The Maiden’s Tower From Past To Today
This unique building, which dates back to 2500 years ago, lived a history equivalent to the history of Istanbul and witnessed what this city experienced. With its history that started in ancient times, it has survived from Ancient Greece to Byzantine Empire, from Byzantine to Ottoman, existed in all historical periods.
B.C. Maiden’s Tower
According to the researcher Evripidis, a Greek from Istanbul, the land piece, previously a protrusion of the Asian coasts, has been disconnected from the coast in time and the islet on which the Kızkulesi was formed. For the first time from the rocky on which the Kızkulesi is located, BC. It is mentioned in 410. At this date, the Athenian commander Alkibiades built a tower on this small island to control the ships entering and leaving the Bosphorus and collecting taxes. From the place where Sarayburnu is located, the chain is stretched to the island where the tower is located, and the tower thus becomes a customs station controlling the entrances and exits of the Bosphorus. Years after that, BC. In 341, Greek Commander Chares built a monumental tomb on marble columns for his wife on the islet where the tower is located.
A.D. By the 1110s, the first distinctive structure (tower) on this small islet was built by Emperor Manuel Comnenos. Emperor Manuel, who reigned between 1143 and 1178, built two towers to help defend the city. Emperor Manuel built one of these near Mangana Monastery (Topkapı Palace’s coast) and the other to the location of Kızkulesi, and tied a chain between the two towers in order not to put enemy ships into the Bosphorus and to prevent the merchant ships from passing without customs duties.
The Maiden’s tower, which was previously ruined and repaired, is used as a base by the Venetians during the conquest of Istanbul. A fleet that came under the command of Gabriel Treviziano from Venice to help Byzantine while Fatih Sultan Mehmet was surrounding Istanbul was based here.
After the conquest, Fatih Sultan Mehmet demolished this small castle and built a small goalkeeper, made of stone, surrounded by battlements and placed balls here. These cannons put in the fortress were an effective weapon for the ships in the port. However, the tower was used as a demonstration platform rather than a defense fortress during the Ottoman era, and the Mehter had read the Nevbet (a kind of National Anthem) with the gunshots here. The foundations of the tower we see today and the important parts of the lower floor are the Fatih period structure. It is known that the Kızkulesi was repaired or reconstructed during the Ottoman period. In the earthquake that occurred in 1510 and referred to as the “little apocalypse”, the Kızkulesi, like many buildings in Istanbul, was damaged, and the repair of the tower was carried out during the period of Yavuz Sultan Selim. As the surroundings are shallow, a lantern was placed in the tower after the 17th century. As of this date, the tower started to serve as a lighthouse, not a fortress anymore. The balls in the tower were also thrown in this period for salutation, not for protection anymore. Şehzade Selim, who came to Istanbul to pass the throne after the death of Suleiman the Magnificent, was greeted with the balls thrown from the Kızkulesi while passing through Üsküdar. After that, this greeting was made for every sultan who took the throne for a long time and the throne of the sultan was announced to the public by gunshots. In 1719, with the fire that caused the oil lamp to ignite the surroundings, the tower, which was completely wooden, was burned down and in 1725, the city’s chief architect, Nevşehirli Damat İbrahim Pasha, underwent a comprehensive repair. After this repair, the tower was restored with lead domes and the lantern section with masonry and glass. Then, in 1731, the tower lighthouse and the ball glands and other places were repaired. The Kızkulesi started to be used as a defense fortress when the Ottoman Empire entered the collapse period. Ball shots previously made for entertainments and celebrations are now made for defense purposes. The tower turns into a quarantine hospital in 1830-1831, so that the epidemic of cholera does not spread throughout the city. Later, during the plague epidemic, which occurred in 1836-1837 and 20-30 thousand people died, some of the patients were isolated in the hospital established here. The spread of the epidemic was prevented with the quarantine applied in this hospital established in Kızkulesi. The last major repair of the Kızkulesi during the Ottoman period II. It was built during the reign of Mahmud. After the renovation in 1832-33, which gave the tower its present shape, Sultan II. An inscription bearing the monogram of Mahmut is placed. In this restoration made in the Ottoman-baroque architectural style, the tower pole is added to the tower and the flag pole rising over the dome. A new lighthouse was built in 1857 by a French company.
During the Second World War, a renovation work is carried out in the Kızkulesi. The rotting wood parts of the tower are repaired and some parts of it are demolished and turned into reinforced concrete. The tower, which underwent a major repair again in 1943, was placed around the tower to prevent it from sliding into the sea. In the meantime, the warehouse and gas tanks in the quay around the rock on which the tower is located were removed. The outer walls of the building were preserved and the interior was renewed as reinforced concrete. The Kızkulesi was handed over to the Military in 1959 and used as a radar station under the Naval Forces Command to control the sea and air traffic of the Bosphorus. The cistern in the building, which is the “Navy Facility Mine Surveillance and Radar Station”, was closed with concrete pouring during the renovations in 1965. After 1983, the tower was left to Maritime Enterprises and was used as an intermediate station until 1992.
Today’s Maiden’s Tower…
The Tower, which was known as Arkla (small castle) and Damialis (calf puppies) in the Ancient Ages, has become famous with the name “Tour de Leandros” (Leandros’ tower) and has become integrated with the name Maiden’s Tower today. The restoration process of Kızkulesi begins in 1995. This special place, which has a mysterious history for thousands of years, opens its doors to visitors in 2000 after the restoration work completed by adhering to its unique identity and traditional architecture. Today, the Kızkulesi, which serves local and foreign visitors as a cafe-restaurant during the day and as a private restaurant in the evening, also hosts many special invitations and organizations such as weddings, meetings, launches and business meals.