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Rising at the northern-most point of the Acropolis, the Heptapyrgion owes its name to the seven towers of which it consists. Its Turkish name, Yedi Kule, has the same meaning, just as the corresponding fortress in Istanbul, located at the Golden Gate.

It is the product of the remodeling of a pre-existing Byzantine fort, carried out in 1431, immediately after the capture of the city by the Turks. This is attested by a Turkish inscription above the main entrance tower, which has an interesting facade incorporating Byzantine sculptures in second use. The inscription refers to the capture of Thessaloniki by the Turks: "This Acropolis was conquered and captured by force, from the hands of the infidels and Franks, with the help of God, by Sultan Murad, son of Sultan Mehmet, whose banner God does not cease to make victorious. And he slaughtered and took prisoner some of their sons, and took their property. And about one month later, this tower was built and founded by Çavuş Bey, king of emirs and the great, in the month of Ramadan, in the year 834 (= 1431)." The Çavuş Bey referred to was the first Turkish governor of Thessaloniki.

It is a polygonal fortress formed on the north-east edge of the Acropolis by the addition of an almost semicircular wall to the enceinte at this point, on the inside of the Acropolis. The southern part of the fortress that was added to the existing north wall of the Acropolis has a symmetry of design and execution that links it with the original layout of the closed fortress, which is probably to be attributed to the Late Byzantine period. By contrast, the north part of the enclosure wall, which results from the incorporation in the fortress of part of the earlier wall of the Acropolis, exhibits some variety in its dimensions and in the form of its towers. The wall between the towers is crenellated and, inside the fortress, forms a passageway to facilitate communication between the towers.

During the Ottoman Era, the Heptapyrgion was used as the seat of the Turkish governor. At the end of the 19th century, a prison was established in the fortress. A variety of buildings was erected to serve the needs of the prison, both inside the monument and outside its south front, which was completely concealed by them.


Wandering in Byzantine Thessaloniki by E. Kourkoutidou-Nikolaidou 

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The Byzantine Legacy
Created by David Hendrix Copyright 2016