Empires, wars, conquests, disasters… A tower watching them all from the best place. The Maiden’s Tower has been witnessing history for 2500 years. Witnessing almost the entire history of Istanbul, from ancient times to Byzantium, from the Ottoman Empire to the Republic of Turkey, the Maiden’s Tower continues to exist as a memory of the past in the most beautiful place of the Bosphorus. The Maiden’s Tower fascinates visitors with its story .
The Maiden’s Tower is one of the oldest watchtowers of Istanbul, one of the most important cities in the history of humanity with its deep-rooted past. Since the day it was built 2500 years ago, it has survived all kinds of troubles and has been destroyed many times. However, it has somehow survived to the present day and has always found its place in the most beautiful Bosphorus photographs. Now let’s get to know this historical building, one of the symbols of Istanbul, with all its aspects and examine the story of the Maiden’s Tower in depth.
History of Maiden’s Tower
Maiden’s Tower is a structure built on a small island off the coast of Üsküdar Salacak. In ancient Greek times, this island was used as a cemetery. B.C. A tower was built on this island by the Athenian commander Alcibiades in 410. The purpose of its construction was to control the ships passing through the Bosphorus.
Centuries later, when the Roman Empire captured Istanbul, Byzantine Emperor Manuel Comnenos reinforced the Maiden’s Tower with stones and built an annex next to the tower. Emperor Manuel’s aim was to control the Bosphorus, to collect taxes from the ships passing through the Bosphorus and to use the tower as a defense building. During the Roman period, the tower was also used for isolation or exile from time to time.
After Fatih Sultan Mehmet conquered Istanbul in 1453, the tower was not used for defense purposes again. It was damaged in the great Istanbul earthquake in 1509. Afterwards, it was repaired by Architect Hayrettin. In the 1700s, the Maiden’s Tower began to be used as a lighthouse. However, due to the oil lamp used in the lighthouse, the tower caught fire and was later rebuilt. In the 1800s, the Maiden’s Tower was used to quarantine patients during the plague epidemic that spread in Istanbul.
In the Republican Period, the tower is used as a lighthouse again. Although it has been used for military purposes from time to time in the recent history, restoration work began on the tower in 1998. After the restoration was completed in 2000, the Maiden’s Tower was opened to tourism. Today, the tower is operated as a restaurant by a private company.
Where is Maiden’s Tower?
The Maiden’s Tower is located on the side of the Bosphorus close to the Anatolian side. It is located off the Salacak coast of Üsküdar district of Istanbul. The exact address of the tower is Salacak Mevkii, Üsküdar 34668 / Istanbul.
How to go to Maiden’s Tower?
With its story and history, the Maiden’s Tower is one of the works that are the center of attention of local and foreign tourists. It is possible to go to the tower via Salacak and Kabataş. Maiden’s Tower boats depart from Üsküdar Salacak every 15 minutes between 9.00 and 19.00. Boats from Kabataş to Maiden’s Tower operate only on weekends and sail every hour between 10:00 and 18:00.
Maiden Tower Legends
The Maiden’s Tower is a structure that fascinates people with its story, history, unique view and legends circulating from language to language. European historians call this tower from the Byzantine Period as Leander Tower. Evliya Çelebi, in his Seyahatname book, describes the Maiden’s Tower as “A high tower in the sea, an arrow shot from the land, four corners, artistically made. Its height is exactly 80 cubits. Its area is two hundred steps, it has a door on the ground from both sides.” wrote his statements.
Maiden’s Tower, which has been used for many different purposes from the cemetery to the customs station, from the quarantine zone to the lighthouse for 2500 years, continues to exist as a touristic structure today. Of course, this tower has been the main element of many legends in its deep-rooted past. Let’s examine some of the legends based on the story of the Maiden’s Tower together.
Princess’s Bitter End
Legend has it that the King is prophesied that his beloved daughter will be killed by a snake when she turns 18. The king had a tower built in the middle of the sea to protect his daughter and locked her there. However, when the Princess turns 18, the snake that had entered the tower with boxes of grapes killed the Princess. The king is very sad that the prophecy comes true and his daughter dies. He has an iron coffin made for the princess. Afterwards, he places the coffin above the entrance door of Hagia Sophia. However, rumor has it that there are two snake tooth holes on the iron coffin. The snake did not leave the princess alone even after her death.
Hero and Leander
Hero is a priestess in charge of the goddess Aphrodite’s temple in the Maiden’s Tower. Love is forbidden for Hero. However, one day, Hero cannot resist his feelings and falls in love with Leandros on the opposite shore. Leandros is also in love with Hero. The only way for the two lovers to see each other is if Leandros swam across the Bosphorus at night and came to the tower. They continue their love like this for a while. But one night, an evil priest realizes this. He lights a lantern towards Leandros on a stormy night. Leandros, thinking that Hero is calling him, jumps into the sea. When the wicked priest turns off the light, Leandros cannot find his way and dies by drowning in the raging waters of the Bosphorus. Hero, who witnessed the death of Leandros with his own eyes, cannot stand this pain. He commits suicide by jumping from the top of the tower into the dark waters of the Bosphorus.
The Love of the Two Towers
According to the legend, Galata Tower and Maiden’s Tower, which make up the most beautiful view of Istanbul, are in love with each other. However, the Bosphorus between them prevents the two lovers from meeting. Two towers cannot be opened to each other. Galata Tower writes her love in letters for years, but cannot reach the Maiden’s Tower. When Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi goes to the Galata Tower to fly over Istanbul, the tower whispers his love to Hezarfen and asks him to give the letters to the Maiden’s Tower. When Hezarfen delivers the letters to the Maiden’s Tower, Maiden’s Tower is very happy, realizing that her love is mutual. The two towers defy the years with their deep love for each other.
Legend of Battal Veteran
Battal Gazi Story is perhaps the most told Maiden’s Tower story. According to the legend, Battal Gazi besieged Istanbul during the Ottoman period. However, he cannot capture Istanbul. During the siege, he falls in love with Üsküdar Tekfuru’s daughter. Üsküdar tekfuru, on the other hand, locked her in the Maiden’s Tower with her treasures to protect her daughter. Battal Gazi anchors his ships near the Maiden’s Tower and does not leave there for seven years. One day, he goes to the Maiden’s Tower in a boat and takes the treasures together with the daughter of the tekfur and goes to Üsküdar. He gets on his horse from Üsküdar and goes away. The saying “who took the horse passed Üsküdar” is also based on this story. After this incident, the Turks began to call the tower Maiden’s Tower.
Maiden’s Tower Entrance Hours and Entrance Fee
Every year, thousands of tourists come to the Maiden’s Tower, one of the most important structures in Istanbul’s history. The tower, which is one of the must-see places especially for the citizens of our country, is open to visitors 365 days a year. The visiting hours of the Maiden’s Tower are between 9.00-19.00. Today it is used both as a museum and a restaurant. For those who want to have a romantic dinner in the middle of the Bosphorus, the Maiden’s Tower also offers restaurant service in the evening. However, you need to make a reservation for this in advance. The bar on the top floor of the tower offers fixed menus to its customers.
Kabataş Maiden’s Tower round-trip flight information for passengers with reservations is as follows:
Departure: 20.00, 20.45, 21.30 Return: 23.00, 23.45, 00.30
Üsküdar Salacak-Maiden’s Tower flights are organized every 15 minutes as of 19.15.
Maiden’s Tower entrance fees are 40 TL for civilian visitors and 20 TL for students.
This post is also available in: Türkçe