To truly appreciate the tumultuous history of Constantinople, one must visit the Yedikule Hisarı in Istanbul.
Yedikule, as it's commonly called in Turkish (Seven Towers Fortress), dates back to the 4th century during the Byzantine period. Located near the seashore, it appears to guard the southern edge of the Fatih district in Istanbul.
To me, the fortress' history is as impressive as its size.
|April 2012: I just took this photo last weekend at Yedikule Hisarı. The tulip display was beautiful.|
Four of the fortress’ seven towers were built as part of Theodosius II’s land walls around Constantinople. The other three towers, built inside the walls, were added by Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror in 1457 - four years after the conquest of Istanbul.
The towers' construction is quite similar to its sister fortress, Rumeli Hisarı, built in 1452, which we visited last summer. This is the main fortress most tourists see in Istanbul as part of a Bosphorus boat tour.
|Tulips in front of the Yedikule Hisarı.|
|You can even see part of the Sea of Marmara from on top of the fortress.|
According to the history, when the massive land walls were built, Theodosius incorporated the nearby Golden Gate, also known as Porta Aurea, into the structure. Under the Byzantines, the great arch was used for triumphal state processions into and out of the city. At one time, the gates were supposedly plated with gold. The doorway was sealed in the late Byzantine period.
|If you walk through a cemetery here, you could get a closer look at the Golden Gate by Yedikule.|
In Ottoman times, Yedikule was used for defense, as a repository for the Imperial Treasury, as a prison and as a place of execution. Foreign ambassadors to the Sublime Porte often ended up incarcerated in Yedikule. Also, this is where 17-year-old Sultan Osman II was executed in 1622 during a revolt of the janissary corps. The kaftan he was wearing when he was murdered is now on display at Topkapı Palace.
A comprehensive restoration of Yedikule was completed between 1958 and 1970.
Though off the normal tourist route in Istanbul, Yedikule is one of the city's oldest open-air museums and is well worth a visit. My husband and I know only a handful of Turkish friends and other expats that have actually seen this fortress.
|You can easily get to Yedikule by taking the suburban train from the Sirkeci Railroad station in Istanbul.|
The lack of handrails or barriers and the steep stone staircases make visiting the fortress that much more adventurous to me. This is quite common among all the ruins we've visited on our Turkey trips.
|I love the thrill of walking along these open walls at places such as the Yedikule.|
Once you're at Yedikule, you can also walk along the historic land walls all the way to the Golden Horn. But that's another post!