3/27/15 Saturday was my day off. It’s taking forever to get over this cold. Little energy. I did a bit of sightseeing , but most of my energy was gone before I even got to the metro stop—wow are the trams crowded.
Istanbul is unbelievably old–older than this American can wrap her brain around. We are used to 100 years being “old” but that’s just a blink, here. I explored Çemberlitaş—the hooped column in Turkish. (Pronounced Cham bear lee tosh), It is often called the Burnt Column in English or the Column of Constantine, since his statue once stood on top of it. Çemberlitaş is also the name of a tram stop (tramvey), near the Grand Bazaar and the surrounding neighborhood. The area has been inhabited for more than 2000 years–heavily populated most of that time. It is now near the tourist district and an easy, though over crowded, public transportation ride for me. This column sits next to the tracks, on the edge of a small, paved park. In fact, it is easy to miss with all the shops and eateries.
The Burnt Column originally stood in the Forum of the old Byzantium city, but not much is left—though what is there has been carefully preserved. Here’s what my guidebook says about it:
“A survivor of both storm and fire, this 35m column was constructed in AD 330 as part of the celebrations to inaugurate the new Byzantine capital. It once dominated the magnificent Forum of Constantine. Made of porphyry brought from Heliopolis in Egypt, it was originally surmounted by a Corinthian capital bearing a statue of Emperor Constantine dressed as Apollo. This was brought down in a storm in 1106. Although what is left is relatively unimpressive, it has been carefully preserved. In the year 416 the 10 stone strums making up the column were reinforced with metal rings. There were renewed in 1701 by Sultan Mustafa III and consequently the column is known as Çemberlitaş (the hooped column) in Turkish. …it was damaged by several fire especially one in 1779 which decimated the Grand Bazaar.
A variety of fantastical holy relics were supposedly entombed in the base of the column, which has since been encased in stone to strength it. These include the axe which Noah used to build the ark, Mary Magdalene’s flash of anointing oil, and remains of the loaves of bread with which Christ fed the multitude.”
But obviously, there are different reports of what is entombed in the base. According to Wikipedia: “At the foot of the column was a sanctuary which contained relics allegedly from the crosses of the two thieves who were crucified with Jesus Christ at Calvary, the baskets from the loaves and fishes miracle, an alabaster ointment jar belonging to Mary Magdalene and used by her for anointing the head and feet of Jesus, the palladium of ancient Rome a wooden statue of Pallas Athena from Troy.”
There is supposed to be a haman—a Turkish bathhouse—that is geared toward tourists, but I didn’t find it.