Cultural Corridors of South East Europe

Search Results

Istanbul - Vernacular Architecture

Info Sections
Istanbul - Vernacular Architecture

About the site

Corridor: Via Egnatia, Via Pontica, Diagonal Road, Via Anatolia
Country: Turkey, Istanbul
Type: Vernacular Architecture
Epoch: Middle Ages
World Heritage:
Middle AgesVernacular Architecture

When you walk through the streets of Istanbul, probably you will find yourself into some of the old neighbourhoods of the city. One of the most significant are Galata, Eyup and Balat.

Galata is a multi-cultural settlement, which became the western face of the city during the Byzantine and Medieval periods, dates back to the ancient times. The city wall was constructed in 4th century, and the Byzantine settlement of the period included a church, a forum, a theatre, baths, houses and a port. The Genoese colony settled here in 12th century and formed a dense urban pattern; the 14th century Galata Tower dates from the same period as well. Galata attracted residents from different national and religious backgrounds due to the presence of port facilities. This socio-cultural structure created an urban morphology of monuments, commercial buildings and mansions reflecting European influence. The characteristic strong masonry resulted in a well-preserved historic urban site, which is being rehabilitated.

The origin of the Eyup settlement areas dates back to Antiquity under the name of Kosmidion and included Byzantine palaces and monasteries. The site became extra-mural settlement. Eyup mosque dated 1459 and constructed next to the recovered tomb of a Muslim saint, Ebu Eyyub el-Ensari, the standard bearer of the Prophet Mohammed, forms its center. During the Ottoman period, a suburban settlement developed here, including many religious and public monuments as well as palaces and houses. As the suburban settlements moved to Bosphorus shores in the 19th century, the site lost some of its former grandeur. Early production plants located along the shore, transformed the settlement into an industrial zone, a problem overcome with the urban plans in the second half of the 20th century.

Balat is significant for the history of the Jews in Istanbul. Macedonian Jews brought to the city following the conquest and those who immigrated from Spain were settled here. The area inside the sea walls has always been the most important and lively part of the neighborhood, including the famous Balat Bazaar. There are many synagogues, churches, mosques and public baths. However, major fires altered the site frequently while some areas were reorganized or destroyed; timber houses were reconstructed in masonry on an orthogonal street pattern. The houses are generally two-three storeys high with projections; some streets present beautiful vistas with rows of houses on either side. The “Fener-Balat Rehabilitation Program” implemented with the support of the European Union in 1998, is still continuing.

Expert Network