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

Trading Posts and Fortifications on Genoese Trade Routes from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea

Date of Submission: 14/04/2020
Criteria: (ii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Turkey to UNESCO
Ref.: 6468

The Tentative Lists of States Parties are published by the World Heritage Centre at its website and/or in working documents in order to ensure transparency, access to information and to facilitate harmonization of Tentative Lists at regional and thematic levels.

The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.

Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


Yoros Fortress        

41°10'49.41" N - 29°05'46.89" E

Galata Tower         

41°01'35.85" N - 28°58'26.88" E

Foça Fortress          

38°40'09.25" N - 26°45'02.78" E

Çandarlı Fortress    

38°56'01.69" N - 26°56'01.50" E

Çeşme Fortress      

38°19´24.60" N - 26°18´12.49" E

Amasra Fortress      

41°45'02.84" N - 32°23'03.83" E

Akçakoca Fortress  

41°05'10.80" N - 31°05'32.38" E

Sinop Fortress       

42°01'42.52" N - 35°08'47.31" E

Güvercinada Fortress and the City Walls in Kuşadası     

37°51'48.80" N - 27°14'51.79" E

Province of İstanbul, District of Galata; Province of İzmir, Districts of Foça, Çandarlı and Çeşme; Province of Düzce; Province of Bartın; Province of Sinop; Province of Aydın, District of Kuşadası.

In the middle of the 13th century, Genoeses were actively trading all over Mediterranean and Black Sea. Genoeses were originally inhabitant of Genoa, the city and Mediterranean seaport in north-western Italy. It was the capital of Genoa Province and of Liguria region.

In the eastern Mediterranean, Genoa was greatly advanced by the Treaty of Nymphaeum (1261) with the Byzantine emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus, in exchange for the aid to the Byzantine reconquest of Constantinople, actually ousted the Venetians from the straits leading to the Black Sea.

As general Genoeses had possessions from 11th century to 19th century for nearly eight centuries over Mediterranean and Black Sea, their main hub in Anatolia was Galata (Pera) in İstanbul.

"Trading Posts and Fortifications on Genoese Trade Route from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea" include some of the noticeable trading ports situated in areas where the Genoese influence is still observed. The property consists of eight forts (Yoros, Foça, Çandarlı, Çeşme, Amasra, Akçakoca, Sinop, Güvercinada together with the city walls in Kuşadası) and one tower (Galata).

Yoros Fortress
As the main passage between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, the Bosphorus strait had a great commercial and strategic importance in the past. For this reason, numerous castles and fortresses were built on its shores. The fortress of Yoros is one of the most conspicuous of them. It was constructed on a hill at Anadolu Kavağı, on the Asian side of Bosphorus, on the Black Sea entrance.

The first mention of the place is made by the ancient historian Herodotus who describes it as the worship place of Jason and the Argonauts on the road for Cholchis. What is more, many Greek and Roman historical sources describe this place as ‘Hieron’, the Sacred Place. A great temple including altar of the twelve Gods or Zeus Ourios (‘of good winds’) served as a common haven and place of worship for sailors entering or leaving from there in antiquity. Hieron was the gate to the Black Sea. Additionally, it acted as a spot from which all Black Sea navigational charts took their measurements and the crucial shelter from the numerous dangers involved in negotiating the winding Bosporus: pirates, storms, and wind of the straits. 

During the early Byzantine epoch, the emperor Justinian (527-565) charged a custom with a tax collector in the fortress. In addition to this, in the course of the Middle Byzantine period, the place was fortified with a larger wall enclosure and served to control from the north.

Byzantines, Genoese and Ottomans fought over the strategic position of the fort. After a naval battle in 1352, a Genoese military and commercial garrison was settled in the Yoros fortress, to handle the passage of the commercial ships and prevent the attacks to the capital city. Approximately a half-century of Genoese occupation gave to it the epithet of ‘The Genoese Fortress’.

By the end of the 14th century the fortress was in the hand of the Ottomans and was used as a base for the construction of the Anadolu Hisar, one of the important headquarters of the Sultan Mehmed for the Conquest of the Byzantine capital in 1453. After this date, the Genoese was not allowed to use the fortress, which became an important garrison place of the Ottoman army for the defence of Istanbul. It was restored many times during the 15th and 17th centuries. During the reign of the Sultan Beyazıd II (1481-1512), a mosque, a bath and many houses for the families of the soldiers were constructed. Many western travellers and Turkish geographers mentioned Yoros and emphasized its strategic importance.

Today, a large fortress with an upper citadel surrounded by towers, a monumental entrance, many marble decoration and remains of buildings -discovered with archaeological excavations- dominates the little village of Anadolu Kavağı.

Galata Tower
The coastal band of Istanbul lying from the northern shores of Golden Horn to Tophane and the slopes behind it is known as Galata district (or Pera or Sykai) today. Although it was an important settlement area during the Antiquity, the region gained importance during the reign of Constantine I (324-337). There was a fortified settlement consisting of a harbour, a forum, a church, a theatre, bath buildings and houses. The present fortification walls were constructed by Emperor Justinian in 528. The 2 meter wide land walls surrounded by a 15 meter deep moat were enclosing an area of 37 hectares.

Owing to favourable topographical conditions, the territory acquired a commercial harbour function among the Italian trading colonies. Beginning with the Amalfitans, then the Venetians and later the Pisans obtained special privileges from the Byzantines in Galata. The Genoese were forced to move from Galata when the Venetians seized their territory during the Latin invasion in 1204. Hence, the Genoese established colonies on the southern shores of Golden Horn during the reign of Manuel Comnenos I (1143-1186). Even after the end of the Latin domination, in 1261, the commerce of the Byzantine capital was still in the hands of Venetians and the Geneose merchants. Emperor Michael Palaiologos VIII (1261-1282), who was able to recapture Constantinople from the Latins, signed the Nymphaion Treaty with the Genoese and permitted them to rebuild their commercial settlements. Thus, the Genoese designed and built the tower of Galata not only as an observation and a depository tower but also as a hallmark of the city which revealed the spirit of it. It was called the “Tower of Christ” by the Genoese and “The Great Tower” by the Byzantines. The tower presents a cylindrical shape (the height of the tower is 62.59 meters non-including the ornament on top, the outer diameter is 16.45 meters, the inner diameter is 8.95 meters, and the wall thickness is 3.75 meters) with its conical cap and rises high above all other buildings on the east side of the Golden Horn and provides a magnificent view of the open sea beyond the hills and the buildings of Istanbul. Hence, the Genoese would early distinguish between their own ships from those of hostile fleets.

Following the conquest of Istanbul, the Sultan Mehmet II signed an agreement with the Genoese and recognized their privileges that had been obtained during the Byzantine Empire. The Genoese colony strengthened their position in the 14th and in the 15thcenturies when the district of Galata and its tower preserved its importance and its key role.

Foça Fortress
Having two natural harbours, Foça is a town located on a low hill projecting into the sea in İzmir Province, on the Aegean coast. It was one of the most important centers among the twelve Ionian cities and hosted Persian, Macedonian, Genovian and Ottoman civilizations. 

Foça's harbour was much inferior in importance of Pera owing to the fact that transit trade here was negligible and the Genoese stronghold, which existed in this town in 1261, had a rather strategic importance. In 1275, the Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus granted the Genoese brothers Benedetto I Zaccaria and Manuele Zaccaria the town of Old Phocaea. There were huge deposits of alum nearby the region and the Byzantine emperor provided the Zaccarias with a monopoly on its export. Thus, Phocaea has become a large base of Genoa and became an export-import harbor in the commerce taking place between Aegean area and Anatolia. Additionally, during this time the Genoese also had colonies at Pera opposite Constantinople, and Caffa in the Black Sea, among others.

Genoese dominance in the Aegean region enhanced after a victory gained over a great maritime rival Venice at Curzola in 1299 and it could be said that by 1300 the Commune of Genoa was at its prime. It is important to understand that unlike the Venetians, the Genoese in the Aegean and Mediterranean often acted independently of the Commune. In other words, the colonies were usually governed with limited interference from the administration of the homeland and the ships used by Genoese sailors and merchants were often constructed and owned by private individuals. Since the Genoese often acted alone, it is far harder to establish a definitive Genoese ‘policy’ towards the events in the Aegean region.

Foça Fortress was built at a strategic point securing the protection of the city in the 11th or 12th centuries. Genoese took over this fortress from the Byzantines and reconstructed it. When Phocaea was captured by the Ottomans in 1455, its ramparts were repaired and towers were added to it. An inscription at the entrance mentions that the repairs were carried out 1538 - 1539 by Silahtar Iskender Aga, woodsman of the Sultan Mustafa Han who was the son of Suleyman the Magnificent. The castle had also a boat house which is used as an open air theater today.

Çandarlı Fortress
Çandarlı is a coastal town within the district of Dikili in İzmir. The area, where the Çandarlı Fortress is located in, has been inhabited since the archaic period but the exact construction date of the fortress is not certain. In the 13th and 14th centuries, when the Genoese perpetuated Foça, they controlled Çandarlı and used this port for trading. Being a secure trade port, effectiveness of Genoese increased here. The fortress was restored by the Genoese and it should be noted that the “Genoese” attribution was very high. Today, in the form of a rectangle, with five towers, gutters, doors and walls, fortress is quite well preserved.

Çeşme Fortress
Çeşme district is located to the west of İzmir province. Çeşme was referred to as the pier of Erythrai, one of the 12 Ionian cities in the ancient period. Çeşme, which is 20 km away from Erythrai, became more important than Erythrai with the Turkification of Anatolia. After the second half of the 14th century, Çeşme became an important port of entry for trade between Chios and Anatolia. Since Çeşme was an important trade gate, it was frequently attacked by enemies, which necessitated the construction of a fortress to ensure security. It is estimated that the Çeşme Castle was built by the Genoese before 1508 and after the Ottomans took over Çeşme, it is known that the castle was repaired (1508) and some additions were made to it.

Çeşme Castle is located on a steep hillside near the sea, opposite the island of Chios, on an area of 11.000 m2 and has a rectangular shape. Although the castle was first built on the shore of the sea, it remained a little inside in time with the fillings made to the shore. All sides of the castle except the sea side are surrounded by ditches. There are two circular cylindrical towers on the sea side and behind them there are two higher square-shaped towers. At the back of the castle, there are two more cylindrical towers but they are smaller than the ones on the sea side. The towers are connected to each other by walls with crenels.

The small series of decorative arches that support the castellation on both of the cylindrical towers on the sea side of Çeşme Castle is a characteristic of the Genoese. The arched windows and the crenels opening from inside to the outside that take place on the square-shaped high towers are the Genoese Castle features as well. The crenels extending from inside to outside on the walls connecting these two square-shaped towers are Genoese style too. This crenel type is also seen on the eastern walls of the Çandarlı Castle. The crenels of the two cylindrical towers at the back of the castle are also in Genoese style.

The high number of asymmetrically placed barbican holes on the walls of the fortress is the same as that used by the Genoese in fortress architecture. There are many barbican holes in Güvercinada Castle (Kuşadası) as well.

A mosque was built in the south of the castle during the Ottoman period. Since the crenels on the upper part of the walls in this southern section of the castle are of Ottoman style, it is clear that they were built later.

Amasra Fortress 
Amasra is located within the boundaries of Province of Bartın. After the 4th Crusade in 1204, as a reward for their help, Byzantine Empire was given privilege of trading to Genoeses in Black Sea. Thanks to this, Genoeses founded colonies in Kaffa (Today in Ukraine) and in Amasra in Anatolia. After this period Genoese kept going founding colonies and trading in Black Sea. Amasra Fortress was originally built by the Romans but later it was restored by Byzantines, Genoeses and Ottomans. Especially in the 14th and the 15th centuries, several gates were built and the castle was fortified by Genoeses. Amasra Fortress is composed of two main parts named “Sormagir Castle” and “Zindan Castle”. Sormagir Castle is linked to Amasra by a bridge named “Kemere”. “Büyükliman Gate” stands on the northeast side of Amasra Fortress. While “Küçükliman Gate” takes place on the west side of the Fortress, “Zindan Gate” takes place on the south part. The walls of Amasra Fortress lie along northeast-southeast direction and are 65 meters long. The length of the south wall is 300 meters and there are eight towers standing over this wall. “Genoese Chateau” takes place in the citadel of Amasra Fortress. Genoese coat of arms is accepted as conclusive evidence proving that this building was built by the Genoeses. Among these coats of arms, Duke of Milan Visconti’s serpentine shaped coat of arm and premier Italian families and cities emblems can be seen. After Byzantine Empire lost its control over this area, Genoeses maintained their supremacy for nearly two centuries until 1460. 

Sinop Fortress
Thanks to its geographical position, Sinop was an important port in Black Sea during the history. It is believed that Sinop Fortress was built in the 8th century B.C. by the Miletus immigrant colonies. Fortress has been improved and developed by the Genoeses. The total bastion and wall length are approximately 2.000 meters. Bastions have eight meters width and 25 meters height. During the reign of Candaroğulları Sultanate, in 1345 Adil Beg permitted Venetians and Genoeses to found colonies in Sinop. On Laurentiana Map dated 1351, a Genoese flag can be seen on Sinop city which shows a Genoese colony existed in Sinop in that period. After Adil Beg died, Genoeses continued to use Sinop as a trade colony. Sinop served as an important station on the main trade routes during the 13th and the 14th centuries. Merchants coming from Syria and Egypt would stop off in Sinop. After 1261, Genoeses and Venetians began to be active in trading in Black Sea region. Hereafter, trading with Europe became more intense and similar to other northern seaports, Sinop became more important. Genoeses brought Florence fabrics, soap, glass, and gem stones to Sinop. Correspondingly, they bought copper from Sinop. Transit goods that passed through Sinop were grain, alum, bee wax and leather. Sinop had strong relationships with northern harbours, especially with Kaffa harbour. There was a Genoese harbour in the region named “Kayzer Koltuğu”. Behind the harbour there was high tower. Genoeses were loading copper which was mined near Sinop and they were loading out goods they brought. This harbour was so beautiful that it was depicted by several painters.

Akçakoca Fortress
Akçakoca Fortress is located near Akçakoca city within the boundaries of province of Düzce. Akçakoca Fortress was built on a cliff which has 100 meters height. There are semicircle eaves on the west wall of the fortress. There is a bastion on the south wall and a cistern in the courtyard. The walls of the fortress were built by using ruble stone and brick. Genoeses put their coat of arms on the wall of Yoros Fortress in İstanbul and Amasra Fortress to illustrate their contribution to building. Results of some chemical analyses on brick and plaster used in Akçakoca Fortress show that it was built in the same period with Yoros Fortress and Amasra Fortress. This supports the idea that this building was used by the Genoeses.

Güvercinada Fortress and the City Walls in Kuşadası
Kuşadası is located on the opposite shore of the island of Samos, to the south of İzmir and Çeşme. The old “Scalanova" name of Kuşadası means "New Pier". The first mention of the name Scalanova takes place in the report of Ludolf von Suchheim, during his travels through the territories of Ephesus and Scalanova in 1336-1341. The German priest, who visited Ephesus on his way to Jerusalem, mentions that a brand new city named Scalanova was established around the port about 4 miles from Ephesus. The Genoese came to Kuşadası in the late 13th or early 14th century. They settled where Kuşadası was and set up a new city there, surrounding this new city with city walls. They established "New Pier" as a castle on Güvercinada, which is a small island in front of Kuşadası. The city established on the opposite side of Güvercinada, then called Scalanova, derived its name from here.

Güvercinada (Scalanova) Castle is a Genoese castle located on the small island in front of Kuşadası. The island is surrounded with fortified walls of the castle which are reinforced with towers and shaped according to the topography of the island. The length of this castle is 350m, and the width at its highest point is approximately 200 m. There are four towers in total; two to the north and one on both east and west sides of the main arched entrance door that takes place in the southeast of the castle. The main defence line is set to the north, west and southwest sections of the fortified walls, in the direction where the enemy ships would have come from. There are Genoese period crenels to the west and southwest sections of the fortified walls and towers on the north. There is a small citadel in the middle of the castle. The traces of the outwardly opened crenel configurations and the console stones show this citadel to be constructed during the Genoese period at the same time as the fortified walls were constructed. There are still highly important Genoese style features which remain intact and can clearly be seen in the castle. Despite the fact that the castle has been impacted adversely to a certain degree due to repair works, it is still one of the most outstanding castles from Genoese period in Turkey.

As for the city walls in Kuşadası, the castle is situated on a flat plain by the sea and the west side rests on a steep hillside. The castle is parallel to the seashore. The city centre forms a square shape measuring approximately 200x200 m. In addition to this square-shaped city centre, a polygonal arrangement is observed in the south and southwest in line with its topography. In accordance to this, the length of the castle reaches 350 m.

Despite the modern settlement, an important part of the Genoese city walls is still preserved today. The city walls of the main settlement of Kuşadası are in the form of a medieval castle; however these city walls do not belong to the Byzantine Period. The eastern walls, which have reached the era of today, are close to 200 m. long. The eastern city walls are supported by five buttresses which are set approximately 30 m. from each other. Whilst the west walls of the Genoese fortress are preserved in a very good condition only a small part of the north section has reached the era of today. 

There is a main city gate on either end of the main street which divides the city into two from the middle in the north and south directions. The city gate located on the south side has reached today in a very good condition. The consoles on the gate and the big block stones in the corners preserved nearly up to the consoles level are believed to be from the Genoese period.

This settlement does not have many towers. Only a hexagonal designed polygonal tower located to the southeast of the city walls can be seen today. The diameter of this tower is approximately 9.5 metres and the width of the wall is 1.65 m. This polygonal tower also belongs to the Genoese Period up to the section of the large block stones at the corners, same as the entrance gate.

There are many barbican holes of the same style in Kuşadası city walls and Güvercinada Castle, which are deemed to be of Genoese features. It is considered that the reason for this is to protect the walls from dampness, whilst the wall workmanship of both structures supports this view.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The Genoese is one of the most important trading nations in the Middle Ages and made their fortunes by maritime trade. Trading posts and fortifications on Genoese trade routes are exceptional structures which reflect trading and international relationships of medieval era.

The Genoese established a flourishing trading settlement, which virtually monopolized trade in the Black Sea. A starting point of all Genoese sea routes leading to the Black Sea was Galata, “Genoa of Bosphorus”. Moreover, The Tower of Galata not only was the most strategic observation tower during the colonization period of Genoese, but also was a work of outstanding creativity. Additionally, Yoros Fortress was very important during the colonization period of Venice and Genoese and in its heyday the castle covered twice as much ground, making it the largest castle on the Bosphorus.

Criterion (ii): The Genoese played a leading role for generating active and lucrative trade in the Medieval Period. The communities of Genoese merchants were located at key points - posts and fortifications- of trade communication in the Mediterranean and Black Sea, so these points bear exceptional testimony important interactions and interchanges between civilizations. Moreover, the Genoese settlements around the shores of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea have high importance for town planning or landscape design in terms of renovating and adjustment of existing settlements and architecture.

Criterion (iv): As general, Genoese fortresses and other naval buildings in Anatolia are accepted as best examples, reflecting the relationship between naval maritime structure and urban planning. They are expressions of distinguished architectural design of Genoeses.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

All properties are protected under the provision of the National Conservation Law numbered 2863. Decisions taken for conservation of properties are the following:
Yoros and Foça Fortresses were registered as immovable cultural properties with the decision of Superior Council for Immovable Antiquities and Monuments in 1974 and 1977.

Çandarlı Fortress is located in the 1st degree archeological site which was designated in 1993.

Çeşme Fortress was registered as a 1st degree archaeological site by the decision of İzmir Regional Council Numbered I for the Conservation of Cultural and Natural Property (dated 23.07.1992, numbered 3889).

Galata Tower was registered as a cultural property with the decision of Superior Council for Immovable Antiquities and Monuments in 1962 and the decision was reviewed in 1964, 1986.  

Amasra Fortress was registered as a 1st degree archaeological site by the decision of Ankara Council of Immovable Antiquities and Monuments (dated 09.10.1990, numbered 1399).

Sinop Fortress was registered as a 1st degree archaeological site by the decision of Trabzon Council of Immovable Antiquities and Monuments (dated 10.10.1990, numbered 831).

Akçakoca Fortress was registered as a 1st degree archaeological site by the decision of Ankara Council of Immovable Antiquities and Monuments (dated 01.07.1996, numbered 4734).

Güvercinada Fortress was registered as a 1st degree archaeological site by the decision of Superior Council of Immovable Antiquities and Monuments in 1976 (dated 11.12.1976, numbered A-266) and the city walls in Kuşadası were registered as immovable cultural properties by the decision of İzmir Regional Council Numbered II for the Conservation of Cultural and Natural Property (dated 19.01.1994, numbered 3779).

Forts have been altered and renovated throughout history due to the change of rulers, circumstances and new needs. Furthermore, having been constructed as defense structures, fortresses faced material problems that accelerated the process of wearing out. Yoros, Çandarlı, Çeşme, Foça, Güvercinada Forts and Galata Tower are prone to earthquakes because of their location within the 1st degree earthquake zones.

Comparison with other similar properties

From the early 12th to the late 15th centuries, Genoese and Venetian merchants shared control of the Mediterranean and Black Sea, serving as anchors for the medieval economic expansion. In the period of Genoese, many colonies were established and all the series of economic and trade posts are called as “Colonies series of the Republic of Genoa”.

After Treaty of Nymphaeum (1261) with the Byzantine emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus, Genoeses granted monopolistic trading rights in the Black Sea. Especially, Sinop Fortress had strong commercial relationship with Kaffa in Crimea. Kaffa Fortress enclosed by large fortified stone walls with numerous towers facing both land and sea. The quarters outside the old city, in the secondary zone, were strengthened with ramparts, ditches, and

a new wooden palisade. Çandarlı Fortress with its five bastions and high walls bears similarities with Kaffa Fortress; but in terms of scale, it is smaller than the Kaffa Fortress.

Sudak is another small historic town located in Crimea, Ukraine, which was established by the Venetians in the 12th century. It was rebuilt by the Genoese between 1371 and 1469 as a fortified stronghold for their colony, on the southern coast of the Crimean Peninsula. The fortress was built on top of an ancient coral reef formation, now located 150 m. above sea level. In terms of architectural and functional features Sudak Fortress is different from the Genoese fortresses in Anatolia. It was built on a high point in order to defend the harbour, In general terms, fortresses in Anatolia were used by Genoeses primarily as trading posts, instead of defensive purposes. An exception in this general practice is the Galata Tower that was built as a defensive structure and has functional similarities with Sudak Fortress.

In summary, Genoese Fortresses and other maritime buildings from Genoeses in Anatolia, reflect the architectural style of this sailor nation. They were used, built or restored by Genoeses as part of their trading activity during centuries all over Mediterranean and the Black Sea.