Rumelihisar fortress is not only an architectural but also a historical monument. It played a decisive role in the history of the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans. Built at the narrowest point of the Bosporus Strait, the fortress allowed the ships carrying provisions and weapons to the besieged in the city to be blocked.
In 1452, preparing to storm Constantinople, Sultan Mehmed Fatih ordered a fortress to be built on the European shore, in the narrowest part of the Bosporus Strait. On the opposite Asian shore was another fortress, Anadolu Hisar.
Interesting fact! The Ottomans called all the lands in the European part of the empire by the word “Rumeli”, hence the name of the fortress built on the European coast. “Hisar” means “fortress” in Turkish.
The place for the construction of Rumelihisar was not chosen by chance. By throwing a chain between the two fortresses, the Ottomans closed the passage to the Bosporus to enemy ships and blocked access to Constantinople from the sea. It was also a defense against a surprise attack from the water.
By the way, another advantage of the chosen location for the construction of the fortress is the strong current in this part of the Bosporus Strait. Even if an enemy ship overcame the obstacles set up by the Ottomans, the current carried it closer to the shore where it could be easily hit by artillery shells.
The construction of the fortress was entrusted to three of the sultan’s closest associates, after whom the main towers were later named:
- Zaganos Pasha brought up Sultan Fatih and inspired him to conquer Constantinople.
- Halil Pasha was the Grand Vizier. True, his fate was tragic. He was executed after the conquest of Constantinople. He was accused of treason against his people for urging the sultan to lift the city’s prolonged siege and make peace with the Byzantines.
- Saruja Pasha was known as a brave warrior. He also proved himself in the storming of Constantinople.
Mehmed Fatih himself supervised the construction of the part of the fortress adjacent to the strait.
The citadel had to be built as quickly as possible. Failure to meet the deadline was punishable by death. For this reason, the work was completed even faster than planned – only 4 months and 16 days later.
The fortress was built by 300 craftsmen, over 700 workers, and 200 boatmen who delivered the stones and wood by boat to the building site.
After the fall of Constantinople, the fortress lost its military significance. It was used as a customs checkpoint.
After the earthquake of 1509, the fortress was rebuilt. Rumelihisar was rebuilt. For some time the fortress served as a prison. In 1746 during the fire the wooden buildings were badly damaged. In XIX century the fortress was finally abandoned, it began to crumble.
In 1953, the restoration of the ancient citadel began. In 1960 it was included into the museum of Hisar fortress. The fortress includes also fortresses Edikule and Anadolu. There is an artillery museum on the territory of Rumelikhisar. An amphitheater was built, where concerts and theatrical performances are given during the summer period.
Rumelihisar Fortress at present
At present Rumelihisar fortress is a tourist attraction with an area of 30 thousand square meters. It consists of 3 main towers:
- Saruja Pasha is the main tower. It consists of 9 tiers and rises 33 meters above sea level. It reaches 23.3 m in diameter. The thickness of its walls is 7 m.
- Zaganos Pasha is the tallest tower. It rises 57 m above sea level, its diameter is 26.7 m, and the thickness of its walls is 5.7 m.
- Halil Pasha is a compact tower. Its diameter is 23.3 m, its height is 22 m and wall thickness is 6.5 m.
In addition, the fortress includes another 13 small towers. All the buildings are connected by fortress walls. They are quite wide. The soldiers freely moved through the passages.
Note: Visitors are forbidden to climb the fortress walls and the upper tiers of the towers after the fall of the tourist, who tried to take selfies.
The inside of the fortress was accessible through a gate. The southernmost tower also had a secret entrance through which soldiers were delivered weapons and food.
There were barracks for janissaries and a mosque inside. Only ruins of it remained. The building was almost completely destroyed in an earthquake, only the minaret survived. A new mosque, modeled on the destroyed one, was built in 2014. A cistern supplying the troops with drinking water was found under the ruins of the old mosque.
Now there is an artillery museum in Rumelihisar. The place for it was not chosen by chance. During the storming of Constantinople, gunpowder and artillery were used for the first time. Thanks largely to this, the Ottomans were able to take the city. The museum displays different kinds of artillery pieces, cannonballs, a piece of chain which was stretched between Rumelihisar and Anadola Hisar, closing the Bosphorus Strait.
Note! Several exhibits are located on the outer side of the fortress wall.
For the convenience of visitors, the territory of the fortress has been ennobled. Inside, paths were paved, a fountain was built, benches for recreation were installed, and toilets were opened.
What to do and see in the fortress?
Rumelihisar Fortress is located away from the city center and the main attractions of Istanbul, so often tourists bypass its attention. Meanwhile, it is an interesting tourist site. Here you can:
- See the ancient fortress and learn how it was arranged;
- see artillery pieces in the museum;
- See a theatrical or musical performance in the summer amphitheater;
- Enjoy the views of the Bosphorus and the Asian part of Istanbul from the top of the hill on which the fortress is built;
- Relax in the garden, in the shade of trees or by the fountain and walk along the cobblestone paths.
- The tour of Rumelihisar fortress can be combined with a visit to Emirgan Park, which is nearby.
How to get to Rumelihisar Fortress?
Rumelihisar Fortress is located in the Saryer district, on the shore of the Bosphorus Strait, near the Mehmed Fatih Bridge. Despite its remoteness from the most popular tourist routes, it is not difficult to reach it:
- From Sultanahmet Square, take the T1 streetcar to the Kabataş terminus, walk to the bus station and take bus 25E, 22 or 22E. They go to the Rumelihisar stop located right by the walls of the citadel.
- Buses 40, 40T or 42T go from Taksim Square to the citadel.
- From Taksim, Istiklal, Beyoglu and Aksaray you can take the green metro line to Levent station and then change to the M6 line and get off at the Bosphorus University station. From there you can walk to the fortress.