Istanbul: 1453 the Fall of Constantinople

Istanbul Travel Blog

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Fortress of Asia, situated opposite Rumeli Hisari.

Fortresses on the Bosphorus.  The Fortress of Asia (Anadolu Hisari) was built on the narrowest point of the Bosphorus by the Ottoman Turks.  Opposite this small fort, the massive Fortress of Europe (Rumaili Hisari) was constructed by Sultan Mehmet II in just four months, as a prelude to his siege of Constantinople. It’s massive cannon caused all European shipping movements to be blockaded, and allowed his armies to move safely between his dominions. Emperor Constantine XI, Byzantine Empire, alarmed by this unauthorised building on his lands, pleaded with Christendom to support him in the inevitable siege.

 

While the best view of Rumeli Hisari is from a ferry on the Bosphorus, visiting the castle is definitely worth a trip.  The fortress is easy to reach, cheap to enter and offers great views of the area.

Rumeli Hisari (Fortress of the Romans - ie Europe).
  Walking along the walls is not for the faint hearted, as many tall drops remain unfenced.

 

To get to Rumeli Hisari, take a ferry boat from Eminonu Terminal to Emirgan, the first stop after passing the castle on the European side. Cheap buses run frequently down the coast road leading to the castle or back to Istanbul. Morning is the best time to visit the castle, as the eastern sun illuminates its walls.  

 

Galata.  The Galata Tower was first built in 1348. It provided the Genoese city of Galata, opposite Constantinople with its tallest building and a capable watch tower. During the siege of Constantinople the inhabitants of Galata watched helplessly from their city walls as the city fell.

Galata Tower
Galata remained a Christian city within the Ottoman Empire for two centuries.

 

The Galata district and tower is easily reached from Istanbul centre by foot. The views from the tower are ok, but photography is made awkward by the sun being in shot most of the day.

 

Military Museum.  The Turkish Military Museum (Askeri Muzu) is located a short walk from Taksim. It has a number of artefacts relating to the siege of Constantinople. The highlight is a huge panorama showing the city walls under attack. To take a camera into the museum is an extra fee.

Istanbul Military Museum
Apart from the panorama perhaps, photography is not necessary to enjoy the exhibits. Daily shows military parade shows and musical displays from the era take place at 1500hrs.

 

 Hagia Sophia. This amazing Cathedral was built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, in the 6th century AD. During the siege of 1453, after the city walls had been breached the civilian populace took shelter here, and prayed for their salvation. The first Ottomans to arrive massacred those they found, and looted the building. Sultan Mehmet II’s arrival caused these actions to cease, and on his orders the building was converted into a mosque.

 

Today there are a number of ancient Byzantine frescos hidden high in the building. Impressive from the outside, spectacular from the inside, this monumental building is a ‘must see’ within Europe and Turkey.

Hagia Sophia
The Hagia Sophia is best visited in early morning to avoid the crowds. A guidebook is useful to point out hidden works of art.

 

Fortress of Seven Towers.  This Fortress (Yedikule Hisari) is notorious throughout history as a place of torture, confinement and execution, much like the Tower of London in the UK. Out of favour diplomats and disliked family members of the Sultan were incarcerated here, often with grizzly results. 

 

The high battlements give fantastic views of the city walls and modern harbour.

Fortress of Seven Towers towering over Istanbul
It also becomes apparent just how massive medieval Constantinople actually was. The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia can be seen far off in the distance.

 

The fortress can easily be reached by taking a train from Cankurtaran station (near the Topkapi Palace entrance) to Yedikule station. The fortress is a short walk from here. It is best to visit the fortress in the afternoon, when the sun has passed into the west and the walls are now illuminated instead of being in shadow.

 

City Walls. Constantinople had the longest city walls in the world. Over 20 miles. With the Golden Horn’s protection by the sea on three sides, the Land City Walls are heavily fortified and are the most impressive city walls in the world. Stretching from horizon to horizon, the walls snake over the Golden Horn. The walls are actually triple walls. The first wall being formidable enough, the second wall being as tall as Jerusalem’s and the third wall being dizzingly high and sturdy.

Restored Land City Walls - Central
Each wall has frequent towers, and provided mutual support to each other.

 

The walls stood numerous assaults and cannon bombardments in 1453. The Ottomans finally gained entry in the north, where a sally port gate had been left open. The Ottomans raised their flags on the tower, before being cut down by a Byzantine counter attack. It was too late though, panic had set in, and most Byzantines believed their Emperor Constantine XI to be dead. The defenders retreated from the walls, which then became breached in multiple locations. Inside the walls, the Emperor rallied his troops, and launched one last counter attack from which he was never seen again.

 

Today it is possible to walk the entire length of the landward walls. It takes around three hours to cover the five miles on the landward side. In some areas the walls have been restored, in others they are crumbling yet romantic. In certain areas, usually next to a gate, it is possible to climb onto the walls to acquire great views. Take care as the walls are very high, with no safety railings.

Mosque of the Conquerer - Sultan Mehmet II's Tomb

 

Mosque of the Conqueror. Fatih Mosque is where Sultan Mehmet II’s body now lies. His tomb is open to the public, yet his body is actually buried under the pulpit of the mosque. Sitting quietly in a corner of the tomb, you will notice a stream of modern Turks paying their respects to the great man, whom they still hold in high regard today.

 

Sultan Mehmet II’s achievments did not cease after Constantinople. However, after the fall of the city the Centre of Orthodox Christendom ceased to exist, and the Byzantine Empire after a thousand years was destroyed. The Ottoman Empire went on to become one of the largest and most powerful in world history.

 

The Fatih Mosque is a short walk from the Roman Aqueduct. It is best reached by a bus (good luck!) or more realistically a taxi.

 

***MORE PHOTOS OF CITY WALLS AND FORTIFCATIONS LINKED BELOW***

glenrory says:
Hi mate whats the best way to get around Istanbul?
Posted on: Nov 13, 2010
el_wray says:
The fortress of Asia (Anadolu Hisarı) was built by Bayezid I "The Lightning". Mehmed II "The Conqueror" has strenghtened it before the siege begins. FYI ;)
Posted on: Jan 11, 2010
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Fortress of Asia, situated opposit…
Fortress of Asia, situated opposi…
Rumeli Hisari (Fortress of the Rom…
Rumeli Hisari (Fortress of the Ro…
Galata Tower
Galata Tower
Istanbul Military Museum
Istanbul Military Museum
Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia
Fortress of Seven Towers towering …
Fortress of Seven Towers towering…
Restored Land City Walls - Central
Restored Land City Walls - Central
Mosque of the Conquerer - Sultan M…
Mosque of the Conquerer - Sultan …
Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia
12th Century Fresco
12th Century Fresco
Ongoing restoration
Ongoing restoration
12th Century Fresco
12th Century Fresco
Seaward city wall before the great…
Seaward city wall before the grea…
The Palace
The Palace
Seaward city wall view from the Pa…
Seaward city wall view from the P…
Fortress of Seven Towers Entrance
Fortress of Seven Towers Entrance
Fortress of Seven Towers interior
Fortress of Seven Towers interior
Bridge spanning Europe to Asia
Bridge spanning Europe to Asia
Fortress of Seven Towers
Fortress of Seven Towers
Rickety stairs at Fortress of Seve…
Rickety stairs at Fortress of Sev…
No safety railings at Fortress of …
No safety railings at Fortress of…
Land City Walls - South
Land City Walls - South
Land City Walls - South
Land City Walls - South
Restored Land City Walls - Central
Restored Land City Walls - Central
Top of the Restored Land City Trip…
Top of the Restored Land City Tri…
Restored City Gate - Central
Restored City Gate - Central
Restored Land City Walls - Central
Restored Land City Walls - Central
Restored Land City Walls - Central
Restored Land City Walls - Central
Land City Walls - North
Land City Walls - North
Land City Walls where the breach o…
Land City Walls where the breach …
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photo by: Memo