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The Maiden’s Tower or Kizkulesi Istanbul

The Maiden’s Tower or Kizkulesi Istanbul

Location

The Maiden’s Tower or Kizkulesi is 150-200m off shore from the Salacak district in Uskudar .

History

It is not accurately known when the tower was built but from its architectural style it is thought to be from around 340 BC. The tower’s other names have been Damalis and Leandros. Damalis, the wife of the king of Athens, Kharis, was buried at the shoreline of the tower when she died and during Byzantine times they called it arcla “a little castle”.


After the conquest of Istanbul by the Ottoman Turks the tower was demolished and a wooden tower built in its place and this was destroyed by a fire in 1719. It was rebuilt in stone by the head architect of the city Nevsehirli Damat İbrahim Pasa.


The cone capped part of the tower was removed and a kiosk with glass was fitted in its place and the lead covered dome was added later. The famous calligrapher Rakım Efendi added an inscription using Sultan Mahmut II’s signature on marble which was placed above the door of the tower. In 1857 a lantern was added and in 1920 the tower’s light was a converted into an automatic lighting system.

Use of the Maiden's Tower

The tower has been used for many different purposes including as a place to collect taxes from merchants, a defence tower and a lighthouse. During the cholera epidemic in 1830 it was used as a quarantine hospital, a radio station and in the Republic Period it reverted back to a light house for a short while. The tower was handed over to the Ministry of Defence in 1964 and then to Maritime Enterprises in 1982 and after renovations it now functions as a restaurant open to the public.

Legends of the Maiden’s Tower

The Princess Legend

Long ago a fortune telling soothsayer made the prediction to a King that his daughter would die from a snake bite. On hearing this, the King had a castle built in the sea in order to protect the princess. Many years pass and his daughters 18th birthday the King brings her a basket of exotic and delicious fruits as a gift and was very happy that he had prevented the soothsayer’s prophecy. However, there was an asp hiding in the basket that bites the princess who then dies in her father’s arms thus making the oracle’s prediction come true and hence the name the Maiden’s Tower.

The Legend of Leandros

According to this legend, a young man named Leandros falls in love
with a nun named Hero who is a faithful disciple to the goddess Aphrodite and falling in love with anyone was forbidden. As the lovers were on opposite sides of the Bosphoros Straits and Hero lived in the Maiden’s Tower, she would build a fire in the tower every night so that Leandros could find his way to her when swimming across the straits and so they met this way every night. One night however the fire is extinguished by a storm and Leandros loses his way in the cold waters of the Bosphorus and dies. When Hero hears of what happened to Leandros she cannot endure the pain and commits suicide by throwing herself in the Bosphorus and drowns. 

The Battalgazi Legend

A man named Battalgazi falls in love with the daughter of the Tekfur who is a Christian ruler of a town or a district. However, the Tekfur refuses to bestow his daughter to Battalgazi and to protect her he places her in the tower. Battalgazi attacks the tower, abducts the girl and they ride quickly away on his horse. And from this legend there is a Turkish expression that says “he who takes the horse rides from Uskudar”.   

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