First Visit to Turkey with Gerhard 1954

 The Golden Horn and the Süleymaniya Mosque seen from the Galata side. Two porters taking a break.


 The shores of the Golden Horn from the Stambul Bazaar. Today a modern highway has been built along this waterfront and some of the flotsam has disappeared - as has much of the bazaar, but the Golden Horn has remained the sewer of Istanbul.... On top of the hill stands the Galata Tower, once the center of the Greek town, who still are a large minority there.

At a teahouse in Besiktas, Gerhard, Boni and Tilda Ilel, whom we had met in Italy in 1953 and who were a major reason for hitch-hiking 2000 km to Istanbul in 1954.

Two porters near Sinan's hamam. The Blue Mosque in the background.

A mesçit - small mosque and, wooden houses somewhere in old Istanbul.



The Sultan Achmed or Blue Mosque (1609-16) seen from the Aghia Sophia



 The dome and minarets of the Süleymaniye Camii (1550-57) at right the walls of the attached hospice. Like many of the most remarkable mosques in Istanbul this superb building was designed and built for Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent - incidentally he was a Kurd(!) - by his architect Miman Sinan who was a Janitshar from Bosnia— a Christian orphan forcefully converted to Islam. The Janitshari constituted the crack troops of the Sultans.

Tile mosaic on the türbe — tomb of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent and his wife Haseki Hürrem Sultan in the cemetery of the Süleymaniye. The architect Miman Sinan is also buried here. (1990)



The Lamp — Interior of the Sultan Achmed Mosque: the Columns were taken from antique buildings some as far as Alexandria, the arches are Byzantine, topped with Islamic stalactites. - One of the few photos taken with a tripod.



Istambul-Lâleli at night from the hostel Gerhard stayed in (1955).

 In 1955 Gerhard went back to Istanbul to visit Christine whom, in 1954, we had "sold" as governess to a Turkish family. Together with our sculptor-architect friend Herbert Press they embarked on a boat trip across the Black Sea to Samsun. There Herbert had a near fatal liver collapse — he drank too much — and had to be flown back to Germany. Gerhard and Christine set out again by train for Anatolia.... For details of our trip to Turkey see: Turkey 1954 and for a map click: Map


Byzantine Istanbul, 1990 with Barbara

The Sultan Achmed Mosque in the rain seen from a clerestory window in the women's gallery of the Aghia Sophia

In May 1990, thirty-six years later, Barbara and I went back to Turkey to explore Istanbul and Anatolia with better understanding. All together we spent three weeks in Anatolia and two in Istanbul— much of the time in Sinan's mosques, because it was cold and rained a lot.

The interior of the Aghia Sophia. The calligraphies were painted by a Turkish Sultan during the time the Aghia Sophia was used as mosque


The Aghia Sophia was built on the foundations of two earlier churches erected by the Emperors Constantine the Great (360) and Theodosios (415). Today's building was commissioned by Justinian I in 560. It is the most daring and never surpassed building of Byzantine times. The enormous buttresses, several other additions, and, of course, the four minarets date from the 15th -16th century.

Parts of a deesis: Christ and John the Baptist, now removed from the walls and on exhibition in the upper story (women's galleries) of the church. This deesis was commissioned by Emperor Michael III Paleologos in 1261 after the Latin crusaders had ransacked the church and Konstantinopolis. They are among the most sophisticated Byzantine mosaics extant.

The Aghia Sophia seen from the Church of Aghia Eirene (commissioned in 558 by Justinian I, rebuilt after an earthquake in 750; now a concert hall). The photograph was carefully chosen so that the minarets of the Aghia Sophia are hidden, but the buttresses can be seen.....



1990 The Church of Our Savior in the Khora (Kariye Ekklesia)

There are several other Byzantine churches still extant in Istanbul. Most have for several centuries served as mosques and were only recently restored. The most famous, because of its mosaics, is the "Kariye" outside the old Byzantine Walls. It was the center of a monastery which in its foundations goes back to the 6th-11th century. Its present state is due to Theodore Metokhites, Grand-Chancellor of the Treasury of Emperor Andronicus II Paleologos. Built between 1315-21 it is the last major sacred building before Konstantinopolis fell to the Turks (1453).. The interior is from the same time.

Mosaic of Christ's baptism of Christ. The Khora Church had also been converted into a mosque (known as Kariye Camii), it is now, like the Aghia Sophia, a museum. It possesses the most complete cycle of Byzantine mosaics in Istanbul, only Ossios Lukas in Greece has better preserved mosaics.

 Christ Pantocrator surrounded by apostles and saints in the center of the dome of the esonarthex.


 According to the excellent website of the Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul: ( ) this mosaic shows the registration of Mary and Joseph in front of the tax collector in Bethlehem — maybe this curious subject was close to the heart of Treasurer Metokhites.... (I had erroneously believed that Emperor Andronicus II Paleologos was shown dedicating the church to the Virgin....)

Christ the Savior and in the pendetive the miracle of Christ multiplying the bread to feed the 5000(?)



The vault of the main church


The Parecclesion of the Church in the Khora

Attached to the main church is a "pareclesion," a church used for funeral rites of important persons. Its eschatological frescoes are unique for their time in Byzantine religious art.

The vault of the Parecclesion



The Anastasis of Christ, symbolizes the promise of resurrection in the Eastern Church. Christ, returning from the underworld, pulls Adam and Eve from their graves to their resurrection.



1990 Islamic and Modern Istanbul

The Sultan Achmed Mosque reflected in a fountain



Spring blossoms and the Sultan Achmed Mosque



Park along the Sea of Marmara below the Topkapi Seray



The Letter



Women and a child in Topkapi Park



Inside the domed Kapali Çarsisi - the Great Covered Bazaar of Stambul, a maze of 5000 shops and alleys in which one can easily get lost for an entire day



An art student repainting the ornaments in the Great Bazaar


Water sellers

Girl getting water



Old man before ritually washing his feet (Süleymaniye)

Rolf and the Cat



 The mosque at Eyüb (1798) where the Islamic Martyr-Saint Eyüb Ansara, the flag-bearer of Sultan Mahomet the Conqueror, is buried. He died before the walls of Konstantinopolis. In the 19th century Eyüb was The meeting place of artists and writers most famous among them Pierre Loti (1850-1923). The odor of their hashish pipes still lingers in Eyüb's decadent fin-de- ciecle cafés.

Magnificent Iznik tiles decorate the tomb of the Saint whose sarcophagus is bathed by garish green fluorescent lights.


 Saudi Arabian women under the keen eyes of an eunuch(?) touring the Topkapi Museum



Mirimah Camii in Üsküdar on the Asiatic side of the Bosphoros. It was built in 1547 by Sinan for the daughter of Süleyman the Magnificent. The high-rise buildings (Hilton Hotel) of Pera in the distance.


The lovely Sufi cemetery of Mirimah Camii.  



Woman waiting at a fountain in Üsküdar



 The Aghia Sophia seen from the boat to the Princess Islands in the Sea of Marmara.


1990 Bursa

Before the Ottomans were finally able to storm Konstantinopolis their capital for four centuries (1075-1453) was Bursa, some 100 km south across the Sea of Marmara. It is an ancient town at the foot of Mount Ulu Dag with hot sulfur baths and several beautiful old monuments. In 1954 Gerhard and I spent a week there and in an officers camp on Mt. Ulu Dag.

Kemal Mustafa Attatürk watching over two sleepers on the boat to Yalova and Bursa (1990). Attatürk, the founder of modern Turkey is still an unassailable icon of the Turks. God protect the foreigner who maligns his memory!


The Muradiye Camii and the foothills of Ulu Dag seen from the Yesil Türbe


Beautiful Yesil Türbe — Green Tomb is not really green but blue. What does it matter, the Chinese also have only one character for green and blue.


Ulu Camii

Ulu Camii - Great Mosque (1396) is an enchanted place with a fountain at its center and exquisite calligraphies on the walls. We sat there twice for a long time listening to the lilting water, no one disturbed us.


 The second time was on a Friday after the service. Old men reading the Qur'an.



  A little way up the mountain the türbeli—tombs of the Ottoman Murad Dynasty (14th and 15th century) surround Murad II's mosque. One of the most intimate places in Turkey.

Women leaving the Muradiye Camii after the Friday services...

...followed later by a group of young school girls in purdah



A lone woman near the türbe of Murad II



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