Sometimes there is just a tiny bit of history here in Istanbul. It’s so easy to just walk by. Trudy and I stumbled across the Milion mile marker yesterday while strolling through a misty, rainy Sultanahmet area. I’ve walked by it a few times already, but was looking for it this trip. This stone is located in the Hagia Sophia square, just around the corner from the entrance to the Basilica Cistern. There’s the remains of a large masonry structure beside it, but it doesn’t seem to be connected.
This marker was located in the Hippodrome (the chariot racing stadium) area. It is all that remains of a Byzantine triumphal arch. All road distances to the far corners of the empire were once measured from this stone. Now there’s a cute sign post with distances and directions to major cities.
According to Wikipedia: “The domed building of the Milion rested on 4 large arches, and it was expanded and decorated with several statues and paintings. It had survived intact, following the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople (1453), for about the next 50 years, but disappeared at the start of the 16th century. During excavations in the 1960s, some partial fragments of it were discovered under houses in the area.”
Only part of the spine (spina) of the old Roman Hippodrome remains in Istanbul. It was in disrepair when the Ottoman Turks invaded the city in 1452, and allowed to fall into ruins after, though there are a few painting showing the Ottomans using the structure. The Hippodrome was the “circus,” a gigantic stadium for chariot racing and other sporting events. It was also the center of society in Constantinople. Originally laid out by Roman Emperor Septimus Severus, in the 3rd century, it was enlarged by Constantine to hold 100,000 people.
What remains is now called the Sultanahmet Meydanı(Sultan Ahmet Square) and is a park. In fact, much of the hippodrome was destroyed, along with the palaces of some Ottoman dignitaries, in the 17th century to build the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, better known to tourist as The Blue Mosque. The road ringing this elongated park follows the path the chariots took during a race.
My guidebook add: “Conspicuous by its absence is the column which once stood on the spot where the tourist information office is now located. This was topped by four bronze horses which were pillaged during the Fourth Crusades…and taken to St. Mark’s in Venice.” I managed to see these when I was in Venice!
Below are some of the treasures located on the square. Most were moved here (i.e stolen) from other locations.
The Archaeology museum is located nearby. I plan to visit very soon!
I’m trying to see all the great sites while I’m here in Istanbul. You simply cannot believe all the history, architecture, museums and fascinating places inside this great city. I feel lucky to be here.
Today, I’m sharing the photos from a recent trip to the Cistern Basilica, a large holding tank for water for the city. In Turkish it is called Yerebatan Sarnıcı– “Sunken Cistern.” The entrance is near The Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. It was build during the Byzantine Period, roughly 532AD, and was filled with water from the Belgrade forest, about 25km (15miles) away. It was used until the 16th Century.
I’m sure I will come back to see these many more times while I’m in Istanbul, but I had a chance to take a quick view of two of the amazing sites here in this great city. It is my second visit to both the Hagia Sophia (Ayasofia in Turkish) and the Grand Bazaar (Kapalıçarşı in Turkish), so I was able to sure as an impromptu tour guide to another new teacher.
Here is what Wikipedia says about the Hagia (EYE uh) Sophia (heavily edited):
Hagia Sophia(from the Greek: Ἁγία Σοφία, “Holy Wisdom”) is a former Greek Orthodox patriarchal basilica (church), later an imperial mosque, and now a museum (Ayasofya Müzesi) in Istanbul, Turkey. From the date of its construction in 537 until 1453, it served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The building was a mosque from 1453 until 1931. It was then secularized and opened as a museum on 1 February 1935.
The church was dedicated to the Wisdom of God, the Logos, the second person of the Holy Trinity, its patronal feast taking place on 25 December, the commemoration of the birth of the incarnation of the Logos in Christ.Famous in particular for its massive dome, it is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture and is said to have “changed the history of architecture”. It remained the world’s largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years, until Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520. The current building was originally constructed as a church between 532 and 537 on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I and was the third Church of the Holy Wisdom to occupy the site.
In 1453, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmed II, who ordered this main church of the Orthodox Christianity converted into a mosque. The bells, altar, iconostasis, and sacrificial vessels and other relics were removed and the mosaics depicting Jesus, his Mother Mary, Christian saints and angels were also removed or plastered over. Islamic features – such as the mihrab, minbar, and four minarets – were added. It remained a mosque until 1931. It was re-opened in 1935 as a museum by the Republic of Turkey. Haghia Sophia is currently (2014) the second-most visited museum in Turkey, attracting almost 3.3 million visitors annually.
The Grand Bazaar is huge and a great place to see even if you aren’t much of a buyer. From Wikipedia: The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops which attract between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. In 2014, it is listed No.1 among world’s most-visited tourist attractions with 91,250,000 annual visitors. The Grand Bazaar is located inside the walled city of Istanbul, in the district of Fatih. The construction of the Grand Bazaar’s core started during the winter of 1455/56, shortly after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. Sultan Mehmet II had an edifice erected devoted to the trading of textiles.
My flight to Istanbul, via Kuala Lumpur, was mercifully uneventful, but long. Sixteen hours getting there, plus customs, passport control and a 6 hour time difference. But I’m here and safe, staying in a hotel and trying to get on Turkey time. I should see my school for the first time tomorrow.
The weather here is good, highs in the 60’s F, sunshine. The folks at the hotel and the restaurant across the street speak fair English. I’ve even met another new teacher, Edgar, from Huston.
I’ve been walking and trying to stay awake all day to adjust to the new time zone. Of course I don’t know the language or the neighborhood, but it’s funny how the ear tries so hard to make sense of the words it hears. I did this some in Vietnam, but it’s very strong here in Istanbul.
And I’ve already heard the call to prayer from a nearby mosque. Here are a few first photos.