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Following their independence from Roman domination of the Italian peninsula, city states like Venice, Genoa, Pisa, and Ancona began emerging in power. Their presence was largely owed to their trede in the Mediterranean basin. Among these, the Repuclic of Venice rose in prominence with its numerous colonies including islands like Crete and Cyprus. Starting in the 10th century, the Roman Empire- with its capital in Constantinople- began offering trade privileges to merchants of Latin origin, especially the Venetians. The first document given to Venice in this regard (Chrysoboullos) is dated to the year 992. The merchants settled in a portion of today’s Eminönü district and around Tahtakale. From time to time it was commonplace for conflict to arise with merchants from Genoa, Pisa, and Ancona who also lived behind the city walls. Due to the increasing prosperity because of their trade monopoly, residents of Constantinople rose against this community in 1182. Shortly after this incident, the Venetians, under the guidance of Dodge Enrico Dandolo IV, sponsored a crusade which ended up occupying Constantinople.


Between the years 1204-61, all trading privileges remained in the hands of the Latins, particularly the Venetians. Henceforth Constantinople became the center of trade between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean basin.


In 1261, the Romans manage to expel the Latins but they would never again attain their former glory. Shortly after, Venetians and Genoese traders who remained in the city began settling in the region of Galata, an independent settlement established in the 12th century. Following the 1260-61 Nymphanion (Izmir-Gulab) Treaty, the Genoese attempted to seize control of Galata.


On June 18, 1265, Empeor Michael VIII found himself obliged to sign a treaty offering important trade concessions to the Venetians. Hencefoth the Romans began to seek cooperation with the Genoese. In 1267 a treaty signed with the Genoese allowed them to build a trade guild, a palace for the governor, churches, bakeries, shops, and homes in Galata. A similar agreement was reached with the Venetians on April 4, 1268. In 1294, a war between Venice and Genoa took place. Constantinople sided with the Genoese. The Venetians sieged Constantinople and destroyed settlements outside walls. This attack also caused great damage in the area of Galata.


The war offered the Genoese the opportunity to completely take over the settlement of Galata. Thus, a strong Genoese citadel was established right across the city of Constantinople. The walls were completed in the 14th century. The oldest Genoese coat of arms found today in these ramparts is dated to 1335. From 1304 the Republic of Genoa began to offer special administrative status to its colonies, including Galata. Following the signing of the 277-point Statuti di Pera, the settlement became formally linked to Constantinople but remained a privileged region.This colony was governed by the ambassador of Genoa in Constantinople, and was called the Podesta. The Palazzo Comunale (City Hall) became the building from where he ruled. Some documents mention two Podesta palaces in the region. This second palace once lay close to Karaköy and it probably served as an office where notary procedures and trade agreements were carried out.


The remains of the Palazzo Comunale in Galata resemble the structure of the Palace of St. Giorgio in Genoa. Both were said to have been built outside the city limits of the period. However, when we examine Buondelmonti’s map of pre-conquest Istanbul we note that the Galata walss were built in three sections. As mentioned in written sources, the section of the walls facing the sea probably belogned to the first Genoese settlement. As seen in Buondelmonti’s drawing, the central section has more compact housing compared to the other two. In the 1581 Istanbul miniature by Nakkaş Psman in the album named Hünername, the central section of the Galata walls is seen as consisting of two parts separated by a rampart. In the period when it was first built, the Podesta Palace in Galata was located far from the shore, on the hill slopes, just outside the walls. The second part of walls and the Galata Tower itself were to be built in the same century. Henceforth the Podesta Palace remained within the walls of the settlement.


Located today in the intersection of Voyvoda/Bankalar Avenue and the Galata Tower is Bereket Han, the section remaining from the Palazzo Comunale. The building was initially rebuilt by Montani de Marinis after a fire in 1315. In Robertson & Beato’s panorama of 1857, the building is seen as a whole, but in the 1875 Berggren photograph, a different facade design is present. Between 1857-75, the Bankalar avenue was widened and the building was used as a trade establishment named Franchini Han. A portion of the structure was cut and the building reached its present form. The ground floor of this four-story building contained three rooms covered with domes, while the remaining floors contained large spaces. As changes have been made throughout the ages, the building has largely lost its identity.


Today a part of Bereket Han still consists of the original Genoese walls. Beyoğlu must take ownership of such rich heritage. The building should be renovated and opened for use once again.