The Kuleli Cavalry Barracks, which was built in accordance with modern architecture style between neighborhoods of Çengelköy and Vaniköy in the Asian part of the Bosphorus in the first half of the nineteenth century, is one of the rarest historical buildings in the Bosphorus that survived until today with annexes, reorganizations and restorations over the years.

Ridges and valleys that extend from Çengelköy to Vaniköy have been used for military purposes since the conquest of Istanbul.1 Due to the spectacular towers and pavilions built in the era of Süleyman I the Magnificent, the current location of the Military High School was called Kule Bahçesi (Tower Garden) or sometimes Kuleli Bahçe (Garden with Towers).

1- Kuleli Military High School (Allom)

After the army of Asâkir-i Mansûre-i Muhammediye was formed, the vast land that starts from Kandilli Observatory and goes through current Talimhane neighborhood up to the coast was expropriated in order to be used for the Cavalry Barracks and its affiliated training field (1828) upon the decree of Sultan Mahmud II which was issued on July 7, 1826.2 A single floor wooden barracks was built by Balyan Usta in the garden with towers;3 however the building was destroyed in the fires. After a while, the barracks was rebuilt in accordance with the engraving illustrated by Thomas Allom (b. 1804-d. 1872) and verified in his book that was published in 1838 in London: as a three-floor building on the seaward front with two towers in the north and the south sides.4

The Kuleli Cavalry Barracks was allocated to the Dersaadet (Hassa) Army and 1st and 2nd Cavalcades between 1828 and 1837. In order to prevent the plague outbreak in and around Istanbul, the barracks was turned into a quarantine station in 1837 upon the decision of Darületibba Commission and used for this purpose until 1842.5 A reconnaissance for wide-scale restoration was carried out in 1837,6 however restoration activities were postponed since the building was being used as a quarantine station.7 Meanwhile, they tried to meet the needs of the quarantine station and complete other equipment requirements.8 Moreover, the students of the Military Medical School were provided with practical diagnosis and treatment training in the quarantine station.9

The Kuleli Cavalry Barracks was reallocated to the 1st and 2nd Cavalcades on November 30, 1842;10 however since it was in want of repair, a wide-scale restoration was initiated by Hasan Rıza Pasha, who was the Marshal of Hassa Army, upon the decree of Sultan Abdülmecid which was issued on February 1843.11 During these restorations, water was brought to the barracks and a single-dome hamam (Turkish bath) was built. Since the wooden parts of the barracks were destroyed in the fires, they were also restored between 1845 and 1847.12

Construction of the Kuleli Hospital, which was initiated by Serasker Hasan Rıza Pasha upon the decree of Sultan Abdülmecid that was issued on October 23, 1843, was completed on August 23, 184413 and it was handed over on August 25, 1844. The hospital was opened to service after the doctors were appointed.14 A part of the hospital was demolished between 1950 and 1955 and Korgeneral Şefik Erensu housing development was built instead, and it has partly survived.15

2- The students of Kuleli Military High School (Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, Kültür A.Ş.)

The Manège (horse training) building, which was built by Serasker Hasan Rıza Pasha by order of Sultan Abdülmecid in 1845 as a closed training field for cavalry troopers, is used today as Atatürk Sport Hall. The Manège building went under wide-scale restorations in 1850 and 1870.16

Just as the Haydarpaşa and the Selimiye barracks, the Kuleli Cavalry Barracks was also handed over to the armies of allied powers during the Crimean War (1854-1856)17 and used for holding some of the Russian captives18 while a part of it acted as a hospital for treatment of the allied soldiers who were wounded on the fronts. During the fire that broke out while the Allied Powers were leaving Kuleli, the İcadiye Kasrı (İcadiye Palace) was burnt down as well as the barracks19 and a wide-scale restoration was initiated in the barracks on September 9, 1856.20

Since the trials of the attempted coup d’état against Sultan Abdülmecid to dethrone him on September 1859 were held there, this incident was called the “Kuleli Event” even though it had no direct connection to the Kuleli Barracks.21

The Kuleli Cavalry Barracks was rebuilt by palace architect Karabet Amira Balyan in the era of Sultan Abdülaziz with stone main walls and wooden interiors, ceilings and floors.22 After this restoration, the barracks gained its current look except for the towers.23 The present-day historical building of the Kuleli Military High School is the one that was built by the order of Sultan Abdülaziz. On the seaward gate of the building, which is called Şeref Kapısı (Gate of Honour), the year 1279 (1862-1963) and an inscription written in talik is found under the tuğra (sultan’s signature) of Sultan Abdülaziz. It is understood that the barracks needed to go under restoration frequently due to the humid weather conditions of the Bosphorus.24

The Kuleli Cavalry Barracks was turned into an educational institution after the Dersaadet Military High School, which was founded in 1845, was moved there in 1872. Hence, according to the decision adopted at the Temporary Council (Meclis-i Muvakkat) meeting, which was attended by the Minister of Military Academy Emin Pasha, Sheikh al-lslam Arif Hikmet (Keçecizade) and Fuad Pasha on April 9, 1845, it was concluded that Mekteb-i Fünûn-ı İdadiye, which would have a five-year education period, be opened in places with military headquarters and in Istanbul in order to train candidate students for the Military Academy (Harbiye Mektebi).25 The first commanders of this school that operated out of Kuleli were Emin Pasha, Mirliva Ibrahim Pasha and Miralay Kara Ali Bey, respectively.

3- Kuleli Military High School

The students studied courses of Dürr-i Yektâ, Arabic, Persian, Mathematics, Geography, Fenn-i Kitabet (Science of Writing Well) and Resm-i Mücessem (3D drawing in Ottoman) in the idadi (high school). The Mekteb-i Fünun-ı İdadî-i Şâhâne (Imperial Science High School, a.k.a. Dersaadet or Harbiye High School) 26 which was opened in the Çinili Köşk (Tiled Kiosk) at Dolmabahçe Palace on September 21, 1845 and continued its education in Maçka Barracks, was moved to the Kuleli Cavalry Barracks along with the Tıbbiye İdadîsi (Medicine High School) in 1872.27 As of 1872, when the Mekteb-i Fünûn-ı İdâdî-i Şâhâne was moved, the Kuleli Cavalry Barracks became an institution where the Military High School and the Medicine High School received education together. Later, in 1910, the Medicine High School was moved to Haydarpaşa.

The terms for application to the high schools and points to consider about the exam were also specified. According to the specifications, the secondary school (rüşdiye) graduates between ages of 12 and 17 were allowed to apply for the exams, which would be carried out in the holy months (Rajab, Sha’ban and Ramadan) every year. Candidates who were intelligent, highly capable in the military area and had a well-proportionated stature could be admitted as military students provided that they passed the exam following a doctor examination. 28 As of 1847, the number of people who wanted to enrol in the military high schools started to increase. 29 The students who failed their classes two years in a row were eliminated and could only be military clerks. 30 During the commandership of Sarı Galib Pasha (1862-1864), French and gymnastics courses were also added to the curriculum.31 While the group of teachers who would work in the high schools were determined in 1893; issue of assignment and education of teacher officers was discussed in the meeting of Dârüşşûrâ-yı Askerî (Military Council) on August 28, 1870 and it was decided that a new school be opened.32 Major changes were made in the Kuleli Military High School’s curriculum when Süleyman Hüsnü Pasha was the Minister of the Military Schools (1873-1875).33 Courses on philosophy of military and military Chemistry were introduced to the curriculum, as well as English and German languages in addition to French.

When Kuleli was converted to a hospital during the Ottoman-Russian War between 1877 and 1878,34 both high schools were moved to the Mekteb-i Harbiye (currently Military Museum) building in Pangaltı and they returned to Kuleli Cavalry Barracks in 1879.35 When the number of students admitted to Kuleli Military High School increased, it was decided that an additional building be made36 and the Manège building was added to the high school with an enclosed chamber in 1893 and reorganized as a mess hall.37

Reparations were carried out by Üsküdar and Kadıköy Water Company in 1907 in order to fix the issues in water channels and taps.38 In addition, the exterior of the Kuleli Hospital was repaired. 39 A new organization called Terbiye ve Tedrisat Müfettiş-i Umumiliği (General-Inspectorate of Education and Instruction) was founded in the meeting of the Military Council and the military high schools were put under supervision of this unit.40

During the commandership of Staff Major Vehip Bey (Kaçi) (July 6 1910-May 1 1912) an additional building was made in the north adjacent to the main building and in parallel to the sea. While the lower part of the building was allocated as a Student Lounge (Historical Club) and an Anatolian Conference Room; the upper part was organized with a Personnel Mess Hall, a School Museum (Hall of Honour) and physics laboratories. Works to start a central heating system in the school could eventually be accomplished in 1914.41 When the Balkan War started, the Kuleli Cavalry Barracks was again converted to a hospital on October 1912. Therefore, some of the students continued their studies in the Adile Sultan Palace and some in the buildings near Beylerbeyi Palace during that period. The students returned to Kuleli on July, 1913.

Shortly after the occupation of Istanbul on March 16, 1920, the British evacuated the Kuleli Military High School buildings by force of arms on July 1920 and handed it over to the Armenians, which is one of the non-Muslim minorities, in order to be used as an orphanage. The barracks suffered major damages in this period; partly burnt and broken down and used as an orphanage until 1923.42 The Cavalry Barracks was handed over to the Turkish authorities in October 6th, 1923 and opened for education after a wide-scale restoration. It was converted to a civilian high school by the Unification of Education Act (Tevhid-i Tedrisat Kanunu) on March 3, 1924, however it continued education under the name of Kuleli Military High School as of 1925. When the World War II began, the Kuleli Military High School was transferred to Konya in accordance with the mobilization plan that was drawn up beforehand in May 1941. After being evacuated, the barracks was handed over to 1000-bed Dermatology Hospital and the Bosphorus Transportation Command for a period of six years (May 1941-August 1947).

The Kuleli Military High School moved back and settled between August nineteenth and twentieth, 1947 and the Maltepe Military High School moved to the buildings in the Kuleli Cavalry Barracks that were allocated to it between August 25 and 26, 1947. The Kuleli and the Maltepe Military High Schools, which were operated out of the Kuleli Cavalry Barracks as two separate schools were merged in 1950. Most fundamental restoration in the Kuleli Military High School was carried out between 1965 and 1969. 43 Towers were built based on the engraving of Thomas Allom between 1968 and 1969. A wide-scale restoration was carried out in all the fronts of the school between 1983 and 1986. While the seaward exterior front and the entire historical building were reinforced against earthquake between 2008 and 2010; a lighting system was installed on the seaward exterior surface in 2011.

The Kuleli Military High School implemented the curriculum of the science branch of the high schools that were affiliated to the Ministry of National Education until the school year of 1975-1976. It transitioned to the college system in that year, however, it returned to a curriculum of the science branch of Ministry of National Education afterwards.

The Kuleli Military High School was closed on 31 July 2016 together with all other military schools.


1 İsrafil Kurtcephe - Feridun Yıldız, Kuleli Askerî Lisesi Tarihi, Istanbul: Kuleli Askeri Lisesi Matbaası, 1985, pp. 2-4.

2 Mehmet R. H. Baraz - Zeynep Demircan, Çengelköy’de Tarih, Istanbul: Kitabevi Yayınları, 2004, p. 283.

3 Mehmed Esad, Mir’ât-ı Mekteb-i Harbiye, Istanbul: (A. Asaduryan) Şirket-i Mürettibiye Matbaası, 1310, p. 172. Also, see Mehmed Râif, Mir’ât-ı İstanbul, Istanbul: Çelik Gülersoy Vakfı, 1996, p. 269; Zuhal Çetiner Doğdu, “Kışla Mimarisi”, Türkler, prep. by Hasan Celal Güzel et al. Ankara: Yeni Türkiye Yayınları, 2002, vol. 12, p. 184.

4 Robert Walsh, Constantinople and the Scenery of Seven Churches of Asia Minor, London: Fisher, Son, & Co., 1838, vol. 2/1, p. 76.

5 Gülden Sarıyıldız, “Karantina Teşkilatının Kuruluşu ve Faaliyetleri (1835-1876)”, TTK Belleten, vol. 58, no. 222 (1994), pp. 329-376.

6 BOA, HH, no. 28981.

7 BOA, HH, no. 25545A.

8 BOA, HH, no. 25559; also, seet BOA, C.BL, no. 113/5648.

9 BOA, C.SH, no. 4/154.

10 BOA, C.SH, no. 13/616; also, see Sırrı Üçer, “Kuleli Askerî Lisesi Tarihçesi”, TK, 1968, vol. 6, no. 70, pp. 764-774.

11 BOA, C.AS, no. 874/3748.

12 Kolağası Mehmet Ra’if, Mir’ât-ı İstanbul, p. 270.

13 BOA, İ.DH, no. 90/4527.

14 BOA, İ.DH, no. 91/4533.

15 Kurtcephe and Yıldız, Kuleli Askerî Lisesi Tarihi, p. 5.

16 BOA, A.MKT.NZD, no. 6/73; BOA, İ.DH, no. 613/42720.

17 BOA, A.MKT.NZD, no. 115/88.

18 BOA, HR.MKT, no. 98/14.

19 BOA, İ.DH, no. 50/25091.

20 BOA, A.MKT.NZD, no. 193/63; BOA, İ.DH, no. 387/25562; BOA, A.MKT.NZD, no. 230/72; ayrıca bkz. Mecelle-i Umur-ı Belediyye, Istanbul: Matbaa-i Osmaniye, 1330, vol. 1, s. 1208; also, for information, look at Hasan Fehmi Öz, “Üsküdar’da Bir Askerî Okul Kuleli Askerî Lisesi”, Üsküdar Sempozyumu II: 12-14 Mart 2004: Bildirileri, ed. Zekeriya Kurşun et al., Istanbul: Üsküdar Belediye Başkanlığı Üsküdar Araştırmaları Merkezi, 2005, vol. 1, p. 249.

21 Uluğ İğdemir, Kuleli Vak’ası Hakkında Bir Araştırma, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1937; ayrıca bkz. Uluğ İğdemir, “Kuleli Vak’ası”, TA, vol. 22, p. 340.

22 Mehmet Râif, Mir’ât-ı İstanbul, p. 270.

23 İbrahim Hakkı Konyalı, Abideleri ve Kitabeleri ile Üsküdar Tarihi, Istanbul: Türkiye Yeşilay Cemiyeti, 1977, vol. 2, p. 324.

24 BOA, İ.DH, no. 621/43174.

25 Takvîm-i Vekâyi‘, 1261, p. 284; Mehmet Esad, Mir’ât-ı Mekteb-i Harbiye, p. 39.

26 Kenan Sayacı, “Kuleli Askerî Lisesi”, DBİst.A, vol. 5, pp. 115-116.

27 BOA, İ.DH, no. 5178 (1261).

28 Tahsin Ünal, “122 Yıllık Bir İrfan Yuvası Kuleli”, Hayat Tarih Mecmuası, 1968, no. 8, pp. 57-58.

29 İzzet Akça and Mustafa Özkat (prepared by), Dünden Bugüne Kuleli Askerî Lisesi, Istanbul: Kuleli Askeri Lisesi Matbaası, 2007, p. 40.

30 Kuleli Military High School Archive, Muhâberat Defteri, year 1293 (1877), no. 1.

31 Mehmet Esad, Mir’ât-ı Mekteb-i Harbiye, p. 75.

32 Osman Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, Istanbul: Osmanbey Matbaası, 1939, vol. 1-2, pp. 715-716.

33 Bilgi için bkz. Salnâme-i Devlet-i Aliyye-i Osmâniye, Def‘a 31, year 1293 (1876).

34 Konyalı, Üsküdar Tarihi, p. 326.

35 Kuleli Military High School Archive, Muhâberat Defteri, no. 1; see also Konyalı, Üsküdar Tarihi, p. 326.

36 BOA, Y.PRK.BŞK, no. 27/98.

37 BOA, Y.MTV, no. 82/41; BOA, Y.PRK.BŞK, no. 7/98; also look at Öz, “Üsküdar’da Bir Askerî Okul”, p 249.

38 BOA, Y.MTV, no. 296/115.

39 BOA, Y.MTV, no. 299/175.

40 BOA, İ.AS, no. 12 (2 Rajab 1327 / July 7, 1325 / July 20, 1909).

41 Kuleli Military High School Archive, Yazışma Defteri, year 1914, p. 46.

42 Sadettin Nüzhet [Ergun], “Kuleli Askerî Lisesi’nin Tarihçesi”, 1932-33 KAL Son Sınıf Hatırası, Istanbul: Devlet Matbaası, 1933, p. 9.

43 Ünal, “122 Yıllık Bir İrfan Yuvası Kuleli”, p. 13.

This article was translated from Turkish version of History of Istanbul with some editions to be published in a digitalized form in 2019.

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