Kız Kulesi, or Maiden’s Tower, an iconic structure off the coast of İstanbul’s Asian side, has opened its doors again with the completion of the restoration process started by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in 2021. The tower, which is situated on the Bosporus Strait, will now function as a monument museum.
The Maiden's Tower was initially constructed in the fifth century BC on an islet about 20 metres from the present-day coast of Üsküdar as a customs checkpoint to manage ships travelling through the Bosporus and collect taxation. On this tiny islet, the Eastern Roman Emperor Manuel Komnenos ordered the construction of a defence structure in the 12th century. An iron chain that extended from the tower to another tower on the Historical Peninsula took control of the Bosporus' entry and departure.
After the conquest of İstanbul in 1453 by Sultan Mehmed II, a wooden tower was built here and served as a watchtower, a lighthouse and a quarantine site in the upcoming centuries. In the Republic era after being used by the city’s port authority for a long time, the tower was handed over to the Turkish Ministry of Defense in 1964 and then to Maritime Enterprises of Türkiye in 1983. Serving as a radar station and storehouse during this period, it later functioned for a while as a restaurant, accessible only via boats from Üsküdar's shore.
Situated in the middle of the Bosporus as a beautiful girl displaying İstanbul's beauty, the Maiden’s Tower has also a few legends adding to its fame. The first tells the story of a king and his princess daughter. After a soothsayer had predicted that the princess would die from a snake bite, the king built the Maiden’s Tower on the rocks off Salacak to protect his daughter. However, the princess couldn’t avoid her fate eventually and was bitten by a snake that entered the castle in a basket of fruits. Another legend says that Leandros fell in love with Hero, a nun of Aphrodite living in a tower. Leandros swam every night to see Hero following the light of the tower. However, the tower’s light was put out by a storm one night. Leandros lost his way and drowned in the Bosporus. Overwhelmed by grief and loss, Hero also committed suicide.
As one of the iconic landmarks on İstanbul’s skyline, the Maiden’s Tower requires constant maintenance due to its location in the middle of the sea and weather conditions. In this context, the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry initiated a restoration project titled “The Maiden’s Tower Opens Its Eyes Again” in 2021. The project was carried out under the supervision of the Ministry and under the consultancy of expert academicians and architects, including Professor Zeynep Ahunbay and Han Tümertekin. As part of the latest restoration, all concrete additions have been removed from the tower’s main structure which did not exist in its historical documents. Additionally, the tower and the island it stands on have been supported with stakes and seismic isolators. The roof over the courtyard of the Tower has been removed and replaced with a wooden one prepared in line with the original form. The courtyard and the outside floors have also been restored to the original material determined in the historical records.
Locals and visitors of İstanbul have always watched this elegant structure from the city’s multiple locations. Now that it has been reopened as a museum, visitors will be able to watch the beautiful İstanbul from the Maiden’s Tower’s point of view.