Saturday, August 8, 2015

The walls of Istanbul

Enormous wall image of Agave in Kadikoy
In most cities, walls can be intriguing or beautiful. But like everything else in Constantinople (yes, I know...Istanbul), the walls don't whisper, they speak. Sometimes they weep and often they scream--at least to those whose ears are trained. At the quay of Kadikoy (a rather nice phrase that) I was stunned to see an enormous building sized image of an American agave (looking suspiciously like A. parryi). Lovely image, of course, and somehow overlapping a lot of my personal mythology. Chalcedon was after all where the "blind people" the Delphic oracle referred to lived (who settled there rather than on the opposite coast where Byzans was established by Megarans). By the way, one of the many small private triumphs of my personal mythology was to inadvertendly bring a Megaran back to Byzans, so to speak (Eleutherios Dariotis--better known on the Web as Liberto Dario's family comes from Megara south of Athens).

Gallery of Hagia Sophia
When were these faux-marble panels painted on the gallery of the Hagia Sophia? Do they really go back to the sixth century? I really want to know (and somewhere there must have been someone who's researched it?). What a contrast to the gorgeous true marble on the lower level. And whatever happened to the marble vestments of the Holy Apostles and all the other churches that were plundered in the fourth Crusade, or damaged by fire, earthquake or the passage of time? This is the sort of thing that I think about.

A closeup from the last picture showing the incredibly ornate patterns bordering the "marble": and what's with the stained bit? That's the sort of thing I notice and worry about...was it missed in the cleaning?
More faux marble at Hagia Sophia
And what's with the faux arches? Where are they from?

Antique scene on Sultan's tomb
 There are several splendid tombs of Sultans and Holy men abutting the Hagia Sophia, and this is a vignette painted over the lintel beside the doorway leading into one of them: a charming image of a ruin...perhaps Byzantine? When was it painted, and by whom? An Italian imported for the job, or was there a landscape school of fresco painters in Ottoman times (a thought that bends the mind).

 The interior of the spectacular Tile Museum in the Topkapi next to Aghia Irene: this gem of Ottoman art and architecture is a highlight for me: equalling the Byzantine art I love so much in artistry. I have to hand it to the Turks: they are an amazing nation with their own grand and ancient glory.

We did not seek out, but stumbled on this church, which I don't believe is particularly important historically or otherwise. Would have liked to go it--but it would be a chore. This is in the "Fanari" district (Fener nowadays) formerly the stronghold of the Greek community in Istanbul. We did meet a few by accident--they're still there! But this area and the neighboring Fatih are more and more predominated by quite severe looking Turks of very conservative religious persuasion (probably from Eastern Turkey?). From a distance, many of the women looked like Greek nuns.

 One of two or three Greek schools remaining in the city: this one a Victorian monstrosity with my least favorite color of brick and truly bizarre brickwork. I'm glad I didn't go to school here--although a little part of me would have liked to.

The Archaeological museum in the Topkaki is a gem--beautifully curated and full of treasures--almost all of the prehistoric, Archaic, Classical and some Hellenistic, mostly Greek art (although the Phrygians and other Indo-European sister cultures are naturally represented)...not technically a wall, but this witty decal over the women's restroom marker showing a picture of Theodora (from the magnificent mosaic at San Vittale in Ravenna): ironically, the same mosaic was featured at the Byzantine Museum of Athens in a very different context: how ironic that the greatest image of the Greatest Constantinopolitan emperor and his wife should be in Italy! Not far from Venice, which was most responsible for Byzantium's ultimate demise! (These sorts of ironies strike me all the time--there must be a name for it? Aspergers?)

Draped monument in Istanbul
There are no end of Ottoman (and a few Byzantine) monuments throughout Istanbul draped with these enormous canvases: the image of the monument within is usually screened onto the drapery--and a lot of money is being spent cleaning up and renovating the antique bits of the city that are left. I suspect it's being done pretty well: there are many people in Turkey concerned and conscious of the vast cultural treasures--so many of which have been impacted by the explosive population growth of the region and spectacular economic development. Graffiti are common, although not as common as in Greece. This one says "baby murderer Israel".

I was going to end with a mosaic, or perhaps the astonishing Anastasis of the Kariya Camii--but that would be to easy. Instead, this amazing wall photograph of a monochromatic face (sleeping?) The crown is the ornate Greek school I featured earlier. We're in the Fener still, not far from the Orthodox Patriarchate. How many cities possess walls like this? None speak so eloquently, or so loudly to my soul.

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