Historical Istanbul

A View of Istanbul
Galata Tower, Istanbul, a view from the top.

Istanbul is the one of the few cities in the world that straddles two continents: Asia and Europe.

Istanbul is strategically located on the Bosphorus peninsula between the Balkans and Anatolia, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. Throughout the span of years it has witnessed major political, religious and artistic events thus surrounded by historical sights such as mosques, churches, palaces and even more of which only traces remain.

The first known name of the city is Byzantium (Greek: Βυζάντιον, Byzántion), thought to be derived from a personal name, Byzas. Constantine the Great made it the new eastern capital of the Roman Empire in 330 CE and the city became widely known as "Constantinopolis" (Constantinople), which, as the Latinized form of "Κωνσταντινούπολις" (Konstantinoúpolis), means the "City of Constantine". The name İstanbul derives from the Medieval Greek phrase "εἰς τὴν Πόλιν" which means "to the city" and is how Constantinople was referred to by the local Greeks. The importance of Constantinople in the Ottoman world was also reflected by its Ottoman name 'Der Saadet' meaning the 'gate to Prosperity' in Ottoman.

This ancient city known as Constantinople and Byzantium after its reestablishment in 330 CE served as an imperial capital for almost 16 centuries, during the Roman and Byzantine (330–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin (1204–1261), and the Ottoman (1453–1922) empires. It was instrumental in the advancement of Christianity during Roman and Byzantine times, before the Ottomans conquered the city in 1453 and transformed it into an Islamic stronghold and the seat of the Ottoman Caliphate.

In the historical Peninsula, where the majority of historical monuments are found, lies along the Golden Horn and inside of the city walls of Constantinople. The most famous of these monuments are Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, The Wall of Theodosius, Topkapı Palace, Suleymaniye Mosque, Basilica Cistern, Saint Eirene, , Archeological Museum, Grand Bazaar, Spice Bazaar, and more.

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

Hagia Sophia will always be celebrated for the luxuriousness and opulence of it's decoration.

Hagia Sophia, "The Church of Holy Wisdom of God", the former Orthodox patriarchal basilica was constructed between 532 and 537 by the orders of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, and was designed by Isidore of Miletus (today’s Milet) and Anthemius of Tralles (today‘s Aydin). Hagia Sophia is the third construction; two previous church buildings were burned down, first dating back to 332.

From the second construction, several marble blocks and the relief marble depicting 12 lamb representing 12 apostles still survive in the Atrium. Until Seville Cathedral completion in1520 it was the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years and still is the fourth largest and being the oldest church in the world after St. Peter’s in Rome, Seville Cathedral and Milan Cathedral.

Between years of 360 and 1453 it served as the cathedral of Constantinople and during the Latin Crusaders invasion (1204 -1261), it was converted to Roman Catholic cathedral. In 1453 Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople and it was converted to a mosque until 1934 and some Islamic features were added (mihrab, minbar, and four minarets) while mosaics were plastered over and the bells, altar, 15 meters silver iconostasis, sacrificial vessels were removed. Hagia Sophia was converted to a museum in 1935 by the Turkish Republic.

Fener and Balat

Balat, Istanbul
Balat, Istanbul

The neighbourhoods of Fener and Balat have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The areas of Fatih, Fener and Balat are the richest in history in Istanbul. The streets in those areas are full of historic wooden mansions, churches, and synagogues dating from the Byzantine and Ottoman eras. After the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Fener district became home to many of the Greeks in the city. The Patriarchate of Constantinople moved to the area as well and is still located there. As a result, "Phanar(i)" is often used as shorthand for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, just as "Vatican" is used for the Holy See of the Roman Catholic Church. During the Ottoman period, the Greek inhabitants of Fener were called "Phanariotes" and were important assistants to the Sultan in various capacities and offices.

The Fener-Balat neighborhoods are rich in their architectural and cultural heritage and hosted the variety of community groups living on the site throughout their history. The rapid growth of the city since the 1950’s, due to rural migration, has affected the quality of life in various sections of the city leaving them almost completely derelict. The Fener-Balat neighborhoods faced sharp population changes and devastation of physical and socio-economical characteristics mostly since the 1950s and 60s.

Starting with the UNESCO world heritage listing in 1985 the historical peninsula in general became an attraction point. They were announced as renewal sites by UNESCO in 2006. The mission was to regenerate the historical residential units, to promote the area as a historical reincarnation and to preserve socio-cultural identities. That socio-economic revitalization and transformation of the Fener and Balat neighbourhoods brought gentrification. In many cases, the lower-income residents who originally lived in these districts had to move out because they could no longer afford to live there.
Ozyegin University Students Fener / Balat Involvement with Internship Research Project.

Great School of the Nation

Great School of the Nation, Fener, Istanbul
Great School of the Nation, Fener, Istanbul

The Great School of the Nation is the oldest surviving and most prestigious Greek Orthodox Lyceum in Istanbul.

The oldest surviving and most prestigious Greek Orthodox school in Istanbul known in Greek as the Great School of the Nation (Greek: Η Μεγάλη του Γένους Σχολή, Turkish: Özel Fener Rum Lisesi), is found in Fener and was established in 1454 by the Patriarch, Gennadius Scholarius who appointed the Thessalonian Matthaios Kamariotis as its first Director. It soon became the school of the prominent Greek (Phanariotes) and other Orthodox families in the Ottoman Empire, and many Ottoman ministers as well as Wallachian and Moldavian princes appointed by the Ottoman state, such as Dimitrie Cantemir, graduated from it.

It was designed by the Ottoman Greek architect Konstantinos Dimadis, the building was erected between 1881 and 1883 and often referred to as "the 5th largest castle in Europe" because of its castle-like shape. The large dome at the top of the building is used as an observatory for astronomy classes and has a large antique telescope inside.
More photos from the Great School of the Nation.