At the intersection of Asia Minor and the Balkans, the Black and Mediterranean, the history of the more than 2500-year-old city has shaped the cityscape of the old town in a unique way. History was made here especially as the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, as Byzantium or Constantinople, and as the center of the Ottoman Empire. The world heritage includes four areas of the city: the archaeological park, the Suleymaniye district, the Zeyrek district and the area of the Theodosian Land Wall. Visit fashionissupreme.com for Turkey destinations.
Old City of Istanbul: Facts
|Historical areas of Istanbul
|Old town, i.a. with the Egyptian and Grand Bazaar, the high gate, the cannon gate palace (Topkapi Sarayi), the domed former “Church of Divine Peace” (Hagia Eirene), the Sehzade or “Prince” mosque, the former mosque of the eunuchs, today Library with 12,000 manuscripts, the 75 m long and 70 m wide Hagia Sophia, the “Blue Mosque” with six minarets, the Beyazit Mosque and the Valens Aqueduct from the time of Emperor Valens (364-78)
|Masterpieces of 2000 year old architecture at the intersection of Asia Minor and the Balkans, the Black and the Mediterranean
Old town of Istanbul: history
|around 658 BC Chr.
|Establishment of Byzantium as a Greek colony
|Conquest by Roman associations by Septimius Severus
|Entry of Constantine I the Great (272/73 or 280 (?) – 337)
|Inauguration of the new city “Nova Roma”, later Constantinople
|Capital of the Eastern Roman Empire
|Construction of the Sergios and Bakchos Church
|Construction of the Hagia Eirene
|Construction of the Hagia Sophia
|captured by crusaders during the 4th crusade
|Conquest by the Ottomans
|Construction of the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, known as the “Blue Mosque”
|Loss of the capital city function
|Transformation of Hagia Sophia into a museum
Bridge between continents
A car is now on the pavement where a shoe shiner was sitting. A group of vacationers had packed the parked small car under the command of the tour guide and heaved it there, otherwise the tourist bus would not have been able to take the curve into the narrow one-way street. Neither shoe-shineers, passers-by, nor the policemen at the intersection just a few steps away take notice of it – everyday life in Istanbul and normality in a city that is as fascinating as it is sprawling and now has more than 13 million residents.
When this city on the Bosporus was developed into a splendid metropolis, right at the intersection of two continents, nobody could have foreseen anything of today’s traffic problems: neither Emperor Constantine the Great nor Sultan Suleyman II. The old town with its monumental splendid buildings from two millennia was created to last – not for car traffic. Nevertheless, it is always astonishing how the everyday chaos that breaks out in the morning has resolved itself by late in the evening. Anyone traveling to Istanbul needs patience in view of the omnipresent traffic chaos. Whoever brings it up will be rewarded with the history of Constantinople turned to stone.
It was Emperor Justinian I who had Hagia Sophia built in just six years in the 6th century – for centuries the largest church in Christendom. He had hired the most important master builders and mathematicians of his time to accomplish the “mammoth work”. After the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans, the Hagia Sophia was supplemented by four minarets and turned into a mosque. Today it is a museum and as impressive as on the first day.
Constantinople’s master builders relied on the monumental: the Sultan Süleiman Mosque alone has 28 domes, the largest of which, supported by four pillars, is 53 meters high and has a diameter of 27.5 meters. Three different stairwells lead to the three balconies of the minarets. In this way, three people can enter the narrow towers at the same time, without knowing of each other and without meeting. Master builder Sinan, under whose direction the mosque was built in the second half of the 16th century, is still as revered in the Orient as Michelangelo or the universal genius Leonardo da Vinci is in the West. For centuries, thanks to Sinan’s ideas, the building was surrounded by an aura of mystery: the whisper of the prayer leader can be heard loud and clear even in the furthest corner.
Istanbul’s fairytale past also attracted modern filmmakers: scenes from a James Bond film were filmed in the Basilica Cistern, a huge, column-supported water reservoir from the 6th century in the vicinity of Hagia Sophia. What remains of stone witnesses from past centuries in Istanbul can apparently not be recreated in the studio.
It is true that the Topkapi Palace turned into a museum takes days if you take the time it deserves for each exhibit. Up to 5000 people once lived and worked on the huge palace grounds. The treasures of the Ottoman rulers are exhibited in hundreds of rooms – including relics such as the footprint and beard of the Prophet Mohammed.
In the meantime, modernity has tentatively made its way into the covered bazaar of the old town with its wide vaulted corridors and almost 4,000 shops, and so there has long been striking neon advertising. But pistachios, pumpkin seeds, saffron or dried apricots are still lifted onto the scales with shovels out of large sacks. Every day, up to 400,000 visitors flock to the place where they have been trading since the beginning of the 15th century and now buy not only food, gold and silver jewelry, but also polo shirts and sweaters with a fake crocodile on their chest: a tribute to modernity…