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Langa: The Garden of Istanbul

Updated: 3 days ago



Insurance map of Langa (Source: Jacques Pervititch)

Located at the bottom of the third of Istanbul’s Seven Hills, in the valley of the Bayrampaşa stream sits the neighborhood of Langa. In the modern Fatih District, Langa borders Yenikapı with the borders between the two bleeding into each other heavily to the point that some modern sources refer to the district as the Yenikapı/Langa district. Parts of historic Langa may now be considered a part of modern Yenikapı as it is believed to have formed from within historic Langa . Known previously as Vlanga (Βλάνγκα) or Ulanka in the early Byzantine period, the name Langa has been in use since the 12th century. While a 17th-century Turkish source (poet and translator Eremya Çelebi Kömürciyan) claims Langa means verdant in Greek, historians believe it actually means “outside” or “being outside” in Greek possibly because of the neighbor’s location outside of the city walls.


View of Constantinople (Source: Hartmann Schedel)

Excavations of a church in the neighborhood date Langa to at least the 9th century. In this era, Langa was an important harbor known as the Port of Theodosius where sand and stones were collected. In the 12th century, the harbor

The Gardens of Langa (Sources: Dunbarton Oaks)

silted over and became the Langa Bostāns or Langa Orchards. It is also possible that the harbor was intentionally drained. The neighborhood was a major provider of produce for the city. Evliya Çelebi, an explorer living in the 17th century, noted that nobles and commoners wandered freely in the Langa Gardens. He describes a tower, called Papaz (Priest) Tower, enclosed in the double city walls, where the famous Langa Cucumber grows. For most of its history, the neighborhood was sparsely populated and the area around it consisted of mostly empty plots. It was considered an important vacant space that was used for trash and rubble disposal.


The demographics of the neighborhood changed throughout its history with the tax register of 1636 reporting that the number of Muslim houses in Kâtip Kasim Neighborhood in Langa decreased from 333 to 33, signaling the rise in non-muslim populations in the area. Early immigrants from the Greek Island of Cephalonia settled in Langa by the 1540 tax register. Many of the plots of land from the filled-in

Church of Saint Theodore (Source: Ülgen Ailesi - Ülgen Family)

Langa Harbour were sold to Armenians who later established the new neighborhood of Yenikapı. Langa and Yenikapı make up two of six of the Armenian parishes of the city the rest of which included the neighborhoods of Samatya, Kumkapı, Balat, and Hasköy. By the 18th century, an old palace in the area was torn down and the plots of land were sold to Armenians and Greeks who established a new marketplace on the site. Langa was considered one of Istanbul’s poorer neighbors. In reports from the 19th century, the Greek Church schools of Balat, Eğrikapı, Langa, and Fener all shared a single teacher who would travel from neighbor to neighbor as these schools could not afford a permanent teacher. 


Gardens of Langa (Source: Facebook)

As mentioned earlier Langa was famous for its fertile lands and the orchards and gardens that grew there irrigated by the Bayrampaşa Stream. The Langa gardens appear in historical records as early as the 13th century with the “Blanga” gardens appearing in the 1294–1301 endowment deed (typika) of Theodora Palaiologina for the Convent of Lips in Constantinople. In the deed, a garden of 40,000 square meters was added as property of the monastery. The Langa bostāns existed well into the 20th century and a source from the 1950s tells us that the gardens there grew corn, vine tomatoes, radishes, parsley, arugula, lettuce, and the Langa cucumber, whose seeds are patented. The orchards boasted apples, pears, apricots, and peaches. These orchards were typically run by Greek and Bulgarian gardeners. 


Langa in the 1950s (Source: Facebook)

Other employment in the neighborhood included the running of taverns and the sale of yogurt. Taverns were often fixtures of minority neighborhoods such as Samatya, Fener, and Kadıköy that were run by Greeks and Armenians. By the 19th century, Langa boasted reputable taverns such as Tandırlı, Mermerli, and İkikapılı that were known throughout the city. Istanbul’s yogurt and milk production was often met by the dairies in Langa and their vendors that also lived in the neighborhood. In addition, many timber merchants lived and worked in Langa.


 

References

Atasoy, Nurhan. “The Gardens of Istanbul.” In History of Istanbul. Vol. 4.

Canatar, Mehmet. “Districts and Neighborhoods of Istanbul (1453-1923).” In

History of Istanbul. Vol. 3. https://istanbultarihi.ist/451-districts-and-

İnalcık, Halil. “Sultan Mehmed the Conqureror's Istanbul.” In History of

“Langa Bostanı.” Dumbarton Oaks. Accessed November 2, 2023.

“Langa Bostanları.” IBB Kultur. Accessed October, 2023.

Shopov, Aleksandar. 2022. “Langa Cucumber.” In Museum of Exhalation, edited by

Orkan Telhan, 39-45.


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