The Guardians Of Istanbul’s Cultural Heritage

Photographer: Erdem Sahin

Istanbul has been a site of human settlement for around 3,000 years and nowadays it is a cradle of cultural and historical heritage points that plot the city’s evolution over time.
Byzantine churches, walls, and cisterns rub shoulders with Ottoman mosques, fountains, and tombs in the Turkish city that straddles Europe and Asia.
Some of the historic features of Istanbul have been neglected in recent years while others have fallen into ruin.
It is a trend that specialists from Istanbul’s cultural heritage department (IBB Miras) strive to buck.
IBB Miras brings together experts in restoration, architecture, engineering, history, and visual arts, who want to breathe some life back into some of the city’s dilapidated gems.
Oktay Özel, head of the cultural heritage department, told epa-efe: ‘Istanbul is a very special city, at the heart of the whole world, and an extremely rich metropolis in terms of history.’
The city is home to tens of thousands of properties of cultural interest, many of which are yet to be added to the official inventory list.
The team of specialists traveled around Istanbul six days a week and their tasks range from small repairs and cleaning to larger-scale restorations.
Epa-efe joined the group over three months, in which time they worked on the 1,690-year-old Column of the Goths, cleaned the Ataturk monument, and restored script on old fountains.
Other points of interest worked on by the team included: The Basilica Cistern (527-565), the Walls of Constantinople (408-450) and the Osman Aga fountain (1612).

Merve Gedik (C), assistant of the head of the Cultural Heritage Department, and members of the IBB Miras (Istanbul Municipality Heritage) team attend a meeting at the office for their upcoming restoration projects in Istanbul, Turkey. EPA-EFE/ERDEM SAHIN
Nazim Can Cihan, a restorer of the IBB Miras (Istanbul Municipality Heritage) team, prepares to clean Turkey’s first Ataturk monument (20th century) at Sarayburnu on the Bosphorus from bird droppings during routine cleaning in Istanbul, Turkey. EPA-EFE/ERDEM SAHIN
Nazim Can Cihan and Omer Ozdemir, restorers with the IBB Miras (Istanbul Municipality Heritage) team, work on the 4th-century Column of the Goths during a restoration in Istanbul, Turkey. EPA-EFE/ERDEM SAHIN
Nazim Can Cihan (L) and Omer Ozdemir (R), restorers with the IBB Miras (Istanbul Municipality Heritage) team, work on the 4th-century Column of the Goths during a restoration in Istanbul, Turkey. EPA-EFE/ERDEM SAHIN
Nazim Can Cihan, a restorer of the IBB Miras (Istanbul Municipality Heritage) team, cleans Turkey’s first Ataturk monument (20th century) at Sarayburnu on the Bosphorus from bird droppings during routine cleaning in Istanbul, Turkey. EPA-EFE/ERDEM SAHIN
Nazim Can Cihan, a restorer of the IBB Miras (Istanbul Municipality Heritage) team, takes a picture after cleaning Turkey’s first Ataturk monument (20th century) at Sarayburnu on the Bosphorus from bird droppings during routine cleaning in Istanbul, Turkey. EPA-EFE/ERDEM SAHIN
Nurcan Onel, a restorer with the IBB Miras (Istanbul Municipality Heritage) team, uses a brush after gilding inscriptions of the Osman Aga Fountain (17th century) during an extensive restoration in Istanbul. EPA-EFE/ERDEM SAHIN
Restorers with the IBB Miras (Istanbul Municipality Heritage) team, work on inscriptions of the Osman Aga Fountain (17th century) during an extensive restoration in Istanbul, Turkey EPA-EFE/ERDEM SAHIN
Nurcan Onel, a restorer with the IBB Miras (Istanbul Municipality Heritage) team, works on a historic tomb at the 15th century Murat Pasha Mosque and Hazirah (burial area reserved for selected people, especially in mosques or Sufi lodges) during an extensive restoration in Istanbul, Turkey. EPA-EFE/ERDEM SAHIN
Nurcan Onel, a restorer with the IBB Miras (Istanbul Municipality Heritage) team, works on inscriptions of the Osman Aga Fountain (17th century) during an extensive restoration in Istanbul, Turkey. EPA-EFE/ERDEM SAHIN
An aerial picture taken with a drone shows Omer Ozdemir, a restorer with the IBB Miras (Istanbul Municipality Heritage) team, working on a dome at the 15th century Murat Pasha Mosque and Hazirah (burial area reserved for selected people, especially in mosques or Sufi lodges) during an extensive restoration in Istanbul, Turkey. EPA-EFE/ERDEM SAHIN
Restoration workers of the IBB Miras (Istanbul Municipality Heritage) team, work at the Cisterna Basilica (6th century) during an extensive restoration in Istanbul, Turkey. EPA-EFE/ERDEM SAHIN
Okan Ulusoy, a visual artist of the IBB Miras (Istanbul Municipality Heritage) team, works at the Anemas Dungeons (11th-12th century) before an extension restoration in Istanbul, Turkey. EPA-EFE/ERDEM SAHIN
A restoration worker of the IBB Miras (Istanbul Municipality Heritage) team cleans around a column at the Cisterna Basilica (6th century) during an extensive restoration in Istanbul, Turkey. EPA-EFE/ERDEM SAHIN
Workers of the IBB Miras (Istanbul Municipality Heritage) team weed under the Walls of Constantinople (built in the 5th century A.D.) during a routine cleaning in Istanbul, Turkey. EPA-EFE/ERDEM SAHIN
Mustafa Altundal, a restoration worker of the IBB Miras (Istanbul Municipality Heritage) team, sand-blasts the Sultan Mahmud II Fountain (19th century) during an extensive restoration in Istanbul, Turkey. EPA-EFE/ERDEM SAHIN
A view of columns at the Anemas Dungeons (11th-12th century) during a documentation of the IBB Miras (Istanbul Municipality Heritage) team before an extension restoration in Istanbul, Turkey. EPA-EFE/ERDEM SAHIN

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