Iznik tile in Topkapi Palace
Just some background: I am enrolled for the semester in Georgetown University’s McGhee Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies. The program’s campus is located in Alanya, but we are spending a two week orientation in Istanbul, Bursa, and Edirne to see the city and explore historical and religious sights that are relevant to our studies.
The past week has felt like a month. It can be a little bit frustrating to travel in a large group (fifteen-plus) and sometimes we have to fight our way through tourist-infested areas, but the benefit is enormous. We have been escorted into some of the most historically important places where we have received on-site lectures from history professors and regional experts, all of which has amounted to a boot camp in late Byzantine and early Ottoman history. In some cases, it would have been difficult or impossible to gain admission without the institutional network offered by Georgetown and our professors from Istanbul Sehir Universitesi.
This post is simply an opportunity for me to put some of my notes together with my photos and thereby try to wrap my brain around the information and sights we have encountered, although what you see here is still just a selection of the sites we visited, if you can believe it. For instance, I included neither the Muradiye Complex nor Topkapi Palace, nor any of the obelisks and things in the Hippodrome area, and I am surely forgetting about some of the tombs we saw.
On top of that, tomorrow we travel to Edirne (a three hour drive from Istanbul) where we will see more mosques and more tombs, so…this is just the beginning.
Aya Sophia – “The Church of Divine Wisdom” – located in Istanbul, Turkey – first an Orthodox basilica, then a mosque, now a museum – built by Byzantine Emperor Justinian – completed in 537 – 1500 years old – took less than six years to build – contains four acres of mosaics – two nartexes – its flying buttresses are the first solution to the problem of a dome being too heavy and pushing out the outer wall
Sultan Ahmed Camii – also known as “Blue Mosque” – located in Istanbul, Turkey – built by Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I – Ahmed was 14th sultan of Ottoman dynasty founded by Osman around 1300
Eyup Sultan Türbesi (Tomb of Eyup) – a popular destination of pilgrimage, especially on holidays such as Ramadan, when we visited – pious visitors to a tomb will lift their hands with palms facing up, hold them there for several moments, and then make a wiping motion on their face – young boys may be escorted here during their circumcision party (in Turkey and other parts of Middle East/Central Asia, it is customary for boys to undergo ritual circumcision around the age of 7-11), newlyweds may visit, or the ill may come – Turkish police stood inside the tomb shepherding the faithful through – received sugar cube upon exiting
Süleymaniye Camii – located in Istanbul, Turkey – built by Sultan Suleiman I “the Magnificent” – second largest mosque in Istanbul – currently under restoration – constructed by Mimar Sinan – domes signify the heavens but are heavy and architecturally difficult, and Sinan systematized the method of building domes
Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople – the cathedral of the patriarchate is gorgeous and reverent (thus no photo-taking inside the complex was appropriate at all) – contains the oldest icon, depicting Mary holding baby Jesus
Chora Church “Kariye Muzesi” – from Greek word meaning “in the field” – church dedicated to Virgin Mary, the “container of the uncontainable” – converted to mosque in 11th c. – Muslims used plaster or curtains to cover up the images, so the frescoes and mosaics (which cover almost every inch of the walls, windows, lintels, domes, arches, doors) were ultimately preserved this way
Yeşil Cami “Green Mosque” – located in Bursa, Turkey – built by Mehmet I Çelebi
Yeşil Turbe – located in Yesil Mahalle, Bursa, Turkey – tomb of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed I