The original building of the Hippodrome was built by the Roman Emperor Septimus Severus in 203 AD when he rebuilt Byzantium. Constantine the Great reconstructed, enlarged and adorned it with beautiful works which were brought from different places of the Roman Empire when he chose Byzantium as his new capital.
Although there is not much left from the original building except the Egyptian Obelisk, Serpentine and Constantine Columns, according to the excavations carried out, the hippodrome was 117 m / 384 ft wide and 480 m / 1575 ft long with a capacity of 100,000 spectators. It is said that one quarter of the population could fit into the hippodrome at one time. During the Byzantine period, the Hagia Sophia was the religious center, a place which belonged to God; the palace belonged to the emperor; and the hippodrome was the civil center for the people.
Chariots drawn by either 2 or 4 horses raced here representing one of the four factions divided among the people. Each faction was represented by a color. Later on these four colors were united in two colors; the Blues and the Greens. The Blues were the upper and middle classes, orthodox in religion and conservative in politics. The Greens were the lower class and radical both in religion and politics. One of these political divisions ended with a revolt which caused the death of 30,000 people. This revolt was named after people's cries of "nika" which meant "win" and this Nika Revolt took place in 531 AD.
The central axis of the hippodrome was called spina and the races took place around the spina. The races used to start by the order of the emperor and the contestants had to complete seven laps around the spina. The winner was awarded a wreath and some gold by the emperor.
The hippodrome was destroyed and plundered in 1204 by the Crusaders. After the Turks it lost its popularity and especially with the construction of the Blue Mosque, the ancient hippodrome changed its name and became At Meydani (Horse Square) a place where Ottomans trained their horses. The only three remaining monuments from the original building are the Egyptian Obelisk, the Serpentine Column and the Constantine Column.
The Egyptian Obelisk
It was originally one of the two obelisks which were erected in the name of Thutmose III in front of Amon-Ra Temple in Karnak in the 15C BC. It is a monolith made of granite and the words on it are in Egyptian hieroglyphs which praise Thutmose III. The original piece was longer than today's measurement of 19.60 m / 64.30 ft which is thought to be two thirds of the original. It was broken either during shipment or intentionally to make it lighter to transport.The Roman governor of Alexandria, sent it to Theodosius I in 390 AD.
The obelisk is situated on a Byzantine marble base with bas-reliefs. These reliefs give some details about the emperor from the Kathisma and races of the time. The Emperor Theodosius I, on four sides of the obelisk, is watching the erection of it, or a chariot race, receiving homage from slaves or preparing a wreath for the winner of the race.
The Serpentine Column
After defeating the Persians at the battles of Salamis (480 BC) and Plataea (479 BC), the 31 Greek cities, by melting all the spoils that they obtained, made a huge bronze incense burner with three entwined serpents to be erected in front of the Apollo Temple in Delphi. Originally it was 8 m / 26.3 ft high, but today it is only 5.30 m / 17.4 ft.
This column was brought here from Delphi by Constantine I in 4C AD. By looking at the records, it is possible to understand that it was standing at its place until the 16C. However it is not known what happened to the serpent heads after the 16C.
Orme Sutun (The Constantine Column)
Unlike the Egyptian Obelisk, this is not a monolith but a column built of stones. Who erected it and when it was built are not known. According to the inscriptions, it was renovated and restored to have a more beautiful appearance by Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus and his son Romanus II in the 10C AD. The original column should have been from the 4C or 5C AD.
It is 32 m / 105 ft high and after three steps comes the marble base at the bottom. It is also thought that all the surfaces of the column were covered with bronze relief pieces which probably were plundered during the 4th Crusade in 1204, and today it is possible to find some of these pieces used in the decoration of St. Mark Square in Venice.
Built by Sultan Ahmet I as a part of a large complex, among the Turkish people it is called Sultan Ahmet Mosque. However, tourists fascinated with the beautiful blue tiles always remember it as the Blue Mosque. The complex consisted of a mosque, tombs, medreses, fountains, a health center, kitchens, shops, a bath, rooms, houses and storehouses.
A 19-year-old Sultan started digging ceremoniously in the presence of high officials until he was tired. Thus began the construction in 1609 which continued until it was finished in 1616. An interesting fact about Sultan Ahmet is that he ascended to the throne at the age of 14 as the 14th ruler and died only 14 years later. Being close to the Topkapi Palace, Sultan Ahmet Mosque was regarded as the Supreme Imperial Mosque in Istanbul. Even though the palace was left and the sultan moved to the Dolmabahce Palace, Sultan Ahmet Mosque shared this pride with the Suleymaniye Mosque.
The architect was one of the apprentices of Sinan, Sedefkar Mehmet Aga. He designed one of the last examples of the classical period's architectural style.
The mosque is situated in a wide courtyard which has five gates. There is an inner courtyard next to the mosque with three entrances. The inner courtyard is surrounded by porticos consisting of 26 columns and 30 domes. The sadirvan in the middle is symbolic, because the actual ones are outside on the walls of the inner courtyard. There are three entrances to the main building, one from the inner courtyard and two from both sides of the building. There are four minarets at the corners of the mosque having three serefes each. The two minarets at the far corners of the courtyard have two serefes each. There are six minarets in all, each of which is fluted.
The interior of the mosque is a square with a width of 51.65 m / 170 ft and a length of 53.40 m / 175 ft covered by a dome. The main dome rests on four semi-arches and four pendentives. The diameter of the dome is 22.40 m / 73.5 ft and the height is 43 m / 141 ft. The four piers carrying the dome are called elephant legs as each has a diameter of 5 m / 16.4 ft.
There are 260 windows which do not have original stained glasses any longer. The walls all along the galleries are covered with 21 thousand 17C Iznik tiles having many flower motifs in a dominant blue color.
The Hagia Sophia was probably the largest building on the world's surface, barring the Egyptian Pyramids, or the Great Wall of China. For many centuries it was the largest church and today is the fourth largest in the world after St. Paul's in London, St. Peter's in Rome and the Duomo in Milan. The great Ottoman architect Sinan, in his autobiography, says that he devoted his lifetime in the attempt to surpass its technical achievements.
It was dedicated to the Hagia Sophia which means the Divine Wisdom, an attribute of Christ.
Today's Hagia Sophia is the third building built at the same place. The first one was a basilica with a wooden roof and was built in 390 AD. This original church Megale Ecclesia (Great Church) was burned down in a rumpus in 404. Theodosius replaced it with a massive basilica which was burned down in the Nika Revolt against Justinian in 532. Justinian began rebuilding the Hagia Sophia in the same year. The architects were two Anatolian geniuses, Anthemius of Tralles, an engineer and a mathematician and Isidorus of Miletus, an architect. They started collecting materials from all over the empire. In the construction ten thousand workers worked under the supervision of one hundred master builders.
Justinian reopened it in 537 entering the Hagia Sophia with the words "Solomon, I have surpassed you!".
Because the building is on a fault line in an earthquake zone and the city passed through many riots and fires, the Hagia Sophia was destroyed and underwent restorations several times.
Throughout Byzantine history, the Hagia Sophia played an important role as emperors were crowned and various victories were celebrated in this remarkable building. The Hagia Sophia even gave refuge to criminals.
Another major event during the Byzantine period was the removal of all religious images from the church in the iconoclastic period. During the Fourth Crusade in 1204, the church was pillaged and some disgusting events took place in the Hagia Sophia. After conquering Constantinople in 1453, Sultan Mehmet immediately went to the Hagia Sophia and ordered that it be converted into a mosque. This was done by adding the Islamic elements such as minarets, the mihrab and the minber all of which were appropriately positioned to face toward Mecca, 10 degrees south of the main axis of the building. The architect Sinan was also assigned to make some restorations and add Islamic elements to the building. Buttresses were added in the Ottoman period. Two huge marble jars were brought from Pergamum in the 16C and probably used to keep oil for candles. The eight round wooden plaques at gallery level are fine examples for Islamic calligraphy. The names painted on these plaques are Allah, Prophet Mohammed, the first four Caliphs Ebubekir, Omer, Osman and Ali, and the two grandsons of Mohammed, Hasan and Huseyin.
In time Ayasofya became a complex consisting of tombs, a fountain, libraries, etc. It has been thought that when Turks converted the church into a mosque, all the pictures were covered which is not correct. According to the narration of travelers, pictures were still standing but figures' faces were covered.
Ayasofya was used as a church for 916 years and as a mosque for 481 years. In 1934, by the order of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, it was made a museum and has since been open to visitors
Istanbul was one of the most often besieged cities in the world and has always needed permanent water supplies. And as a result many underground cisterns were built during the Byzantine Empire. Water was brought to these big reservoirs from far away sources through aqueducts. It is still possible to see remains of a large aqueduct in Unkapani. This is called Bozdogan Kemeri (Aqueduct of Valens) and was built in 375 AD by the Emperor Valens. Because Turks have always preferred running water, after capturing the city from the Byzantines, they did not use cisterns properly. Most of them were usually converted into either small bazaars or storehouses. The largest and most ornate of these cisterns is Yerebatan Sarayi. In its construction, columns and capitals of earlier temples were used and this provides a very decorative appearance. This is why it is called saray which means "palace" in Turkish.
Yerebatan Sarayi was dug and built probably after 542 by Emperor Justinian I. There are 336 columns most of which are topped with Byzantine Corinthian capitals. The cistern is 70 m / 230 ft wide and 140 m / 460 ft long.
Between 1985-1988, the Municipality of Istanbul cleaned and restored it thoroughly and built a wooden walkway between the columns. In addition to that there are special effects presented by a light and sound show. By looking at the water level marks on the plaster walls which reach the height of the capitals, it is possible to understand that the cistern was very full in times gone by.
Two Medusa heads were used to form bases for two columns in a far corner of the cistern. The position in which they were placed suggests that the people who put them there were Christians and did not want to revere a god of a pagan period. The water inside the underground cistern is collected rain water. The carp in the water are decorative and an incidental protection against pollution. Some people even think that the Byzantines originally also raised fish in the cistern.
The Topkapi Sarayi was the second palace in Istanbul after the conquest. The first was in the Bayezit area and it was called the Old Palace after the construction of Topkapi. Called the New Palace initially it was named as the Topkapi Palace after a summer palace near the sea at Sarayburnu in the 19C.
The construction of the Topkapi Palace, including the walls, was completed between 1465 and 1478. However, different sultans having ascended to the throne added parts to the palace which now gives the appearance of a lack of unity and style. The changes were made for reasons of practicality, to commemorate victorious campaigns or to repair damage caused by earthquakes and fire.
The Topkapi Palace had never been static but was always in the process of organic development with the influences of the time. The first of these influences was the parallelism between the palace and the empire. As the empire became larger, the palace was likewise enlarged. The second is that as the sultans felt insecure and withdrew themselves behind the walls removed from nature, there was an attempt to bring nature inside the walls in the form of miniatures, tiles and suchlike.
If late Ottoman period palaces are excluded, only the Topkapi Palace survived from the glory days of the great Ottoman Empire, which implies that palaces for the Ottomans were something different than the ones we know today. There is a kind of humble simplicity and practicality in the Ottoman palaces.
The Topkapi Sarayi was a city-palace with a population of approximately 4,000 people. It covers an area of 70 hectares / 173 acres. It housed all the Ottoman sultans from Sultan Mehmet II to Abdulmecit, nearly 400 years and 25 sultans. In 1924 it was made into a museum.
The palace was mainly divided into two sections, Birun and Enderun. Birun was the outer palace and Enderun the inner. Out of four consecutive courtyards of the palace the first two are Birun. Enderun, the inner palace, consisted of the third and fourth courtyards with the harem.
The first courtyard which was open to the public started after the Bab-i Humayun (Imperial Gate). This was the service area of the palace consisting of a hospital (with a capacity of 120 beds), a bakery, an arsenal, the mint, storage places for various things and some dormitories. This courtyard acted something like a city center.
Topkapi Palace, as well as being the imperial residence of the sultan, his court and harem, was also the seat of government for the Ottoman Empire, Divan. The second courtyard, also called Alay Meydani (Procession Square), which started after the Babusselam (Gate of Peace), was the seat of the Divan and open to anyone who had business with the Divan. This was the administration center. The Divan met four times a week. In the earlier years the sultan would be present at these council meetings, but later on, he would sit behind a latticed grille placed in the wall and listen to the proceedings from there. The Council never knew whether or not the sultan was actually present and listening to them unless he decided to speak himself. The Divan consisted of two rooms: the Office of the Grand Vizier and the Public Records Office, the Tower of Justice.
In addition to the Divan there were also the privy stables and kitchens. The kitchens consist of a series of ten large rooms with domes and dome-like chimneys. In these kitchens in those times they cooked for about 4,000 people. The kitchens were used separately for different people, because different dishes for different classes had to be prepared.
In the kitchens today, a collection of Chinese Porcelain which are accepted as the third most valuable in the world, are on display together with authentic kitchen utensils as well as both Turkish and Japanese Porcelain.
Just before entering the third courtyard, in front of the third gate, the Babussaade (Gate of Felicity) or the Akagalar (White Eunuchs) Gate is the place where the throne was placed for all kinds of occasions, such as religious holidays, welcoming foreign ambassadors and funerals. Payment of the Yeniceri salaries took place there too as well as the handing over of the sancak, the standard or the flag of the Caliph by the sultan.
The Enderun, inner palace, started after the Babussaade and was surrounded by the quarters of the inner palace boys who were in service to the sultan and the palace. The first building after entering into the third courtyard is Arz Odasi, the Audience Hall. Many important ceremonies also took place there. Foreign ambassadors and results of Divan meetings were presented to the sultan in this chamber.
In the middle of the courtyard is the library of Sultan Ahmet III. On the right is a section in which sultans' costumes are shown. Next to this is the treasury section where many precious objects are displayed. Among these the Kasikci Diamond (the Spoonmaker's Diamond) and the Topkapi Hanceri (the Topkapi Dagger) are the most precious. The Kasikci Diamond is 86 carats, "drop-shaped", faceted and surrounded by 49 large diamonds. The Topkapi Dagger, a beautiful dagger ornamented with valuable emerald pieces was planned to be sent to Nadir Shah of Iran as a present, but when it was on the way it was heard that Nadir had been assassinated and so it was taken back to the palace treasury. Relics including a hand, arm and skull bones belonging to John the Baptist are also on display in the treasury section.
From the right-hand corner to the left in this courtyard are the sections of miniatures, calligraphy, portraits of sultans, clocks and holy relics of Islam. The holy relics are personal belongings of the Prophet Mohammed (a mantle, sword, seal, tooth, beard and footprints) and Caliphs, Koran scripts, religious books and framed inscriptions.
In the fourth courtyard there are pavilions some facing the Marmara Sea and others facing the Golden Horn.
The Harem of the Sultan
The idea of the harem came to the Ottoman sultans from the Byzantines. Before coming to Anatolia, Turks did not have harems. After the conquest of Istanbul, sultans built the Topkapi Palace step by step. Parallel to it, a harem was also begun. Eventually it became a big complex consisting of a few hundred rooms. The harem was not just a prison full of women kept for the sultan's pleasure. It was his family quarters. Security in the harem was provided by black eunuchs. Valide Sultan (Queen Mother) was the head of the harem. She had enormous influence on everything that took place there and frequently on her son too.
Young and beautiful girls of the harem were either purchased by the palace or presented to the sultan as gifts from dignitaries or sultan's family. When these girls entered the harem, they were thoroughly assessed.
Among the girls there were mainly four different classes: Odalik (servant), Gedikli (sultan's personal servants; there were only twelve of them), Ikbal or Gozde (those were Favorites who are said to have had affairs with the sultan), Kadin or Haseki Sultan (wives giving children to the sultan). When the Haseki Sultan's son ascended to the throne, she was promoted to Valide Sultan. She was the most important woman. After her, in order of importance came the sultan's daughters. Then came the first four wives of the sultan who gave birth to children. Their degree of importance was in the order in which their sons were born. They had conjugal rights and if the sultan did not sleep with them on two consecutive Friday nights, they could consider themselves divorced. They had their own apartments. The Favorites also had their own apartments. But others slept in dormitories.
Girls were trained according to their talents in playing a musical instrument, singing, dancing, writing, embroidery and sewing. Many parents longed for their daughters to be chosen for the Harem.
It should not be thought that women never went out. They could visit their families or just go for drives in covered carriages from which they could see out behind the veils and curtained windows. They could also organize parties up on the Bosphorus or along the Golden Horn.
Kizlar Agasi (Chief Black Eunuch) had the biggest responsibility and was the only one who knew all the secret desires of the sultan. Eunuchs, owing to different methods used for castration, were checked regularly by doctors to make sure they remained eunuchs.
When a sultan died, the new sultan would bring his new harem which meant that the former harem was dispersed. Some were sent to the old palace, some stayed as teachers or some older ones were pensioned off.
Suleymaniye Mosque :
Suleymaniye, rather than a mosque, is an important historical symbol for the Turks. It unites Sinan with Suleyman, one representing the best of the arts and the other most powerful of political strength.
Like other works of the time, Suleymaniye is not only a mosque but a huge complex. It is a work which typifies the Ottoman Empire at its peak. Its name, Suleymaniye, derives from the builder's name, Kanuni Sultan Suleyman (Lawgiver), Sultan Suleyman I the Magnificent. The architect was the greatest of Ottoman architects, the incomparable Sinan.
The Suleymaniye mosque was built between 1550-1557. A spacious courtyard surrounds the mosque. Similar to the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, there is another inner courtyard surrounded by porticos with 28 domes supported by 24 columns. This courtyard is a little smaller than the main building. In the middle is located a sadirvan. In the four corners of the inner courtyard stand four minarets having a total of ten serefes.
The interior of the mosque is rectangular in plan, 61 m / 200 ft in width and 70 m / 230 ft in length. The main section is covered by a huge dome with a diameter of 27.5 m / 90 ft and a height of 47 m / 154 ft. The dome is held by four piers and supported by two semi-domes in the E and W. The transition to the main dome is provided by pendentives.
The acoustics were one of the distinctive features of the building which were achieved by placing 64 pots in different places in the walls and the floor. Except for those above the mihrab, the stained glass is not original. When the mosque was built there were 4,000 oil candles, the smoke from which could have endangered the paintings on the walls. The architect avoided this, however by creating a system for the circulation of air inside the building. Sultan Suleyman and Sinan are buried in their tombs in the Suleymaniye complex
Grand Bazaar :
During the Byzantine period the area of the Grand Bazaar was a trade center. After the Turks came to Istanbul, two bedestens which formed the essence of today's Grand Bazaar were built between 1455-1461 by Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror in an attempt to enrich the economic life in the city. Later on as people needed more places for their trade, they also added parts outside these bedestens. In time the Grand Bazaar was formed.
Throughout the Ottoman period, the bazaar underwent earthquakes and fires and was restored several times.
Today, shops selling the same kind of merchandise tend to be congregated in their own streets or in hans as this was originally the Ottoman system. In addition to two bedestens there are also 13 hans in the Grand Bazaar.
With 18 entrances and more than four thousand shops it is one of the greatest bazaars in the World. The atmosphere of the Grand Bazaar is very interesting for tourists and has consequently become a very popular place for foreign visitors.
It is open during working hours on weekdays, closing earlier on Saturdays, while on Sundays and religious holidays it is closed.
Egyptian Bazaar :
It was built in 1664 as a part of the Yeni Cami complex which is located next to it. Misir in Turkish means Egypt and it is called the Egyptian Bazaar because the shopkeepers used to sell spices and herbs which were brought from or through Egypt. During the Ottoman period it was known as a place where shops sold only spices. Today there are only a few spice and herb specialists. The rest sell dried fruit, borek, basket work, jewelry, haberdashery, drapery and suchlike.
The bazaar has an "L" shape with six gates. Similar to the Grand Bazaar, it is open on weekdays and only half a day on Saturdays
The Bosphorus is a narrow, navigable strait between Europe and Asia connecting the Black Sea (Pontus Euxinus) to the Marmara Sea (Propontis).
It is about 31 km / 20 mi long and varies between 1 and 2.5 km / 0.5 and 1.5 mi wide. The narrowest point is 700 m / 2,300 ft between the fortresses of Rumeli and Anadolu. Swift currents make navigation difficult. The average depth is 50 m / 164 ft. In the Bosphorus there are two currents; one on the surface from the Black Sea towards the Marmara Sea and one below the surface in the opposite direction. The Black Sea is 24 cm / 9.5 in higher than the Marmara and this causes the current on the surface. The other current is because of the changes of salt rates in the two seas.
Along both shores are many attractions including ancient ruins, picturesque villages and forested areas. Near the southern end is the Golden Horn, the harbor of Istanbul, one of the most commodious natural harbors in the world. In ancient and medieval times almost all commerce between the Mediterranean and Black seas was routed through the strait. It is still an important artery of international trade. An average number of 38,000 ships pass through the Bosphorus annually.
The name Bosphorus means "ford of the calf" in ancient Greek and is derived from the myth of the maiden Io.
Galata Tower :
The tower was built by the Genoese colony as part of their town defense fortifications in the 14C. In Genoese sources it was named as Christea Turris (Tower of Christ).
It was altered considerably, particularly by upper parts being added under the Ottomans during the course of the centuries. It was used at different times as a prison and a fire-watch tower. In 1967, the tower was restored and an elevator was added. The present height of the tower is 63 m / 206 ft. Today two top floors serve as a restaurant with folkloric shows. During the daytime it is open to visitors for panoramic views of the region
Ortakoy Mosque :
This mosque is also known as Buyuk Mecidiye Camisi and was built by Abdulmecit in 1853. The architect is Nikogos Balyan.
Beylerbeyi Palace :
The Architect Sarkis Balyan constructed the Beylerbeyi Palace between 1861 and 1865 for Abdulaziz. The exterior decoration was adopted from European Neo-Classicism but the interior was completed in the traditional Ottoman style.
This palace was used both as a summer lodge and as a residence for visiting royalty.
Bosphorus Bridge :
In 1973, on the 50th anniversary of the Turkish Republic, a suspension bridge similar to the British River Severn Bridge was opened at Istanbul linking the Asian and European shores of the strait.
It is 64 m / 210 ft high with 6 lanes. The total length is1,560 m / 5,117 ft and the distance between two legs is only 1,074 m / 3,523 ft. The construction took 3 years and the cost was 22 million US Dollars.
During its first years pedestrians could walk across the bridge and the elevators inside the legs were open to the public. However, after many suicides it is no longer open to pedestrians.
Anatolian Fortress :
This fortress was constructed on the Asian shore by Bayezit I in the late 14C, one century before Turks conquered Constantinople. Rumeli Hisari (Rumeli Fortress)
Sultan Mehmet II made preparations for the siege of Constantinople. He decided to build a fortress on the Bosphorus opposite the Anadolu Hisari in order to cut off the city from its sources of grain on the shores of the Black Sea. The construction was completed in 1452 in less than four months and it served its purposes well. After the conquest, it lost its military importance.
Dolmabahce Palace :
Towards the end of the Ottoman Empire, in the 19C, the Westernization movement was dominant. For the Ottomans who lived in Istanbul, "West" was in the "north" beyond the Golden Horn. In mid-nineteenth century they moved a few kilometers to the north for (Dolmabahce Palace) and this change took the Empire to an entirely different dimension.
"Dolma" is filled or stuffed and "bahce" is garden in Turkish. The site of the Dolmabahce Palace was obtained by filling the small bay on the Bosphorus giving the palace its name.
The architect Garabet Balyan managed to combine the Oriental and Western styles. The lifestyle and needs were Oriental but the plan was taken from European palaces. He also combined various architectural styles forming the eclectic style.
It covers an area of 25 hectares / 62 acres. The palace was built by Sultan Abdulmecit as the outcome of his Westernization influences between the years 1844 and 1853. The official opening of the palace was after the Crimean War, 1856. Abdulmecit lived in his new palace for only 15 years. The palace was used by different sultans until the republic. During the republic the palace was used for foreign statesmen and democratic cultural activities. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk occupied a room at the palace on his visits to Istanbul and died there in 1938.
The construction of the palace was at a time when the economy of the Ottoman Empire was not at all good. This difficult situation was not taken into consideration and all the materials used at the palace were very expensive, of top quality and brought from different countries. Among the valuable items were vases from Sévres, Lyon silk, Baccarat crystals, English candelabra, Venetian glasses, German and Czech Bohemian chandeliers and furniture in the rococo style.
The palace consists of 285 rooms and 46 halls. There are approximately 600 paintings and very beautiful huge Hereke carpets specially woven for Dolmabahce.
The Dolmabahce Palace is an impressive building facing the sea with very high walls on the side facing inland. The main building is surrounded by magnificent palace gardens. There are nine gates on the inland side, two of which are monumental. On the front facing the sea there are five gates.
The palace was intended to be symmetrical in plan and decoration which was not something new. However with this palace the focal point is the sea. The building was constructed to be seen from the sea and it is this feature which is new and unique in Ottoman architecture.
The reception hall with its five and a half-ton English chandelier, the hamam and the crystal banisters are of outstanding importance in the palace.
Chora Museum :
Kariye Museum originally formed the center of a Byzantine monastery complex. Only the church section, which was dedicated to Jesus Christ the Savior, has survived. After the arrival of the Turks in Istanbul, this building, like the Hagia Sophia, was converted into a mosque. In 1948 it was made a museum leaving no Islamic element in the building except the 19C minaret outside in the corner.
"Kariye" is the Turkish adaptation of an ancient Greek word "Chora" which refers to countryside. Considering the perimeter of the walls of Constantine (4C AD) the building was located out of the city. If this theory is correct Chora Monastery should have been from the 4C. But unfortunately according to sources, the existence of Chora Monastery before the 8C is not certain.
Chora went through many restorations the last most significant instigated by Theodorus Metochitus, prime minister and first lord of the treasury, in the beginning of the 14C. The three most important features of the church, mosaics, frescoes and the funerary chapel (Paracclesion) are from that period. Theodorus Metochitus built the Paracclesion for himself and he was buried in the entrance of the church; his grave bears a marble stone. The art of painting in frescoes and mosaics were the indications of a new Byzantine art movement which was parallel to Italian Renaissance started by Giotto (1266-1337).
The building consists of the nave, the inner narthex, outer narthex and the paracclesion. The domes of the inner narthex and the paracclesion are lower than the main dome and are only seen from the rear of the church. The drum is supported on four huge pilasters in the corners and four great arches spring from these. The transition is supplied by pendentives. The drum has 16 flutes, each pierced by a window. Entrance to the nave is through both inner and outer narthexes. The niches in the paracclesion were built to keep sarcophagi, as this section was the funerary chapel.
In the mosaics, the lives of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary are depicted. Background elements and architectural motifs are highlighted to give depth. The scenes are realistic as if they were taken from daily life with figures correctly proportioned. Jesus has a humanitarian look upon his face.
Mosaics can be divided into 7 cycles: the nave panels; the six large dedicatory panels in the inner and outer narthexes; the ancestry of Jesus in the two domes of the inner narthex; life of the Virgin Mary in the first three bays of the inner narthex; the infancy of Jesus in the lunettes of the outer narthex; the ministry of Jesus on the vaults of the outer narthex and the fourth bay in the inner narthex; and finally the portraits of the saints on the arches and pilasters of the inner narthex.
Princess' Islands :
An archipelago that consists of nine islands just a few miles from Asian Istanbul in the Marmara Sea. It is less than an hour by ferry from the center of the city. The islands which are free of cars and have many beautiful wooden houses, have a resort atmosphere and offer peace and quiet in a natural environment. Walks or tours with horse-carriages through the streets of the islands, restaurants or cafes in this peaceful atmosphere are among the simple joys to be found on these islands.
During the Byzantine period, the islands were collectively a religious center with many monasteries. The name "Princes' Islands" derives from the princes sent there in exile. Those were the ones regarded as pretenders to the throne. During the Ottoman period, the islands were a neglected backwater of little interest. Non-Moslem groups were attracted to the islands. The settlement of a steady Turkish population on the islands came about as late as the end of the 19C.
All nine islands together form a municipality, the mayor being in Buyukada, the largest of all. Buyukada and other large ones Heybeli, Burgaz, Kinali have permanent settlements. Sedef is also recently becoming subject to new settlement. Currently the number of permanent residents on the islands is about 15,000. However this number increases more than tenfold during the summer, especially after the school year ends, when summer homes are inhabited.
Buyukada was called Megalo in the Byzantine period, both names having the same meaning; big. The majority of the population there at present are Jewish. Because Kinali is closest to Istanbul it was called Proti which meant first. Kinali in Turkish means "dyed with henna". Today, predominantly Armenians live there. Burgaz was called Panormos in the Byzantine period and is famous as the home of a Rum minority and a well known writer of short stories, Sait Faik Abasiyanik. Heybeli was called Khalkitis because of its copper mines. Heybeli is a Turkish name meaning "saddle-bag" and the shape of the island is similar to a saddle-bag.