The Guardians of Istanbul's Cultural Heritage

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The Guardians of Istanbul's Cultural Heritage

Photographer: Erdem Sahin


Istanbul has been a site of human settlement for around 3,000 years and nowadays it is a cradle of cultural and historical heritage points that plot the city's evolution over time. Byzantine churches, walls, and cisterns rub shoulders with Ottoman mosques, fountains, and tombs in the Turkish city that straddles Europe and Asia.

Some of the historic features of Istanbul have been neglected in recent years while others have fallen into ruin. It is a trend that specialists from Istanbul's cultural heritage department (IBB Miras) strive to buck. IBB Miras brings together experts in restoration, architecture, engineering, history, and visual arts, who want to breathe some life back into some of the city’s dilapidated gems. Oktay Özel, head of the cultural heritage department, told epa-efe: 'Istanbul is a very special city, at the heart of the whole world, and an extremely rich metropolis in terms of history.' The city is home to tens of thousands of properties of cultural interest, many of which are yet to be added to the official inventory list.

The team of specialists travels around Istanbul six days a week and their tasks range from small repairs and cleaning to larger-scale restorations. Epa-efe joined the group over three months, in which time they worked on the 1,690-year-old Column of the Goths, cleaned the Ataturk monument, and restored script on old fountains. Other points of interest worked on by the team included: The Basilica Cistern (527-565), the Walls of Constantinople (408-450) and the Osman Aga fountain (1612).