Istanbul The Blue Mosque Hagia Sophia Topkapi Palace
The Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque, or to give it its’ correct name, The Sultan Ahmed Mosque named after the 14th Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I who commissioned its construction. Started in 1609 it took seven years to build and where it was normal to pay for such projects with the spoils of war, Ahmed had not gain any victories so had to pay for it from existing funds.The mosque was built on the site of the Palace of the Byzantine emperors which had to be demolished. The design of the Mosque incorporates both Ottoman and Byzantine architecture.
The most striking feature of the exterior is the beautiful domes that cascadedown from the great central dome. None of the exterior is blue - the name ‘Blue Mosque’ comes from the colour of the tiles of the interior. The main dome has a height of 43 metres and is 23.5 meters in diameter. A notable feature of the Blue Mosque is that it has six minarets as it is unusual to have more than four. The main entrance is at the West although tourists and non-worshipers use the entrance in the north. An iron chain hangs from the western entrance in order to ensure that the sultan, who was the only person allowed to enter on horseback, had to lower his head each time he entered.
The interior is lit through more than 250 stained glass windows and numerous chandeliers. The lamps inside the mosque were once covered with gold and gems although these have been pillaged or removed for museums. At its lower levels and at every pier, the interior of the mosque is lined with more than 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles. The tiles at lower levels are traditional in design, while at gallery level their design is of flowers, fruit and cypresses. The floors are covered with carpets, which are regularly replaced due to wear. The most important element in the mosque is the mihrab, which is made of sculptured marble. On the right of the mihrab is the minber, or pulpit, where the Imam stands when delivering his sermon. The design of the mosque ensures that everyone in the mosque can see and hear the Imam.In front of the mosque are the burial buildings and tombs of Ahmed I and members of his family.
One of the main tourist attractions in Istanbul, the Hagia Sophia known as Ayasofya in Turkish, is also referred to as the Church of St Sophia. It is the third building on the site which started as a church. Initially built on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine II in 360 AD it was destroyed in 404 AD by a mob and was rebuilt to grander proportions by Theodosius II in 405 AD only to destroyed again in 532 during the week of riots known as the 'Nika Revolt', something which resulted in almost half of Istanbul being burnt down. Rebuilt under Emperor Justinian who was to construct a larger and more majestic building than its predecessors, which resulted in him shipping marble columns to Constantinople for the project from Baalbek in the Lebanon, when completed it was to remain one of the foremost churches despite being damaged by a series of earthquakes in 553, 557 and again in 558. The latter of which resulted in the collapse of the main dome due to it being too flat to transmit the loading down through the piers. The new dome was to survive until a devastating earthquake in 989 AD caused the whole building to crumble, although it was rebuilt to its former glory.
In 1453, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmed II, who ordered the Hagia Sophia converted from a church into a mosque. This resulted in the removal of the alter, its bells and iconostasis and the plastering over of the Christian mosaics, which were replaced with geometrical designs. The Ottomans made extensive use of expensive coloured stones, carved wood, gold, mother of pearl and precious stones in this conversion. The 'mihrab' (semicircular niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the direction of Mecca) (this was located in the apse where the altar used to stand); 'minbar' (pulpit in the mosque where the imam stands to deliver sermons); and the four 'minarets' outside were subsequently added during the period of Ottoman rule. It was to remain an Islamic mosque till 1935, when it was transformed into a museum.
Remnants of the previous churches can be seen located within the grounds; these include the marble blocks from the second church. One showing 12 lambs, which represent the 12 apostles, these were originally part of a front entrance and can be seen adjacent to the museum's entrance. Also to be seen outside is the fountain for ritual ablutions. These are found outside all mosques for the faithful to perform their ablutions before entering. The minarets were constructed over a period of time by different Sultans and whereas three are constructed of white limestone the forth was built from red brick.
On entry, the Imperial Gate was the main entrance to the church and was reserved for the emperor. The Byzantine mosaic above the portal dates to the late 9th or early 10th century, and depicts Christ and Emperor Leo VI. Located above the southwestern entrance and dating from 944 is the mosaic of the Virgin Mary sitting on a backless throne with her feet resting on a pedestal with the child Christ sitting on her lap. To her left side stands Emperor Constantine who is presenting her with a model of the city while on her right is the Emperor Justinian I offering her a model of the Hagia Sophia.
The Hagia Sophia contains a dome which reaches a height of 55.6 metres. It has a diameter of 31.24 metres and is supported by a series of 40 arched windows which provide light to the building. These are held in place by four concave triangular pillars or pendentives(a constructive technique permitting the placing of a circular dome over a square room or an ellipticaldome over a rectangular room) which were covered with marble and mosaics, although in later years these needed to be reinforced by the use of buttresses. The dome is shaped like the inside of an umbrella with ribs running from the top down to its base which direct the loading between the windows and down through the pillars to the foundations.
It also contains many columns, the largest of which are of granite, 20 metres in height and in excess of 1.5 metres in diameter; the largest weighs over 70 tons. The walls, ceilings and columns are covered with inlayed marble and mosaics. A ramp leads to the upper galleries that overlook the nave. The central part of the Upper Imperial gallery was, during Byzantine rule, reserved for the Empress and the ladies of her court and was known as the Loge of the Empress. It was there that the Empress would sit and watch the proceedings; the place where the throne of the Empress stood is marked by a round, green stone. Other parts of the galleries contained meeting rooms and in later years a library. It is the galleries which contain some of the finest mosaics of the Hagia Sophia including that of Christ in a blue robe flanked by Empress Zoe and Constantine IX which dates from the 11th Century; Mary with the Child Christ in her arms flanked by Emperor John II and Empress Eirene; and the representation of Judgment day with Christ in the centre, with the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist on either side. Also to be seen are the two large marble lustration (Purification) urns dating from the Hellenistic period (323 BC to about 146 BC), which were carved from single blocks of marble.
Restoration work began in and continued throughout the 20th century and is still in progress today. The difficulty is to obtain a balance between uncovering the ancient mosaics while also preserving the Islamic work.
The Hagia Sophia is one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture and was, until the completion of the Seville Cathedral in the 16th century, the largest cathedral for 1000 years. For almost 500 years the Hagia Sophia was the principal mosque of Istanbul, and served as a model for many other Ottoman mosques, including the Sultan Ahmed Mosque or Blue Mosque (See article above). It has had a major influence, both architecturally and liturgically, in the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Muslin world.
The Topkapi Palace situated in the heart of Istanbul was the official and primary residence of the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire from 1465 to 1856. Construction began on the palace in 1459 by the Sultan Mehmed II, who defeated and captured the Byzantine city of Constantinople in 1453 and renamed the city Istanbul. The Palace was originally known as the New Palace to distinguish it from the previous residence it replaced as the main residence.It received the name ‘Topkapý’ (Cannon Gate) in the 19th century, after the Topkapý Gate and shore pavilion, although these no longer exist.
Towards the end of the 17th century the Palace lost its importance when the Sultans spent more time in the Bosporus and in 1856 Sultan Mecid I moved the court to the newly constructed European style Palace in the city. The functions of the imperial treasury, the library, mosque and mint were to remain in the Topkapi Palace. 1921 saw the end of the Ottoman Empire and after the abolition of the Caliphate in 1924 the Topkapý Palace was transformed into a museum dedicated to the imperial era. It contains a collection of porcelain, robes, weapons, jewelry, armor and Islamic calligraphic manuscripts and murals.
Unlike many palaces the Topkapi developed over a period of four centuries, with subsequent sultans making alterations and additions. A significant amount of development occurred during the reign of Sultan Suleiman (the Magnificent) between the years of 1520 to1560. Suleiman oversaw a rapid expansion of the Ottoman Empire and wanted this to be reflected in his Palace.
In 1574, parts of the palace were destroyed by fire so a major renovation programme was instigated by Sultan Selim II which included the rebuilding of the kitchens and the expansion of the Harem, baths, the Privy Chamber and a number of the pavilions along the shoreline. The current appearance and design dates from the end of the 16th century.
The palace complex consists of four main courtyards which hold dormitories, libraries, schools, mosques, a hospital, bakeries, and a mint and many smaller buildings; although only a limited number are currently open to the public. It consists of a variety of mainly single story buildings enclosing the courtyards, with doors and windows facing the courtyard. These courtyards are interconnected with galleries and passages. Around the Palace are gardens with trees and fountains making it a pleasant place to live, at its height, the palace was home to as many as 4,000 people and contained all the requisites required so that there was no need to venture out of the complex. The palace even had its own water supply provided through a series of underground cisterns.
The courtyards are arranged on the south – north axis becoming more private as one progress’s to the north. The outer one, with greater accessibility, leading to the innermost reserved for the Sultan and his harem. Each courtyard was surrounded by high walls and access was strictly controlled with gates. In the outer courtyards the areas served for the government and political workings of the empire.
The main entrance into the First Courtyard is through the Imperial Gate which originally dates from 1478, although it was covered in marble in the 19th century and is adorned by Gilded Ottoman calligraphy with verses from the Qur'an and the tughras (the seal or monogramme of the sultans) of Sultan Mehmed II and Abdül Aziz I, who renovated the gate. On either side are rooms for the guard and apartments were located above the gate area until the second half of the 19th century.
The First Courtyard contained a number of structures which no longer exist today.The structures that do remain are the former Imperial Mint dating back to 1727, the Byzantine church of Hagia Irene used as a storehouse and imperial armoury and a number of fountains. This courtyard was known as the Parade Court and lead towards the Gate of Salutation.
The Gate of Salutation with its two large octagonal pointed towers leads into the Second Courtyard. Richly decorated in the upper part with religious inscriptions and monograms of sultans the gate dates at least to the 1540’s. Entrance through the gate was for officials and foreign dignitaries only. Through the gate is the Second Courtyard or Divan Square which is surrounded by the former palace hospital, bakery, stables, the imperial harem and Divan (council of state) and the kitchens. The Second Courtyard was where the sultan would dispense justice and hold audiences.
The Imperial Council building is the chamber in which the ministers of state and leading officials of the state, held their meetings. It is situated in the northwestern corner of the courtyard next to the Gate of Felicity which provides the entrance to the Third Courtyard and a continuous marble colonnade. The council hall has a number of entrances from inside the palace and from the courtyard. The porch consists of multiple marble pillars and has an ornate green and white wooden ceiling decorated with gold. The floor is covered in marble.
The palace kitchens with their tall chimneys consist of 10 domed buildings and are a prominent feature of the palace. The kitchen consisted of more than 800 staff preparing as many as 6,000 meals a day. Today the buildings exhibiting a selection of kitchen utensils, silver gifts as well as large collections of Chinese porcelain.
The Third Courtyard - also called the Inner Palace - is the private and residential areas of the palace. The gate has a dome supported by marble pillars and was constructed in the 15th century with later work being carried out in the 18th century. The ceiling is painted and contains gold-leafed and has a golden ball hanging from the centre. On either side of this colonnaded passage, was the Sultan’s Harem and the quarters of the eunuchs as well as the rooms of the palace school. It also contained lush gardens surrounded by the Hall of the Privy Chamber, the treasury (which today holds the armoury collection) and some pavilions.
The Fourth Courtyard is the innermost private sanctuary of the sultan and his family, and consists of a number of pavilions, kiosks (a small garden pavilion open at the sides) gardens and terraces. It contains many interesting and beautiful buildings including the gilded Iftar Pavilion, with its ridged cradle vault with the gilded roof; fountains and the Circumcision Room.
Topkapý Palace is one of the monuments which make up the ‘Historic Areas of Istanbul’, which include the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (The Blue Mosque) and the Hagia Sophia which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.
There is evidence that Ephesus was inhabited as long ago as 6000 BC. During the Classical Greek era, which covered the 4th and 5th centuries BC, it was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League, and in 546 BC it was occupied by the Persians, but because Ephesus did not join the Ionian Rebellion against the Persians, the city was spared from destruction.After the defeat of the Persians it came under the guardianship of Athens, although Ephesus had rebelled against Athens in 412BC and supported Sparta in the Peloponnesian War.
Later, Ephesus was to join against Sparta, resulting in Sparta capturing the city and giving it back to the Persians.The successes of Alexander the Great included the city being captured by him in 334 BC and in a resulting period of prosperity for Ephesus. In the Roman period, it was for many years the second largest city of the Roman Empire, second only to Rome, reaching its zenith under the Emperor Augustus in the first century AD with a population of more than 250,000.
In ancient times, Ephesus was situated by the sea with a natural harbour.It was this that led to it becoming a great trading and religious city. It was a centre for the cult of Cybele, the Anatolian fertility goddess who became Artemis, the virgin Greek goddess of the hunt and the moon. It was for Artemis that a great temple was constructed which was to become one of the ancient wonders of the world and was to make Ephesus famous. The original Temple of Artemis was constructed on the site around 650 BC, although the famous marble one was completed around 550 BC. This was destroyed by fire in 356BC and was rebuilt in 334BC.
Ephesus played a significant role during the early days of Christianity and it was these religious ties that finally led to the destruction of the temple in 401AD by a Christian mob. Today only a single column remains although the Temple was at one time four times larger than the Parthenon in Athens. The importance of Ephesus as a commercial centre declined as the harbour slowly silted up, which resulted in its abandonment in the 15th century.
The site still clearly shows the layout of the city with its streets and public areas, although much has still to be excavated. It contains many buildings including houses, gateways, temples and theatres and the Library of Celsus, a Roman mausoleum and library built between 110 and 135 AD.This was commissioned by the Consul Julius Aquila as a mausoleum for his father, Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, Roman governor of the Asian Provinces. The library originally had three storeys, with galleries in the upper two storeys. 12,000 scrolls and codexes were stored in the niches. The lower niches of the facade contain four statues, which are thought to represent Wisdom, Knowledge, Destiny, and Intelligence. The building was damaged by fire and fell into disuse before being destroyed by an earthquake in the 10th century AD. Its reconstruction to its present state took place from 1970 to 1978.
Nearby can be seen the Isabey Mosque, the oldest known example of a Turkish mosque with a courtyard; the Cave of the Seven Sleepers, where seven young men retreated to avoid making sacrifices to the Roman Gods and the House of the Virgin, which is believed to be the last residence of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. According to Christian tradition, Mary was brought to Ephesus by the Apostle John after the Resurrection of Christ and lived out her days there.
Dating back to the 6th century BC, Side - named after Sida, daughter of Danaus - was one of the earliest settlements of the Anatolia region and was renowned for its harbour during the Hittite period when it became a prominent commercial town trading with the countries in the eastern and western Mediterranean.
Side was occupied by Alexander the Great in 333 BC who introduced its people to the Hellenistic culture, which flourished between the 4th and 1st century BC. Following Alexander’s death, Side came under the control of Egypt’s Ptolemy dynasty that controlled side until it was captured by the Seleucid Empire in the 2nd century BC. In 190 BC a fleet from Rhodes, the Greek island city-state, supported by Rome defeated the Seleucid fleet which was commanded by the Carthaginian general Hannibal.
In the 1st century BC, Side reached a peak when the Cilician pirates established their base and a centre for the slave trade, as its long sandy beaches were perfect as a hideout for pirates; although in time it was to establish itself as a legitimate commercial centre. The main period of prosperity for the city started around the second century BC with the development of its relations with the Roman; something that was to continue until the third century AD. Despite the occupations that it endured throughout its history, Side managed to preserve its autonomy becoming prosperous and an important cultural centre. Most of the ruins to be seen in the town date from Hellenistic and Roman times.
Although Side lost its prominence during the 4th century AD it regained its prosperity as a clerical centre in the 5th century AD. By the 10th century AD, due to a number of earthquakes, the activities of Christian zealots and Arab raids the site had been abandoned.
Excavations of Side began in 1947 and are an on-going process. One of the many attractions is the museum, which is housed in the restored remains of a public bath and displays many artefacts found during the excavations including vases, amphora, statues and sarcophagi. Across the road from the museum - which coincides with the course of the ancient road – are the remains of some of the marble columns. This colonnaded avenue leads to the agora (market place) the place where slaves would have been sold. From the agora the road leads to the Theatre which dates from the 2nd century AD. The theatre had a seating capacity of 15,000 people and was used not just for plays but also, in the late Roman period for gladiatorial combat. In the 5th and 6th century AD the theatre was used as an open air church.
The walls of the city are well preserved and contain the 2nd century BC Hellenistic main gate. Further along the avenue are the remains of a monumental gate and a fountain which has been restored. Part of the avenue is still buried beneath the current town of Side although the main street is lined with the ruins of homes and shops. Near the harbour there are two temples: One is dedicated to Athena (Side`s patron Goddess) and the other to Apollo, which has had 6 columns restored and re-erected. Also to be seen are an aqueduct and the remains of a hospital dating to the 6th century AD.
Until 1923, Kayaköy – also known as Levissi - was a thriving village with a population of several thousand people: Today it is a ghost town with deserted houses, shops, schools and churches.
Dating back to antiquity the area was first inhabited in approximately 3,000 BC and was the location of the ancient city of Carmylessus, which at its height had a population of about 20,000 people: It was to remain an important trading city until 1100 AD.
Kayaköy was built on the site of Carmylessus in the 18th century; with the existing buildings being constructed in the second part of the 19th century and first quarter of the 20th. Kayaköy or Karmylassos, as it was called in Greek, had been continually inhabited since at least the 13th century. In fact the Turks and Greeks had lived together in the region dating back to at least the 1st century BC with the Turks maintaining the fields and the Greeks provided the trades and craftsmen.
Located 8 km south of Fethiye in southwest Turkey it was inhabited by Greek speaking Christians until they were required to vacate the area by the population exchange agreement signed by the Greek and Turkish governments after the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922. This required that the entirely Greek residents of Kayaköy were to leave their homes and to be taken to Greece where they were re-housed in a town called Nea Levissi (New Levissi), a poor suburb outside of Athens. The Turks who had been brought to Kayaköy from Northern Greece were farmers and moved down to the plains while others being unaccustomed to the climate and living conditions, moved to other parts of Turkey within the first year, leaving the place abandoned.
The site is notable for being devoid of the normal trappings of tourism with virtually no information boards or signs and no guides wanting to show you round and tell you about the place. Yet the atmosphere is as heavy as any of the more famous places one can visit in Turkey and knowing the background as to why it was deserted and the heartache of people having to leave their home can create an impression on all but the hardest visitor.
The visit starts by climbing up the hillside along the cobbled streets with the ruined stone wall houses. There are about 400 houses in the town each approximately 50 metres square. They are positioned so as not to over shadow one and other and to allow each to have a view over the valley. Scattered among the houses, are numerous chapels, a school, a customs house and two large churches.
At the top of the hill is one of the two churches with its ceiling still displaying the faint outline of frescoes. On the walls can be seen the stone carvings and engaged columns and the remains of the blue colouring that was used to adorn them; while the entrance still contains the remains of the mosaics covering the floor.
Over the period of time any timber in the buildings has either been removed or rotted away exposing the building’s interior and the remnants of the coloured walls, while vegetation has sprouted from within the buildings giving it a deserted and forgotten feel.
Today Kayaköy is preserved by UNESCO as a World Friendship and Peace Village, and exists as an open air museum which could make tourism an increasingly important aspect of the lives of the local residents. Each year many of the Greek descendants of those expelled in 1923 return for a ceremony of remembrance and reconciliation. It has been suggested that the village will be partially restored to make it more of a tourist attraction so perhaps it is somewhere to visit now before that happens and it becomes commercialised, thus losing some of its atmosphere.