Guide Location: Turkey » Istanbul
Guide Type: Self-guided city tour
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.7 km
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia and Eloquence
Istanbul, known as Constantinople in the Middle Ages, was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire for over a millennium. Although conquered by the Ottomans in 15th century, the city still preserves many signs of its imperial Roman past that reflect the might and splendor of this long vanished empire.
Tour Stops and Attractions
1) Theodosian Wall of ConstantinopleThe Theodosian Wall, stood firm for over 11 centuries and was breached by enemy assault only once, and that marked the end of the Byzantine Empire. The medieval fortification is comprised of an outer wall, a moat, an inner wall, and over 78 battle towers.
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia and Dick Osseman
2) Gate of CharisiusGate of Charisius is also known as Adrianople gate as it led into the city. It was exactly through this gate that the first Sultan of the Ottoman empire entered the city of Constantinople, in triumph. The gate is located at the highest of the seven hills and is the second most important gate after the Golden Gate. This is also the place from where the defense of the city was mounted by the last Byzantine Emperor.
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia and Johann H. Addicks
3) Chora ChurchThe Chora Church is better known as the Church of Holy Savior in Chora, and it is one of the most relevant surviving examples of an original Byzantine church. It contains the second largest number of surviving Byzantine Mosaics, after the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul today.
The Chora Church is located to the south of the Golden Horn, in the district of Fatih, in the neighborhood of Edirnekpi. The original church was built outside the walls of Constantinople, during the fourth century. The church is named so, because of its location. The building consists of six domes and is divided into three main parts, the entrance hall, the church itself and the side chapel.
During the 16th century, the Chora church was converted into a mosque by the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Sultan of that time. Many frescos and mosaics present in the church’s interior were covered by plaster, by the order of the Sultan. In 1948 part of the church was converted into a museum, and much of the artwork, mosaics and frescos went under restoration sponsored by the Byzantine Institute of America. Today, the Chora church is a popular spot for tourists who wish to study Byzantine architecture in detail.
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia and Andreas Wahra
4) Palace of the PorphyrogenitusThe Palace of the Porphyrogenitus is also called the Tekfur Sarayı which translates to "Palace of the Sovereign" from the Turkish language. This is a thirteenth century Byzantine Palace located in the North West part of Istanbul. This palace is actually an annex of the great palace complex of Blachernae, and today, it is one of the only intact examples of Byzantine architecture in the world.
Constructed during the twelfth or the thirteenth century, the palace was built as a part of the Palace complex of Blachernae by Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos for his son Constantine Palaiologos. Most visitors mistake it to be built for the emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus. The term "Porphyrogenitus" means “Born to the Purple” which indicates that the child has been born to a ruling Emperor. The Porphyrogenitus palace served as an Imperial Residence of Emperors until the final days of the Byzantine Empire.
The Palace was located at the North corner of the Theodosian Walls, and it was a three story building. It suffered extensive damage caused by the invading Ottomans and also by earthquakes. Today the courtyard is present which is overlooked by 5 large windows. The remnant of a balcony is also present on the East.
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5) Church of St. Mary of BlachernaeThe church of St. Mary of Blachernae is an Eastern Orthodox Church, located in the Fatih district in the neighborhood of Ayvansaray. It is just a short walk from the Golden Horn, and the complex consisting of the church itself and a garden, is protected by a high wall. The church was built in 1867 and dedicated to St. Mary of Blachernae, whose shrine was erected here in the fifth century by Empress Aelia Pulcheria and her husband Emperor Marcian. The shrine was destroyed in 1434, and until its destruction, it was a very important Greek Orthodoxy sanctuary.
The church complex contains two other buildings aside from the Church itself, which are the Sacred Bath and the Chapel of the Reliquary. These were erected by Emperor Leo I, and the Holy Reliquary hosts the holy mantle and the robe of the Virgin, that have been recovered from Palestine in the year 473. The Sacred Bath encloses a fountain.
The Church is constructed in the fashion of a Basilica, with three aisles and two colonnades. A dome was also built on the Church structure by Justinian. The original mosaics have been replaced by images of flora and fauna, but the church is still visited today by tourists due to its historic significance.
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6) Ecumenical Patriarchate of ConstantinopleThe Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is also known as the Rum Ortodoks Patrikhanesi, which translates to the "Roman Orthodox Patriarchate" from the Turkish language. This is part of the wider Orthodox Church and headed by Bartholomew I the current Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. This is also one of the 14 autocephalous churches that are within the communion of Orthodox Christianity. Its location at the former capital of the Byzantine Empire, now Istanbul, makes it enjoy the status of the "first among equals" amongst the entire world's Eastern Orthodox churches.
The current church was built in the year 1720 on a Basilica plan, and is topped by a timber roof. Unlike other churches that have been built during the Byzantine times, this church lacks the grandeur of its station. This was because of the Ottoman rule prohibiting non-Muslims places of worship to bear domes or other forms of masonry on the roof. The Patriarchal Throne is said to date back to St. John Chrysostom Patriarchate in the fifth century, and his relics along with those of St. Euphemia, St. Solomone and St. Theophano, the female saints are present there. Three gold mosaic icons and the Columns of Flagellation are also present in the church.
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7) The Church of the Holy ApostlesThe Church of the Holy Apostles present in Istanbul was at one time, one of the most important churches in Christendom. Even though the church no longer survives, its site is worth a visit for its great historical significance.
The church was originally built by Constantine the Great and later, it was also rebuilt by Emperor Justinian I. It was the burial place of great Byzantine Emperors and also the Patriarchs of Constantinople from the fourth century to the eleventh century. The relics of Saints Luke, Andrews, Timothy, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom were housed in the church, but unfortunately it was plundered during the Crusades and most of the relics were lost. A severe earthquake also toppled the great church, and during the Ottoman rule, the Fatih Mosque (Conquerors Mosque) was built over the site of the church.
Today, the remains of the church can be seen at the site of the Fatih Mosque, and some of the material has been reused in the construction of the mosque. Some column pieces and stone blocks have also been identified in the courtyard of the mosque as originally belonging to the Church of the Holy Apostles.
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8) Valens AqueductThe Valens Aqueduct is called Bozdoğan Kemeri, in the Turkish language, which means "Aqueduct of the grey falcon". This is a Roman aqueduct which provided most of the water of the capital of the Eastern Roman empire, Constantinople, and now Istanbul. The aqueduct was completed by Roman Emperor Valens in the fourth century AD and it was restored several times by Ottoman Sultans.
The aqueduct is located in the district of Fatih, and is present between the hills that are occupied by the Fatih Mosque and the Istanbul University. The Atatürk Bulvarı Boulevard passes beneath its arches. The Roman Emperor Hadrian had constructed the aqueduct for the city of Istanbul, which was called Byzantium in those days, and it was originally much smaller in size. The city was rebuilt under Emperor Constantine I, and it was greatly expanded to meet the growing city’s needs.
The length of the Aqueduct of Valens is approximately 971 meters and it reaches a height if 29 meters. The masonry used is a combination of bricks and ashlar blocks. The water from the aqueduct comes from 2 lines, which are the North West line and the North East line, the water is then diverted to a distribution plant near the Hagia Sofia. The Imperial Palace is supplied by the aqueduct.
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