A symbol for the spirit of İstanbul that has adorned the lines of several authors and poets, Galata Tower is without doubt the number one landmark to see in İstanbul. But, you might ask, what is it that is so special about this Tower that we encounter in almost every shot of İstanbul? The Tower, whose history spans nearly 1,500 years, was commissioned by the Byzantine emperor Justinian the Great in the 6th century as a lighthouse, which would then serve as a strategic watchtower. But little remained of its Byzantine glamour when it was majorly damaged in a huge fire. In 1348, the Genoese built a new tower, this time from rock, at the very same place and named it the “Tower of Christ.” When İstanbul was conquered on May 29, 1454, Galata Tower fell into the hands of the Ottoman Empire. Hard hit by the earthquake of 1509, the Tower had undergone a repairment by 1510. The Tower, which suffered from several consecutive fires, has been renewed a few times, its function changing each and every time.
The fact that the Ottoman inventor Hezârfen Ahmed Çelebi wore a pair of wooden wings which he had created himself and flied from above the Galata Tower toward İstanbul’s Üsküdar district has been mentioned in quite a few works of art and has positively affected the Tower’s popularity. One of the most prominent travellers and authors of the 17th century, Evliya Çelebi writes in his famous Seyehatnâme (English, Book of Travels) that the Tower was firstly used as a dungeon but then converted to a marine storehouse. During the repair works conducted in 1794, the Tower’s design was changed to a large extent, and its top floor was converted into a coffeehouse. In the restoration works that took place between 1967-1967, the Tower was rearranged as a touristic structure, each of its floors gaining a new function and its roof getting renewed. Galata Tower, which entered UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list in 2013, was lastly converted into a museum within the scope of the works conducted by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in the year of 2020, and opened its door to visitors on October 6, 2020, the anniversary of the Liberation of İstanbul. The museum showcases an array of assets that reflect all the periods of İstanbul, which has been settled from the prehistoric times onwards and served as a capital to three huge empires for sixteen centuries.
Until the midst of the 20th century, Galata Tower had been the highest structure in İstanbul. The observation terrace that stands on its top floor has one of the most beautiful panoramic views of İstanbul. Situated on a hill, it overlooks the stunning landscape of the city. Setting an example for a water tower that was constructed in the German town of Niederlehme in 1902, the 62-metre-high Galata Tower has a thick-walled cylindrical body made from stone and a roof of reinforced concrete.
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