Long international flights leave ample time for ruminations and contemplations and my Nairobi to Istanbul flight last year accorded me seven hours to think about how I was going to soak in and appreciate 2500 years of history in a 3 ½ day photographic journey to what is undisputedly one of the world’s great cities. Many of the currents and themes of world history run through and were vividly shaped by the events in this crossroads metropolis.
Known as Byzantium prior to the 4th century, the city was the western terminus of the ancient Silk Road trade route linking the Mediterranean to China and Japan.
At its modern inception in the 4th century, Constantinople (named after the Roman Emperor Constantine) was the eastward extension and new epicenter of the Roman Empire and adopted what became the Eastern Orthodox version of Christianity.
The Hagia Sophia, constructed in 535 AD upon the order of Emperor Justinian I, was the gleaming focal point of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the largest church in the world for over 1,000 years (until the Cathedral of Seville was erected in 1520).
In 1453 Mehmed “The Conqueror” led a conquest of the city by the Ottoman Turks and converted the Cathedral to a Mosque. The Ottomans removed all the christian icons and attempted to obliterate all of the christian murals. For reasons unknown, a number of the original christian murals…some now well over 1,000 years old….remain in the building.
Looking at the above photograph, you can clearly see a remnant of the Cathedral’s christian origins in the mural of the Virgin Mary just above the upper windows. You’ll also observe the Islamic placards on the left and right side of the image. The Mosque/Cathedral was converted to a museum in the 1930s and is today the city’s most visited site.
The Bosphorus Strait running through Istanbul is the dividing line between Europe and Asia and is the only outlet from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. All of the sea-going traffic to and from Bulgaria, Romania, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia and the northern portion of Turkey pass through this straight so it is always clogged with freighters.
Just as we sailed past this mosque the late afternoon call to prayer was being broadcast over the loudspeakers located on the two visible minarets. It was a haunting moment at this time of day with this light.
Mornings were cool and these scenes of small fires surrounded by early morning workmen warming their hands were ubiquitous.
The city is quite hilly and spreads out into Europe and Asia.
I was fortunate to be with an Istanbul photographer who knew the back alleys. This jewelry maker’s machine shop was in a maze of small industrial shops that I would never have found on my own.
I really like this street portrait ….the graffiti on the wall, the cigarette, his cap and the flaming fire. It all really works.
The Romanesque style Galata Tower was built as Christea Turris (Tower of Christ) in 1348 during an expansion of the Genoese colony in Constantinople. The Galata Tower was the tallest building in Constantinople at 220 ft. when it was built in 1348.
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is a historic mosque in the city. A popular tourist site, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque continues to function as a mosque as men still kneel in prayer on the mosque’s lush red carpet after the call to prayer. The Blue Mosque, as it is popularly known, was constructed between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmed I. Its Külliye contains Ahmed’s tomb, a madrasah and a hospice. Hand-painted blue tiles adorn the mosque’s interior walls, and at night the mosque is bathed in blue as lights frame the mosque’s five main domes, six minarets and eight secondary domes.(Wikipedia)
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