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Rumeli Hisari Fortress Istanbul

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This fortress, which was built as one of the strategic measures taken to conquer Istanbul. However, it was known by its location as the fortress of Rumeli Hisari.

It is located within the borders of the Saryer district and gave its name to its location and covers an area of thirty acres (30,000 m²). It is an amazing monument-monument built in the narrowest and flowing (600 m) part of the Bosphorus opposite the Anatolian fortress.


The young Ottoman Sultan Mehmed Khan, determined to conquer Istanbul, took some measures before the siege. Conquest was very difficult if the Bosporus was not dominant and passing ships were not under control. A fortress had to be built to control the Bosporus. In the late summer of 1451 Sultan Mehmed Khan, returning from the Karaman expedition, studied the position of the Bosporus very carefully as he passed through the area of the Anatolian forts. The insufficient range of the cannons at that time was insufficient to deal with ships coming from the Black Sea. For this reason, plans for the Rumeli fortress were drawn up by Sultan Mehmed Khan himself to prepare for the conquest of Istanbul and domination of the Bosphorus. During the construction of the fortress it was taken into account to prevent the passage by mutual cannon fire and the fact that ships had to approach the shore where the fortress would be built because of the currents.

Rumeli Hisari Fortress
Rumeli Hisari castle


The construction of Rumeli hisari fortress began in March 1452. The project of the fortress was made by Mimar Muslihiddin Agha, taking into account the location, the distance between the walls, bastions and gates, which were determined by Sultan Mehmed Khan himself. On April 15, 1452, the foundations were laid and the construction of the castle accelerated. Construction, in which the sultan, viziers, and pashas worked as laborers, proceeded with perfect planning and division of duties. The division of labor and the duties of the workers were determined by Sultan Mehmed Khan himself. Accordingly, Sarycha Pasha, who was 70 years old, built the northern bastion of the Bosporus fortress, Zagano Pasha built the southernmost bastion, Halil Pasha built the coastal bastion, and the sultan handled the remaining places and work on the sea side.


The logs used in the construction of Rumeli Hiras fortress were obtained from Iznik and Karadeniz Ereğlis, the stones and lime from different parts of Anatolia and ruined Byzantine buildings in the vicinity. According to the architect E. H. Ayverdi, about 300 craftsmen, 700-800 workers, 200 coachmen, boatmen, carriers and other crews worked on the construction of the fortress. On an area of 60,000 square meters, the volume of masonry is approximately 57,700 cubic meters. The length of the enclosing walls of the fortress connecting the large towers is 250 meters from north to south and 125 meters from east to west. There are also 2 secret gates next to the south-facing tower at the end of the roads leading to the ammunition and stockpile cellars. Rumeli hisari has three large towers Saruka Pasha, Khalil Pasha and Zaganos Pasha and 13 large and small bastions. Saruka Pasha and Halil Pasha towers with ground floors have 9 floors and Zaganosh Pasha tower has 8 floors. Diameter of Saruka Pasha Tower is 23.30 meters, wall thickness is 7 meters, height is 28 meters. Diameter of Zaganos Pasha Tower is 26.70 meters, the thickness of the walls is 5.70 meters, height – 21 meters. The diameter of Halil Pasha Tower is 23.30 meters, the thickness of its walls is 6.5 meters and its height is 22 meters. Today the Rumeli hisari fortress is used as an open-air museum and theater. In the fortress is an open exhibition, there is no exhibition hall. There are artifacts on display in the garden, consisting of cannons, cannonballs, and a piece of chain that is said to have closed the Golden Horn.

The Bastions

The 13 small bastions located between the walls of the castle are at different intervals and are close to each other in size. However, one of them is known as the Small Bastion of Zaganos Pasha because of the inscription with the name of Zaganos Pasha, and it is slightly larger than the other bastions. It is located in the southeast corner of the axis on the sea side in the north-south direction of the castle. The tower is 25 m high from sea level to the dendans and has a trapezoidal plan with six corners. There is a cylindrical cavity in the center. The Arabic inscription, on a very high spot on the east-facing facade, has two lines of calligraphy. It is said to contain the same expression as the inscription on the Zaganos-Pasha tower. The tower, which uses spolia material, has a lion-headed gargoyle on its east façade. It is believed that the tower was once covered with a conical cone. With the exception of the two-storey one in Hisarpec, the other small bastions are one-storey. It has been suggested, however, that some of them had several stories.  They have survived to our day as hollows. Only one of the small towers has the shape of a full circle, the rest are rectangular, trapezoidal, semi-circular and polyhedral, their height is 2-3 meters from the walls on the sides. Near the gate east of the Sarych Pasha tower, a square tower is mentioned on the patrol road next to the gate, which is said to be a watch hut.

The Walls 

The height of the walls connecting the towers of the castle varies from 5 to 10 meters depending on the slope of the terrain. The thickness is 5 m in places where there is a high probability of enemy attack, and 3 m in the southern wall, located on a steep slope. There is a patrol road at the top of the walls. Depending on the terrain, these paths are organized as flat or stairways. Ladders, usually 1 m wide, are carved on the inner surface of the wall from eighteen places inside the castle. Patrol paths on the walls and towers are 2 m high and 0.80 m thick in the outer direction and are surrounded by a balustrade wall with a dandan.


There are five gates in the castle, coming out of the walls. They are on the north, south, east and west facades, as well as on the Hisarpece wall facing east. Only one of them on the south façade is single, the others have double wooden wings. The doors are covered with riveted iron plates on the outside. The north, east and west doors are closed from the inside with a system of deadbolts made of oak poles placed horizontally on the side walls behind them. Evliya Celebi referred to the outer doors as the Hisarpeche Gate, the Dizdar Gate, the Flood Gate and the Mountain Gate without describing their location.

The towers of the Rumeli Hisari fortress

Tower A (Sarych Pasha Tower). Located in the northwest corner of the castle, the round tower is 28 m high, 23.80 m wide outside and 7 m thick. The stone with the inscription on the door with round arches at the top and a lintel at the bottom is empty. The cylindrical space in the center of the tower has seven wooden floors. The floors are built on oak beams, which are placed on the wall at the side, with a pole in the center. Only on the first floor the central column is a marble column with Corinthian capitals, while the columns on the other floors are made of oak. The seventh floor is covered with a dome. There are stairs and rooms in the thickness of the wall. One of the rooms is large, windowless and deep, like a well. In addition to the columns and capitals on the first floor, the jambs on either side of the door are also columns-spouses.

Tower B (Chandarli Khalil Pasha Tower). It is located at zero point on the beach in the north-south direction on the axis from the sea side of the castle. The dodecagonal tower has a height of 22 m, an outer width of 23.30 m and walls 6-6.50 m thick. There is no inscription on the door with an arched top, marble jambs and a lintel at the bottom. There are stairs and rooms in the thickness of the tower walls. Although it is assumed that there used to be a total of nine wooden floors in the center, including a basement below, these floors do not exist today. Today, the floor of the upper dendanli twisting place is built of reinforced concrete and an elevator has been installed to provide access to the place. The tower is rich in sporules and various fragments can be seen, especially on the seashore. On the east side of the tower there are two decorative panels in the form of Ottoman woodwork, each in the shape of a square with bricks.

Tower C (Zaganosh Pasha Tower). It is located in the southwest corner of the castle. The round tower is 21 m high, 26.70 m wide and the walls are 5-7 m thick. On the door with a flattened arch on the outside there is an Arabic inscription in calligraphic script “nesih”. The inscription mentions the names of Fatih Sultan Mehmed and Zaganos Pasha and states that construction was completed in Rajab 856 (July-August 1452) (Gabriel, p. 95). The wall of the tower has brick beams at intervals. There are stairs and rooms in the thickness of the wall. The cavity in the center of the tower is open today. The hollow in the center is dominated by a paean brickwork, tapered slightly upwards. From the traces available, it can be understood that the central space was once organized into five wooden floors. A spiral iron staircase was placed on the surface of the wall to ascend to the jerking point inside the tower. To the south are decorative panels of various shapes lined with brick.


Only the ruined minaret and foundation walls have survived. The foundation of the building was placed inside a circular cistern 15.65 m in diameter. Accordingly, it is implied that the mosque was a square plan building measuring 10.62 × 10.67 m. During the restoration, the cistern was covered with a reinforced concrete cover mounted on a thick concrete column in the center. The square base of the minaret, located in the southwest corner of the building, and part of the minaret have a row of hewn stone and a row of brick beams, and a cylindrical brick casing rises above them. The protruding beginning can be seen below the demolished balcony. It is stated that there is a wooden staircase inside the minaret, the entrance to which is enclosed, formed by cutting a single piece of oak timber, and that there is no other use for this craftsmanship.