Chief city of the Province of Istanbul
Historic Areas of Istanbul
Trade, politics and religion
Location and site
Situated on a promontory that dominates the European shore of the Bosphorus, Istanbul was in a position to control the passage to Asia. The city is divided by the Estuary of the Golden Horn and thus played a major defensive role. Between the Balkans and Anatolia, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, it was an important crossroads for both maritime and terrestrial routes.
The heart of Istanbul is surrounded by water on three sides and by a rampart (erected in 413 and since modified) on the other. It is said to be built on seven hills, like Rome. The heart of the city provided a point of departure for the terrestrial routes that led out into the empire; an east-west artery branches out towards the city gates. Even today, this early structure can be read in Istanbul’s very dense urban fabric.
Care has been taken to protect Istanbul’s neighbourhoods (Süleymaniye quarter, Zeyrek quarter and the Archaeoligical Park outside the ramparts), which are rich with monuments. In the midst of the low urban hills are masterpieces that testify to each of the periods in the city’s history: the Eastern Roman Empire (hippodrome of Constantine, 324), the Byzantine Empire (the Church of Saint Sophia, 6th century), and the Ottoman Empire (the Mosque of Süleymaniye, 1550-1557).
Criterion (i): The Historic Areas of Istanbul include monuments recognised as unique architectural masterpieces of Byzantine and Ottoman periods such as Hagia Sophia, which was designed by Anthemios of Tralles and Isidoros of Miletus in 532-537 and the Suleymaniye Mosque complex designed by architect Sinan in 1550-1557.
Criterion (ii): Throughout history the monuments in Istanbul have exerted considerable influence on the development of architecture, monumental arts and the organization of space, both in Europe and the Near East. Thus, the 6,650 meter terrestrial wall of Theodosius II with its second line of defence, created in 447, was one of the leading references for military architecture; Hagia Sophia became a model for an entire family of churches and later mosques, and the mosaics of the palaces and churches of Constantinople influenced both Eastern and Western art.
Criterion (iii): Istanbul bears unique testimony to the Byzantine and Ottoman civilizations through its large number of high quality examples of a great range of building types, some with associated artworks. They include fortifications, churches and palaces with mosaics and frescos, monumental cisterns, tombs, mosques, religious schools and bath buildings. The vernacular housing around major religious monuments in the Süleymaniye and Zeyrek quarters provide exceptional evidence of the late Ottoman urban pattern.
Criterion (iv): The city is an outstanding set of monuments, architectural and technical ensembles that illustrate very distinguished phases of human history. In particular, the Palace of Topkapi and the Suleymaniye Mosque complex with its caravanserai, madrasa, medical school, library, bath building, hospice and imperial tombs, provide supreme examples of ensembles of palaces and religious complexes of the Ottoman period.
- During the Greek Antiquity, Byzantium enjoyed maritime power. It was the site of Constantinople (later Istanbul) that Constantine I declared to be the new nucleus of the Roman Empire in 324 A.D. The emperor possessed high expectations for the city which he named after himself.
- As capital of the Byzantine Empire following the division of the Roman Empire in 395, Constantinople was also capital of the Christian Eastern Roman Empire. Under Emperor Justinian I, it reached the peak of its realisations in terms of architectural achievements.
- Constantinople defended its trade routes and expanded its territory through a series of wars. Under the Macedonian Dynasty (867-1081), it reached the peak of its power. The city, which had reached extensive proportions, was filled with architectural masterpieces. At this time, it was considered the greatest urban achievement in the western world.
- After a series of invasions and defeats, Constantinople was reconquered in 1261. Following its takeover by the Turks in 1453, it became the glorious capital of the flourishing Ottoman Empire (1451-1566).
Mr. Ekrem Imamoglu
Mayor of Istanbul
Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality
Sehzadebasi Cad. No:25 Sarachane
+90 212 455 21 85
Dr. Halil Onur
Architect - Site Manager
Istanbul Site Management Directorate
Süleymaniye Mah., Kirazli Mescit Sk. No. 36, Süleymaniye Fatih
+90 212 455 32 12
Mr. Fahri Murat Tuncay
Foreign Relations Department
Sehzadebasi Cd. No:25 Sarachane
+90 212 455 21 85