Istanbul Was Constantinople
Trip Start May 14, 2012
7Trip End May 28, 2012
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The period of early Christian art, called Byzantine, spanned over a thousand years and was centered in Constantinople. It was in 330 after a prophetic dream that Constantine converted from paganism to Christianity and made Christianity a legal religion. With the legalization of the Christian religion, Byzantine art flourished in the form of frescos and mosaics illustrating the life of Christ and martyred saints. There was only an elite group of higher society that was educated, and literate. So through the imagery of the church, those people who were illiterate and were unable to understand the teachings of the bible could know and understand the bible through the art in the churches. This art help to spread the doctrine of Christianity to the largely uneducated public. This population had an understanding of these frescos that people today may never understand. Also those that commissioned great pieces of Christian art believed that this helped their favor with God and ensured them a place in heaven. Constantinople is now modern day Istanbul, Turkey.
Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque are located in close proximity in Istanbul. Although a predominately Muslim area, the early Christian roots are still visible today. Hagia Sophia was originally built as a Christian church and later turned into a mosque. Some Muslims believe that Hagia sophia should not be open to the public as a museum and that it should only be a mosque. They believe that using it as a museum is disrespectful and wrong, and that it is offensive to their religion. So much so that even while we were there was a protest going on right outside. Police Surrounded Hagia Sophia with barricades and buses, armed with Semi automatic weapons and shields. A place that can be seen as just historically significant to some means much more to others.
During the conversion of the church to mosque, many elements of early Christianity remained. The mosaics of Christ which are surrounded by gold tiles, that would have flickered and become luminous in candlelight, depicted the embodiment of God on earth to Christian followers and a prophet of God (Allah) to Muslims. There are also mosaic images of the Virgin and child, and frescos of angels alternating between the names of Allah and the prophet Mohammed. There is a certain beauty, not only to the richness of the history embodied within the walls of Hagia Sophia but also to the aspects of Islam and Christianity that are harmonious rather than emphasis of division. A beautiful moment was experienced in this area of Istanbul when the call to prayer for Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia echoed between each other.
Within the first courtyard of the Topkapi Palace the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople of 381 was to have taken place in the basilica church of Hagia Irene. Unfortunately on our journey, we only got a quick glimpse of this historic Christian landmark. It was during the Council of Constantinople that the revised Nicene Creed was agreed upon and God's humanity was determined. Jesus was born, grew and matured, worked and died, therefore he was truly man. The belief of Christ as man had a great influence in Byzantine art, with images and scenes of the life and works of Christ and the beginning images of Mary, although it was not until the Council at Ephesus and Mary's acceptance of a theotokos when the interest in Mary’s role began to peak.
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, light from light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and became truly human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father [and the Son],
who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Kayire Church or the Chora Church and Museum was built in dedication to Jesus Christ. This location houses stunning examples of early Christian mosaics and frescos. A lover of Early Christian art history could be engrossed in the stories of these images for quite some time. There are images of the Christ as Pantocrator, the life and works of Christ, as well as the Dormition of Mary and many images of martyred saints. Icons were made to depict martyred saints, and early Christians would pray to these images and even seek to live as a beloved saint. These icons were created as reminder of what it meant to be a good Christian and the reward of heaven. During our journey we had the chance to view a great collection of icons in Patmos.
With Istanbul as the final destination of our journey, we all joined together for a fair well cruise and dinner. On the way to dinner we had our final dance on the bus, as a way to loosen us up and get our bodies moving after so much traveling. Our Travel guide played some turkish music and showed us how her people dance. We laughed, we smiled and we danced, helping us to forget we were stuck in in the overcrowded Istanbul traffic. This was a great way to end our journey.
We bade goodbye to where ancient meets modern worlds and fair sea breezes... Our feet well traveled and our knowledge enriched by this great experiential learning.