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Summer Palace of the Byzantine Emperors: Boukoleon Palace

Boukoleon Palace (Bucoleon Palace) was the summer palace of the Byzantine emperors, which was built along the shores of the Marmara Sea in the south of the Great Palace of Constantinople. It is very probable that it was built during the reign of Emperor Theodosius II (r. 408 – 450 AD) in the 5th century AD and its monumental façade still stands for more than fifteen centuries. The palace, rising from the sea walls, had a harbor of the same name as well. Together with the remains of Tekfur Palace, the Boukoleon Palace is one of the few Byzantine palace remains in Istanbul.

Boukoleon Palace in the 1930s.

Boukoleon Palace in the 1870s

Today the structure has no border with the Marmara Sea due to the Kennedy Avenue built in 1963. Avenue was named after United States’ former president John F. Kennedy assassination 1963.

Kennedy Avenue and Boukolen Palace

Kennedy Avenue and Boukoleon Palace

Its name comes from the marble statue depicting a lion attacking a bull. In Ancient Greek “boukoleon” means “in the mouth of lion”. Today, the lion statue founded in Boukoleon Palace is exhibited at the Istanbul Archaeological Museum.

bukoleon sarayı aslan heykeli

Lion statue founded in Boukoleon Palace

Like other Byzantine imperial palaces the Boukoleon Palace was a growing structure. It means it expanded several times during the reign of different Byzantine emperors. Also, various architectural features, floor pavements, tiles, and mosaics were found dating to different centuries. After the Siege of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusader in 1204, Boniface I resided in this palace. However, when the Byzantine took back Constantinople in 1261 the palace was already partly destroyed, therefore the palace was abandoned in the mid-13th century. In addition, 1532 Istanbul earthquake and the railway line built in the 1870s damaged Boukoleon Palace highly.

Boukoleon Palace

Boukoleon Palace

Although several excavations and surveys took place in Boukoleon Palace in the last decades the palace is unfortunately in ruins. Istanbul Tour Studio’s “The Rise of Byzantium” tour covers this imperial palace of the Byzantine which was built approximately 1500 years ago.


Alican Kutlay
Archaeologist and art historian based in Istanbul. Istanbul and Turkish Psychedelic Music geek. #ListenToTurkishPsychedelic