In this post, I’d like to talk about the general architecture on display in Istanbul and how stunning it is in both its diversity and proclivity. The historical impact of so many cultures mingling in the city cannot be overstated and create an incredible mix of ancient Greek and Roman buildings with middle-aged Byzantine and Ottoman religious buildings and modern Turkish architecture.
Probably the most interesting part of the city is the historic peninsula, the most ancient part of the city. Still standing here is the Column of Constantine, built by Emperor Constantine as a tribute to Constantinople being named Nova Roma and the Roman Empire extending far to the east of Rome. This column was rumored to hold parts of the True Cross within it. Atop this column was once a statue of Constantine dressed as Apollo, though this was blown down by strong winds in the 12th century.
Still standing are also parts of the Walls of Constantinople, which started to be built under the reign of Constantine and was completed in the 5th century by Theodosius 2nd, the Byzantine emperor at the time, to protect the city from invasion. The Hippodrome of Constantinople, which was built in the image of the Circus Maximus in Rome. The Serpentine Column, built as a tribute to Apollo for allowing victory against the Persians in 479 BC, various Aqueducts, the Column of the Goths and the Milion.
During the middle-ages, Istanbul is much like Cyprus, in that so many cultures traded with, invaded and entered the area, that each of them left their own unique mark.
Probably the most important and beautiful building from this time period is the Hagia Sophia. Rebuilt 3 times until its current incarnation, it is a beautiful cathedral built around 535. This became the largest cathedral built for another thousand years, until the Seville Cathedral in 1575, while the Renaissance was in full bloom.
Other important buildings are the Stoudios Monastery, built in 462, the Hagia Irene, the palace of Porphrygenitus, the Chora Church, the Galata Tower, Leander’s Tower and Palazzo Del Comune.
The Ottoman Turk age
After the Ottomans conquered the city in 1453, ending the Byzantine Empire, and by proxy, the Roman empire, which had lasted 1,500 years. This is also commonly marked as the end of the middle ages.
When the Ottomans conquered the city, Sultan Mehmet 2nd made sure to keep most of the important religious buildings intact and largely untouched. This is because he needed to place his own contingent into these buildings as the new religious leaders in order to appease his troops and keep his kingdom and armies together without rebelling. Constantinople, then being renamed Istanbul, became the new capital of the Ottoman Empire, and remained so until 1922, when the country became the republic of Turkey.
After conquering the city, Mehmet even started a large regeneration and construction plan throughout the city, constructing buildings such as the Fatih Mosque, the Topkapi Palace, the Yedikule Castle, the Grand Bazaar, the Eyup Sultan Mosque and many other mosques.
Over the years, eventually gothic and european influences started to take hold in the architecture of the city, creating a situation where Neo-gothic mosques stood next to Islamic style cathedrals, and wooden Ottoman Turk dwellings.
The city is a real melting pot of different cultures and this really plays out in the architecture of the area and reminds one much of Cyprus, particularly Paphos.