Bodrum Castle - History and Facts | History Hit

Bodrum Castle

Bodrum, Aegean Region, Turkey

Bodrum Castle is a 15th century citadel built by Christian knights and houses the Museum of Underwater Archaeology.

Peta Stamper

12 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Bodrum Castle

Bodrum Castle or Bodrum Kalesi – also known as the Castle of St. Peter – in Bodrum, Turkey, was built by the Crusader Knights Hospitaller in 1402 in order to offer protection from the invading Seljuk Turks.

Constructed according to the highest standards at the time, Bodrum Castle remained an important stronghold for over a century, serving as a focal point and Christian refuge in Asia Minor.

Today, Bodrum Castle is open to the public and houses the world renowned Museum of Underwater Archaeology founded in 1962. The castle also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Turkey.

Bodrum Castle history

As the Knights Hospitaller (headquartered on the island of Rhodes) found themselves facing the Ottoman Sultanate, they recognised they needed a stronghold on the mainland. The Grand Master of the Order found the suitable site to build the knights’ new fort: in the port town of Bodrum where a small 11th century Seljuk castle once stood.

Construction began in 1404 under German architect knight, Heinrich Schlegelholt, and workers building the fort were promised a place in heaven by papal decree. The walls were first finished in 1437 and the chapel was one of the first buildings constructed, later rebuilt in the Gothic style by the Spanish Knights of Malta.

Interestingly, each division of the Knights Hospitaller – based on their languages and cultures – were given their own tower, designed in their own style. Bodrum Castle also incorporated many pieces of stonework from the nearby Mausoleum of Mausolus, including sculptures and building materials, the latter of which were used to strengthen Bodrum Castle from invasion by Sultan Suleiman in 1522.

After the Knights surrendered the castle to the Ottomans in 1522, the chapel was converted into a masque an a minaret was added, although this was later damaged during World War One by French warship artillery.

Bodrum Castle today

Today, Bodrum Castle is host to multiple treasures beyond the surviving castle: the former chapel house hosts and exhibition of vases and amphoras from the Mycenaean age and findings from the Bronze age, highlighting how Bodrum was an important trading hub.

Still visible on the walls above the gates are 249 separate coats of arms, some belonging to grand masters, countries, and the personal coats of individual knights and religious figures. Also, the garden inside the castle displays almost every plant and tree of the Mediterranean region.

From the top of the towers, it is possible to see all of Bodrum, giving you a great sense of how strategically placed the castle was and what a fantastic vantage of the surrounding bays the Knights had.

Getting to Bodrum Castle

Situated at the water’s edge, Bodrum Castle is easily accessed on foot and within walking distance of the harbour.

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