations of these tiles, making the building more than just a place of worship. The prayer hall of the mosque measures 64 x 72 meters. The diameter of the central dome, which is 43 meters high, is 23.5 meters. The interior of the mosque is illuminated with more than 200 colored glasses. His writings were written by Seyyid Kasım Gubarî from Diyarbakır. It forms a complex with the surrounding buildings and Sultanahmet is Turkey’s first mosque with six minarets.

Maiden’s Tower

After the naval victory at Cyzicus, in 408 BC, the Athenian general Alcibiadis built a special station on a small rock in front of Üsküdar, probably for ships coming from the Black Sea.
The tower, which has become the symbol of Üsküdar, is the only work remaining from the Byzantine period in Üsküdar. It has a history dating back to 24 BC.
In 1110, Byzantine Emperor Alexios I built a wooden tower protected by a stone wall. An iron chain was stretched from the tower to another tower erected in the Mangana district (a neighborhood on the historical peninsula) in Constantinople. The islet was later connected to the Asian coast by a defensive wall, the underwater remains of which can still be seen. At the time of the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in 1453, the tower housed a Byzantine garrison led by the Venetian Gabriele Trevisano. Later, the building was used as a watchtower by the Ottoman Turks during the reign of Mehmed the Conqueror.
This island, which first hosted a tomb in the Greek period, was used as a customs station with an additional building built during the Byzantine period. During the Ottoman period, it was given many functions, from the demonstration platform to the defense castle, from the exile station to the quarantine room. It has never lost its primary function of guiding people and passing ships at night with its lighthouse, which has been around for centuries.
Some European historians call it Leander’s Tower. There are many rumors about the tower. The tower, which was called arkla (small castle) and damialis (calf calf) in ancient times, became famous with the name „Tour de Leandros“ (Leandros‘ Tower) for a while. Now it is integrated with the name Maiden’s Tower and is known with this name.
The Maiden’s Tower, which has a very old history, was once used to collect taxes from ships passing through the Bosphorus. A large chain was drawn between the tower and the European side, and ships were allowed to pass between the Anatolian side and the Maiden’s Tower (they could pass because the ship sizes were small at that time). After a while, the tower could not support the chain and collapsed towards the European side. When you look into the water from the tower, you can see the ruins.
The tower collapsed in the 1509 earthquake, was rebuilt and burned in 1721. A construction order was given by Grand Vizier Damat İbrahim Pasha and the new building was used as a lighthouse; The surrounding walls were repaired in 1731 and 1734. Finally, in 1763, the tower was rebuilt from more durable stone. From 1829 it was used as a quarantine station and in 1832, Sultan II. It was restored by Mahmud. In 1945, it was the port management’s turn to patch the tower. It was later restored again in 1998, and was recently featured in the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough.
Steel supports were added to strengthen the tower after the August 17, 1999 earthquake and tsunami in the Sea of Marmara. The interior has been transformed into a café and restaurant, with views of the former Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman capital at Sarayburnu. Private boats go back and forth between the tower and the shore throughout the day.
The Maiden’s Tower was restored in 2000 and turned into a restaurant. The restoration works initiated by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey in 2021 ended in May 2023. The restored tower was opened with a laser show on May 11, 2023.

Important Rules at Cultural Heritage Places

In order to improve your experience and to preserve the cultural heritage areas in Türkiye and pass them on to future generations, please comply with the following rules.
– At the entrances of places of worship; wearing clothing that exposes the knees and shoulders, such as shorts and skirts, and speaking loudly and listening to music are prohibited in sacred places.
– Please ask permission to take photos and videos with religious leaders, children and people you do not know. To take photo without permission is prohibited.
– In areas where monuments and historical monuments are located, it is prohibited to sit and lean on monuments and monuments.
– Moving, touching and selling archaeological artifacts is prohibited.
– Consumption of alcohol and cigarettes is prohibited in areas where smoking is prohibited.
– Giving money and candy to children encourages them to beg. If you want to help children, please donate to recognized charities.
– Exposing the genitals in public places is strictly prohibited and subject to punishment.
– Purchase of illegal products/souvenirs Made from threatened wildlife species should be avoided.
– Polluting the environment and nature is strictly prohibited. If detected, it is subject to punishment.