Istanbul, the city of magic, has always been very important to civilizations for various reasons, including its strategic location connecting Europe and Asia. Naturally, the city was the capital of major empires such as the Byzantium and Ottoman empires. After its conquest by Mehmed II, aka Mehmed the Conqueror, Istanbul has become a city of tolerance and was home to various religions, cultures and communities.
As it has housed people of different backgrounds, it also features the structures built by these people in its unique geography.
The area of the city surrounded by the Golden Horn in the north, the Bosporus in the east and the Marmara Sea in the south is known as the “historical peninsula” today. Four areas on the historical peninsula were included in UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1985. These areas are the Sultanahmet Urban Archaeological Component Area, Süleymaniye Mosque and its Associated Component Area, the Zeyrek Mosque (the Monastery of the Pantocrator) and its Associated Component Area and the Istanbul Land Walls Component Area.
Sultanahmet Urban Archaeological Component Area
The Sultanahmet Urban Archaeological Component Area consists of the hippodrome of Constantinople, Hagia Sophia, Hagia Eirene, Little Hagia Sophia Mosque and Topkapı Palace.
Hippodrome: This area is called Sultanahmet Square today. Built in 203 by Byzantine Emperor Septimius Severus as a sport and social center, the area was renewed and expanded by Constantine in 324. Only a few remains have survived from the original structure.
Hagia Sophia: Hagia Sophia is a Greek Orthodox Christian church used as a museum today. It was built by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I between 532 and 537. Converted into a mosque by Mehmed the Conqueror after the conquest of Istanbul in 1453, the structure started to serve as a museum on Feb. 1, 1935.
Famous for its massive dome in particular, the building is considered one of the most important examples of Byzantine architecture.
Hagia Eirene: Located within the walls surrounding Topkapı Palace, Hagia Eirene was built by Constantine I in the fourth century as a Greek Orthodox Church. It was damaged by a major earthquake and repaired during the reign of Emperor Constantine V. The structure is like a typical Roman basilica divided by corners and columns.
Little Hagia Sophia Mosque: It is a Byzantine Orthodox Church built in 536. The church was converted into a mosque in 1497 during the reign of Bayezid II. In front of the building is a small garden, a fountain for ablution, as well as several small shops and a portico added during the Ottoman period.
Topkapı Palace: After the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1923, Topkapı Palace was converted into a museum of the imperial period and opened for visitors in 1924. In the palace, there are porcelain items from the Ottoman era and arts, dresses, weapons, shields, armor, Ottoman miniatures, Islamic calligraphic manuscripts and murals as well as large collections displaying Ottoman treasures and jewels.
Süleymaniye Mosque and its Associated Component Area
It is the area that includes the Süleymaniye Mosque and its surroundings.
The Süleymaniye Mosque was built by Mimar Sinan under the auspices of Suleiman I, aka Suleiman the Magnificent. The mosque is one of the most important works of Ottoman architecture. The reason that the number of minarets in the mosque is four is because Suleiman the Magnificent is the fourth sultan that ruled the Ottoman state after the conquest of Istanbul. The 10 balconies in the minarets show that Suleiman the Magnificent was the 10th Ottoman sultan.
The Suleymaniye Mosque was designed as a complex that could meet both the city's religious and cultural needs. Apart from the mosque in the complex, there is a hospital, a bathhouse, a caravanserai, four madrasahs, a school specializing in hadith education, a medical school and an almshouse. Many of these structures still exist today.
Zeyrek Mosque and its Associated Component Area
Zeyrek Mosque and its Associated Component Area include the Zeyrek Mosque and its surroundings.
Zeyrek Mosque, or Monastery of the Pantocrator, is an important structure consisting of three orthodox churches. The mosque in Fatih district was built in 1124 by the wife of the Byzantine Emperor Ioannes Komnenos, empress Eirene Komnena, as a monastery, a library and a hospital. The monastery represents the most typical example of Byzantine medieval architecture as a whole.
The monastery was converted into a madrasah after the conquest of Istanbul. Both the structure and the district were named after Molla Mehmet Efendi, nicknamed “Zeyrek,” who was one of the teachers at the madrasah at the time.
Istanbul Land Walls Component Area
This area borders the historical peninsula on the west and covers the city walls and their surroundings starting from the Marmara Sea on the south and extending to the Golden Horn in the north. The land walls, consisting of stone walls surrounding and protecting Istanbul, are of great importance in terms of history and architecture. The construction of the walls was first initiated by Constantine the Great in the fourth century, and they underwent several additions and alterations throughout history.
The magnificent gates in the walls were built as monuments that show the power of the state to those who came to the city for the first time. Yedikule Gate, Belgrade Gate, Silivri Gate, Mevlana Gate, Topkapı, Sulukule Gate, Edirnekapı and Eğrikapı are still used today.
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