April 20, 2005 - May 04, 2005

Day 03 April 22,  2005 Istanbul, Turkey
The text and the picture is submitted by .Elaine Squeri

Basilica Cistern or Yerebatan Sarnici or Sunken Palace Cistern
Up bright and early to be the first visitors to one of the 60 cisterns of the city, the Cistern which is neither basilica nor sunken palace but a huge water storage tank, the largest of Turkey’s covered cisterns, a product of Byzantine engineering on Roman substructure, built by Justinian in 532: fine brick vaulting, about 336 recycled columns 26’ high with all three types of capitals represented: mostly Corinthian and Doric, but Ionic too. Two columns at the end are on Medusa heads that are upside down. The evil eye tradition has its source in the story of Medusa. Water was brought, not by springs, but from the Black Sea through about 20 kms of aqueducts*. The filtration system is through coal, sand, pebbles. 

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!