Galata Tower, Istanbul’s historic gem “restored” with a jackhammer

The Galata Tower monument is one of the most important markers of the Istanbul landscape and attracts many visitors every year. But this medieval tower was the scene, in mid-August, of restoration work that was not considered sensitive. In an amateur video shared by the opposition municipality, workers tear down a section of the wall with a jackhammer.In the historic district of Istanbul, Turkey’s economic capital, stands the Galata Tower, a historical monument built in the 14th century by the Genoese, who then established a colony in the area. In turn used as an observation post, astronomical tower or prison for centuries that followed, it is today an important tourist attraction and welcomes thousands of visitors every year.

On August 12, while work on behalf of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism was going on in the building, a video showing workers hitting a stone wall with a jackhammer shocked internet users and the opposition municipality greatly. .

Mahir Polat, head of the inheritance department of Istanbul Metropolis (IBB), led by the Republican People’s Party (CHP, secular, center-left), posted the video on Twitter with the following message:

I immediately draw the attention of the relevant authorities to the incredible practices that are taking place in the Tower of Galatia, one of the most important historical monuments in Istanbul. The law from the municipality’s cultural heritage went in place to monitor and immediately ceases these criminal methods.

He then said that he and his team had not allowed to visit the site and released documents that seemed to indicate that the work had begun before permission was requested from the Cultural Heritage Committee. The document shared by Mahir Polat is a request for permission for the renovation work on August 12, the day the video was published.

The Galata Tower has been the subject of a conflict between the national government and the municipal authorities in Istanbul since the election of Ekrem Imamoglu as head of Istanbul on June 23, 2019. This candidate for the CHP’s secular opposition. defeated former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in a city held by the ruling Islamo-conservative AKP party since 1994. The government tried to take over the management of the monument when he was elected and got it after a long legal battle, in April 2020. Galatatornet, which is now managed by the Ministry of Culture, is undergoing renovation work before reopening to the public in September 2020.

“History is complaining about us again,” laments this Internet user who superimposes a picture of Galata Tower at night and a screenshot of the video from the work.

Sanctions provided

Confronted with the scandal from these images, the Minister of Culture Mehmet Nuri Ersoy responded and stated that:

Allegations circulating on social media that “Galata’s walls are collapsing” are false. The parts that were demolished are parts that were built later and these damaged the Galatatornet. “But he did not approve of the methods seen in the video and explained that:” the necessary sanctions will be imposed on the company concerned.

The ministry later specified that the purpose of the work was to demolish newly built structures, offices and a restaurant, decorated in the tower, to replace them with a museum.
Vibrations bad for “tower health”

According to Oktay Özel, head of the municipality’s cultural heritage project, the main problem lies in the use of jackhammers: “The vibrations and damage that can be created are not suitable if you want to preserve the” health “of the tower,” he said and quoted by media near the Milliyet government.The oppositions MP MP Turan Aydogan (CHP) raised the subject on Thursday 13 August at the National Assembly and stressed that Turkey is rich in a very important cultural heritage but that of many websites has deteriorated significantly after alleged “restorations”. He took as an example “restoration of Ocakli Island Castle des Génois, the Archaeological Museum of Hatay, the Roman mosaics and the glass roof of the palace of Ishak Pasha “before asking the government about the competence of the commissioned company.

This Internet user took up in a photo montage known cases of restorations that are considered “failed” by Turkish historical monuments.

According to opposition media Bianet, the company is owned by the commission to carry out this work by Sevilay Tuncer Uludag, an architect who was previously a member of the ruling party (AKP) in the board of the province of Istanbul. It has reportedly won many calls for tenders in recent years, especially for restoration work on behalf of the Ministry of Culture.