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The Persian word Bimarhane, a composite of the Persian bimar / place and hane / house, as well as the Arabic word Darushifa, which literally means Gate of Healing, were the two most common terms used for hospital buildings during both the Seljuk and Ottoman periods.


The Bimarhanes were primarily used as asylums for the mentally ill, while the Darüşşifa functioned more like a traditional hospital. These traditional health facilities were very widespread amongst Turkish settlements even before the Turkish expansion into Anatolia. Many Darushifas and Bimarhanes were built throughout the territories of the Seljuk and Ottoman Empires, primarily in Bursa, Edirne, and Istanbul. The Darushifa, located in the Fatih Mosque complex, was completed in 1470 and is the first Ottoman hospital in Istanbul. Other traditional traditional health facilities built in Istanbul include the Haseki hospital of 1556, the Suleymaniye hospital of 1550, The Toptasi Asylum of 1583, and the Sultanahmed hospital of 1617.


The first modern foreign hospitals in Istanbul where built by the French who had very good ralations with the Ottomans. It is though that the first of these was built in 1673 in the French monastic complex of St Benoit, in what is today the neighborghood of Karakoy. Shortly after, in 1696, French Jesuits built the hospital of St. Louis, later known as the “Pera Plague Hospital” in the location that is today occupied by the French Cultural Center. Hospitals soon followed in the 1830’s and 1840’s.


Especially during the Crimean War, many palace buildings and barracks were trasformed into de-facto hospitals due to the lack of helath facilities. Yet many of these buildings did not last due to their insufficient capabilities. This is when the Empire became evident.


The British Seaman’s Hospital The British Seaman’s Hospital is one example of the foreign hospitals which rose dring this period. It was originally built by the British government in 1855 to serve sailors and is today located in the Bereketzade Madrasa Street of the Karakoy neighborhood.


The building was based on a square plan and had a North-facing facade. The Masonry building had three stories, and six major and two minor patient wards. The building also contained aseparate section for contagious diseases. Initially only serving British seamen and navy personel with its 50 beds, after a series of agreements with the British government, the hospital also began serving Swedes and Norwegians. The current L-shaped hospital came about in 1904, with the expansion project of English archhitect H. Percy Adams. This newer building has six stories and is a cross between Gothic architecture and 20th century styles.


After the proclamation of the Turkish Republic in 1924, the hospital was transferred over to the Turkish Red Crescent. Between 1937 and 1948 it served as a hospital to treat rabies, and between 1948 and 1993 it served as the Beyoglu Municipal Hospital. Since 1993, the building has been serving as the Prof. Dr. Reşat Belger State Eye Hospital, and remains to this day a highlight of the Galata skyline with its unique architectural style.