The White Tower or the Tower of Blood?
The White Tower of Thessaloniki, Greece is a historical monument on the waterfront of the city of Thessaloniki, which has been adopted as the symbol of the city. This tower replaced an older Byzantine fortification that the Ottoman Empire reconstructed to fortify the city’s famous harbor sometime after the captured of Thessaloniki in 1430. The tower became a notorious prison and scene of mass executions during the period of Ottoman rule. The tower was known as the “Tower of Blood” for longer than it has been known as the “White Tower.”
The tower fortification, which once guarded the eastern end of the city’s sea-wall included a lower circular wall encircling the foot of the tower to protect the base of the tower. This chemise was built to support the heavy guns and enclosing an area at least three times the diameter of the central tower. The tower was part of the walls of the old city of Thessaloniki, separating the Jewish quarter of the city from the cemeteries of the Muslims and Jews. The city walls were demolished in 1866, and the lower walled fortification of the Tower was demolition in 1917.
White Tower in 1912, showing the now-demolished outer fortifications.
The Tower was used as a fortress, garrison, and prison and witnessed the torture, execution, and massacre of a multitude of victims. One of the better-documented incidents was in 1826 when at the order of the Sultan Mahmud II, there was a massacre of the rebellious Janissaries imprisoned there. One of Mahmud II’s acts during his reign was the destruction of the Janissary corps. When the Janissaries mounted a demonstration against Mahmud II’s proposed military reforms, he had their barracks fired upon, and he orchestrated the crushing and elimination of the former elite Ottoman troops. With ongoing executions at this site and its growing gruesome reputation, the tower acquired the name of “Tower of Blood” or “Red Tower.”
Inside the Tower
When Thessaloniki was annexed to the Hellenic State in 1912 after the First Balkan War, the lower wall fortifications were removed, and the Tower was whitewashed as a symbolic gesture of cleansing and thus acquired its present name, the White Tower. The whitewash has been weathered away, and the Tower is now a buff color but has retained the name White Tower.
White Tower of Thessaloniki
Did you know?
- King George I of Greece was assassinated not far from the White Tower in March 1913.
- This Tower was known as the “Tower of Blood” for longer than it has been known as the “White Tower.”
White Tower of Thessaloniki
- Name: White Tower of Thessaloniki
- Greek: Λευκός Πύργος Lefkós Pýrgos
- City: Thessaloniki
- Country: Greece
- Date: 1430’s
- Type: Historical Site
- Dimensions: 6 m (20 ft) high
- Location: Nikis (Victory) Street, Thessaloniki, Greece
Museums in Thessaloniki
- Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki
- Museum for the Macedonian Struggle (Thessaloniki)
- Atatürk Museum
- War Museum of Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki Historical Sites
- Early Christian and Byzantine
- Trigonion Tower
Greek Proverbs and Quotes
- Are historical sites like this one, an important reminder of our history that needs to be preserved?
- Once known as the “Tower of Blood,” has this site witnessed the best and worst of humanity?
“We must not believe the many, who say that only free people ought to be educated,
but we should rather believe the philosophers who say that only the educated are free.”
– Epictetus (55 – 135), Greek Philosopher
Photo Credit: JOM