Municipality to turn 630-year-old Istanbul castle into museum

After years of waiting, the opposition Istanbul municipal government is set to transform the 630-year-old Anadolu Hisarı castle into a museum.

Duvar English

The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (İBB) is set to restore the 630-year-old Anadolu Hisarı fortress and transform it into a museum that will open at the end of the summer, say city officials.

The landmark, a castle on the Anatolian side of Istanbul that used to act as a lookout point on the Bosphorus, has been closed to the public since the 1990s. It is mirrored by an almost identical fortress on the European side of the city, called Rumeli Hisarı. The two castles sit on opposite sides of the narrowest point in the Bosphorus, just 780 meters across.

The museum will be called the “Istanbul Hisarlar Museum” and its opening will be held by the city at the end of the summer, according to reporting by online T24 news outlet. The total cost of the project, carried out by the İBB Heritage team, will be 14 million Turkish Liras. The team will start by restoring the main structure and its environs, which will become the museum, then will continue work on the fortification walls, which they expect to be finished by 2023.

The restoration project was first approved in the early 2000s, when the city was under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) but was not initiated until the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) came to power. 

Anadolu Hisarı was built by Ottoman Sultan Yıldırım Bayezid in 1390-1395 in the lead-up to the conquest of Istanbul. Fortified walls were added during the reign of Mehmet the Conqueror, and the fortress was last restored in the 1930s.

“It is a great chance for us to restore these artifacts that witnessed the conquest of Istanbul,” said İBB Cultural Heritage Department Head Oktay Özel.

Özel says that a lack of maintenance of the castle and other fortifications around Istanbul, including the city walls, for the last 30 years has led to their degradation. However, he hopes that after İBB restores these sites, they will stand strong for one to two centuries. 

They will also put special precautions in place to protect the castle against earthquakes. Istanbul lies close to a fault line and is expected to experience a large earthquake in the coming years, while the city frequently experiences smaller ones. 

“We have modeled the damage that may be caused as a result of the expected Istanbul earthquake. The main tower was at serious risk…We have made the fortress able to withstand a 7.2 magnitude earthquake,” he said.

Özel emphasized the importance of maintaining the original appearance of the structure and promised that the city will not make major changes that will destroy the look of the ruin. 

“We will make small interventions that will not disturb the spirit of the ruin. We will not make large interventions, such as big stone and brick changes that will disrupt the physics of the building,” he said.