Sunday, 15 November 2015

Where East meets West

Istanbul, a vibrant metropolis, once known as Constantinople, standing on both sides of the glittering Bosporus Straits straddling the cross-roads between Europe and Asia


Hagia Sophia


Across the centuries Hagia Sophia has been reincarnated countless times - her interior reveals her history. Used as a church for 916 years until the conquest of Istanbul by Fatih Sultan Mehmed, when she was then converted into a mosque for 482 years. In 1935 under orders from Atatürk she became a museum where Christian and Muslim symbols hang together side by side. 
Here an altar once stood, now occupied by a mihrab pointing towards Mecca
Hagia Sophia is one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture, and is decorated with mosaics, marble pillars, and paintings of great artistic value. It is so richly decorated that Emperor Justinian proclaimed, "Solomon, I have outdone thee!" His expenditure on Hagia Sophia is said to have weighed in at 20,000 pounds of gold
Many of the notable mosaics are in the Upper Gallery known as the Loge of the Empress - the one above is the Deësis mosaic dating from 1261. Commissioned to mark the end of 57 years of Roman Catholic use and a return to the Orthodox faith. It is widely considered to be the finest in Hagia Sophia because of the softness of the features, the human expressions, and the tones used. The style is close to that of Italian painters during the late C13th/early C14th such as Duccio.
Sultan Ahmned Mosque - the Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque, has one main dome, six minarets, and eight secondary domes. It incorporates some Byzantine Christian elements seen in Hagia Sophia along with traditional Islamic architecture, and is considered to be the last great mosque of the Classical period. The interior is lined with more than 20,000 handmade Iznik ceramic tiles, many showing different tulip designs. Did you know that tulips came to Europe from Turkey? They are native to Turkey and Central Asia.
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Tulips on Iznik plate c.1550
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Procession of the guilds in front of the Sultan
at the Hippodrome, now called Sultan Ahmned Square from an Ottoman miniature - 1582
The Hippodrome was a sporting and social centre - the word Hippodrome comes from the Greek 'hippos', horse, and 'dromos', path or way.  Horse and chariot racing were popular pastimes in the ancient world and hippodromes were common features of Greek cities in the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine eras.
In what is now the Sultan Ahmned Square there remain a few pieces from antiquity such as the sculptural spiral bronze base shown above in the miniature and also in the photo below. However, the square is much depleted compared to the glory days of Emperor Constantine the Great when the central island was lined with bronze statues of horses, charioteers, gods, emperors and heroes. Amongst them was a magnificient statue of Heracles by Greek sculptor Lysippos, one of the greatest sculptors of the Classical Greek era during the C4th BC.
Made from bronze this spiral base once held a three-headed serpent which was brought to the Hippodrome from Delphi, Greece - the serpent's heads are not, however, lost but reside in the Archeological Museum located nearby.
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 When I last visited Istanbul several years ago, I discovered that the four gilded bronze horses that now reside in Venice, had originally stood on top of the imperial box in the Hippodrome used by the emperor and other members of the family. Their exact Greek or Roman ancestry has never been determined, but they were looted, from what was then Constantinopole, during the Fourth Crusade in 1204 and installed on the façade of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice.
Another survivor in the Hippodrome is the Egyptian Obelisk, the oldest monument in Istanbul
The obelisk was erected by the Emperor Theodosius in 390, but was originally set up by Thutmose III - 1479-1425 BC at the great temple of Karnak in Egypt. It is made of red granite from Aswan, between the four corners of the obelisk and this marble base pedestal are four bronze cubes used in its transportation and erection.  Each side of the marble base is engraved - on this side Theodosius l offers a victory laurel
Watch this video in full screen and you will see the obelisk, the spiral bronze base with its three headed serpent, and the four horses above the Imperial box  
Seen from the water, Beylerbeyi Palace, meaning 'Lord of Lords', is located on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. An Imperial Ottoman summer residence built in the 1860s by Sultan Abdülazis as a place to entertain visiting heads of state. Empress Eugénie of France visited on her way to the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and had her face slapped by the sultan's mother for daring to enter the palace on the sultan's arm. Despite this Eugénie was so delighted by the elegance of the palace that she had a copy of the window in the guest room made for her bedroom in the Tuilieries Palace in Paris. Other royal visitors were the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
Entrance to Topkapi Palace
The Gate of Felicity in Topkapi Palace gave access to the Inner Court and what were strictly private areas. It is here that the Ottoman sultans once ruled their empire. On religious, festive days, and accession, the sultan would sit before this gate on his Bayram throne whilst his subjects and officials paid him homage
The palace is a huge, an elaborate complex which could take many days to explore. It also contains holy relics from the Muslim world including Muhammed's cloak and sword.
 At its peak the palace was home to 4,000 people
The Imperial Harem occupied one of the sections of the private apartments of the sultan; it contained more than 400 rooms. It was home to the sultan's mother, the concubines and wives of the sultan, together with the rest of his family, including children and their servants. There was no trespassing through the gates of the harem, except for the sultan, the queen mother, the sultan's consorts, the princes, and the concubines as well as the eunuchs guarding them.
Our journey continues in the footsteps of Alexander the Great to Asia Minor

46 comments:

  1. Beautiful post, it has been 45 years ago I was in Istanbul but I still remember the buildings.

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    1. It must be 15 years since I last visited, but it all remains fresh in my mind too.

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  2. The interiors of the buildings are very ornate and very beautiful.

    Ms Soup

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  3. I have always thought I'd like to see Hagia Sophia, but now I realise there are so many other architectural wonders in Istanbul, each more beautiful than the others. The gilded Topkapi Palace is absolutely gorgeous. Thank you for a lovely post, Rosemary.

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    1. This post is just scratching at the surface of Istanbul Patricia, there is so much more to see than I have shown. One of the great wonders seen on our last visit, but not this, is the Basilica Cistern. It is like a great cathedral lying underneath the city, built in the C3rd/C4th during the Early Roman era. It takes your breath away as you descend the 52 steps down from the entrance. The ceiling is supported by a forest of 336 marble columns - Ionic, Corinthian and some Doric, each 9 metres high, and arranged in 12 rows of 28 columns - it is a triumph.

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  4. Rosemary, a very interesting post...so much history in Turkey from the very early years of time...changed hands so many times...

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    1. The antiquities in Turkey are a great attraction, and the sunshine too.

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  5. Wonderful history and photos, thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you Blogoratti - glad that you enjoyed seeing reading the history and seeing the photos of Istanbul

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  6. Your Istanbul pictures are fantastic.

    Greetings,
    Filip

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  7. Such a beautiful city, you've brought back many happy memories.

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    1. Delighted to have brought back happy memories for you

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  8. What a great tour you are sharing! I did not realize that Hagia Sophia was now a museum; I assuned it was still a mosque. From what little I've read of Atatürk, he must have been a fascinating fellow — I know he's still revered in Turkey. The Beylerbeyi Palace looks as though it would be quite at home in Venice, don't you think? Or is it just because I'm seeing water in front of it?

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    1. Hello Mark - you are correct about Atatürk being highly revered. Every 10th November at 9.05 am sirens sound to remember the exact time and date that he died. A couple of years ago we heard them, and then discovered his statue covered in wreaths and flags, but this year we didn't hear anything, perhaps because we were situated rather remotely on that particular day.
      We too, thought the same about the Beylerbeyi Palace, and considered that it would not look out of place in Venice.
      It was lovely to hear from you.

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  9. Hello Rosemary, Even in this post there are too many treasures to digest, so one can only imagine what you actually saw on your trip. I of course love the obelisk, and also that amazing twisted column, and hope that they will at least put back replicas of the serpents' heads.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - your imagination is correct - selecting what to show and what to leave out did prove to be difficult. I had a good idea that if you looked at this post, then the obelisk would be your favourite.

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  10. So much incredible history and amazing architecture! I love that you look up so much in your photos, I don't think that people do that enough and there are always such amazing things to see on ceilings! Glad you had a wonderful time. xx

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    1. Thanks Amy and you are right people miss so much by not looking up - it also has the advantage of removing unwanted heads from photos too!!!

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  11. I've never been but now after seeing your beautiful photography and the history lesson, I'd love to visit ... some day!

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    1. Hope you get the opportunity to go, it is an exciting city.

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  12. Rosemary, I am both amazed and delighted by the amount of work you put into your blog. The size and beauty of Hagia Sophia
    Is very impressive and I have never seen The Beylerbeyi Palace...beautiful. I also have never heard that story about Eugenie being slapped! Janey

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    1. Thank you Janey for your kind comment, and pleased that you discovered some things that you did not know about in Istanbul. I actually enjoy the creative process of making posts, and if you like them, then that is even better.

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  13. Beautiful post Rosemary. Your photographs are stunning. Thank you for sharing so much Beauty in a world that has gone bitter and sad.

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    1. It is a world that I no longer comprehend Gina, but throughout history there has always been two sides to our humanity - the loving and compassionate versus the cruel and sadistic. The horror in Paris has touched us all in so many ways.

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  14. Magnificent buildings with exquisite ornaments , everything really impressive . Beautiful and interesting post !

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    1. Thank you Jane - delighted that you found it interesting

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  15. You always visit some wonderful places Rosemary! The interior of Hagia Sophia is magnificent, the tiles and decorations are so beautiful. On a different note I hope your son and his family are all ok after this weekend's dreadful events. Sarah x

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    1. That is so kind and thoughtful of you Sarah - I was very relieved to learn that all was well with them as you can probably imagine - thank you for asking.

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  16. Oh wow, what magnificent buildings, I went to Istanbul many, many years ago and was lucky enough to go on a yacht on the Bosphorus but we only saw th building from the water and would love to see them inside, all that detail! Xxx

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    1. You must try and return if you can Lyn - Istanbul has so much to offer the visitor

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  17. What a wonderful, interesting post Rosemary! Your photos of the interiors with their intricate and exquisite designs are excellent. Thank you for sharing this journey to a place I doubt I will ever visit. The video of the chariot race was intriguing. Such a huge space!

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    1. The video does an excellent job of showing how the Hippodrome was in antiquity, which was actually quite hard for me to envisage even though I stood in the area where it had been.

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  18. I'm hoping that with the world affairs in that region of the world so topsy-turvy, that someday I will feel safe enough to eventually visit there!

    Betty expressed admiration for your wonderful travel journal and photos that you share with us that mimic my feelings, too.

    When I visited the Circus Maximus in Rome I could only use my imagination to envision what it was like during the actual chariot races. Thank you for including the video. Unfortunately, after twice going through it I was unable to see the 3 serpent heads (I hate snakes - but I am fascinated by them!). Maybe because I was unable to figure out to make it fullscreen (!)

    Those lovely horses have certainly been around, haven't they!

    So relieved your family in France are okay. Horrific events.

    Mary in Oregon

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    1. Dear Mary to see the serpent sculpture clearly you do need to be in full screen - to get full screen you start the video and then you will see the words 'You Tube' on the righthand bottom side followed by a square - you just press the square and it fills the screen. To leave full screen at the end you press the 'esc' button on your keyboard.
      I can honestly say that having been to Turkey four times I have always felt completely safe and seen absolutely nothing untoward - I would not go if I felt I was putting myself at risk.

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  19. I really MUST go to Istanbul! It's been on my bucket list for ages, and your photos have just increased my determination to see this amazing place. I'll look forward to more from you later.

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    1. Dear Jenny - Istanbul is a very exciting city to visit - vibrant and exotic, I am sure you would love it.

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  20. I love how interesting you make the information from your trips. I always learn something new and feel as if I'm right alongside you. This architecture is so different from anything I've seen and the minarets are so amazing. I was surprised to hear about the origin of the bronze horses and the tulips and thoroughly enjoyed imagining the fierce slap to the face endured by Empress Eugenie.

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    1. Dear Rosemary - it's those extra pieces of information that sparks my interest so I am pleased that we both share not only our names but also a similar imagination.

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    2. One of our most favorite cities - actually Bob's number one fave!! When there a few years back I loved it so much and visited the same places as you - your pix are stunning. I bought a CD whilst there - heard it playing in a shop in little alley and had to have it! Music is so fabulous - I've almost won it out!!!!!

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    3. Dear Mary - Istanbul is definitely one of those cities that sticks in your memory.

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  21. What a wonderful travelogue with super beautiful photos.
    Thanks for sharing... I'm waiting more...

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  22. Having been the capital of Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman Empire…., it’s no wonder that Istanbul is such a fascinating city. Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque are so beautiful, I’m especially attracted to their colors, the colors not too brilliant but with refined taste in spite of the combination of blues, reds, and golds. Since Turkey is prone to earthquakes like Japan, it’s amazing old architectures still stand magnificently.

    Yoko

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    1. I know that lots of damage has ocurred over the years from earthquakes, in fact that is the reason that the ancient city of Troy was rebuilt so many times. Generally speaking although many buildings have been affected and been restored you do not notice it.

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