Take advantage of the search to browse through the World Heritage Centre information.


Historic Areas of Istanbul

Factors affecting the property in 1999*
  • Earthquake
  • Identity, social cohesion, changes in local population and community
  • Management activities
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Other Threats:

    Need to monitor movements which could affect the structure of the building

Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Need for information on the Urban development Plan 
  • Need to monitor the structure of the buildings
International Assistance: requests for the property until 1999
Requests approved: 14 (from 1986-1999)
Total amount approved : 402,208 USD
Information presented to the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee in 1999

The Monument of Hagia Sophia of the Archaeological Park

Summary of previous deliberations: At its twenty-second extraordinary session, the Bureau noted the following history of the co-operation and state of conservation of mosaics at Hagia Sophia. In 1993, an expert mission visited Hagia Sophia, one of the main monuments of the World Heritage Historic Areas of Istanbul. A series of recommendations for its rehabilitation elaborated by the UNESCO mission in 1993 was approved by the Government of Turkey, who subsequently increased its budgetary allocation for their implementation. In March 1998, another mission visited the monument and stressed the need for an advisory body of international and national experts who can meet regularly to advise the national team composed of the Hagia Sophia Museum and the Central Conservation and Restoration Laboratory, in charge of the restoration of this monument. It also noted that the restoration of the mosaics of Hagia Sophia for which the World Heritage Fund has contributed between 1983 and 1994 (in particular, US $ 80,000 in 1994), was progressing satisfactorily. To increase the rhythm of the work, the Central Laboratory has requested additional human and financial resources. The Committee at its twenty-second session approved US $ 50,000 out of the requested amount US $ 100,000.

New Information: As a preliminary mission within the framework of the approved technical co­operation for the restoration of the mosaics at Hagia Sophia, an expert mission was sent in March 1999. The main objective of the mission was to prepare a preliminary assessment of the structural condition of the monument and to assist the Turkish authorities to draw up the detailed schedule for the restoration of mosaics. In its report, the mission concluded that there was no remarkable evidence showing rapid structural deformation and that the multidisciplinary experts’ team should be organised to review the present situation and make decisions for the future interventions for both mosaics and structures. The mission also pointed out that numerous studies or investigations were undertaken by several national and international institutions, but, because of the complexity of problems, no decisions was made toward the sound mid-term restoration plan. During the mission, concerned bodies have agreed to form this multidisciplinary team this year and hold a workshop in June 1999 prior to its actual first session. The result of the workshop will be presented by the Secretariat to the members of the Bureau at the session.

Historic Areas of Istanbul

Summary of previous deliberations: After having taken note of the Secretariat’s report on the safeguarding of the urban heritage of the Historic Centre of Istanbul and following discussions on the degree of progress in the restoration of the mosaics of Saint Sophia, the Bureau, during its twenty-second extraordinary session, approved a request for technical co-operation for US 30,000 to create a « House for the Inhabitants of the Fatih », an advisory service for the inhabitants of Fatih; the elaboration of a detailed technical evaluation and the preparation of a programme for the repair of the historic wooden buildings. It was concerned with the state of conservation of the wooden buildings of the Ottoman Empire of Zeyrek and requested the State Party to inform the Secretariat before 15 April 1999 of the conservation measures for this site, for examination by the Bureau at its twenty-third ordinary session. The Bureau also requested the Secretariat to maintain close co-operation with the European Commission and the Municipality of the Fatih in the implementation of the rehabilitation project of the historic buildings of the protected areas of the World Heritage site.

Furthermore, in connection with the restoration of the mosaics of Saint Sophia, the Bureau recommended that the Government organise, in close collaboration with the Secretariat, a meeting of international experts to evaluate the progress made, establish a medium-term plan of action for the continuation of the work and elaborate specifications for the international experts required by the Central Laboratory.

New information: In response to the Bureau’s request, made during its twenty-second extraordinary session, an international technical expertise was launched to assist the Turkish authorities in the preparation of a periodic report on the state of conservation of the sites located in the Fatih Distric and protected by the World Heritage Convention - notably the Zeyrek District and the Byzantine ramparts. This expertise will provide: (a) an analysis of the buildings existing in the Fatih District, with the identification of the historical structures and noteworthy architectural buildings; (b) an analysis of the laws and procedures protecting the world heritage sites and their buffer zone, in the Fatih District, © a list of national and international experts who may be consulted by the Municipality of Fatih in co-operation with UNESCO.

In addition, to assist the local inhabitants included in the zone of protection of the World Heritage Convention, to understand and support the protection of these World Heritage sites, a map, in the form of a hoarding, has been created indicating the boundaries of this area.

Action Required

The Bureau may wish to examine the information about the work­shop that will be provided at the time of its session and take the appropriate decision thereupon.

The Bureau commends the Turkish authorities and notably the Municipality of Fatih, for the establishment of the « Inhabitants House of Fatih » and the continued efforts undertaken by the Municipality of Fatih to encourage the inhabitants to restore the historical buildings in the protected areas of the World Heritage site.

The Bureau reiterates its concern with regard to the state of conservation of the buildings of the Ottoman Empire of Zeyrek and wishes to be informed at its twenty-third extraordinary session of the periodic report on the state of conservation of sites located in the Fatih Distric and protected by the World Heritage Convention - the Zeyrek District and the Byzantine ramparts - and the measures that the State Party will undertake to preserve this site, which is an integral part of the rehabilitation project of the historical buildings of the Fatih District ».

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 1999

Previous deliberations:

World Heritage Bureau, sixteenth session - Chapter VI 44

World Heritage Committee, sixteenth session - Chapter VIII 2

World Heritage Bureau, seventeenth session  - Chapter VIII.3

World Heritage Bureau, eighteenthextraordinary session - Chapter IV.1

World Heritage Committee, eighteenth session - Chapter IX. 22

World Heritage Bureau, twenty-first extraordinary session – Chapter III.C

World Heritage Committee, twenty-first session -Chapter VII 55

World Heritage Bureau, twenty-second session - Chapter V 67

World Heritage Bureau, twenty-second extraordinary session - Chapter III C

World Heritage Committee, twenty-second session - Chapter VII.43

World Heritage Bureau, twenty-third session - Chapter IV.85.2


New information: Following the request of the Bureau at its twenty-third extraordinary session, the State Party submitted a brief report on the state of conservation focused on the World Heritage area of Zeyrek, Fatih District. The report indicated that in accordance with the “Protection and Conservation of Fatih Historical Environment Protocol” signed by the Municipality of Fatih and the Ministry of Culture, the Municipal authorities signed with the Istanbul Governate the “ Fatih, Zeyrek Urban Planning and Street Rehabilitation Protocol”. These protocols govern the provision of technical support and financial assistance under “investment programmes allocation” for urban heritage conservation in the Zeyrek area.  An amount of one billion Turkish Lira (approximately US$ 250,000) has been allocated for 1999 for works to be carried out under the technical control of the Ministry of Culture. The Municipality has reported that the conservation plan is under elaboration in co-operation with universities, NGOs and private sector sponsors.

Furthermore, the Municipality has indicated that following the earthquake of 17 August 1999, the Ministry of Public Works and Housing has halted all construction plans and licenses for the Istanbul region pending the completion of on-going planning studies. With regard to the earthquake damage, the Secretariat was informed by independent sources that the areas under World Heritage protection in Istanbul have not been affected by this tragedy, although some cracks have been noted in some parts of the restored section of the Byzantine Rampart.

Following the mission undertaken by a World Heritage Centre staff and an independent structural engineer in April 1999, two co-operation projects have been developed in close co-operation with ICOMOS Turkey experts.  Mimar University will be updating the cadastral plan and carrying out a survey on the rehabilitation needs of Zeyrek, partially supported from the World Heritage Fund’s 1999 budget under state of conservation (US$5,500).  Istanbul Technical University has developed a 2-year project to update the architectural and urban heritage inventory of the entire historic peninsula of Istanbul. Request for financial support from the Fund for an amount of US$58,276 has been submitted through the State Party for this activity. The Secretariat’s recommendation to revise this project to focus more on the inventory work necessary for the elaboration of the 1/5000 scale conservation plan to be adopted by Greater Istanbul, as required under law, has been supported by ICOMOS, and is presented for Committee approval under international assistance. To support the efforts of Greater Istanbul and the Ministry of Culture, the Centre has obtained the expert services of a French urbanist under the France-UNESCO Agreement for the Protection and Development of Monumental and Urban Heritage, who is scheduled to undertake a mission to Istanbul in November 1999. At the time of reporting, the project for the Rehabilitation of the Historic Quarters of Fatih, prepared by the Centre in 1997-98 and approved by the European Union for a US$ 7.7 million contribution had not yet started, reportedly due to delays in the issuance of public tenders to identify the implementing agency.


Decisions adopted by the Committee in 1999
23 BUR IV.B.85
Historical Areas of Istanbul (Turkey)

1) The Monument of Hagia Sophia of the Archaeological Park

The Bureau thanked the authorities for the efforts undertaken and recommended that the International Scientific Committee meets without delay and in accordance with the terms of reference decided upon so that a work programme may be established.

2) Historic Areas of Istanbul

The Bureau was informed of the international expert mission carried out in June 1999 to assist the Turkish authorities in the preparation of a periodic report on the state of conservation of the sites located in Fatih District– notably the site of Zeyrek and the Rampart area which are two of the four zones protected under the World Heritage Convention. In close collaboration with the local authorities of Fatih and ICOMOS National Committee of Turkey, the mission, built upon the report submitted by the Ministry of Culture of Turkey, as requested by the Bureau at its twenty-second extraordinary session, the studies conducted by the Centre in 1997 under the project funded by the European Commission and the project profiles prepared by Istanbul Technical University under the UNESCO International Safeguarding Campaign for Istanbul.

The preliminary findings of the mission indicated that unauthorized demolition and illegal construction within the World Heritage protected areas were occurring due to the abolition in 1992 of the 1990 Urban Development Plan for Conservation of Istanbul. Moreover, despite the 1996 declaration by the Regional Council for Monuments and Sites placing the entire historic peninsula of Istanbul as a conservation area, a new Urban Development Plan for Conservation (at 1:5000 scale) and the Detailed Conservation Plan of Fatih and Eminonu Districts (at 1:1000 scale) have not been adopted, within one year, as provided under the law. This delay in the adoption of the Plan has resulted in the prolongation of the so-called “transitional phase” under which all building requests in the entire historic peninsula must be approved by the Regional Council. The limited staff of the Regional Council causing delays in the building approval process has in turn, led to illegal construction activities.

The technical co-operation project co-funded by the World Heritage Fund, the Government of France and Fatih Municipality, has enabled the initiation of activities by the House of Fatih Inhabitants, now renamed “Istanbul Heritage House”. The office of this community advisory service has now been renovated, an information panel with a map of the World Heritage protected areas have been completed, and the Istanbul Technical University is preparing a detailed inventory of Zeyrek. International and national legal experts and urbanists have been identified to assist the authorities in the preparation and adoption of the Plan, as well as to define the terms and mechanisms of soft loans to the inhabitants for housing improvement in Fatih to be financed under the US$ 7.7 million European Union project designed by the Centre. The Government of France will also provide the services of an Architect des Batiments du France to support this effort under the framework of the France-UNESCO Agreement for the Protection of Monumental and Urban Heritage.

The expert mission also noted with concern the demolition of the timber buildings in Zeyrek and the reconstruction in its place of concrete and timber cladded buildings, undermining the authenticity of the area. The Centre, in collaboration with the ICOMOS Wood Committee experts of Turkey and the United Kingdom, and the Istanbul Architect Association is currently developing an action plan for the training in timber buildings rehabilitation and restoration.

Commenting on the Secretariat's report, ICOMOS praised the community-based approach being undertaken by the local conservation groups and commended the role played by the Secretariat.  He noted however, that the serious degradation of the timber buildings and the poverty of the inhabitants of Zeyrek and certain other sectors of the protected area make this urban heritage conservation effort an almost utopian cause. He however stressed that the involvement of the local community is the only possible way to ensure the protection of these parts of the World Heritage site.

The Bureau commended the Turkish authorities and the Municipality of Fatih for the establishment of the “Istanbul Heritage House” and notably the continued efforts undertaken by the Municipality of Fatih to encourage the inhabitants to conserve the historic urban fabrics of the World Heritage areas.

The Bureau reiterated its concern with regard to the state of conservation of the Ottoman epoch timber buildings in Zeyrek, their demolition and reconstruction of concrete and timber-clad buildings in their place, undermining the authenticity of this area.

The Bureau furthermore, requested the State Party to encourage the early preparation of the Urban Development Plan for Conservation by Greater Istanbul Metropolitan Administration and the Detailed Plan for Conservation by the Municipalities of Fatih and Eminonu and for the official adoption of these Plans to ensure the protection of the World Heritage areas.

The Bureau requested the State Party to submit to the Secretariat by 15 September 1999, an update on the measures being taken to address the concerns expressed above, and for the Secretariat to continue mobilizing international co-operation to support the efforts of the national and local authorities.

23 COM X.B.46
State of conservation reports of cultural properties noted by the Committee

X.46 The Committee noted the decisions of the twenty-third extraordinary session of the Bureau as reflected in the Report of the Bureau session (Working Document WHC-99/CONF.209/6) and included in Annex VIII of this report on the following properties:

Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis (Argentina and Brazil)

The Jesuit Mission of Santa Ana (Argentina)

The Potala Palace, Lhasa (China)

City of Quito (Ecuador)

The Delegate of Ecuador informed the Committee that the volcano Pichincha had erupted on 5 October and November 26 1999 and that the National Institute for Cultural Heritage (INPC) and the Municipality of Quito had taken preventive measures to protect the population and the monuments.

Historic Centre of Tallin (Estonia)

Mont-Saint-Michel and its Bay (France)

Roman Monuments, Cathedral and Liebfrauen Church in Trier (Germany)

Ashanti Traditional Buildings (Ghana)

Churches and Convents of Goa (India)

Luang Prabang (Laos)

Island of Mozambique (Mozambique)

Lumbini, the Birthplace of the Lord Buddha (Nepal)

The Observer of HMG of Nepal assured the Committee that the conservation of the Maya Devi Temple would be undertaken following international conservation norms prescribed by the World Heritage Convention. He informed the Committee that HMG of Nepal would be grateful to receive expert suggestions from UNESCO concerning the draft conceptual design for the Maya Devi Temple conservation work, as such advice would be a guideline for elaborating the details of the design under preparation. The Observer assured the Committee that the designs for the works at Maya Devi Temple, once completed, would be transmitted to UNESCO, as assured by HMG of Nepal. The Observer informed the Committee that a technical cooperation request for the organization of an international technical meeting to discuss the proposed project for the conservation, restoration, and presentation of the Maya Devi Temple, would be submitted, following the request of the Bureau at its twenty-third session.

Archaeological Site of Chavin (Peru)

City of Cuzco (Peru)

Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras (Philippines)

The Observer of the Philippines assured the Committee that the long-term integrated development plan of the site, including a tourism development plan for the site, would be submitted in due course to UNESCO, preferably before 15 September 2000. To ensure that the authenticity and sustainable conservation of this fragile site is maintained, the Observer stated that his Government would avail of the generous offer of the Committee to provide technical expertise under the World Heritage Fund.

Auschwitz Concentration Camp (Poland)

The Sokkuram Grotto and Pulguksa Temple (Republic of Korea)

Alhambra, Generalife and Albaycin, Grenada (Spain)

Historic Areas of Istanbul (Turkey)

The Observer of Turkey thanked the Bureau for the sympathies expressed for the victims of the earthquake this year. The Observer stated that Istanbul is the only one among the nine World Heritage sites in Turkey located in the region impacted by the August 1999 earthquake. While the damage can only be measured over time, initial assessment has noted minor cracks in several historic monuments including the Hagia Sophia, and four museums. Severe cracks have, however, been noted in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, the conservation laboratory which is housed in an historic monument, in two historic library buildings, and in more than ten tombs as well as in the city walls (ramparts). The Committee was informed that the impact report of the second earthquake (in November 1999) on World Heritage sites had not been received by the Ministry of Culture of Turkey from its regional offices. The Observer said that a detailed report would be submitted to the Committee through the Secretariat as soon as it is completed.

With regard to the urban conservation plan of the historic peninsula of Istanbul, the Observer informed the Committee that the 1/5000 scale plan has just been completed and submitted to the Greater Istanbul Council and upon approval, will be transmitted to the Regional Conservation Council for clearance. As soon as this is officially approved, the 1/1000 scale plan will be prepared for the Fatih and Eminonu municipalities. In addition, the 1/500 scale detailed conservation plan for the Zeyrek district prepared by Istanbul Technical University, which was co-funded by the World Heritage Fund is about to be completed, and will be submitted to the Fatih Municipality for approval. The Observer thanked the UNESCO World Heritage Centre for having mobilized international support for the conservation of Istanbul's urban heritage, and in this regard, expressed particular appreciation for the financial support extended by the European Commission and the Government of France.

The Observer concluded her intervention by saying that due to the need to finance earthquake rehabilitation activities, the budget of all government services had been severely cut, including that of the Ministry of Culture. While on-going joint conservation projects with the municipalities of Istanbul will be continued, no expansion in the area of work or additional activities will be possible for 2000.

The Delegate of Greece called upon the Committee to provide support to Turkey in the rehabilitation of the earthquake damage. In this regard, she recalled her statement at the twenty-third extraordinary session of the Bureau, which pointed to the need to prioritize the object of international support in view of the vast conservation needs of the Istanbul World Heritage area. The Chairperson, in his personal capacity stated that this spirit of collaboration and solidarity expressed by Greece in favour of Turkey was a demonstration of the spirit of the World Heritage Convention.

23 COM XV.6.3
International Assistance for Cultural Heritage approved by the Committee

The Committee examined and approved the following 14 requests for international assistance for cultural heritage for a total of US$ 694,348, which had been recommended by the Bureau:

3.AFRICA(c).I REGIONAL Training assistance


US$ 80,000 requested US$ 80,000 approved

The Committee approved US$ 80,000 for this training activity in the sub-Saharan African region bearing in mind that the activity would be implemented by the World Heritage Centre, ICCROM and CRATerreEAG.

3.AFRICA(d).III ZIMBABWE Technical Co-operation

Implementation of a management plan for Khami Ruins

US$ 50,300 requested US$ 50,300 approved

The Committee approved US$ 50,300 for this activity, requesting the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe to support the cost of connectivity of Internet after the year 2000 and to submit to the twenty-fifth session of the Committee, a report on the conservation, monitoring and management activities carried out at Khami in 1999 and 2000.

3.ARAB(c).I SYRIA Training assistance

Seminar on cultural tourism, sustainable development and management of World Heritage sites

US$ 58,000 requested US$ 35,000 approved

The Committee approved US$ 35,000, subject to the State Party reformulating the programme and budget in consultation with ICCROM.

3.ARAB(c).II TUNISIA Training assistance

Training and information international workshop for protecting Carthage

US$ 50,000 requested US$ 40,000 approved

The Committee referred the request, asking the State Party to undertake consultations with ICOMOS and ICCROM for reformulating the proposed activity. The Committee approved US$ 40,000 subject to the State Party reformulating the proposal in close co-operation with the advisory bodies.

3.ARAB(d).I EGPYT Technical Co-operation

Rehabilitation of Islamic Cairo

US$ 100,000 requested US$ 80,000 approved

The Committee decided to approve US$ 80,000, subject to the State Party providing further information on the details of the activities to the Advisory Bodies and approval of a revised budget by the Chairperson of the Committee.

3.ARAB(d).II LEBANON Technical Co-operation

Restoration works for the Monasteries of Ouadi Quadisha and Forest of the Cedars of God

US$ 50,000 requested US$ 35,000 approved

Following the evaluation by IUCN, ICOMOS and ICCROM, the Committee approved US$ 35,000 for the first phase of the activity proposed to take place in year 2000, requesting the State Party to consult IUCN in undertaking the ecological research, and to consult ICOMOS and ICCROM on the international experts to be engaged for this activity.

The Committee recommended that the State Party submit a request for US$ 15,000 for the second phase of the activity in year 2001.

3.ASIA(b).I VIETNAM Emergency assistance

Emergency assistance for Hue & Hoi An, following the floods of November 1999.

US$ 100,000 requested US$ 50,000 approved

The Committee recalled that it had already taken a decision to allocate US$ 50,000 during the agenda item concerning the state of conservation reports. The Committee approved US$ 50,000 to assist the State Party in the rehabilitation works of Hue and Hoi An and for the preparation of a comprehensive emergency rehabilitation programme including risk assessment and mitigation schemes.

3.ASIA(c).II. LAOS Training assistance

Plain of Jars archaeological survey and documentation

US$ 83,055 requested US$ 30,000 approved

The Committee approved US$ 30,000, requesting the State Party to revise the budget in co-operation with the UNESCO Bangkok Office, or to find co-financing from other extrabudgetary sources.

3.ASIA(c).VI UZBEKISTAN Training assistance

Training Workshop in the Preparation of the World Heritage Nomination Files on Urban Heritage Sites

US$ 41,000 requested US$ 30,000 approved

The Committee approved US$ 30,000 for the activity.

XV.7 The Committee noted that the last-minute submissions of international assistance requests resulted in great constraints on the part of the Secretariat and the advisory bodies, and reiterated the need to respect deadlines in submitting requests.

1.EUROPE(c).I HUNGARY Training assistance

ITUC training workshop for Central European Historic Cities managers

US$ 33,840 requested US$ 33,840 approved

1.EUROPE(d).I GEORGIA Technical Co-operation

Study and development of the Mtskheta Heritage and Tourism Master Plan

US$ 35,000 requested US$ 35,000 approved

The Committee approved US$ 35,000, subject to the State Party paying its outstanding dues to the World Heritage Fund for 1998 and 1999.

3.EUROPE(d).IV TURKEY Technical Co-operation

Completion of documentation of the buildings and monuments within the city walls of the Historic Centre of Istanbul site

US$ 58,376 requested US$ 35,208 approved

The Committee noted that the State Party had agreed to the revised budget proposed by the World Heritage Centre, endorsed by ICOMOS and ICCROM.

The Committee therefore approved US$ 35,208.

3.LATIN(b).III MEXICO Emergency assistance

Repair and consolidate Monastery of Tochimilco, Puebla

US$ 100,000 requested US$ 100,000 approved

The Committee approved US$ 100,000 for this activity, subject to the State Party submitting a detailed budget breakdown and clarification and identification on the tasks planned, to be approved by the Chairperson.

3.LATIN(d).I COLOMBIA Technical Co-operation

Integral conservation of Cloister of San Pedro Claver of Cartagena de Indias

US$ 60,000 requested US$ 60,000 approved

The Committee noted that a detailed budget breakdown of the activities to be carried out had been submitted to the Secretariat, which found the information to be sufficient and reasonable.

The Bureau may wish to adopt the following decision and to transmit it to the Committee for noting:

“The Bureau expresses its sympathies to the families of the victims of the tragic earthquake of 17 August 1999 and assures the Government of Turkey of its readiness to support the national efforts in the rehabilitation process.  The Bureau notes its appreciation for the significant allocation of funds to the Fatih Municipality by the Government to prepare the conservation plan and to undertake rehabilitation activities in Zeyrek. The Bureau encourages the continued efforts of the Centre in mobilizing international technical support, particularly to expedite the elaboration of the 1/5000 scale urban development and conservation plan by Greater Istanbul and the 1/1000 scale detailed conservation plan by the Municipal authorities of Fatih and Eminonu. Finally, it request the State Party to submit a report to the Bureau through the Secretariat by 15 September 2000 of progress in corrective measures being carried out in Zeyrek and other historic areas of Istanbul to maintain the World Heritage values of this urban complex.”

Report year: 1999
Date of Inscription: 1985
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (i)(ii)(iii)(iv)

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.