Istanbul has always been one of the most important cities of the Mediterranean world. The city served as the capital of three former empires- Late Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman- throughout history. Considerable number of archaeological remains and monuments from the Medieval period survived. Visitors of the city enjoys historic remains and monuments mostly situated where locals called “historic peninsula” which surrounded by the old city walls.
Journey begins at Eminönü Port (41.017810, 28.973246) which is located at mouth of Halic. Spice (Egyptian) Bazaar (41.016609, 28.970530), just across the port, is one of the largest bazaars in the city. After two stops on the tram way into the center there is Istanbul Archaeological Museums (41.011969, 28.981352) inherited to the Republic of Turkey from the Ottoman Empire with a very appealing neo-classical structure and countless artifacts from different areas and cultures. Just up the slope with 700.000 squaremeters area one of the biggest palaces for the age, Topkapı Palace (41.011770, 28.983379) stands, which has been built in 1478. Soutwest of Topkapı Palace, Hagia Irene (Aya İrini) (41.009885, 28.981173) or Saint Irene is an Eastern Orthodox church located in the outer courtyard of Topkapı Palace. It is open as a museum every day except Tuesday.
Among the medieval monuments of the city, Haghia Sophia (41.008806, 28.980186) deserves a special attention as the main cathedral of the imperial capital and also as a magnificent still standing example of the world’s architectural heritage. The cathedral first built on 360 then destroyed by a fire and rebuilt on 415 during the reign of Theodosius II. Second cathedral was damaged during the Nike uprising. Today’s lofty domed cathedral was built on 537 during the Byzantine emperor Justinian.
It was one of the largest man made structures of the era. Its vaulted nave was greater than the all vaulted interiors of antiquity and medieval ages. For nearly a millennia the cathedral served as the center of Constantinople’s religious life, in fact as the heart of eastern christendom and as the patriarchal seat. The cathedral converted to a mosque in 1453 during the Ottoman period. In 1934 it is converted to a museum and opened to touristic visits.
The Sultan Ahmet Mosque or popularly known as the Blue Mosque, (41.005934, 28.976219) for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior, was built from 1609 to 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. Its Külliye contains a tomb of the founder, a madrasah and a hospice. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is still being popularly used as a mosque. After Sultanahmet Square, five minutes walk will bring you to The Column of Constantine also known as the Burnt Stone (41.008611, 28.971111), which is a Roman monumental column constructed on the orders of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great in 330 AD. It commemorates the declaration of Byzantium (renamed by Constantine as Nova Roma) as the new capital city of the Roman Empire. The column is located on Yeniçeriler Caddesi in the eponymous neighborhood of Çemberlitaş, Fatih, central Istanbul, along the old Divan Yolu (the ‘Road to the Imperial Council’) between the Hippodrome of Constantinople (now Sultanahmet Square) and the Forum of Theodosius (now Beyazıt Square).
Another must-see place which located on Beyazıt Square; Grand Bazaar (41.010928, 28.968057), is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops which attract between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily In 2014, it is listed No.1 among world’s most-visited tourist attractions with 91,250,000 annual visitors. Near Grand Bazaar and Beyazıt Square, with its historic gate and other structures, Istanbul University (41.012766, 28.961849) covers a large area. Towards the Marmara Sea in Yenikapı neighborhood, there is Yenikapı Transfer Center (41.0053, 28.9516), an underground transportation complex is right next to the, indefinitely closed, Yenikapı railway station and a short walk away from the Yenikapı Ferry Terminal and İDO ferry service. Yenikapı complex links two stations of Istanbul Metro to a railway station of the Turkish State Railways on the trans-Bosphorus Marmaray tunnel. Yenikapı is the largest rapid transit station in Turkey. In addition, the Istanbul Archaeological Museums began conducting salvage archaeological excavations in association with Istanbul’s Marmaray Project In November 2004. Neighbourhood of Yenikapı in Istanbul’s old city became the scene of the largest archaeological excavation, over 58,000 squaremeters in area. These excavations soon began to unearth the remains of the Theodosian Harbour, the largest harbour of the Byzantine capital of Constantinople. The Theodosian Harbour, situated on the city’s Sea of Marmara (Propontis) shore, was the largest of Constantinople’s four main commercial harbours between the 4th and early 7th centuries AD, and the recent excavations confirm that it continued to be used for small- and medium-sized ships until at least the late 10th or early 11th century AD. After the excavations, in 2013 transfer center entered service.
The Küçükyalı ArkeoPark (40.9430301,29.115854,247) covers a medium-sized (ca. 4.500 sq m) archaeological and natural space tucked in between modern buildings in the Çınar neighborhood, district of Küçükyalı on Istanbul`s Asian side. Several of the local inhabitants recall when, some decades ago, the neighborhood was less built, the area appeared greener and displayed more suburban features that by now have now largely vanished. In antiquity, the ancient remains were much closer to the sea of Marmara, within close visual range of the Prince` islands and, were part Byzantine Constantinople`s hinterland/suburbs. Today, Küçükyalı is a tranquil neighborhood part of Istanbul`s greater metropolitan area, treasuring the largest surviving archaeological space within the city`s Asian side.
While archaeological work at Küçükyalı progresses, the ArkeoPark Project does also pay special emphasis to public engagement. Through educational activities, a children`s club, a wide range of on-site cultural events ranging from free guided tours of the site to open-air concerts and movie screening the ArkeoPark shares its archaeological discoveries while also fostering learning and ownership. The Küçükyalı ArkeoPark Project encapsulates a small yet important piece of Istanbul`s heritage. In it, the green space its ecology and the archaeological remains form a balance of nature and history. Our Project aims at better understanding, preserving and representing this balance in a long lasting way while making the space available to the local community and outside visitors.
In antiquity, that is in Byzantine times, the remains forming the complex at Küçükyalı extended well beyond the current boundaries of the ArkeoPark and were in close contact with a surrounding network of suburban residences, agricultural estates, roads, cemeteries, small harbors and more. These suburban qualities continued into the Ottoman and Early Republican periods.
The surviving remains at the site center around a rectangular platform. The platform was created in antiquity thanks also to a massive earth removal with large retaining walls built to support the platform. The earth fill and the monumental retaining walls are still visible on-site. The lower level of the platform, completely underground in antiquity, was occupied in part by a cistern. The western portion of the cistern –that is the area close to the road- was originally covered by four rows of parallel brick domes, which collapsed a long time ago. The cistern`s floor was subsequently filled by some 2.5/3m. of earth leaving this section of the cistern as an open-air green space. Some of the cultural activities run by the ArkeoPark take place in this scenic setting. The eastern part of the cistern conserves its original roofing system dominated by a monumental brick dome, worthy the visit. Once in this space visitors may also observe the feeding channel, which brought water most likely from the Samandira (ancient Damatrys) plateau.
A stroll on the Mastik Trees Walkway will lead visitors to the complex`s platform. There, above the cistern`s dome are the remains of a large-sized Byzantine period church, currently undergoing excavation. The church was dominated by a central dome resting right above the cistern`s dome. Excavations of the church have brought to light a single individual funerary chapel inserted in the southeastern corner of the building.
Other areas of the platform are also being excavated and, in the southeastern corner, connected to the platform`s walls, the remains of a square tower have been in part excavated. In antiquity the tower must have been very tall and it faced towards the Sea of Marmara. The platform had a portico with columns running around it and, traces of it have been identified during excavations on its eastern and northern side.
The Küçükyalı ArkeoPark and Its Vicinities: The Princes’ Islands
Küçükyalı ArkeoPark represents an alternative location to the areas in Istanbul which touristic activities are concentrated. The only urban archaeology site on the Asian side of Istanbul which is easy to reach both by sea lines and railways, carries a potential to become an important component of Istanbul’s cultural tourism. The Republican era architectural heritage, the historical and cultural ties between the site and the Princes’ Islands makes Küçükyalı ArkeoPark possible to be a part of sustainable cultural routes. The site is also connected the site to the existing bike lane on Marmara Sea Shore.
The Princes’ Islands are an archipelago off the coast of Istanbul, Turkey, in the Sea of Marmara. The islands constitute the Adalar district of Istanbul Province. They consist of four larger islands, Büyükada (Prinkipo), Heybeliada (Chalki), Burgazada (Antigoni), Kınalıada (Proti) and five much smaller ones, Sedef Adası (Terebinthos), Yassıada (Plati), Sivriada (Oxia), Kaşık Adası and Tavşan Adası.
During the Byzantine period, princes and other royalty were exiled on the islands, and later members of the Ottoman sultans family were exiled there too, giving the islands their present name. They were taken by the Ottoman fleet during the siege of Constantinople in 1453. During the nineteenth century, the islands became a popular resort for Istanbul’s wealthy, and Victorian-era cottages and houses are still preserved on the largest of the Princes’ Islands.
Heybeliada (Chalki) and the Theological School of Halki
The Orthodox Church’s activities on the island of Halki are traced back to the Byzantine period when the Monastery of the Holy Trinity (40.8819003,29.0950521,180) was founded on the island. A date for the founding of the monastery is not known although the establishment of the monastery has been associated with Photius I, Patriarch of Constantinople (r. 858–861 and 878–886).
The school of theology was established on the grounds of the old monastery after Patriarch Germanus IV visited the island in 1842. Then, with the approval of the Turkish authorities, the operation of Holy Trinity monastery and the school of theology began on October 1, 1844 with a special ceremony that marked the occasion.
An earthquake in June 1894 destroyed all the buildings of the monastery and theological school except for the chapel. This stopped the operation of the school. The present day facilities were built, with financing by Pavlos Skilitsis Stefanovick, by architect Periklis Fotiadis, and operation of the school and monastery was re-inaugurated in October 1896. Major renovation of the facilities also took place in the 1950s, including the monastery church.
The Holy Theological School of Halki was established to meet the educational needs of the Patriarchate of Constantinople as well as of the Orthodox Church in general. Since its establishment in 1844, the school has passed through a number of organizations. Initially, between 1844 and 1899 the school operated with four high school grades and three theological grades. During the period of 1899 and 1923 the high school grades were discontinued and the school functioned as an Academy of five grades. Between 1923 and 1951 the school reactivated the high school grades as originally established in 1844. In 1951 the educational program was again modified to consist of three high school grades and four theological grades. This arrangement continued until 1971 when the school was closed after passage of a law that prohibited operation of privately owned schools of higher education in Turkey.
Museum of the Princes’ Islands
Museum of the Princes’ Islands (40.8564519,29.1249991,247) is the first contemporary city museum of Istanbul. It tells the story of the Islands from the geological formation of the Islands to the present day, displaying hundreds of objects and utilizing twenty thousand Ottoman archival documents, six thousand digital photographs, hundreds of documentary films, documentation and filming of today’s Islands, archival records of public institutions of the Islands, temporary and permanent donations of the Islanders.
The museum aims to promote awareness for the rich multi-cultural history of the Islands with all its values, to contribute to the preservation of its cultural, historical and natural heritage and the enrichment of its cultural life, as well as, to create a passion for the Princes’ Islands. To this end it develops ties and co-operation with relevant NGO’s, communities and volunteer organizations in the Islands, in Istanbul and in other cities of the world. It supports the scientific research on the Islands and realizes the establishment of communication networks.