The Maiden’s Tower (Turkish: Kız Kulesi) is a distinctive feature of the Bosporus skyline. Built on a tiny island located about 200m from the shore of Üsküdar, the tower is the main subject to many legends.
Among these is the legend of Leander from which the tower takes one of its names (Leander’s Tower).The story of Leander and Hero; Hero was a priestess who lived at the edge of the Dardanelles. Leander, a young man lived on the other side of the strait and fell in love with Hero. Every night he would swim across the sea to be with her. Hero on her side would lid a lamp to guide his way. One stormy night Leander saw a light he thought was Hero’s lamp and swam out into the straight. However it was not Hero but her father, who discovered their relationship, and in his jealously he put out the light. Leander lost his way and drowned in the waves. When Hero discovered his death she threw herself to her own death from the top of the tower. In the end the tower was turned into a light house in honor of their love.
The most popular legend though is about a sultan and his daughter. An oracle prophesied that the sultan’s daughter would be killed by a snake bite on her 18th birthday. The sultan decided to protect her from this misfortune and had the tower built in the middle of the Bosphorus, where she was put to live her life in secrecy and protection.
Finally on her 18th birthday, the sultan brought her a basket of fruits as a birthday gift, not aware of the hidden snake inside. Upon reaching into the basket the princess got bitten by the snake and died in her father’s arms as foreseen by the oracle. Referring to this legend the tower got its name: Maiden’s tower.
With a history that goes back to 24 B.C. the site has been home to a defensive castle, a house of exile, a prison, a place of quarantine, a radio station, a customs post and a light house. As the symbol of Üskudar it was restored by a private company in 2000 and opened as a cafe and restaurant.