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Column of the Maiden Regains Its Former Glory

10.5.2022

Column of the Maiden, which is one of the monumental columns from the Byzantine Period and which gave its name to the district it is located in, will regain its former glory with the maintenance and repair works to be carried out by the Masonry Construction and Artifact Workshop, which serves under the Fatih Municipality Cultural Heritage Protection Directorate.

In the Roman Empire, it was customary to erect pillars in the form of monuments. Such monumental columns, most of which had relief decorations, were sometimes erected alone or at the center of the squares they were associated with. In written sources, over forty monuments erected in this way in Istanbul are mentioned. Some of them have survived, while only the location and/or name of some of them are known. The Obelisk, which is among the best-known examples of these columns, most of which were erected between the 4th and 6th centuries, was brought from many kilometers away with great difficulty to decorate the city and the Column of Constantine managed to survive despite several fires and disasters. The Arcadius Column, erected as a victory monument, could not withstand lightnings and collapsed over the years. Another of these columns, which has been raising people’s heads towards the sky for centuries, is Column of the Maiden, which has been the subject of legends due to its name. Located in our Fatih district, the other name Column of the Maiden, which gave its name to the district and the Street is known as Column of the Marcian. The column was erected in the 5th century A.D. by Preafectus (Governor) Tatiaus on behalf of Emperor Marcian [450-457] as a monument consisting of four parts as pedestal, column, head and statue. Although there is no clear information about erection of the column, which is thought to be erected in the middle of a square and the disappearance of the statue on it, there are different theses put forward by the researchers. Some researchers state that the statue, which is considered to be at the top of the column, belongs to the Emperor Marcian and that this statue was dismantled and taken away during the Latin Invasion (1204 - 1261). The column with a total height of 16.5 meters in its current form consists of a base and head section of approximately 4 meters each and an 8.5 meter solid gray granite body in the middle of them. There is a six-armed cross in the wreath on three surfaces of the block marble plinth on the three-step marble base. To the north of the pedestal, two figures of the Goddess of Victory (Nike) bear a six-armed cross in a flowered circle. During the Ottoman Period, the monument was called “Column of the Maiden” due to these reliefs. Just above these reliefs, there is an epitaph, which is known to consist of bronze and lead letters, but today only the holes to which the metal letters were attached can be seen. On the monoblock granite column rising on the pedestal, there is a marble Corinthian headboard and a pedestal on which sits the statue with eagle reliefs on each corner. The Latin inscription and text translation, traces of which can be seen today, are as follows: “Principis Hanc Statvam Marciani Cerne Torvuqve Praefectus Vovit Qvod Tatianus – Keep your eyes on this statue, which was commissioned by the Governor Tatianus for his lord Marcian.” After the conquest of Istanbul, Column of the Maiden remained undamaged and in a private garden among the mansions in the district that developed around it over the years. French traveler Pierre Gilles first mentioned the column, which was overlooked by travelers for a long time, in 1540 without giving full information. A picture of the column and the first detailed information about it were published in 1679 by Jacob Spon and George Wheler. At the same time, our famous traveler and historian Evliya Çelebi also referred to the column as “a talismanic column reaching the sky in Saraçhanebaşı”. The monument was completely exposed when the surrounding structures burned in the 1908 fire at Çırçır area. Column of the Maiden still preserves its original appearance and forms the focal point of a square as it did in the past. The cleaning and maintenance-repair of the column will be carried out in the coming months by the Masonry Construction and Artifact Workshop, which serves under the Cultural Heritage Protection Directorate of our Municipality. After the pollution and vegetation on the surface of the column are cleaned with appropriate methods, its landscaping will be carried out in line with the restoration projects approved by the Conservation Board.

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