Galata Tower History

Galata Tower History

Also called Galata Kulesi, this is an old Genoese tower in the Galata region of the Beyoglu district in Istanbul, Turkey. Galata Tower's history begins in 507-508 AD when it was originally built as a watchtower by the Byzantine Emperor Justinianos. In 1348-1349, after the establishment of the Genoese colony in the Galata part of Constantinople, the building as we see was constructed in Romanesque style. 

When the Ottomans conquered Constantinople in 1453, the Genoese colony was abolished and the city expanded towards the districts of Beyoglu and Besiktas. However, some parts of the Genoese walls in Galata survived along the tower. Galata Tower was later converted into a prison and from 1717, the tower was used by Ottomans to keep a watch on fires around the city. 

During the rule of Sultan Selim III, its roof was reconstructed with lead and wood but the tower was damaged in a fire in 1831. The history of Galata tower notes that it remained damaged during the Ottoman period and was finally restored in 2020 and opened as a museum for the public. It brings in many visitors to enjoy 360-degree views of Galata from their observation deck and has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List. 

Byzantine Beginnings and Crusader Destruction

In 507-508 AD, the Byzantine Emperor Justinian ordered the construction of a watchtower in Galata. It was built as a wooden tower and named Magalos Pyrgos (Great Tower) aiming to protect the city of Constantinople and the Golden Horn against enemy attacks. The wooden tower was destroyed during the sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusaders in 1204.

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Genoese Settlement and Tower Construction

The Genoese community settled in the Galata part of Constantinople in 1267 AD. The tower was rebuilt during 1348-1349 and was named Tower of the Christ or ‘Christea Turris’. It was constructed in the Romanesque style of architecture and was famed as the tallest building in the city rising to a height of 67 metres during that time.

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Ottoman Conquest and Prison Transformation

Galata tower history took a turn when the Ottomans conquered Constantinople in 1453. It became a shelter for prisoners of war during the rule of Sultan Suleiman ‘The Magnificent’. It also served the role of an observatory during the Ottoman rule. With the changing political rule, its purpose was modified to a watchtower. 

Ottoman Era Fire Surveillance

Since 1717, Galata Tower served as a fire tower to perform surveillance of the city. To prevent enemy attacks, the tower helped in monitoring maritime traffic in the Bosphorus river during the Ottoman rule. Due to its strategic location, it played a pivotal role in organising the defence system of the city.

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Fires and Structural Changes

In 1794, the tower’s staircase was destroyed by a fire and in 1875, the tower’s roof was damaged due to a storm. After having survived without a roof during the later rule of Ottomans, the tower was finally reconstructed between 1965 and 1967. During this time, the wooden interior of the tower was replaced by a concrete structure.

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Modern Restoration and Public Opening

In 2020, the tower had undergone major structural changes and was opened to the public. It falls under the aegis of the Ministr of Culture and Tourism of Turkey and was also added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List in 2013. It has been turned into a museum and invites many tourists to enjoy panoramic views of Galata from the observation terrace.

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Why is Galata Tower famous?

The Galata Tower is the first sight a visitor notices when they look up at Istanbul’s skyline. The 219-feet observatory tower offers magnificent views of the entire Turkish capital, and also houses a museum that recounts Istanbul’s glorious past as the capital city of three great empires.

How old is the Galata Tower?

The current structure of the Galata Tower came into existence in the mid-fourteenth century. Thus, it is approximately 700 years old. However, if the original structure of the Tower is considered, then it is approximately 1500 years old.

How many floors is the Galata Tower?

The Galata Tower has nine floors above a high ground floor, along with a conical roof on top. The height of the Galata Tower is 219 feet.

What was the original name of Galata Tower, and when was it built?

The original name of Galata Tower was the Tower of Christ or ‘Christea Turris’. It was built on the site of a Genoese colony near Constantinople in the 14th century and was the tallest building in the city at that time. 

Who lived in the Galata Tower?

The Galata Tower housed prisoners of the Ottoman Empire but was generally used by soldiers as a watchtower to look over Istanbul. However, it was never used as a proper residence by anyone.

When was the Galata Tower built?

The current structure of the Galata Tower was built by the Genoese in the mid-fourteenth century, in the years 1348-49. Scholars believe the original structure was constructed by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 507-508 CE.

Where is the Galata Tower?

The Galata Tower is located in Bereketzade, Galata Kulesi, Beyoglu district, Istanbul, Turkey.

Has the Galata Tower ever been damaged or rebuilt?

Yes, the Galata Tower has faced destruction and reconstruction several times due to natural disasters and military conflicts. It underwent significant repairs after a fire in 1794 and was rebuilt after an earthquake in the 19th century.

What was the original purpose of the Galata Tower?

In Galata tower history, it was originally built as a watchtower and was known as the ‘Tower of Christ’ or ‘Christea Turris’. It later served as a prison and then again converted into a watchtower. After the restoration work in 1965 and 1967, it was opened to visitors as a museum.

Are there any guided tours available for a more in-depth understanding of the tower's history?

To delve deeper into the fascinating history of the Galata Tower, we recommend booking a guided tour through our website. Our tours provide valuable insights and historical context, allowing you to gain a deeper understanding of this iconic Istanbul landmark and its rich heritage. Don't miss the opportunity to enhance your Galata Tower experience with our informative tours available for booking on our website.

Which are the best historical places to visit in Istanbul?

  • Hagia Sophia: This iconic marvel was once a Byzantine cathedral and later converted into an imperial mosque during the Ottoman Empire. Now functioning as a museum, Hagia Sophia showcases an awe-inspiring blend of Byzantine and Islamic architecture.
  • Dolmabahce Palace: No visit to Istanbul is complete without exploring the grandeur of Dolmabahce Palace. The fascinating history, architecture , and waterfront location make it a must-visit historical gem in the city. Admire the opulent state red room, glittering chandeliers, and beautiful gardens that echo the lives of Ottoman sultans and leaders who once resided here.
  • Topkapi Palace: As the opulent residence of Ottoman sultans for centuries, Topkapi Palace houses an extraordinary collection of artifacts, including imperial treasures, ancient manuscripts, and exquisite ceramics. The palace complex also features lush gardens and breathtaking views of the Bosphorus.
  • Blue Mosque: With its six minarets and exquisite blue tiles adorning the interior, the Blue Mosque is a stunning example of Ottoman architecture. This active place of worship welcomes visitors to admire its impressive design and soak in the serene ambiance.
  • Basilica Cistern: An underground wonder from the Byzantine era, the Basilica Cistern amazes with its forest of columns and dimly lit pathways. This historical water reservoir creates a mystical atmosphere, offering a unique experience in the heart of Istanbul.

What is the history of Galata Tower?

Galata Tower, located in Istanbul, Turkey, dates back to the medieval era. Built in 1348, it initially served as a watchtower for the city walls. Over the centuries, it has been used for various purposes, including a fire observation point and a tourist attraction. Today, it offers panoramic views of Istanbul.

When was the original Galata Tower built?

The original Galata tower was built in 507-508 AD by the Byzantine Emperor Justinianos as a watchtower. It got destroyed during the sack of Constantinople by the Latin crusaders in 1204. Later, the Genoese built the Galata Tower in the 14th century to protect the region from enemy attacks.

Who destroyed the original tower during the Sack of Constantinople in 1204?

The original tower in Galata was destroyed during the sack of Constantinople by the Latin Crusaders in 1204 during the 4th Crusade. Later, it was reconstructed by the Genoese in the 14th century and was called the Tower of the Christ.

When did the Genoese colony establish itself in Galata?

The Genoese colony established itself in Galata in 1267 AD. They built the tower and called it the Tower of the Christ in Romanesque style in 1348 AD. During this time, the Galata Tower was the tallest building in the city rising to a height of 67 metres. 

When did the modern restoration of the Galata Tower take place?

The modern restoration of the Galata Tower took place between 1965 and 1967. During this time, a conical roof was built over the tower after it had remained without a roof during the Ottoman period. It was later opened as a museum for public visitors.


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