Only 2/3 of the structure visible today;
the rest was bricked up in the 19th century. It was the source of life
for Istanbul, especially for the Great Palace which extended from the
Hippodrome^ to the shore and imperial harbor on the Sea of Marmera and
later TopKapi. Remember the “dancing water”, fish, Meli’s photo of
art sculpture of “bubbles”.
Aqueducts: while in the bus, we passed under one of the
arches of the two-tiered Valens Aqueduct built probably by Emperor
Valens (AD 364-78) which brought water from the Belgrade Forest. It was
repaired in 1019 and a collapsed section restored in 1980’s.
Hippodrome: built by Septimus Severus during his early 3rd century
rebuilding of the city. Constantine enlarged it and connected its royal
box to the Great Palace. It seated 100,000 people and the road running
around it approximates the course of the chariot races. Traces of the
curved ends can be seen. The median or spina was decorated with: Egyptian
obelisk (1500 BC, Luxor), only 17 m high - 1/3 the original height,
brought in by Theodosius in 390 AD;
Constantine Column 32 metres high covered with bronze plates
removed in 1204 during 4th Crusade to mint coins;
and curved snake column (Delphi, 478 BC), also shorter than
originally, from Greece. On the site of the current tourist office it is
said that there was a column topped by 4 horses plundered also in the
4th Crusade and brought in 1204 to Venice to St. Mark’s.
Lunch Pudding Shop, Divanyolu, the street
with the tram that was also the grand central artery of the old city
Constantinople, built on the Roman road that runs from Aya Sophia to the
Theodosian walls and onward to Europe.
Aya Sophia (Holy Wisdom) Built by Emperor Justinian on the site
of Byzantium’s ancient acropolis where an earlier Aya Sophia had been
but was destroyed in 532 during pandemonium between the Greens and
Blues, rival chariot teams that evolved into political allegiances. It
was completed in 537; Justinian is said to have exclaimed: “O Solomon,
I have outdone you!”. Mehmet Fatih transformed it into a mosque (he
also built Topkapi, conquered Constantinople, restored it and named it
Istanbul). From his era, date mosques, minarets, and tombs. In 1935
Ataturk made it a museum.
The building covers 4 acres and is wider than a football field in long.
Its amazing feature is the huge dome, over 150’, without visible
columnar support. In 559 an earthquake brought it down. Succeeding
emperors and sultans rebuilt it, adding buttresses and other supports,
and stabilizing the foundations. The dome is supported by 40 massive
ribs resting on huge pillars concealed in the interior walls. Most of
its gold is gone and the earliest mosaics were destroyed by Iconoclasts.
Wall mosaics now in evidence are from the 10th century. Mosaics in the
gallery depict Christ the Judge & Ruler (Pantocrator), Christ and
Mary with royalty, one of which is Empress Zoe who had 3 husbands and
changed the face of the mosaic with each one. Another mosaic in the
narthex by the current exit is of the Virginia Mary with Christ Child
and Justinian offering her the Aya Sophia and Constantine offering her
the City.There were some frescoes but most lost. Wall and dome
colors are an ochre color with floral design in green, aqua, burgundy,
few tiles but some Iznik tiles in archway to left of apse. Other
features include center window toward Jerusalem and the mihrab toward
mecca; Sultan’s loge on left and on the right the flat topped marble
structure on which the muezzin used to stand to chant responses to the
imam’s prayer; near this is the marble “coronation” stone reserved
for crowning emperors or it is considered the omphalos, center of the
world. There are 4 huge roundels of Arabic calligraphy; seraphims
decorate the bases of the domes; mosaics up on second floor gallery and
photo exhibit also – gallery reached not by tortuous stairway but by a
ramp. On each side of the nave, are two large round onyx receptacles of
water for purifying before worship with a seat for washers on a stone
capital from the temple of Artemis, illustration again of layers of
temple, church, mosque. I heard a guide say that the doors were from the
wood of the ark! History was not always kind to the mosque: looting by
crusaders and stripping of images by iconoclasts whose work was repaired
reportedly by Pope Leo VI depicted in the mosaic over the Central Door.
Major restoration undertaken between 1847-9 by Fossate Brothers for
Sultan Abdul Mecit.
Church of St. Savior in Chora The present church dates from 11th
century; it was remodeled between 1315-21. It is famous for some of the
finest Byzantine frescoes and mosaics, used to teach religion, just as
gospels (4 of 26), sculptures, weavings, stained glass were other media
used. Its art shows the iconography of Christianity: the variations of
Jesus’ image, e.g. the blond Jesus of the Georgians but a darker Jesus
of other peoples. It also shows the result of the Iconoclasts who
destroyed the images viewing them as desecration, offense to God. (If
you want a headache, check the word iconoclast on the net!) Stories are
presented to illustrate the life of Jesus and the life of Mary: parents
of Mary, her birth, first steps, birth of Christ, arrival of Magi, Herod
and the slaughter of the babies (in an attempt to catch the “new
king” or the “one God” who would replace Herod as king and deity)
and the mourning women/mothers, miracles e.g. Cena, and the Dormition of
Mary and Assumption.
The fluted domes depicting in mosaic 66 forebears of Christ
from Adam to Jacob with Christ in the center and the Virgin and Child in
another showing her forebears, 12 sons of Jacob, Kings of the House of
David, and lesser ancestors. The 14th century frescoes in the smaller
chapel show the figure of Christ conquering death: drawing Adam and Eve
from their tombs.
Sulymanie Mosque Suleiman the Magnificent, the Legislator
And also the protagonist to Richard the Lion Hearted during a crusade.
The builder of this mosque was Sinan (1491-1588), a member of the
Janisseries, the Emperor’s body guard. His apprenticeship was this
mosque and he went on to build 131 mosques and 200 other buildings; 41
are still standing*. He was a master of domes. Upon entering, the
impression is of great openness due perhaps to the fact that the height
of dome from the floor is exactly double the diameter. Red carpeting,
off white walls – not many tiles – black medallions with
calligraphy; arches grey, brick red. We went up to the gallery. The
complex included a hospital, asylum, medrese, graveyard and royal tombs
esp. of Suleiman and Roxelana, his French wife, and daughter Mihriman.
*Mary Lee Settle TURKISH REFLECTIONS. 1991. p. 52.
Flight to Kayseri , ancient Caesarea, the most industrial city of
Anatolya. Furniture and appliances are major industries. Housing is
booming as population increases due to migration from the country
villages to this city for economic reasons. However urban jobs and life
in general often leaves the workers disappointed. An effort began to
sustain the rug-making and other artisan skills through cooperatives.
Dinner Ananin Yeni, 84E Alpasian Mh. Kizilirmak Cadessi ,
Kayseri. First “mezze” of dolmas (stuffed grape leaves), berek
(pastry with filling like we had at Fatmas’s in Guzelyurt), pastirma
(spicey dried meat); then yogurt based soup; I forget main dish if any;
then kunefe for dessert (flat “cake” with ground pistachio). A
parting gesture was spray for our hands of Kolona, rose water or
sometimes lemon water.
1.5 hour ride to Uchisar. Beeping will
alert the bus driver, Hussein, if he is going over speed limit, 5 beeps
for over 93 kms, 1 or 2 for over 40 kms. There was considerable beeping
that night! The Museum Hotel was a 1001 decibel WOW – gorgeous site.
Rooms distinguished by name, not number: e.g., Meli’s was Sultan;
another was Oriental. A great night’s sleep followed and what a view
the next morning!