Constantinople / Istanbul - Ancient and Modern - Crossroads of the World

Constantinople / Istanbul - Ancient and Modern - Crossroads of the World
Istanbul/constantinople - Ancient/Modern - View of the Old City from across the Golden Horn, atop the Galata Tower.

Day 3 - Istanbul Orientation Tour

Wednesday, April 11, 2012
8:30 am-Depart the hotel  and visit Hagia Sophia at its Opening
After breakfast, we board the bus and first pray Morning Prayer. Each Pilgrim has a copy of the April "Give Us This Day" (Liturgical Press) as the basis of our common prayer. This takes about five minutes, which is about the time it takes to drive three blocks from the hotel.   Our route to Hagia Sophia takes us across the Golden Horn and under the Aqueduct of Valens to the Sultanahment area where all the places we visit today are located. Aydin points out many historic sites and landmarks along the way. We begin our visits with the Hagia Sophia, at the eastern end of the large park that marks the site of the ancient Hippodrome.

We will only be able to spend about an hour at Hagia Sophia. Not enough surely, but you can get more out of this brief visit (as well as the short time we spend at other places) by exploring and finding out more in the internet beforehand. If you are staying the extra four days, I suggest you plan to spend at least half a day exploring this wonderful place in greater detail. For now, these two web sites, each with panoramic views from different locations within and outside the building, can give you a good sense of the wonders that await you. (Note these may be slow to load.)

360TR-Panoramic Tour of Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia - 3D Virtual Tour

In Turkish it's called Ayasofya and today is a mosque-become-a-museum. Do you wonder what it may have looked like in the days of the Byzantine Constantinople? YouTube has several excellent videos of 3-D recreations of the building in its glory days as the premier Christian Church in the world.

Newly revealed image of an angel
on one of the pendentives.
The first one has the exterior and general views of the interior. It features some of the artwork that remains today, but one needs to imagine that the gold-colored wall surfaces were probably covered with glorious mosaics and/or frescoes at certain points in its history. Here is a more detailed view of the sanctuary. The Baptistery is located to the left of today's exit passageway. It's a mausoleum for Ottoman dignitaries today, but the baptismal font is on display in a small patio outside the building. This reconstruction gives a good idea of the layout of a Byzantine baptistery, with a large font for full immersion. Finally, this one begins with a sequence showing the computer model being built, followed by a slow-moving series of exterior views from every possible angle.

This 15-minute video (part 1 and part 2) gives a somewhat one-sided depiction of the Emperor Justinian (482-565), who built the great church in just five years (532-537), emphasizing his brutality and despotism over any other qualities. But it has some fascinating computer generated reconstructions of the building of both the Hippodrome and the Hagia Sophia.

10:30-11:00 am -Visit the Basilica Cistern

11:15-12:15 am -Visit the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art.

On the north side of the Hippodrome is the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, a fascinating collection of carpets, books, furniture,and artifacts. (More pictures.) Here Aydin explains in some detail the various kinds and patterns of Turkish carpets. There are also displays of the life life of the various peoples of Anatolia.

12:15-1:15 pm - Lunch in one of the many restaurants in the area

1:15-1:45 pm - Hippodrome

Today, what's left of the Hippodrome is a big park, with two obelisks and the serpentine column (originally from Delphi), but what a structure, and what a history!

1:45-2:45 pm - Blue Mosque

3:00-5:00 pm - Bosphorus Cruise (on a private charter boat)

Our orientation day concludes with a cruise on the Bosphorus. It's an opportunity to relax a bit and enjoy the beauty of one of the most historic and important waterways in the world.

The Asian shores of the Bosphorus used to boast of some of the most expensive homes in the world. No longer. It seems Beverly Hills now has that distinction.

5:00- return to hotel to refresh before Mass

6:00 pm - Walk to St. Esprit Cathedral for Mass 

Pope Benedict XV: "Benefactor of all people,
regardless of nationality or religion."
The Saint Esprit (Holy Spirit) Cathedral is set in a modest courtyard of the French Notre Dame de Sion High School. Its most striking feature is a monumental statue of Pope Benedict XV, erected by the Turkish government in 1923 in the last days of Ottoman rule, commemorating his peacemaking efforts during World War I.

We hope to be able to arrange a brief visit with Bishop Louis Prelatre, the Apostolic Vicar or a brief talk by one of the other priests.

Following Mass, we can exit the back door and walk down Papa Roncalli Sokak to the  Akcanlar Ocakbasi, Restaurant for dinner, and then walk back to hotel (This is a very favorite restaurant of mine near the hotel and the Cathedral.)

1 comment:

  1. Pope Benedict XV's efforts to achieve peace in WWI (although unheeded at the time) are receiving a fresh look with today's historians, Mother Teresa would say, be a peacemaker anyway!