Name of Monument:

Kilitbahir [kilid al-bahr] Fortress


Kilitbahir - Eceabat, Çanakkale, Turkey

Date of Monument:

Hegira 866 / AD 1463

Period / Dynasty:

Early Ottoman


Sultan Mehmed II ‘the Conqueror’, (his second reign r. AH 855–86 / AD 1451–81); the outer structure expanded during the reign of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent (r. AH 926–974 / AD 1520–1566).


Some time after the conquest of Istanbul, the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, intending to take control of the Dardanelles, built two fortresses at the narrowest point of the Straits, one on the Anatolian side, and this one, Kilitbahir Fortress, on the European side. Sultaniye or çimenlik Fortress on the Anatolian side was the first to be built; Kilitbahir was the second fortress that Sultan Mehmed II ordered to be built, and because of its location, the fortress was called kilid al-bahr, i.e. 'lock of the sea'. Its plan gives it a special place among Turkish fortresses. The village of Kilitbahir, behind the fortress, takes its name from it.
Kilitbahir Fortress occupies a rectangular area measuring approximately 220 m x 120 m. It consists of two outer fortresses (one to the north and one to the south); and one inner fortress with a central tower. The outer fortress to the north was the first to be built, in the period of Sultan Mehmed II. It is surrounded by 4-m high walls. The section of wall which once ran parallel to the shoreline no longer survives. It is known that originally there were large moats around the outer fortress, and that it was entered through gates on the north and south sides which were accessed by suspended bridges. The moats were later filled in and no longer survive today. The second outer fortress to the south, was built under Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent in AH 948 / AD 1542. A monumental round tower, 21 m in diameter and covered with a dome, rises from the southeast end.
The inner fortress in the centre of the northern outer fortress is shaped like a three-leaf clover. This inner fortress, surrounded by 7-m thick walls, consists of three separate courtyards with a seven-storey tower in the centre. Of the courtyards, which are connected to each other by single openings, only two can be entered from the outer fortress; the courtyard with the 30-meter high, seven-storey tower in it cannot be accessed from the outer fortress. It was thus made difficult for anyone who wanted to attack the fortress to get to the tower. The main outline of the tower is heart-shaped. The tower's seven floors were made of wood, and were ascended by a wooden staircase within the wall. The stairs and wooden floors no longer survive.
The Kilitbahir Fortress was built of fine cut stone, rough-cut stone and rubble. Architecturally the fortress is extremely interesting; this is in contrast to the decoration which is very simple. The principal forms of ornament are brickwork sun-disks at the top of the walls of the inner fortress and bands of rosettes and meander-motifs.
The Kilitbahir Fortress was built in the time of Sultan Mehmed II in order to defend the Dardanelles. It was expanded in AH 948 / AD 1542 under Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent by adding a second outer fortress to the south. The fortress underwent restorations in 1955–6 and in 1967–8 and is open to visitors today.

View Short Description

Called 'lock of the sea' because of its strategic position, Kilitbahir Fortress rises on the European side of the strait, opposite the Sultaniye Fortress. The fortress comprises two outer fortresses, an inner castle and a tower in the middle. Its inner castle and central tower are especially remarkable for their layout. The inner castle is in the shape of a three-leafed clover and the seven-storeyed tower is heart-shaped, both of which distinguish the fortress from other Ottoman fortresses.

How Monument was dated:

The fortress has no foundation inscriptions. Based on various historical documents, it is now agreed that it was built in AH 866 / AD 1463 by order of Sultan Mehmed II and under the supervision of Yakup Pasha, together with the Sultaniye Fortress in çanakkale. The second outer fortress to the south was built in AH 948 / AD 1542 in the period of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, according to an inscription above the entrance to the tower on its southeast corner.

Selected bibliography:

Ayverdi, E. H., Osmanlı Mimarisinde Fatih Devri (1451–81) [The Period of the Conqueror in Ottoman Architecture (1451–81)], Vol. IV, Istanbul, 1974, pp.790–804.
çakmak, Ş., Erken Osmanlı Sanatı, Beyliklerin Mirası [Early Ottoman Art: The Legacy of the Emirates], Madrid, 1999, pp.165–7.

Citation of this web page:

Şakir Çakmak "Kilitbahir [kilid al-bahr] Fortress" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. 2020.;ISL;tr;Mon01;20;en

Prepared by: Şakir ÇakmakŞakir Çakmak

Dr Şakir Çakmak is an assistant professor in the Department of Archaeology and Art History of the Faculty of Letters, Ege University, Izmir. Born in Sarayköy, Turkey, in 1964, he graduated from that department in 1986. He started working as a research assistant in the same department in 1988. He completed his MA in 1991 with a thesis entitled “Turkish Monuments in Denizli Province (Mosques)” and his Ph.D. with the thesis “Portals in the Early Ottoman Period (1300–1500)” in 1999.

Translation by: Barry WoodBarry Wood

Barry Wood is Curator (Islamic Gallery Project) in the Asian Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He studied history of art at Johns Hopkins University and history of Islamic art and architecture at Harvard University, from where he obtained his Ph.D. in 2002. He has taught at Harvard, Eastern Mediterranean University, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the Courtauld Institute of Art. He has also worked at the Harvard University Art Museums and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. He has published on topics ranging from Persian manuscripts to the history of exhibitions.
, İnci Türkoğluİnci Türkoğlu

İnci Türkoğlu has been working as a tourist guide and freelance consultant in tourism and publishing since 1993. She was born in Alaşehir, Turkey, in 1967. She graduated from the English Department of Bornova Anatolian High School in 1985 and lived in the USA for a year as an exchange student. She graduated from the Department of Electronic Engineering of the Faculty of Architecture and Engineering, Dokuz Eylül University, Izmir, and the professional tourist guide courses of the Ministry of Tourism in 1991. She worked as an engineer for a while. She graduated from the Department of Art History, Faculty of Letters, Ege University, Izmir, in 1997 with an undergraduate thesis entitled “Byzantine House Architecture in Western Anatolia”. She completed her Master's at the Byzantine Art branch of the same department in 2001 with a thesis entitled “Synagogue Architecture in Turkey from Antiquity to the Present”. She has published on art history and tourism.

Translation copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez

Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.

True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.

MWNF Working Number: TR 30


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