Leander’s Tower / Maiden’s Tower
The Maiden’s Tower, Kiz Kulesi in Turkish, is one of the city’s symbols, located on a small island in the Bosphorus near Üsküdar. In 2016 it was named one of the world’s most photographed attractions, it ranked 5th on the list!
In English it’s most popular name, especially in tourism books, is Leander’s Tower derived from the Greek myth of Hero and Leander. According to myth, Hero and Leander fell in love but lived on opposite sides of the strait. Each night Leander would swim across the Dardanelles (Hellespont) to visit her and was guided by the light in the tower.
It’s other name in English, the Maiden’s Tower comes from the Turkish legend of the Princess Tale.
The Princess Tale
Once upon a time, the Byzantine Emperor received a prophecy that his daughter on her 18th birthday would be killed by a venomous snake. To protect her, he built a tower in the middle of the Bosphorus, where she would live, away from land, until she turned 18. Unfortunately, she couldn’t escape fate. On her 18th birthday the princess received a basket of fruit, and upon reaching for an apple, a snake hiding among the fruit, bit the princess and killed her.
The tale reminded me of a mixture of the three fairytales: Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel and Snow White.
Different Purposes Over the Years
It’s believed that the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Comnenus originally built the tower in the 12th century as a guard building. The construction of the tower and it’s uses are still unclear today but it’s said it also once served as a quarantine and hospital for a cholera outbreak 1830, in addition to the obvious use of controlling sea traffic through customs controls and as a toll. Today it’s used as a lighthouse and a restaurant.