Rumelihisarı (Rumelian Castle) Fortress of Europe


Yahya Kemal Cad 42, European side of Istanbul Map

Constructeed: 1451- 52 by Sultan Mehmed II

Tel. (0212) 263 53 05

Bus: 40, 41

Open: 9am- 5pm Thu- Tue


Description of Rumeli Hisari Fortress

Rumelihisarı (also known as Rumelia Castle and Roumeli Hissar Castle) or Boğazkesen Castle (meaning "Narrow Castle" or literally "Gorge Cutter Castle") is a medieval fortress located in Istanbul, Turkey, on a series of hills in the European shore of the Bosphorus. The fortress also lends its name to the immediate neighborhood around it in the city's Sarıyer district.

Conceived and built between 1451 and 1452 by order of the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, the complex was commissioned in preparation for a planned Ottoman siege on the then Byzantine city of Constantinople, with the aim of cutting off the maritime, military and logistical relief that could potentially come. to the aid of the Byzantines across the Bosphorus Strait, hence the alternative name of the fortress, "Boğazkesen", i.e. "narrow castle". Its older sister structure, Anadoluhisarı ("Anatolian Fortress"), lies on opposite banks of the Bosphorus, and the two fortresses worked together during the final siege to speed up all naval traffic along the Bosphorus, thus helping the Ottomans to achieve their goal of making the city of Constantinople (later renamed Istanbul) their new imperial capital in 1453.

After the Ottoman conquest of the city, Rumelihisarı served as a customs checkpoint and occasional prison, especially for embassies of states that were at war with the empire. After suffering extensive damage in the Great Earthquake of 1509, the structure was repaired and used continuously until the end of the 19th century.

Today, the fortress is a popular museum open to the public and also acts as an open-air venue for seasonal concerts, art festivals and special events.



The need for a strategic fortress on the Bosphorus was well known to the Ottomans, who had begun in the late 14th century to harbor intentions of capturing the city of Constantinople as a new capital for their then nascent empire. In a previous Ottoman attempt to conquer the city, Sultan Murad II had encountered difficulties due to the blockade of the Bosphorus by the Byzantine fleet. Having learned the importance of maritime strategy from this previous attempt, Sultan Mehmed II, son of Murad II, began planning a new offensive immediately after his accession to the throne in 1451.

In response to the coronation of the ambitious young sultan, the Byzantine emperor Constantine city, while avoiding the long decline of the Byzantines.

Mehmed II rejected the offer of peace offered and proceeded with his siege plans by commissioning the construction of a large fortress that would be used to control all maritime traffic along the Bosphorus, and would work alongside the ancient Anadoluhisarı (Anatolian fortress) in The strait. to prevent any possible maritime aid from reaching Constantinople during the final Ottoman siege of the city in 1453, particularly from the Genoese colonies along the Black Sea, such as Caffa, Sinope and Amasra.

The site for the new fortress was quickly decided as the narrowest point of the Bosphorus, where the strait is just 660 meters (2,170 ft) wide. This high hilltop site on the European banks of the strait not only facilitated control of the waterway, but also had the advantage of being situated directly across Anadoluhisarı on the Asian banks of the Bosphorus; a larger Ottoman fortress built between 1393 and 1394 by Sultan Bayezid I. Historically, there had been a Roman fortification on the top of the hill where Rumelihisarı was to be built, which had then been used as a prison by the Byzantines and Genoese. Later a monastery was built there.

Construction began on April 15, 1452. Before construction, Mehmed II laid the first brick and superstitiously signed his initials and those of the Prophet Muhammad on it with goat's blood. Each of the three main towers was named after the royal vizier who supervised its respective construction; Çandarlı Halil Pasha, who built the great tower next to the gate; Zağanos Pasha, who built the south tower; and Sarıca Pasha, who built the north tower. The sultan himself personally inspected the activities at the site.



The Rumelihisarı fortification has one small tower, three main towers, and thirteen small watchtowers placed on the walls connecting the main towers. One watchtower is in the shape of a quadrangular prism, six watchtowers are shaped like prisms with multiple corners and another six are cylindrical.

The main tower in the north, Sarıca Pasha Tower, is cylindrical in shape, with a diameter of 23.30 m (76.4 ft), walls 7 m (23 ft) thick and a total of 9 floors reaching a height of 28 m. (92 feet). Today, this tower is also known as Fatih ("Conqueror") Tower after the cognomen of Sultan Mehmed II. The large tower on the waterfront in the middle of the fortress, Halil Pasha Tower, is a dodecagon prism and also has 9 floors. It is 22 m (72 ft) high with 23.30 m (76.4 ft) in diameter and walls measuring 6.50 m (21.3 ft) thick. The main tower in the south, Zağanos Pasha Tower, has only 8 floors. This cylindrical tower is 21 m (69 ft) high and 26.70 m (87.6 ft) in diameter with walls 5.70 m (18.7 ft) thick. The interior space of each tower was divided with wooden floors, each equipped with an oven. Conical wooden roofs covered in lead originally crowned the towers, although they are no longer preserved today.

The fortress's outer curtain walls are 250 m (820 ft) long from north to south, and vary between 50 and 125 m (164 and 410 ft) long from east to west. The total area of the complex is 31,250 m 2 (336,372 sq ft).

The fortress had three main gates next to the main towers, a side gate and two secret doors for the arsenal and food cellars next to the south tower. There were wooden houses for the soldiers and a small mosque, endowed by the sultan at the time of construction. Only the minaret shaft of the original mosque remains, while the small mosque added in the mid-16th century has not survived. Water was supplied to the fortress from a large cistern beneath the mosque and was distributed through three wall fountains, only one of which remains. Two inscription plaques are attached to the walls.

The fortress was initially called “Boğazkesen”, which literally means “strait cutter”, in reference to the Bosphorus Strait. The name has a secondary and more macabre meaning; since boğaz not only means narrow but also "throat" in Turkish.

It was later renamed Rumelihisarı, meaning "fortress of Rumelia", meaning Byzantine Europe or the Balkan Peninsula.


Current situation

Rumeli Fortress is used as a museum today. There is no open display in the fortress, there is no exhibition hall. Artifacts consisting of cannons, cannonballs and a piece of the chain said to close the Golden Horn are exhibited in the garden.

In addition to its museum status, the Citadel was also used as an event area for theater and concerts until the end of the 2000s. During the restoration works in the 1950s, an open-air theater was built in the area where Boğazkesen Masjid (also known as Ebu'l-Feth Mosque) was located, which was destroyed in the 18th century and only a section of its minaret remained. This area, which originally had simple viewing terraces and a stage, was later turned into an amphitheater upon the request of theater artist Muhsin Ertuğrul. With the Rumeli Fortress Concerts that started in 1989, the amphitheater became one of the most popular summer entertainment venues of Istanbul's cultural and entertainment life. Rumeli Fortress Concerts were stopped in 2006 and were held for the last time in 2008.

The Council of State in 2015; The Istanbul Administrative Court ruled that the effects that would arise as a result of the activities (concerts and theater plays) to be carried out in the platform and theater area located in the historical Boğazkesen Masjid in Rumeli Fortress could damage the cistern, and this would cause negativities in terms of the historical and cultural structure. It approved the decision of the Cultural and Natural Heritage Preservation Regional Board, which annulled the decision numbered 3765 dated June 30, 2009.

The construction of Boğazkesen Fetih Masjid, built on the area used as an open-air theater and concert venue, was completed in 2015.

There are many restaurants around Hisar.

Restoration works were started by IBB Miras in 2022.