Istanbul is one of the most popular tourist centers of Europe and Asia, because the city is located at the junction of these two continents. Thousands of tourists come here to plunge into the oriental flavor, to see the main palace and temple Muslim sights. But everyone knows that Istanbul is built on the historical foundations of medieval Orthodox Constantinople, which existed on the coast of the Sea of Marmara from the 4th to the 15th century. And many inquisitive tourists wonder what sights of the Byzantine period of Constantinople can be found in today's Istanbul? What has been preserved from the legendary capital of the Byzantine Empire?
- Grand Imperial Palace
- Augusteon Square
- The main temples of Constantinople
- Monastic temples of Constantinople
- Basilica Cistern
- The Aqueduct of Valens
- Column of Constantine
- Church of the Apostles (not preserved)
- Fortress walls of Constantinople
All of Constantinople's surviving landmarks are located in the historic district of Istanbul, now called Fatih. This is the European peninsula area of the city, surrounded by the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus Strait and the Golden Horn Bay. Ancient Constantinople was once surrounded by fortress walls, fragments of which are very interesting to see even today, because they are miraculously preserved realities of the borders of the legendary city.
Beneath the architectural trappings of mosques are revealed the ancient temples of Constantinople
There are other monuments of Byzantine Constantinople in Istanbul, some in better condition, some in less. From some of them only fragments remain, and from others only memories. The center of the whole Constantinople civilization from the moment of its foundation was the territory of the Hippodrome.The border walls of ancient Constantinople still look impressive today
At Meydana Street
The Hippodrome, the place of the main urban spectacles of Constantinople, was located in the heart of the city. It occupied a rather large area for those times and served as an arena not only for sports, but often also for social and political events. In particular, the Hippodrome is connected with the history of a very large-scale rebellion of the 6th century - the Nika Revolt.
The Hippodrome covered a very large area and was the center of the city
From the former beautiful Hippodrome of Constantinople, only the central alley of the dividing strip with interesting objects such as the Egyptian Obelisk and the Obelisk of Constantine, as well as the partially preserved Serpent Column have survived until today. More information on the history of the Hippodrome and all its sites can be found here. Around the Hippodrome were grouped the main architectural structures in the form of the Great Imperial Palace, St. Sophia Temple, etc.
Grand Imperial Palace
The transformation of the Greek city of Byzantium into the capital of the Byzantine Empire Constantinople, of course, stimulated the development of urban construction and, first of all, the creation of the imperial residence, which became the Great Imperial Palace. Its erection began at Constantine the Great in 330 near the Hippodrome and the Temple of St. Sophia and lasted more than 5 centuries.The transformation of the Greek city of Byzantium into the capital of the Byzantine Empire Constantinople, of course, stimulated the development of urban construction and, first of all, the creation of the imperial residence, which became the Great Imperial Palace. Its erection began under Constantine the Great in 330 near the Hippodrome and the Temple of St. Sophia and lasted more than 5 centuries.The Grand Palace complex was formed in a southeastern direction from the Hippodrome
In the reign of Justinian (6th century) the complex of the Imperial Palace was significantly expanded and rebuilt, it was also subjected to significant alterations during the reign of Emperor Theophilus (9th century). Each new reconstruction led to the appearance of new palace buildings. And by the 10th century the palace complex already occupied a very vast territory and included new palace buildings in the form of Bukoleon, Magnavra, etc.
In the northwest, the palace adjoined the Hippodrome, Augusteon Square and the Hagia Sophia Church in a straight line, while in the northeast it faced the Sea of Marmara and the Bosphorus. The huge imperial residence included the personal quarters of the emperor and his family members, rooms for the guard garrison, servants and others. There were not only luxurious halls for receptions and celebrations, but also park areas with fountains and statues.
Historians are trying to create reconstructions of the former palaces of the imperial complex
The splendor and beauty of the palace halls delighted contemporaries, their interфior consisting of colorful marble, mosaics, gilding, frescoes, sculptures and paintings. Architectural delights in the form of columns, arches and vaults added beauty and solemnity. The most outstanding constructions were the throne hall of the Triconchus with a circular gallery, and the acoustic hall of the Mysterion. Contemporaries described the beauty and richness of the halls of Sigma, Triclinius, Eros, Kamilas, Musikos and others.
The main imperial receptions were held in the palace of Magnaurus, located at the entrance to the palace residence from the ceremonial square Augusteon at the gate of Halki. In this palace, a pair of golden lions reclined on the steps in front of the golden imperial throne, and gilded birds sat on the branches of a golden tree behind the throne.
The luxury of the imperial chambers has survived only in the descriptions of contemporaries
The first imperial complex with throne rooms, guards' quarters, palace temple and so on, which could be accessed directly through the lobby of Halki, was called Halkei. It was a one-story complex. Behind it began the two-story complex of the palace of Daphne, connected to Halkaea by alleys and galleries. In this palace there were premises of court services (the first floor) and personal chambers of the emperor (the second floor). From a palace galleries leading to an imperial box of Hippodrome and in a temple of Sacred Sofia have been constructed.
Besides Daphne there were other palaces in the form of Chrysotriclinium and Trikon, from which only names have remained. In Justinian's reign, the buildings of his house, where he lived until his ascension to the throne, were added to the palace complex.
In time, the residence of the emperors moved to the Blachernae Palace
In the 11th century, the emperors of Constantinople moved to a new residence - the Blachernae Palace, located in the north-west of Constantinople near the Church of the Virgin Mary, well known for the fact that in it the apparition of the Virgin Mary to St. Andrew the Hymen (910) took place, which laid the foundation for the feast of the Protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which has been celebrated in Russia since the 12th century.
During the capture of Constantinople in 1453, the Vlacherna Palace was severely destroyed. Up to our time from it only fragments of the Small palace have reached. But the wax icon of Our Lady of Blachernae (7th century), presented to Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich in the middle of the 16th century, was preserved by the will of fate and later became a part of the Tretyakov Gallery.
Byzantine Our Lady of Blachernae came to Russia by the will of fate
After the relocation of the imperial residence to the Vlakherna Palace, the Great Imperial Palace began to fall into disrepair. And after the capture of the city by the Ottoman Turks, all its structures were gradually liquidated and built up with new buildings, including mosques. Today's tourists can see the ruins of only one of the palace buildings of the Grand Imperial Palace complex - the former Bukoleon Palace, located on the shore of the Sea of Marmara. This palace with a harbor appeared in the palace complex in the middle of the 9th century, but later it was also abandoned and ruined. Only the eastern part of it has been preserved today.The ruins of Bukoleon Palace are all that remains of the Grand Palace complex
For a long time it was thought that the Great Imperial Palace was completely lost, but in the early 20th century, fragments of the palace prison and other rooms were accidentally discovered. The most valuable find was the halls with mosaic floors dating back to the 4th and 5th centuries. These mosaic works of art can now be seen in the Grand Palace Mosaic Museum, which is located next to the Arasta Bazaar at 36 Torun Street. In this small museum, which is open daily, you can see unique mosaic paintings from the 4th and 5th centuries and learn how they were discovered and preserved.
To see mosaic scenes from the life of the Constantinople people of the 4th and 5th centuries is not a miracle!!!!
The Ayia Sophia Square area also contains archaeological fragments of the ruins of the foundation of the Great Imperial Palace, which was once accessible from Constantinople's main square, the Augusteon.
The space of the small ceremonial square Augusteon connected the main church of St. Sophia in Constantinople, the Hippodrome and the Great Imperial Palace, the entrance to the territory of which was realized through the front gate Halki. Besides these constructions, there was a building of the Senate with a portico of six marble columns. Some historians believe that it was this building that later became the Palace of Magnavrus.
Augusteon Square was the main ceremonial square of Constantinople
Today, the Augusteon is located at a depth of 2.5 meters under Aya Sofia Square, which flows smoothly into Sultanahmet Square. And before the formation of Augusteon on this place was one of the city's trading squares. Under Constantine the Great, a grandiose column with a statue of his mother August Helen appeared on the square formed by him. In the reign of Justinian the square was rebuilt, and the statue of Helen was replaced by the statue of Justinian on horseback, which stood there until the beginning of the 16th century, when it was destroyed by the new masters of the city together with the column. The statue itself was presumably melted down for Turkish cannons.
The column of Justinian, decorating the Augusteon Square, was very high (from 50 to 70 meters) and rested on a 7-stage pyramid. It consisted of separate marble drums, covered with bronze plates, decorated with drawings of battle scenes and wreaths. The equestrian statue of the emperor, enlarged four times relative to the original, depicted Justinian as a Trojan hero without weapons, but with a gilded orb. The horse, with its right front leg raised, was depicted ready to move. Although neither the column itself nor the statue standing on it have survived to our times, we are told about it by the descriptions of travelers, including Russians, who saw it and admired its grandiosity and perfection.Justinian's statue in Piazza Augusteon probably looked like this
In addition to the Column with the statue of Helen, and later Justinian, Augusteon was decorated with other columns and statues, including the statue of Constantine with his three sons, the column of Theodosius, statues of Empress Eudoxia, Emperor Leo the Great, etc. In addition, the whole square was surrounded by covered porticoes with colonnades, under which there were trading shops.
From the Augusteon Square through the Halki Gate there was a road to the territory of the Great Imperial Palace, and the gate itself, overlooking the square, was decorated with an image of Jesus Christ, which was twice destroyed by the iconoclasts and both times this image was restored (8th and 9th centuries).Halki's front gate was decorated with a mosaic depiction of Jesus Christ
Since those distant times, the image of Jesus against the background of the cross has been called Christos Halki in Orthodoxy.
Images of Christ Halki can be seen on Russian icons from the 12th-13th centuries
And also opposite the entrance to the Great Imperial Palace, on the opposite side of the square there was a verst stone, meaning zero mile. This construction was borrowed by Constantine the Great from Rome, but in contrast to the Roman Constantinople Milion (Milion, Milius, Miliarius) looked more solid. It was built in the form of a double triumphal arch, which turned it into a tetrapylon - a cubic structure at the crossroads of streets with arches to each side. In the center of this cube was Milius in the form of a marble column, on which were mapped the number of miles to the main centers of the Roman Empire.The tetrapylon of the Constantinople Milion looked something like this
The tiled pyramidal roof of the tetrapylon, supported by four arches, sheltered not only the mile-long column, but also a sculptural group, which included statues of the emperor with his mother Helen against the background of Tyuhe, the goddess of fate. Subsequent emperors installed new statues and paintings here, thus raising the importance and status of Milion. Constantinople Milion existed from the foundation of the city (4th century) until the beginning of the 16th century, when it was destroyed by the Ottoman Turks due to the construction of a water tower here.
There are fragmentary ruins of the Turkish water tower too
Today, only a fragment of one of the tetrapylon supports, discovered near the St. Sophia Church in the 60s of the 20th century as a result of archaeological excavations, has survived from the former Milion. It is located next to a high ruin of a water tower - probably a former water meter.Seeing the outline of Milion in this marble rubble is quite difficult
Inquisitive tourists can see a fragment of the Milion at the turn of the streetcar tracks to Gulhane Park to the left of the Ayia Sophia Temple, which bounded Augusteon Square to the northeast. Behind the Hagia Sophia Temple was the Church of St. Irene. Both of these 4th-6th century temple buildings can still be visited today.
The main temples of ConstantinopleThe temple buildings of former Constantinople, which are now Muslim mosques, are probably the best preserved architectural structures of the former capital of the Byzantine Empire. Some of them have miraculously preserved mosaic paintings from the distant Byzantine civilization.
St. Sophia CathedralAya Sofia Square
One of the most famous monuments of the era of prosperity of Constantinople was the Cathedral of St. Sophia, which has reached our time in the construction of the 6th century, but already in a transformed into a mosque. The history of the Hagia Sophia temple is rather interesting and tragic. It was erected several times and destroyed several times. It was an Orthodox, Catholic and Orthodox temple again. Since the 15th century its walls have served the Muslim religion.Through the Muslim symbols of the mosque, Byzantine paintings from the 6th-10th centuries shine through
A visit to St. Sophia Cathedral is a touch to the centuries-old history of the city, acquaintance with the architecture and mosaics of its Byzantine period, admiration of the creation of human hands and feeling the amazing aura of this monumental building. You can read more about the history of the cathedral's construction and its difficult fate, about its preserved mosaics and transformations associated with Muslim culture here. In addition to Hagia Sophia, inquisitive tourists are sure to visit the miraculously preserved Church of St. Irene, located today on the territory of Topkapi Palace.
Church of St. Irene (Mira)Topkapi Palace
The Temple of the Holy Peace, later St. Irene, is one of the most unique temples of present-day Istanbul, preserved to us from the 4th-6th centuries in almost pristine condition. Built before the Hagia Sophia, it existed with it in the same ensemble for a long time, and both of them suffered during the Nika Uprising. But if the Temple of Sophia was completely rebuilt by Justinian, the Temple of St. Irene was simply restored, although certain alterations and expansions were also present there.The Church of St. Irene is one of the oldest Orthodox churches in Constantinople
The Irina Temple is very interesting in that this Orthodox church has never been converted into a Muslim temple. But that is not all. An inquisitive tourist will immediately pay attention to the interior decoration of the temple, which belongs to the period of Christian iconoclasm - a very widespread in the 8-9 centuries religious and political trend. There are very few temples that have not been restored after the period of iconoclasm. You can read more about this amazing temple, which is located in the First Courtyard of the famous Topkapi Palace here.
The decoration of Irene's altar has been preserved since the iconoclastic times
In addition to these two, the most popular temples from the heyday of Constantinople, there are other temple buildings in today's Istanbul, the former capital of the Orthodox Byzantine Empire. First of all, it is the Church of St. Sergius and Bacchus, which is today the Small Ayai-Sophia Mosque.
Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus (Little Sophia)
13 Küçükükayasofya Jimii Street
This orthodox Byzantine temple called the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus appeared in Constantinople during the reign of Justinian (536), and, as it is believed, was not only a prototype of Justinian's Sophia Cathedral, but was also built by the same masters - Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tral.
The interior decoration of the Small Sophia is true Byzantine art
Like the Church of St. Irene, this church was severely damaged during the Iconoclastic period, but was later rebuilt. However, after the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks, the Church of St. Sergius and Bacchus, as well as the St. Sophia Cathedral, was converted into a Muslim mosque, the Small Ayia Sophia, and the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, which is in a single complex with it, was destroyed. You can read more about the history of this temple here. You can visit this temple, which is a functioning mosque, absolutely free of charge.
Monastic churches of Constantinople
In addition to the above mentioned and most famous Byzantine temple buildings in present-day Istanbul, one can also see other churches that were once built under the city's numerous monasteries. Some of them have preserved the most unique examples of Byzantine wall and ceiling mosaics, which will be interesting to every inquisitive tourist. Others are associated with amazing historical events and characters of Byzantine history.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Pammacarista
Fethiye Kapısı Street, 2/1
This church building of the former monastery of the same name is one of the most unique monuments of Byzantine mosaic art, because the number of surviving mosaic paintings here is only slightly less than in the St. Sophia Church.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Pammacarista is a must-see if you have time.
This five-domed church, built around the second half of the 13th century, is an example of late Byzantine architecture and is a witness to the era of the last Byzantine dynasty of the Paleologos. Although it is possible that the church was built at an earlier time, and later (under Emperor Michael the Eighth Paleologos) only restored and renovated. At the beginning of the 14th century this representative of the Paleologues was buried in the Spassky aisle of this temple.
After the transformation of Constantinople into Istambul, this temple served as an Orthodox cathedral for more than a century (1456-1587), taking over the baton from the Temple of the Apostles. In 1590, at the command of Sultan Murad the Third, the church was also transformed into a mosque, which was named Fethiye Jami (Mosque of Conquest). The interior was remodeled to form a large prayer hall.The Church of Our Lady of Pammakarista miraculously preserved Byzantine mosaics from the 13th-14th centuries
In the middle of the 20th century, on the initiative of the American Institute of Byzantium, the southern limit of the temple (Parakklesia), built in honor of Jesus Christ, was restored and this part of the temple began to function as a museum of mosaics. The mosaic paintings of this temple date back to the 14th century. Under the dome, in the galleries and in the narthex of this large space you can see images of Christ Pantocrator, the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist and all twelve prophets of the Old Testament.
The image of Christ with the 12 apostles under the dome is simply mesmerizing
There are also plot scenes in the form of Baptism, Adoration of the Magi, etc. On the southern wall one can see a calligraphic relief. It is the epitaph of the court poet M. Phil.The Baptism scene, created in the 14th century, is a true work of art
You can get here by high-speed streetcar. First you have to take the T-1 line from Sultanahmed Square to the Pazartekke stop, then take Topkapi Street to the Fetihkapi station of the T-4 streetcar line and go to the Edirnekapi station. After getting off the streetcar and passing the intersection of the same name, you can first approach the fragment of the northern walls of Constantinople, which is a unique fragment of the disappeared city.
You can walk to this temple from the Northern Wall of Constantinople
Further it is better to follow the navigator. First you can approach the former Byzantine Church of Christ the Savior in Polei (in Chory), which was part of the Monastery of the same name, and which will be described below. From the Church of the Savior it takes another ten minutes to walk in a southeastern direction. In 10 minutes you can walk here from the pier Fanar, which is located in the Golden Horn Bay and which is not difficult to reach by river streetcar.
Church of Christ the Savior in Polei (Chory)
Karie Türbesi Street, 29
This Byzantine church was also a monastery, and this monastery complex was originally located outside the city walls, hence its name in Khori or in the Fields. This temple was built in the second half of the 11th century, although the monastery itself existed probably since the 4th century, but it suffered repeatedly from earthquakes, was rebuilt and expanded. The monastery complex included the main church, dwellings, almshouse, hospital and other economic buildings.
The Cathedral of Christ the Savior has also preserved a very interesting mosaic painting
At the beginning of the 14th century, during the so-called Paleologic Revival, this temple was rebuilt almost anew, and its mosaic frescoes, created during this period, were of a very high artistic level, and some of them, fortunately, have survived to our time. During the Turkish siege of 1453 in this temple there was an image of Our Lady of Hodegetria. The author of the very first icon of this kind (the Blachernae icon) is considered to be the Evangelist Luke. And the icon itself was brought to Constantinople in the 5th century by the wife of Emperor Theodosius the Second - Eudocia.
This image was kept in the main women's monastery of Constantinople Panagia Hodegetria, founded by the sister of the same Theodosius - Pulcheria. Hence came the common name of the icon - Our Lady of Hodegetria. Later this icon was transferred to the new imperial residence - the Blachernae Palace.
The image of Our Lady of Hodegetria was kept in this church during the fall of Constantinople
This icon was considered miracle-working and was one of the most revered in Constantinople. Many pilgrims flocked to the monastery for its sake, especially since there was a healing spring near the monastery complex. The icon "Hodegetria" was considered the protector of the city and on Tuesdays with her weekly processions were made. The first icon was destroyed by the Turks after the capture of Constantinople. It is believed that it was simply chopped into pieces for the sake of the expensive frame.
The image of Our Lady of Hodegetria was later very widely spread in Russia. The most revered icons of Our Lady of Kazan, Our Lady of Georgia, Our Lady of Tikhvin, Our Lady of Smolensk and others were created in her image.
The image of the Hodegetria of Kazan honored in Russia has Byzantine roots
Гhe main temple of the monastery of Chora was built in the form of a cross-shaped base with a dome over the main volume. Such construction is characteristic of late Byzantine architecture. Those entering the temple were greeted by the image of Christ, and those leaving were escorted by the image of the Virgin Mary. In front of the door to the main room of the temple there are images of the apostles Peter with keys and Paul with a book, as in front of the sanctuary.
In front of the main prayer hall, visitors are greeted by images of the Apostles Peter and Paul
The unique mosaic images and narrative paintings can be viewed for a very long time. Unfortunately, most of the mosaics are irretrievably lost, but what survived is of great historical value as Byzantine heritage.
At the beginning of the 16th century, the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, like other Orthodox churches, was converted into a mosque, which was named Kahriye Jami. All mosaic paintings were plastered over, a minaret was built and the dome was remodeled. In the middle of the 20th century, with the assistance of the American Institute of Byzantium, the mosaics of this temple, as well as the temple of Our Lady of Pammakarista, were restored and became exhibits of the Kariye Museum, opened in the former monastery.
For some time this temple functioned as a museum of Byzantine art
However, the museum was closed in the summer of 2020, and today the temple once again functions as a mosque.
Church of Our Lady of Kyriotissa
Kalender Medresesi Street, 8
This 6th-8th century Byzantine temple was built to replace the dilapidated city thermae and the ruins of ancient temples. After the capture of Constantinople by the Turks, the temple was given to the dervishes (ascetic preachers of the Muslim trend of Sufism). At the end of the 18th century, the temple was transferred to the Kalenderhane Mosque, which remains today.The former Church of Our Lady of Kyriotissa also has unique examples of mosaics
Fires, earthquakes and atmospheric effects negatively affected the condition of the temple, and in the early 20th century the mosque was simply abandoned. In the middle of the 20th century, during the restoration of the temple, fragments of frescoes dating back to the 7th century of Byzantine history were discovered. Based on the discovery of the image of the Virgin Karyotissa, conclusions were drawn that it was to her that the erection of this Byzantine temple was dedicated. It is considered, that the frescos found out here are the only, survived up to us from preikonoboric history of Constantinople. There are also mosaics in the temple dating back to the 13th century.Today, the former Church of Our Lady of Kyriotissa is a Muslim church
This active mosque can be visited if you wish. It is located in the area between the Valenta Aqueduct, the Süleymaniye Mosque and the Grand Bazaar. The nearest express streetcar stop is called "Laleli".
Church of Mary of Mongolia (Our Lady of Panagiotissa)
1 Firketeji Street
This Byzantine monastery temple, which survived from a 7th century nunnery, was built and painted in the 13th century.
The Church of Mary of Mongolia is linked to the interesting fate of a Byzantine princess
The name of the temple immortalized the name of Maria, the illegitimate daughter of Michael the Eighth Paleologos, who almost became the wife of Genghis Khan's grandson Hulagu, the founder of the dynastic state of the same name in the Iranian part of West Asia. That very much wanted to be related to the Byzantine court, and so he married his daughter Michael, who was sent to the Mongol ruler accompanied by an official delegation.
However on arrival on a place the message about death of the supposed groom waited for them. Then Maria (not to go back) became one of wives of the senior son of Hulagu - Abaki-Khan (Abagi) who according to testimonies of contemporaries has accepted before this marriage Christianity. After the sudden death of her husband, Maria, together with her daughter Theodora, returned to Constantinople (1281), where she began to organize the convent of the Virgin Mary Panagiotissa, building an Orthodox church there.
The face of Mary of Mongolia is in the lower right corner of one of the mosaics of the Temple of Chora
This temple subsequently bore her name. And the mosaic image of Mary is preserved on the walls of the Church of Christ the Savior in Chory, to which she gave the Gospel. How the life of this woman with a very unusual fate ended is unknown. It is believed that she became a nun and rested in one of the Constantinople monasteries.
During the capture of Constantinople, in the area of the Church of Mary of Mongolia were bloody and brutal battles, after which the Turks called this temple Bloody. Interestingly, this temple never functioned as a mosque and to this day is the only Orthodox church in Istanbul. Therefore, it contains all the surviving valuable icons.
Visiting Istanbul's only Orthodox church will be very interesting
Services are very rarely held here, and to tour the temple, you have to ring the doorbell for visits.
Church of St. Theodosius
16 Vakif Mektebi Street
This Byzantine temple from the 10th-11th centuries was somewhat modified during the Muslim history of the city. The curious tourist will be interested, first of all, in the history of this temple, which is connected with the legendary Orthodox Theodosia, who was killed during the period of iconoclasm (8th century) for trying to prevent the destruction of the face of Christ on the gates of the Halki (Great Imperial Palace).
Orthodox Theodosia died during the period of iconoclasm defending the image of Christ Halki
Probably, later on the coast of the Sea of Marmara there appeared a monastery named after Theodosia and in it this temple in which her relics were located.
The Church of St. Theodosia was very revered in Constantinople
This monastery was very revered in Constantinople, and received many pilgrims from all lands. And Emperor Basil the First, who founded the Macedonian dynasty, not only built new buildings on the territory of the monastery, but also assigned his 4 daughters to it.
It is very symbolic, that the day of capture of Constantinople by armies of Mehmed the Second has come exactly on day of commemoration of Sacred Theodora. And exactly in this temple decorated with fresh roses, the last emperor of Byzantium Constantine Eleventh and patriarch spent in prayers the last night of existence of Constantinople.
In the Church of St. Theodosius the last emperor of Constantinople prayed before the fall of the city
The next day - May 29, 1453 - the Turks who broke into the temple were amazed by the decoration of roses and called the church "the temple of roses". However, this did not prevent them from capturing all those who were there, giving Theodora's relics to the dogs and setting up a bathhouse and shipyard in the church building. In the second half of the 16th century the dilapidated building of the former church was rebuilt, the dome was replaced, a minaret was added and the church became a mosque. Only brickwork has been preserved from the ancient church. Today's interior is made in Muslim traditions.
It is believed that in this mosque in the 19th century was reburied the Ottoman saint Gul-baba, who died in Budapest (Buda) during the capture by the troops of Suleiman the Magnificent (16th century), whom this saint accompanied. Suleiman declared Gul-baba the patron saint of Buda, where a mausoleum with a tomb was built, which is still open to visitors today.
The mausoleum of Gul Baba, an associate of Suleiman the Magnificent, is located in Budapest
One way or another, the current functioning mosque bears the name of Gul-Jami. And who is in its basement tomb - Gul Baba or the last emperor of Constantinople - remains a mystery.
There are other monuments of Byzantine architecture on the territory of Istanbul, slightly rebuilt over time, transformed into mosques, but with the preserved Byzantine core. Such structures include the temples of St. Thecla (11th-12th centuries), St. Theodore (11th-12th centuries), St. Andrew in Kris (13th century), the Church of Christ Pantepopta (11th century), St. Nicholas (14th-15th centuries), St. John the Baptist (11th-12th centuries) and others.
The former Byzantine Church of St. John the Baptist was considered the smallest in the city
Each of these temples holds its own secrets and mysteries about the distant Byzantine history of Constantinople, partly already solved, partly vanished into oblivion. But touching these miraculously preserved architectural objects with disappearing mosaic frescoes is exciting and unforgettable.
1 Erebatan Street
Constantinople was a very large and densely populated city, and therefore supplying its population with water was one of the priority and important tasks. Numerous ancient Roman "cisterns", which meant "reservoirs" in Greek, were created to store drinking water supplies. Some of these cisterns have survived to our time in fairly good condition and are among the popular tourist attractions.
The most popular cistern, located practically on Ayia Sophia Square (former Augusteon), is called "Basilica". Its construction began during the reign of Constantine the Great and ended under Justinian. This huge underground structure could store up to 80 thousand cubic meters of water.
Under the vaults of this huge hall, the city's fresh water supply was collected
The creation of such underground reservoirs was not an easy task. The 4-meter-high walls were built of fireproof bricks covered with waterproofing compound, and numerous columns, partly taken from ancient temples, were installed to support the high ceiling. More than 330 such columns were installed in the Basilica Cistern!
After the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks, the cistern was abandoned, but at the end of the 20th century it was cleaned and a museum was opened in it.
One of the Basilica's columns for some reason rests on an inverted Gorgon's head
The second largest and most historic is the Philoxenus Cistern, which is located at 2 Imran Oktem Street and dates back to the 4th and 5th centuries. Its multi-columned hall consisted of 224 marble pillars from Marmara Island and held 40 thousand cubic meters of water. This cistern is available today for tourist inspection. In addition, its halls are used for weddings and other events, exhibitions and concerts.The Philoxenus Cistern was the city's second-largest reservoir
In addition to these reservoirs, there is another cistern, the Theodosius Cistern (5th century), at 2 Pier Loti Street in the Sultanahmet neighborhood. It bears the name of Theodosius the Second, during whose reign it was built. It was located somewhere in the middle between the Forum of Constantine and the Hippodrome. Here the water came from the Aqueduct of Valentus, and was directed to satisfy the needs of the Great Palace, the Thermae of Zeuxippus and the city fountains. The volume of this reservoir was about 11 thousand cubic meters.The third cistern preserved from Constantinople is the Cistern of Theodosius
This tank has been in operation as a museum since 2018.
Dülgeroglu Street, 258
This landmark of Constantinople, which has become one of the symbols of Istanbul today, dates back to the late 60s and early 70s of the 4th century. The construction of this giant aqueduct dates back to the reign of Emperor Valentine, which is recorded in its name. You can see it while driving along Ataturk Boulevard, which runs just under the Valentus Aqueduct.
Underneath the Constantinople aqueduct today is a major urban highway
Ancient aqueducts were very complex engineering systems built to supply cities with fresh water. These structures, including the Aqueduct of Valentus, were built by thousands of workers under the direction of dozens of engineers over many years.
Like many other aqueducts, this one consists partly of two stories of arches, partly of one. All of them are divided into sections, forming a kind of bridge between two city hills, located at a certain inclination. At the top of the arches were water pipes made of lead, which carried water in a given direction to the Cistern of Basil and the Cistern of Theodosius.The Constantinople aqueduct ran through almost the entire city
The aqueduct was built of brick and stone blocks brought from the Asian coast of Constantinople. The length of this structure was about a kilometer, and its height reached almost 30 meters, width - plus or minus 8 meters.
As a water supply system, this aqueduct was actively used later in Turkish Istanbul to supply water to Topkapi Palace and other buildings in Istanbul until the middle of the 19th century. Today, this structure is simply an architectural monument of Istanbul, under which the bustling highway leading to the Ataturk Bridge passes.
Aqueducts were ancient hydraulic structures of the Romans
It is not only interesting to visit this historic district of Istanbul to see this early medieval structure. This historic district behind the Grand Bazaar is also interesting for other reasons. You can get here by streetcar (Aksaray stop), or you can walk from the Sofia Cathedral along the streetcar tracks to the Grand Bazaar, to the University and then to the Fatih Memorial Park (Ataturk Boulevard).
A one-way walk will take about 40-50 minutes. But it will be an unforgettable meeting with the ancient part of Istanbul, where there are very interesting mosques, including Bayazit, and many park areas, in one of which there is a monument to Mehmed the Conqueror, who did not have time to conquer the world.
Mehmed the Conqueror founded Istanbul but destroyed Constantinople
The Grand Bazaar area is also home to another unique monument to the founding of Constantinople, the Column of Constantine, erected here during the founding of the city.
Çemberlitaş Square, 2/1 Yeniceriler Street
The Column of Constantine, which became the Roman triumphal column, decorated the new capital two years before the celebration of the consecration of the city (328), but its inauguration took place on the day of the consecration of Constantinople (May 11, 330).
The appearance of the Column of Constantine has changed somewhat over the course of its existence
This pink porphyry 38-meter high structure symbolized the connection of the new city with Rome, the continuity of the status of the capital and was crowned with a golden statue of Constantine, in the seven-rayed crown of which was fused one of the nails of the Cross of the Lord. During the unveiling of this column, Constantine placed at its base the shrines consisting of the axe-head of Noah's axe, Moses' cross, a remnant of Jesus' bread and a statuette of Athena Pallada. The whole ceremony took place with the participation of Christian and pagan worshipers.
The place where the column was installed, was one of the largest city trading areas, called the Forum of Constantine and it was located behind the fortress walls of the former Byzantium. The column was assembled from seven porphyry and one marble drum, connected by iron hoops, hidden under laurel wreaths of gilded bronze. The whole structure was based on a porphyry pyramid-shaped pedestal decorated with bas-reliefs.The bas-relief pedestal and the column that stood on it were solemn and magnificenta
Нand the marble capitol ending the upper drum, in the image of Apollo stood the statue of Constantine with an orb and a cross banner (labarum) in his hands.Emperor Constantine the Great was depicted as the god Apollo
Frequent local earthquakes and fires had a very negative impact on the condition of this column. At the beginning of the 5th century under Emperor Theodosius II, the column was reinforced with iron brackets, which significantly spoiled its appearance. At the beginning of the 7th century, the statue of Constantine fell during another earthquake, but was soon restored.
At the beginning of the 12th century, the statue of the founder of the city was again struck by various misfortunes - lightning or storms. During one of the storms, the statue fell together with the three upper tiers of the column, after which it was not restored, and the top of the column was crowned with a large cross. Just 100 years after this event, in the early 13th century, Constantinople was captured by the Crusaders, who subjected the city to looting. The Column of Constantine also suffered greatly at this time. During the digging in search of relics, its foundations were damaged, the bas-relief and bronze wreath rings were stripped off, and their whereabouts are still unknown. After the Ottomans seized the city, the cross was also removed from the column.
To this day, the Column of Constantine has arrived in this form
The column itself was not destroyed or destroyed, but was even restored in the second half of the 18th century during the reign of Abdul-Hamid, when it was blackened and cracked after one of the city's worst fires. It was during that period that the column was reinforced with iron hoops and banded masonry was used to fix the base. Since then, the column has been referred to as "burnt" or "Chamberlitash" (meaning hooped rock). The column was restored once more in the 50s and 70s. 20th century and in the early 21st century.
Although this column has already gone underground to a depth of almost 2.5 meters and all wrapped in iron, it continues to be one of the most unique monuments of the early period of Constantinople, included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
There was once a shopping plaza of the same name around the Column of Constantine - Forum
In addition to the Column of Constantine in the Forum of his name were other buildings, now lost, including the temples of Constantine and the Virgin Mary, the building of the Praetorium with the prison, the Statue of Tihi (the fate of the city), 12 gilded statues of sirens and fabulous animals placed on columns, huge statues of Paris, Aphrodite and Juno, a fountain with a sculpture of the Prophet Daniel surrounded by lions and much more.
Temple of the Apostles (not preserved)
6 Fevzi Pasha Street
By the way, if you continue your way past the Aqueduct, in just 15 minutes you can reach Fatih Mosque (6, Fevzi Pasha Street), where the ashes of this famous Ottoman sultan rest in the mausoleum.
The Fatih Mosque is located on the site of the former Church of the Apostles in Constantinople
The curious tourist will be interested to know that this mosque is located on the site of the Byzantine basilica of the Temple of the Apostles - the first temple built under Constantine the Great, in which he was later buried by his son. Subsequently, under Emperor Justinian (6th century), the first basilica was converted into a temple-tomb of Byzantine emperors, which kept a lot of Christian rarities in the form of relics of the holy apostles and not only.
The Temple of the Apostles with the tombs of Byzantine emperors once looked like this
In the early 13th century, the crusaders of the Fourth Crusade looted and desecrated this tomb. In the following centuries, up to the invasion of the Ottoman army, the temple became very dilapidated. After the conquest of Constantinople, Mehmed the Second ordered to demolish this Christian temple-tomb and in its place to erect the Fatih Mosque, immortalizing his name.
Today, near the Fatih Mosque are the mausoleums of Mehmed the Conqueror himself, his wife Gulbahar Khatun and other important persons of the Ottoman state. You can read about this and other mosques of the Ottoman period of Constantinople here.Sarcophagi of Constantinople emperors can be seen at the Archaeological Museum
Of course, sightseeing of the former Constantinople would be incomplete without seeing its famous fortress walls, which, although in a very worn-out condition, have survived to our time.
The fortress walls of Constantinople
To see the fortress walls of ancient Constantinople is not only very interesting, but also very exciting. Walls that were built in very distant times and that were meant to protect the capital of Byzantium. The walls, which were attacked by barbarians, Arab and Russian warriors, besieged and shelled by the Ottomans, were created in different periods of Constantinople's history.
The walls of ancient Constantinople protected the inhabitants of the city from external enemies for centuries
The parts of the walls, called Theodosian walls, have reached our time, as they surrounded the sprawling Constantinople during the reign of Emperor Theodosius the Second in the first half of the 5th century. Their length was more than 5,5 thousand meters. Walls of fortification were double and were divided into external (8x2 meters) and internal (12x5 meters). In front of them there was a wide moat.
Restored sections of Constantinople's walls show the realities of the ancient city
Throughout the entire wall at a 55-meter distance from each other were 20-meter high towers, the lower tier of which was usually used as a food storehouse. About ten out of almost 100 towers served as passage towers. The main entrance to the city was through the Golden Gate, which had three marble triumphal arches and was decorated with either winged Nika, the goddess of Victory, or a bronze statue of Emperor Theodosius on a chariot drawn by elephants. Either way, it was a very impressive sight.
The famous Golden Gate of Tsargrad (Constantinople) was the main entrance to the city
After the conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Second, the 4 towers near the Golden Gate were reinforced with three more, resulting in the so-called Seven Tower Castle (Yedikule), mentioned in Pushkin's "History of Peter the Great". In this castle the treasury and important state archives were kept, political prisoners were kept, including Russian ambassadors Y. Bulgakov and P. Tolstoy. Executions of viziers who fell into disfavor also took place here. By the middle of the 19th century, the fortress was turned into a prison and later into a museum.Yedikule is a combined monument of Byzantine and Ottoman history
You can see the preserved and partially restored fragments of the former walls of Constantinople during a walk along Kennedy Street along the coast of the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara. The Seven Basilica Castle itself is located in the Yenikapı City Park area. You can reach it by electric train from Sirkeci Station (Yedikule stop). If you want, you can also walk here.
From the Sultanahmet Mosque, the former Golden Gate is at a distance of six kilometers. Such a distance will take the inquisitive tourist only an hour and a bit, admiring on the way very interesting objects and beautiful seascapes. Some tourists prefer to move directly along the wall, or even along its top.Walking along Kennedy Street along the Bosphorus and the fortress walls is a great way to spend your time
The material remains of the former Constantinople can be found in the historic part of modern Istanbul at almost every turn. Many of the houses of the Fatih district have grown into the ancient buildings of the city, sprouting through them, becoming a fusion of past and present. The material remains of the former Constantinople can be found in the historic part of modern Istanbul at almost every turn. Many of the houses of the Fatih district have grown into the ancient buildings of the city, sprouting through them, becoming a fusion of past and present.
Istanbul houses are often attached to the structures of ancient Constantinople
In addition to architectural structures are very interesting archaeological rarities, stored today in the Archaeological Museum of Istanbul, which is a must-visit.
Another Gorgon head can be seen among the many exhibits in the Archaeological Museum
So, walking along the streets of today's Muslim Istanbul, which traces its history back to the middle of the 15th century and has its own unique historical and architectural monuments, you can find many traces of the Byzantine Constantinople that disappeared in the middle of the 15th century, a city with a centuries-old and very glorious history, a city that was once the capital of the huge and prosperous Byzantine Empire, a city from where Christianity and the state emblem came to Russia. A brief history of the Byzantine period of Constantinople can be found here. A separate article is devoted to the history of the Ottoman period of Constantinople, which later became Istanbul.