Leo’s travel journal

Leo’s travel journal and other juicy bits…

Posts Tagged ‘Turkey

Istanbul – part 02

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One of the magnificent historical constructions of Istanbul is the Basilica Cistern, located near the southwest of Hagia Sophia. This huge cistern founded by Justinianus I, a Byzantine Emperor (527 – 565) is called “the Sinking Palace” by the public owing to the great number of marble columns rising out of the water.

The name Basilica Cistern originates from a basilica which formerly existed in place of the cistern. The cistern is a giant construction located in a rectangular area with a length of 140m and width of 70m.

Inside this cistern, you descend through 52 stone steps and observe 336 columns each 9m high and 4.8m apart, arranged in 12 rows of 28 each.

The ceiling weight of the cistern is transferred to the columns by means of vaults. Majority of the columns which appear to have been taken from older buildings, which were engraved from various types of marble are composed of one piece while some were made up of two pieces.

Capitals of these columns have different features; 98 reflect the Corinth type, and some others reflect the Dor type.

The cistern has a capacity of 100,000 tons of water and have 4.8m thick brick walls plastered with a thick layer of Horasan mortar and made water resistant.

The two Medusa’s head columns found in the north west corner of the cistern are great examples of the Roman Age art sculptures. It is not known exactly where these two heads come from. Researchers think that they were brought there in order to be used only as column pedestals during the construction of the Cistern.


Written by Leo

3 April 2009 at 22:07

Istanbul – part 01

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So I found myself in Istanbul for the weekend and what more to do than visit the sights.

The weather was not letting up so I decided to brave the rain and cold winds from Siberia to visit both the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia.

Firstly, a visit to the blue mosque. (As it is 6.00am in the morning and I’m too lazy to do some research, the following texts in italic have all been quoted from Wikipedia).

*The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is the national mosque of Turkey, and is a historical mosque in Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey and the capital of the Ottoman Empire (from 1453 to 1923).

The mosque is one of several mosques known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior.

It was built between 1609 and 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. Like many other mosques, it also comprises a tomb of the founder, a madrasah and a hospice.

The design of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque is the culmination of two centuries of both Ottoman mosque and Byzantine church development. It incorporates some Byzantine elements of the neighboring Hagia Sophia with traditional Islamic architecture and is considered to be the last great mosque of the classical period.

The architect has ably synthesized the ideas of his master Sinan, aiming for overwhelming size, majesty and splendour, but the interior lacks his creative thinking. During the rule of Ahmed I, Sultan Ahmet mosque was built between 1609 and 1616 CE.

Designed by architect Sedefkar Mehmet Aga, the Sultan Ahmet Mosque is considered to be the last example of classical Ottoman architecture.

From the Blue Mosque, it was only a stroll in the rain to the Hagia Sophia, one of the largest cathedrals in the world.

Hagia Sophia is a former patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. Famous in particular for its massive dome, it is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture.

It was the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years, until the completion of the Seville Cathedral in 1520.

The current building was originally constructed as a church between A.D. 532 and 537 on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, and was in fact the third Church of the Holy Wisdom to occupy the site (the previous two had both been destroyed by riots).

It was designed by two architects, Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles.

The Church contained a large collection of holy relics and featured, among other things, a 50 foot (15 m) silver iconostasis. It was the patriarchal church of the Patriarch of Constantinople and the religious focal point of the Eastern Orthodox Church for nearly 1000 years.

In 1453, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks and Sultan Mehmed II ordered the building to be converted into a mosque.

The bells, altar, iconostasis, and sacrificial vessels were removed, and many of the mosaics were eventually plastered over.

The Islamic features — such as the mihrab, the minbar, and the four minarets outside — were added over the course of its history under the Ottomans.

It remained as a mosque until 1935, when it was converted into a museum by the Republic of Turkey.

More Istanbul in the next post…

Written by Leo

23 March 2009 at 15:37