Yedikule Fortress

Yedikule Fortress, locally known as Yedikule Hisarı or Yedikule Zindanları which translates back to 'Fortress of the Seven Towers' or 'Dungeons of the Seven Towers' respectively, lies in the Fatih neighborhood of the city of Istanbul, in the province of Istanbul in Turkey.

Yedikule actually didn't start out as a fortress. In Byzantine times it was just a section of the Walls of Constantinople. More exact the formidable Theodosian walls, built during the 5th century. This part also included the Golden Gate which was the main ceremonial entrance gate to the city through which Byzantine emperors entered the city after military victories or during coronations. Its doors were reportedly gilded. The gate was equipped with 2 massive square towers on either side.

The present Yedikule Fortress was built on the orders of the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, the Conqueror, around 1457/8. So, shortly after his conquest of Constantinople in 1453. The 7-tower complex was created by building 3 large round towers and fully enclosing a part of the Byzantine city wall that already held the 2 towers of the Golden Gate and 2 wall towers.

The former Golden Gate was walled up. Legend has it that this was done as a precaution against a prophecy that the last Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos would come back from the dead to retake the city for Christianity, after having been turned to marble by an angel and hidden in an underground cave somewhere near the gate.

After the Yedikule Fortress was finished it served as the treasury of the Sultan, with each tower used for separate storage of precious goods, documents, armor, coins, and golden and silver ingots. In the 16th century the treasury was moved to the Topkapı Palace and the fortress became a state prison. It housed ambassadors of states who were at war with the Ottoman Empire as well as Ottomans who were victims of palace intrigue and infighting, as well as political opponents of the imperial court.

During several centuries several royals were imprisoned and executed in the castle; the last Emperor of Trebizond David Megas Komnenos (1461), Simon I of Kartli (1611) and Prince of Wallachia Constantin Brâncoveanu with his family (1714). But also a number of leading Ottoman pashas were killed here and, in 1622, even the young Ottoman Sultan Osman II after a revolt by his Janissaries.

In 1768, the Russian ambassador and his staff were imprisoned here and around 1800, during the Napoleonic Wars, it held lots of French prisoners. Its use a prison ended in the 19th century after which the houses of the garrison, that had formed a small neighborhood inside its walls, were torn down. Later the towers were used as storage for gunpowder for some time until 1895 when it was given over to become a museum.

In the past decades the fortress was restored and used for cultural activities. Up until 2014 or so it used to be open for visits.

At present Yedikule Fortress is closed for visits and the entrance is guarded by a security officer. Why it is closed and guarded I do not know, as it didn't look like there was anything going on inside. On the contrary; the interior seemed deserted and that already for a long time. Too bad, I would have loved to explore the interior of the towers and the Golden Gate. Also the outer facade of the Golden Gate can hardly be seen as there are private kitchen gardens and a graveyard situated in front of it.


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Yedikule Fortress

Yedikule Fortress, locally known as Yedikule Hisarı or Yedikule Zindanları which translates back to 'Fortress of the Seven Towers' or 'Dungeons of the Seven Towers' respectively, lies in the Fatih neighborhood of the city of Istanbul, in the province of Istanbul in Turkey.

Yedikule actually didn't start out as a fortress. In Byzantine times it was just a section of the Walls of Constantinople. More exact the formidable Theodosian walls, built during the 5th century. This part also included the Golden Gate which was the main ceremonial entrance gate to the city through which Byzantine emperors entered the city after military victories or during coronations. Its doors were reportedly gilded. The gate was equipped with 2 massive square towers on either side.

The present Yedikule Fortress was built on the orders of the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, the Conqueror, around 1457/8. So, shortly after his conquest of Constantinople in 1453. The 7-tower complex was created by building 3 large round towers and fully enclosing a part of the Byzantine city wall that already held the 2 towers of the Golden Gate and 2 wall towers.

The former Golden Gate was walled up. Legend has it that this was done as a precaution against a prophecy that the last Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos would come back from the dead to retake the city for Christianity, after having been turned to marble by an angel and hidden in an underground cave somewhere near the gate.

After the Yedikule Fortress was finished it served as the treasury of the Sultan, with each tower used for separate storage of precious goods, documents, armor, coins, and golden and silver ingots. In the 16th century the treasury was moved to the Topkapı Palace and the fortress became a state prison. It housed ambassadors of states who were at war with the Ottoman Empire as well as Ottomans who were victims of palace intrigue and infighting, as well as political opponents of the imperial court.

During several centuries several royals were imprisoned and executed in the castle; the last Emperor of Trebizond David Megas Komnenos (1461), Simon I of Kartli (1611) and Prince of Wallachia Constantin Brâncoveanu with his family (1714). But also a number of leading Ottoman pashas were killed here and, in 1622, even the young Ottoman Sultan Osman II after a revolt by his Janissaries.

In 1768, the Russian ambassador and his staff were imprisoned here and around 1800, during the Napoleonic Wars, it held lots of French prisoners. Its use a prison ended in the 19th century after which the houses of the garrison, that had formed a small neighborhood inside its walls, were torn down. Later the towers were used as storage for gunpowder for some time until 1895 when it was given over to become a museum.

In the past decades the fortress was restored and used for cultural activities. Up until 2014 or so it used to be open for visits.

At present Yedikule Fortress is closed for visits and the entrance is guarded by a security officer. Why it is closed and guarded I do not know, as it didn't look like there was anything going on inside. On the contrary; the interior seemed deserted and that already for a long time. Too bad, I would have loved to explore the interior of the towers and the Golden Gate. Also the outer facade of the Golden Gate can hardly be seen as there are private kitchen gardens and a graveyard situated in front of it.


Gallery