Turkey, September 2009

The Architecture of Istanbul

Photos by Walt & Gloria Fogler-Mancini


Over thousands of years, Istanbul has suffered from having many earthquakes, fires, conquests and other devastations. Little remains of the Roman and Byzantine Empires’ architecture.   Landmarks, such as Hagia Sophia which was designed as an earthly mirror of the heavens, have been greatly changed or disappeared over time. 

Hagia Sophia, the “church of the holy wisdom”, was built in the 6th century by the Emperor Justinian and is one of the world’s great architectural achievements. Its form influenced architecture for more than a thousand years and is seen in both mosques and churches.  It became a mosque when the Turks conquered Constantinople and a museum in 1935. 

Hagia Sophia’s original decorative mosaics suffered from the Byzantine iconoclasm, the 13th century Christian Crusaders and, later, the Muslim Turks.  Similar mosaics survived in places like Ravenna, Italy.

The 11th century Church of St. Savior in Chora was originally “in the country” and is one of the finest surviving Byzantine churches.  Its 13th century frescos and mosaics were plastered over and have gradually been restored to teach about the life of Christ.

Topkapi Palace was built by Mehmet II soon after he conquered Constantinople in 1453. It is on a promontory of Seraglio Point where the acropolis stood in Greek and Byzantine times. The palace was conceived of as a series of pavilions arranged like a stone version of the nomadic Ottomans’ tented encampments.  The extensive complex that now exists developed over time as additions were made. The sultans ruled their empire from the palace for over 400 years. 

The palace is decorated with Iznik cobalt blue and white tile.  Its designs are a mix of Chinese and Arabesque and floral and animal motifs that derive in part from the Chinese pottery that was imported into Turkey from the 14th century on via the Silk Road.

The Suleymaniye imperial mosque dates from 1550 and includes the mausoleum of Suleyman the Magnificent and his successors.  The ceramic stars that sparkle above the coffins are said to be set with emeralds.

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, or Blue Mosque, was built on the site of the Byzantine emperors’ palace in 1616.  It is known for its six minarets and the blue Iznik tiles that cover its interior. 

The largest palace in Turkey, the Dolmabahce Palace, was built on the Bosphorus in 1856.  (That view can be seen on the Bosphorus Strait page.) Its European design was extravagant and opulent, using much gold and crystal. It was built in a time when the Ottoman Empire was in decline and financed with loans from foreign banks.  The architects were members of a great family of Armenian architects.  Ataturk lived in the palace before he died in 1938.

The photographs were taken with Leica digital cameras, an M8, D-LUX 2 and R9 with a digital back.  All images are copyrighted and may not be reproduced without permission.  If you are interested in information about images or prints, please e-mail us at fogler.mancini@sbcglobal.net.       

March 24, 2010                                                                                                                                        wgfm

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