We met our tour guide Ertunga Ecir this morning. His Internet reviews are so good that we had to choose him. We will be together for the next three weeks. Ertunga has planned an amazing itinerary of Turkey with a special focus on Biblical sites.
Our first stop was the Chora Museum. Chora means “Out of the City Walls”. They are not sure when it was built but it was placed inside a new city wall that was built in 413 A.D.
Chora Church was originally a Byzantine church, then it was a mosque, and now it is a museum. It is most known for its beautiful vibrant mosaics.
In its construction, holes were made in the ceiling corners to control echoes. Further accoustic considerations were that two handled pottery called amphora were put inside the dome space corners.
When it was turned into a mosque, they did not tear down the mosaics but plastered over them since mosques don’t have people, images, or statues.
In the church building today, the entryway is called a narthex. This church has two which was typical of the period. An exonarthex contains mosiacs illustrating the life of Jesus and the next narthex called esonarthex where mosiacs illustrate the life of Mary.
Narthex gets its name from a plant. This giant fennel plant was used for torches and symbolized bringing light into the darkness.
In the first and second century, the early church was growing fast albeit in secret. The early church preachers were pagan converts who also brought pagan traditions which were understandable to the pagan converts. Under Constantine, the church grew more rapidly.
Paganism had separate gods for everything. If you needed to buy something for the house, you had to go to the house god. One God was more convenient because it was like a supermarket. Everything under one roof.
Islam was also affected by pagan converts bringing their traditions. Bowing as unto idols is one of those.
The Golden Horn is waterway and primary inlet of the Bosphorus. It likely got its name because the land on each side of the river was so fertile. Or perhaps because the people that were fleeing Constantinopole were dropping gold and other precious items.
Pierre Loti, a French novelist, who wrote 171 books, lived in Istanbul and penned many of his works on a hill overlooking the Bosphorus. It is called Pierre Loti Hill. Anyone could be inspired by the views.
The famous opera Madama Butterfly and contemporary musical Miss Saigon is based on his autobiographical story called Madame Chrysanthemum.
The large military band was invented by the Ottoman Army and is called the mehteran. They played non-stop and it was a type of psychological warfare. (This was before earplugs!) This is one reason that the Ottomans were able to drag their ships over land without the people of Constantinopole knowing about it and hearing it until the next morning.
Thousands of musicians played Turkish Janissary music that affected and influenced the European classical musicians Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven, both of whom composed music in the Turkish style. Examples include Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 11 (c. 1783), Beethoven’s incidental music for The Ruins of Athens (1811), and the final movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.
Mozart and Beethoven heard this music as the Ottomans attempted to gain Austrian lands. The Catholics united and drove the Ottomans out and halted their advance into Austria.
We boarded a private yacht Eren for a cruise along the Bosphorus Strait.
There are so many boats. We were amazed to learn that there were no bridges until 1977.
The Bosphorus is ⅓ mile across at its narrowest point. In 1452 (one year before the fall of Constantinople) Mehmet II built a castle and fortress here. The walls spelled out the name Allah as seen from above. He used religion to inspire war.
Rome had tried to get Constantine to convert to Catholicism. He refused. They wanted him to give permission for the Orthodox to become Catholic upon his death. He refused. There was always a battle between the Catholics and the Royal family. He wanted to protect Othodox from Catholics.
“I can be ruled by a turban, but not a mitre.”
The Catholics would not provide any help to Constantinopole against Ottomans.
The army needs income. They need to conquer and make war to pay the military. If an army is not busy, it is dangerous. They WILL plunder.
For Ottomans was acceptable for the army to plunder for 3 days. (Halal means acceptable.) Mehmet II would only allow one day because he wanted to quickly restore the city.
A sultan will build and decorate when empire is declining. When things are going well, they don’t have to show off. Everything is simple.
Even the current Turkish president Erdogen has built a palace with 1,200 rooms. Can you imagine cleaning that? Three rooms a day for a year would still not clean every room? Or what if you misplaced your keys?? Anyway, does building a big palace like that tell you that his days are numbered?
As you progress east in Turkey, the decorations become more gold and shiny.
When there are four or more minarets, the mosque was built by the Sultan.
In 1548, Suleyman the Magnificent asked Sinan the architect to build a mosque. He had become an architect at age 50. Prior to that, he traveled the world and saw many new things.
This simple yet stunning mosque is his masterpiece. He used many new ideas for the first time in Istanbul. Construction took place from 1550-1557.
- Heating the floor from underneath by holes like roman bath
- Holes in walls and ceilings for acoustics, many holes
- Smoke from candles was captured in an upper room and made into ink
- Ostrich eggs used to repel spiders so they didn’t make webs on the high ceiling
Prayers in the Mosque
There is a call to prayer five times a day. Friday noon is the most important time to come to the mosque. Men touch shoulder to shoulder. Woman are on the 2nd floor and enter through the side gates.
One can see all types of dress for women. All woman must have hair covered and shoulders and knees covered when entering the mosque. Men must have their knees covered.
Koran only says to cover what is shameful and does not specify to women or men. That is interpretation and tradition.
Koran does not say how to pray. That is interpretation and tradition as well.
The Imam leads prayers. In Turkey, every Imam is saying the same thing during the noon prayer service. This is good and bad.
The words are controlled by the government. The religious leaders in authority making these decisions are paid by the government. The original purpose is for the services not to incite violence and anger.
In Iran, Syria and Egypt, the Imams can say anything and they are often political and calling for action.
The Imams in Iran are influential Shiites. Syria and Egypt are Sunnis.
The Spice Road and Silk Road start in Istanbul. We went to the famous spice market which was a blast for the senses: colorful saffron, sweet baklava, sellers voices, and heady aromas.