Maiden’s Tower is a structure built on a small islet off Salacak offshore of the Bosphorus, close to the Marmara Sea, which is the subject of legends, about which various rumors are told. The tower, which has become the symbol of Üsküdar, is the only work remaining from the Byzantine period in Üsküdar. Having a historical past dating back to 24 BC, the tower was established on a small island where the Black Sea meets the Marmara. Some European historians call it Leander Tower.
The history of The Maiden’s Tower
According to the Greek researcher Evripidis, the land part, which was a projection of the Asian coasts, broke off from the coast in time and the islet on which the Maiden’s Tower was formed was formed. The rock on which the Maiden’s Tower is located is mentioned for the first time in 410 BC. On this date, the Athenian commander, Alcibiades, had a tower built on this small island in order to inspect the ships entering and exiting the Bosphorus and to collect taxes. From the place where Sarayburnu is located, the chain is stretched to the island where the tower is located and thus the tower becomes a customs station controlling the entrance and exit of the Bosphorus. Years later, in 341 BC, the Greek Commander Chares built a monumental tomb on marble columns for his wife on the islet.
In 1110 AD, the first distinctive structure (tower) on this small island was built by Emperor Manuel Comnenos. Emperor Manuel, who ruled between 1143 and 1178, had two towers built to help defend the city. Emperor Manuel, who built one of them near the Mangana Monastery (the beach of Topkapı Palace) and the other on the site of the Maiden’s Tower, had a chain tied between the two towers in order not to enter the enemy ships into the Bosphorus and to prevent the passage of merchant ships without customs duty.
After the conquest, Fatih Sultan Mehmet had this small castle demolished and replaced it with a small stone castle surrounded by battlements and placed balls there.
These cannons placed in the castle became an effective weapon for the ships in the harbor. However, the tower was used as a demonstration platform rather than a defense castle in the Ottoman period, and the Mehters read nevbet (a kind of National Anthem) here with cannon balls. The foundations of the tower we see today and the important parts of the ground floor are the Fatih era structure. It is known that during the Ottoman period, the Maiden’s Tower was kept alive by repairing or rebuilding in places. In the earthquake that took place in 1510 and known as the “little apocalypse”, the Maiden’s Tower was damaged, like many buildings in Istanbul, and the tower was repaired during the reign of Yavuz Sultan Selim. Due to its shallow surroundings, a lantern was placed on the tower after the 17th century. From this date on, the tower started to serve as a lighthouse, not a fortress anymore. The cannons in the tower were also thrown not for protection during this period, but for greeting during ceremonies.
Known as Arkla (small castle) and Damialis (calf cub) in ancient times, the Tower became famous with the name “Tour de Leandros” (Leandros’s tower), and today it is integrated with the name Maiden’s Tower – Maiden’s Tower. Restoration process of the Maiden’s Tower begins in 1995. This special place, which has a mysterious history of thousands of years, opens its doors to visitors in 2000 after the restoration work completed by adhering to its unique identity and traditional architecture. The Maiden’s Tower, which serves local and foreign visitors as a cafe-restaurant during the day and a private restaurant in the evenings, also hosts many special invitations and organizations such as weddings, meetings, launches, business dinners.
How to get to the Maiden’s Tower ?
There are trips to the Maiden’s Tower via Salacak every day of the week. There is a time every 15 minutes between 09:15 and 06:30 p.m. It is possible to reach the Maiden’s Tower at this time. There is also an opportunity to reach the Maiden’s Tower via Kabataş. However, the times of the weekends and weekdays are different for the trips going via Kabataş. There is a bus from Kabataş every 1 hour between 12:00 p.m and 06:00 p.m on weekdays. On weekends, there is a 1 hour trip from Kabataş between 10:00 a.m and 06:00 p.m.