Symbols of Istanbul: Maiden’s Tower

Maiden’s Tower is one of the most elegant symbols of Istanbul. Its history goes back to the 5th century BC. It was built by the Greeks at a point close to the Üsküdar coast of the Bosphorus. It is the only architectural work left from the Roman Empire in Üsküdar.

The Maiden’s Tower has been used for many different purposes in history. Let’s examine the history and features of the Maiden’s Tower, about which there are many legends and stories.

History of the Maiden’s Tower

According to some historians, the Maiden’s Tower was first established as a customs point for sea trade. The founder of this place is an Athenian commander.

Maiden's Tower

Maiden’s Tower and the Roman Age

Centuries later, the city was named Constantinople and the first tower was erected on these cliffs on the Bosphorus. According to historians, the person who built the first tower was Emperor Manuel Komnenos (1143 – 1180).

Emperor Manuel has this tower built for the following purpose: To control the Bosphorus. In fact, it is known that a thick chain is drawn between the tower and the European coast.

In Roman times, the tower was sometimes used as a place of exile and isolation. Roman people told many stories about the tower and derived legends.

Maiden’s Tower in Ottoman

Ottomans captured Istanbul when they were strongest and also owned the Maiden’s Tower.

By the order of Fatih Sultan Mehmet, a tower was built here. It is not clear exactly what purpose this tower was built for. Damaged in the Istanbul earthquake in 1509, the tower was repaired by Hayrettin, the famous architect of that time.

About 200 years later, this tower was used as a lantern. This time, the tower caught fire and burned due to oil lamp oil.

During the Ottoman period, the Maiden’s Tower was also used for religious and diplomatic ceremonies. It is known that cannon fires were made from the tower. Abdulhamit I, one of the Ottoman sultans, used to rest in the Maiden’s Tower by listening to the sounds of the waves. 1. Mahmut executed a palace official who allegedly took a bribe in the Maiden’s Tower.

The Maiden’s Tower was also used as an isolation center during the plague epidemic that broke out in Istanbul in the 19th century.

Turkish Republic and Maiden’s Tower

In the last years of the Ottoman Empire, the Maiden’s Tower was used as a lighthouse. In the early 1980s it was used as a military radar station.

Today it serves as a viewing venue and a restaurant. There is a fee to go to the Maiden’s Tower.

The Story and Legends of the Maiden’s Tower

The Legend of Hero and Leander

Hero, one of the priestesses of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty in Greek mythology, works in the Maiden’s Tower. Hero has no relationship with men due to his profession and it is forbidden to fall in love.

Going to the beach to attend a ceremony, Hero sees a priest named Leandros and falls in love with him first. Priest Leander gets the same feelings.

The only way Hero and Leander can meet is to swim in the waters of the Bosphorus and go to the tower at night. Hero lights a lantern at night to guide his lover. Leander follows the light of this lighthouse and finds his way in the dark sea.

One night, the lantern that Hero lit to guide his lover goes out. Leaving his way in the dark, Leandros dies by drowning in the waters of the Bosphorus. According to the legend, Sister Hero, who witnessed this death, cannot endure the pain she experienced and commits suicide by leaving herself to the water.

Based on this legend, the Romans called this place Leandros Tower.

The Legend of the Poisonous Snake in the Basket

In a legend, a venomous snake arrives at the tower with the basket.

In ancient times, a Roman emperor is told by fortune tellers that his wife will die. She puts her in the Maiden’s Tower to protect her queen. He does not allow anyone but himself and his private attendants to enter. Still, fate cannot get in the way, and the snake coming out of the food basket sent to the queen kills her by biting her there.

In another version of this legend, one of the Seljuk Sultans sees in his dream that his daughter was killed by a snake. Very impressed by this dream, the sultan puts his daughter in the tower. He does not allow anyone to enter the tower, including himself. Years later, this girl gets sick. It improves after a tough treatment. Thereupon, gifts are sent to the tower from many different places, among which there is a basket of grapes. The snake hiding in the grape basket poisoned the young girl that night, causing her death.

Battal Gazi Legend

Another Maiden’s Tower legend is about Seyyid Battal Gazi. Battal Gazi participates in the siege of Istanbul with the army of Harun Reşid, the sultan of the period. The siege fails and the army returns. But Battal Gazi decides to stay in Üsküdar. Because he is in love with the daughter of Üsküdar landlord.

Üsküdar takfuru wants to keep her daughter away from Battal Gazi by imprisoning her in the tower with the permission of the emperor. But Battal Gazi raids the Maiden’s Tower one night and kidnaps the tekfur’s daughter.

Love of Galata Tower and Maiden’s Tower

According to this legend about Galata and Maiden Towers, which are two separate symbols of Istanbul; The spirit of Galata Tower falls in love with the Maiden’s Tower. You can read our Galata Tower article to read the legend about these two lovers who are impossible to meet.

galata tower and maiden's tower

Maiden’s Tower Activities

Maiden’s Tower serves as a museum and cafe & restaurant.

Restaurant and cafeteria service is provided on the ground floor of the tower, and food and beverage service is provided in the cafe on the upper floor with a view of the Bosphorus.

In the cafe on the upper floor of the Maiden’s Tower, you can enjoy a 360-degree view of the Bosphorus. Here, organizations for a maximum of 16 people can be organized for your special days.

Entrance Fee and Visiting Hours

The Maiden’s Tower is open to visitors every day between 09:00 – 19:00. The entrance fee for the Maiden’s Tower is 30 TL per adult and 15 TL per student.