The Bodrum Castle

Date of Submission: 13/04/2016
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Turkey to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
District of Bodrum, Province of Muğla
Coordinates: N37 1 54 E27 25 46
Ref.: 6121


The Bodrum Castle (Castle of St. Peter) is located on a small rocky peninsula set between two sheltered bays in Bodrum, on the south- west coast of Anatolia. This peninsula inhabited and known in the ancient world as Zephyrion and was probably used as a rear base by the Byzantines in the early Middle Ages and then by the Turks. The Castle was built by the Order of St. John of Jerusalem (also called Knights of St.John, Knights Hospitallers, Knights of Rhodes) under the mastership of The Grand Master Philibert de Naillac, at the beginning of 15th century A.D., and ruled by them almost 120 years until the conquest of Rhodes by Suleiman I (Suleiman The Magnificent) in 1522. In Ottoman Period, the Bodrum Castle is used as a small garrison base and in 1895 it was transformed into a prison. During the 1st World War, the castle was bombed on the 26th of May 1915 by a French battleship. This caused great damage to the castle, the prisoners were moved inland and the castle was evacuated. Then the Italians invaded Bodrum and they posted their soldiers at the castle and used it as their headquarters. Following the success of the Turkish War of Independence under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal on the 5th of July 1921, the Italian military forces were dispersed. Between the years 1939-1945 during the 2nd World War, the Castle was yet again used as a military base but was evacuated at the end of the war. Today, the Bodrum Castle is home to the Museum of Underwater Archaeology, which is unique in Turkey, and one of the most significant Underwater Archaeology Museums in the world.

The Bodrum Castle preserves its original plan and character of Knights’ period and represents Gothic architecture. Since The Order of the Knights of St. John was a multinational organization with members from several countries of Europe, each Order had its own tower, each in its own style.

The Castle consists of the French, Spanish (Snake), German, Italian and English Towers. The knights had placed hundreds of painted coats of arms and carved reliefs on the walls above the gates. Two hundred and forty-nine separate designs still remain, including those of grand masters, castle commandants, countries, and personal coat of arms of knights and religious figures. Among those the most noticeable one is the coat of arms of King Henry IV of England on the English Tower.

The defences originally consisted of a single certain wall, but an outer wall reinforced with towers (Carretto and Gatinau Bastions) was added and embrasures were inserted at certain points for cannons at about middle of the 15th century A.D. The other structures of the Castle are north moat, large ravelin, harbour battery, harbour tower, forecourt, inner gatehouse, chapel and inner bailey. In the inner castle, wide areas were excavated in the natural rock to form cisterns for collecting rainwater.

In addition to this main character of the Castle, traces of the ancient world can also be seen on the walls because some pieces of the Maussolleion ruins, which was the one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, were used as construction materials. There are Ottoman additions like minaret on the chapel and Turkish bath (hamam). With this features, Bodrum Castle presents multilayered historical and cultural perspective.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The Castle is pre-eminently an ideal creation of the 15th century with its uniform plan, inspired by gothic principles, its fortified and bastioned walls modelled around the natural site. Location is well- chosen for the purpose of defence but the rocky peninsula on which the rock height reaches 30 meters on place to place, brings architectural difficulties as well. However, Knights overcome such difficulties successfully by using this natural rock mass as a part of the castle. The north moat is a stroke of genius in which they took advantage of the sea.

The Bodrum Castle also contains cultural assets dating from the 4th century B.C. to Ottoman period while its medieval character is prominent. In the inner castle, some base blocks from local green stone dating to the 4th century B.C were found during excavations which are thought to be probably the bases of the palace of King Maussollos of ancient Halicarnassos.

(ii): The Castle reflects virtually all features of monumental art, architecture and technique of Europe in the 15th century (because of the multinational organism of The Order) which is rare in Anatolia. In this regard the Castle is an outstanding extension of medieval Europe in respect to the military and moral forces of the time. The oldest traditional houses of Bodrum, called ‘tower houses’ dates back to the 17th century, and were built in the form of towers of the castle. The castle continues to be the town’s major landmark.

Criterion (iii): The Castle testifies to the history and culture of The Order of The St. John of Jerusalem. Soon after its construction in the 15th century, the Castle became the Knights’ most important position outside Rhodes which commands the usual route followed by all shipping of that day. Thus Knights continued working on the Castle almost 120 years without a break and strengthened it against attacks. They continued hospice services in Bodrum Castle but became a more militarized force, fighting especially with the pirates.

Criterion (iv): Bodrum Castle preserves its original plan and character of Knights’ period and represents Gothic architectural features. It also contains cultural assets from the 4th century B.C. to Ottoman period.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Integrity: The Bodrum Castle is under protection by the Turkish Legislation for Preservation of Cultural and Natural Property, Law No: 2863. The Castle was registered as an “immovable cultural property to be preserved” by the decision of Superior Council for Immovable Antiquties and Monuments dated 07.03.1986 and numbered 2031. It stays also within the “1st degree archaeological site” which was defined by the decision of the same Council dated 03.07.1987 and numbered 3492. It is of sufficient size and includes all elements necessary to express its Outstanding Universal Value.

Authenticity: The Castle is built on a small rocky peninsula surrounded by water. As a result, the perimeter of the Castle has remained largely unchanged since the departure of the Knights of St John. In spite of severe damage during World War I, a high proportion of the original monument has been preserved intact or carefully restored. The property retains its authenticity in terms of form and design, materials, function, location and setting while it serves as a museum today.

Comparison with other similar properties

Bodrum Castle was historically part of the Medieval City of Rhodes, which is already on the World Heritage List. Both castles are considered the finest examples of the Knights of St. John. Rhodes was inscribed on the World Heritage List in as for its urban ensembles of the Gothic period and after 1523 its coexistence with the Ottoman buildings. The Bodrum Castle is one of the important military ensembles that reflect the architectural style built by the Hospitaliers.

There are also several other castles built or settled by the Hospitaliers during the same period. One of them is the town of Valetta, inscribed on the World Heritage List by virtue of its uniform urban plan which was the creation of late Renaissance and its associations with the military and charitable order of the Knights of St John. Similar to Bodrum Castle, the history of the city of Valetta is also closely related the military and charitable Order of St. John of Jerusalem who marked the current architectural appearance of the city.

Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din (Syrian Arab Republic) was also built by the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem during 1142 to 1271, and with additions from the Mamluks period in 13th century. It was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2006 on account of being the best preserved examples of the Crusade castles. It differs from the Bodrum Castle in that it is an inner stronghold rather than a Mediterranean port castle.

To conclude, the difference of the Bodrum Castle from its contemporaries is the remains dating to the 4th century B.C, which were founded in the base and thought to be the bases of the palace of King Maussollos of ancient Halicarnassos. With its special location in a rock peninsula to make easier to defence, visual integrity with the surrounding landscape and the sea, impressive architecture designed with the Gothic principals, The Bodrum Castle differs from all the similar castles constructed in the same period.