Our week in Istanbul ended with a boat tour of the Bosporus. The second photo is of a smaller mosque on shore, smaller because lacking the many minarets of the larger mosques. The third photo is of a suspension bridge across the Bosporus and the fourth of some lovely people on board from the Republic of Ireland with whom we had a spirited conversation-filled lunch.
There are three photos below, the first of Mary with a buddy she made, the last two of a delicious fish dinner we enjoyed at the end of our trip, accompanied by the inevitable Efes glasses of beer we had been enjoying since we arrived in Istanbul. Happy 2020!
This is a not-to-miss site. Constructed in and around 1660, it is also named the Egyptian eyalet, “eyalet” referring to a province or district within the Ottoman Empire that was a source of building funds. The Misir Carsisi, or Spice Bazaar, is a huge covered shopping complex of some 85 stores featuring spices to be sure, but as you can see in the photos below, all sorts of goodies (tea and the variously made cubes of sticky jellies known as Turkish delights).
It is possible so to identify Istanbul with Islam that the city’s eagerness to appeal to Western style tastes (European and American especially) goes unrecognized. But here we are enjoying a delicious food combination at a hotel other than ours.
Turkish carpets have been famous for their quality for centuries. So it was a pleasure to have our tour bus stop to examine some, especially since a few on our tour looked interested in buying one and having it waiting for them at their door when they arrived home. Needless to say, we were not among those buyers. Neither were the two sitting near the salesman on your left.
The first photo is of a ceiling mosaic depicting in the center the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child: on the left side as you look at it is a model of Constantine with his new city of Constantinople and on the right Constantine with a model of his new Church.
The above photo and the one after it record the existence of Hagia Sophia in the heyday of the 6th-century Roman Emperor Justinian.
The above photo, as you can see, records a 9th century mosaic panel of the Archangel Gabriel and the last one a dateless marking of the place in the Hagia Sophia where emperors were crowned.
Taken together these photos speak to me, along with the wonders of Byzantine art in the first one, an excessive partnership between Church and State during the Byzantine period. That situation has persisted in many places and is by no means confined to Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Islamic religions.
The Hagia Sophia (Church of the Holy Wisdom of God, or the Logos, or the Second Person of the Holy Trinity) stands close to the Blue Mosque and together the two represent the two great religions of Istanbul: Christianity and Islam. The Hagia Sophia dates from the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine (360 AD), was turned into a mosque in 1453, and then, in 1931, a museum. It stood for over a thousand years therefore as a Christian Church, more specifically a Cathedral of the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church, famous for its interior Byzantine art and its architecture. Even now one is struck by the contrast between the frank humanity of the interior art, mosaics mostly, and the colorful abstractions of the interior of the Blue Mosque.
An Ottoman mosque from the 15th to the 20th century, the Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum in 1931 by Ataturk, the President of the secular Republic of Turkey. It stands now simultaneously as a moving reminder of the earlier stages of institutionalized Christianity and a popular tourist attraction.
People wishing to enter this or most other mosques must take off their shoes and, if they are women, wear a hat and scarf. It was winter in Istanbul when we were there, and since no place was provided to put your shoes, you simply put them down any place you could find inside the entrance and looked around for them among everyone else’s shoes when you left. At first I found this irritating, much like the endless call to prayer ringing out every half hour or so. But on reflection I began to think of both practices as an Islamic insistence on the presence of Allah everywhere, a presence requiring a sort of thoughtless reverence. After I did that, both the required forgetfulness of shoes inside the mosque and the call to prayer outside blended into the atmosphere of the city and made me feel like I had been, somewhat forcefully to be sure, inducted into the Islamic faith. I found myself, in other words, not so much annoyed as complimented. Certainly neither Mary or I look irritated in the following photo, taken inside the Blue Mosque by our guide.
This mosque, one of the two most famous in Istanbul, is called the Blue Mosque after its blue interior tiles, as in the photo below.