All posts filed under: Istanbul

Basilica Cistern – Istanbul’s Sunken Palace

The Basilica Cistern has a much more poetic name in Turkish – Yerebatan Sarnıcı or “Cistern Sinking Into Ground”. It’s also known as Istanbul’s Sunken Palace. To a visitor unaware of its purpose or its history it could easily be mistaken for some sacred underground temple with the many columns that give it an impressive atmosphere. Not too long ago the cistern could only be explored by the use of tiny boats which I imagine would have been a magical experience. Magical because of the columns that reach up from the depths to the heights of the vaulted ceiling. Today there are platforms built for visitors to explore the various parts of the cistern. Built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, the Basilica Cistern had originally been located beneath the Stoa Basilica, a large public square on the First Hill of Constantinople that served as a commercial, legal and artistic centre. The Stoa Basilica was destroyed by fire and when Justian rebuilt it, he also reconstructed the cistern beneath …

Hagia Irene

As you come up from Gülhane Park on your way to Topkapı Palace there is a building tucked off to the right that to me at first glance looked very unassuming. If it wasn’t for my cousin’s curiosity I would have just passed it by but instead, we decided to go in. We paid for our ticket and walked through the door and down a ramp to the main floor. It was quite cool inside and dark. There was the distinct smell of wet stone and all around us, there was scaffolding. The building was under repair and the only lighting there was, came from harsh spotlighting. It took time for my eyes to adjust before I could make out the shape of the building. The little that I could see was quite impressive especially the carved columns and the bronze coloured stone floor tiles. Little did I know that I was standing in the Hagia Irene, the first church built in Constantinople. It was later used as an armoury and warehouse by the Ottomans …

Sabahattin Ali – A Love Story Like No Other

When I first started reading Madonna in a Fur Coat by Sabahattin Ali, I read more than half of it in one sitting. I couldn’t put it down. I was drawn in by the intimate and conversational tone of the writer and by the depth of the relationship between the characters. There was a freedom of feeling between them, uncaged by convention – feelings that are usually kept hidden and seem to only exist as part of the hidden world of the self. Madonna in a Fur Coat is a story within a story. In the beginning, we are introduced to a drifter, our narrator, who finds work alongside a German translator by the name of Raif Efendi. Raif is an introvert who is misunderstood by everyone. He seems to not be living at all and the narrator is intrigued by his strangeness. They become friends and Raif, on his deathbed entrusts him with a manuscript that Raif had kept hidden. From the manuscript, we learn that as a young man, Raif was sent by …

Kariye Müzesi

Kariye Müzesi, also known as The Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora, is one of the oldest and most important religious landmarks of Byzantine Constantinople. What makes it so special is its mosaics and frescos which not only represent 14th century Byzantine art at it’s finest but also at its most experimental. Between 1315 and 1316 Kariye underwent major restoration and renovation work thanks to Theodore Metochites who was not only a statesman and a scholar but also a patron of the arts. He had Kariye decorated with brilliant mosaics and frescos that were part of a new type of artistic expression known as Paleologan Mannerism. There was a new appreciation for the purely decorative qualities of painting and meticulous attention was given to details. Byzantine artists were encouraged to include their own observations of the world in their artistic work and figures that we were once austere and stiff became more dynamic, depicting various types of movement. There was also a shift in the conventional use of perspective. What distinguishes Kariye from other …