Galata was a neighbourhood in Constantinople (today's Istanbul), located at the northern shore of the Golden Horn, the inlet which separates it from the historic peninsula of old Constantinople. The Golden Horn is crossed by several bridges, most notably the Galata Bridge. The medieval citadel of Galata was a colony of the Republic of Genoa between 1273 and 1453. The famous Galata Tower was built by the Genoese in 1348 at the northernmost and highest point of the citadel. At present, Galata is a quarter within the borough of Beyoğlu in Istanbul, and is known as Karaköy.
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 Anatolia. The inhabitants of Galatia are famous for the Epistle to the Galatians and the Dying Galatian statue.
In historic documents, 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."
The quarter first appears in Late Antiquity as Sykai or Sycae. By the time the Notitia Urbis Constantinopolitanae was compiled in ca. 425 AD, it had become an integral part of the city as its 13th region. According to the Notitia, it featured public baths and a forum built by Emperor Honorius (r. 395–423), a theatre, a porticoed street and 435 mansions. It is also probable that the settlement was enclosed by walls in the 5th century. Sykai received full city rights under Justinian I (r. 527–565), who renamed it Iustinianopolis, but declined and was probably abandoned in the 7th century. Only the large tower, Megalos Pyrgos (the kastellion tou Galatou) which controlled the northern end of the sea chain that blocked the entrance to the Golden Horn remained.
In the 11th century, the quarter housed the city's Jewish community, which came to number some 2,500 people. In 1171, a new Genoese settlement in the area was attacked and nearly destroyed. Despite Genoese averments that Venice had nothing to do with the attack, the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Komnenos (r. 1143–1180) used the attack on the settlement as a pretext to imprison all Venetian citizens and confiscate all Venetian property within the Byzantine Empire. The kastellion and the Jewish quarter were seized and destroyed in 1203 by the Catholic crusaders during the Fourth Crusade, shortly before the sack of Constantinople.
In 1233, during the subsequent Latin Empire (1204–1261), Dominican friars built in Galata the Church of St. Paul. The building is known today as the Arap Camii (Arab Mosque) because after its conversion in Mosque under Mehmet II it was given by Sultan Bayezid II to the Spanish Moors who after 1492 fled the Spanish Inquisition and came to Istanbul.
In 1261, the quarter was retaken by the Byzantines, but Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos (r. 1259–1282) granted it to the Genoese in 1267 in accordance with the Treaty of Nymphaeum. The precise limits of the Genoese colony were stipulated in 1303, and they were prohibited from fortifying it. The Genoese however disregarded this, and through subsequent expansions of the walls, enlarged the area of their settlement. These walls, including the mid-14th-century Galata Tower (originally Christea Turris, "Tower of Christ", and completed in 1348) survived largely intact until the 19th century, when most were dismantled in order to allow further urban expansion towards the northern neighbourhoods of Beyoğlu, Beşiktaş, and beyond. At present, only a small portion of the Genoese walls are still standing, in the vicinity of the Galata Tower.
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 Kart Çınar Sokak; a narrow side street that's parallel to the neighbouring Bankalar Caddesi (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 Horn.
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 (Beyoğlu), where Galatasaray High School, formerly known as the Mekteb-i Sultani also stands. Galatasaray literally means Galata Palace.
Images from Galata
Notable natives and residents of Galata
References and notes
- Kazhdan, Alexander, ed. (1991), Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, p. 815, ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6
- John Julius Norwich, A History of Venice, First Vintage Books Edition May 1986, p. 104
- Kazhdan, Alexander, ed. (1991), Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, pp. 815–816, ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6
- Ottoman Bank Museum: Bereket Han on Bankalar Caddesi
- Camondo Steps on the Bankalar Caddesi
- Galatasaray Sports Club 2288 Website