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Genoese houses from the early 1300s in the back streets of Galata

Galata or Galatae is a neighbourhood in the Beyoğlumarker district of Istanbulmarker, the largest city of Turkeymarker, on the European side. Galata is located at the northern shore of the Golden Hornmarker, the inlet which separates it from the historic peninsula of old Constantinoplemarker. The Golden Horn is crossed by several bridges, most notably the Galata Bridgemarker. Galata (also known as Pera back then) was a colony of the Republic of Genoa between 1273 and 1453. The famous Galata Towermarker was built by the Genoese in 1348 at the northernmost and highest point of the citadel.

There are several theories concerning the origin of the name Galata. According to the Italians, the name comes from Calata (meaning downward slope) as the neighbourhood is sloped and goes downwards to the sea from a hilltop. The Greeks believe that the name comes either from Galaktos (meaning milk, as the area was used by shepherds in the early medieval period) or from the word Galat (meaning Celtic in Greek) as the Celtic tribe of Galatians were thought to have camped here during the Hellenistic period before settling into Galatia in central Anatoliamarker. The inhabitants of Galatia are famous for the Epistle to the Galatians and the Dying Galatian statue.


In history, Galata is often called Pera, which comes from the old Greek name for the place, Peran en Sykais, literally 'the Fig Field on the Other Side'. Much later in Byzantine times Galata became significant as the site of the Megalos Pyrgos from which an iron chain could be raised in times of war to block entry to the Golden Hornmarker. This tower was destroyed during the Fourth Crusade in 1204, but a new tower was later built by the Genoese on a different nearby site as the Christea Turris (Tower of Christ) and survives to this day (see: Galata Towermarker). From 1273 to 1453, when it was captured by the Ottomans in the Siege of Constantinople, 'Pera' was a Genoesemarker colony. The walls of the medieval Genoese citadel of Galata largely remained intact until the 19th century, when they were demolished in order to allow further urban expansion towards the northern neighbourhoods of Beyoğlumarker, Beşiktaşmarker, and beyond. At present, only a small portion of the Genoese walls are still standing, in the vicinity of the Galata Towermarker. The Palace of the Genoese podestà Montano de Marinis, known as the Palazzo del Comune (Palace of the Municipality) in the Genoese period and built in 1316, still stands in ruins on Banker Sokağı (the historic Rue Camondo); a narrow side street that's parallel to the neighbouring Bankalar Caddesimarker (Banks Street) which was the financial center of the Ottoman Empire and has rows of Ottoman-era bank buildings, including the headquarters of the Ottoman Central Bank, which is today the Ottoman Bank Museum. Several ornaments that were originally on the façade of the Genoese Palace were used to embellish these 19th century bank buildings in the late Ottoman period. The Camondo Steps, a famous pedestrian stairway designed with a unique mix of the Neo-Baroque and early Art Nouveau styles, and built in 1860 by the renowned Ottoman-Venetian Jewish banker Abraham Salomon Camondo, is also located on Bankalar Caddesi; while the seaside mansion of the Camondo family is located on the shore of the Golden Hornmarker. Another famous building in Galata is the Church of St. Paulmarker (1233) which was built by the Dominican priests of the Catholic Church during the Latin Empire of Constantinoplemarker (1204-1261). The building is known today as the Arap Camiimarker (Arab Mosque) because it was given by Sultan Bayezid II to the Arabs of Spainmarker who fled the Spanish Inquisition of 1492 and came to Istanbul.

At present, Galata is a quarter within the borough of Beyoğlumarker in Istanbulmarker, and is known as Karaköymarker.

Galatasaray S.K., one of the most famous football clubs of Turkey, gets its name from this quarter and was established in 1905 in the nearby Galatasaray Square in Pera (Beyoğlumarker), where Galatasaray Lisesimarker (Galatasaray High School), formerly known as the Mekteb-i Sultani also stands. Galatasaray literally means Galata Palace.

Notable natives and residents of Galata

Images from Galata

Image:Assicurazioni Generali on Bankalar Caddesi in Galata.jpgImage:Chiesa_di_Santi_Pietro_e_Paolo_in_Galata.jpgImage:Genoese house from 1314 in Galata Istanbul.jpgImage:Genoese Palace in Galata Istanbul.jpgImage:Bankalar Caddesi.jpgImage:Camondo Stairs on Bankalar Caddesi.jpgImage:Camondo Stairs on Bankalar Caddesi in Galata.jpgImage:Facade detail from Bankalar Caddesi.jpg

References and notes

  1. Ottoman Bank Museum: Bereket Han on Bankalar Caddesi
  2. Camondo Steps on the Bankalar Caddesi
  3. Galatasaray Sports Club 2288 Website

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