The adventure of Robert Langdon, the main character in Dan Brown’s Inferno, ends in Istanbul, Turkey. This article is the first part of a brief guide to the places in Istanbul mentioned in the novel.
Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey, as well as the country’s economic, cultural, and historic heart. It stands on a triangular peninsula between Europe and Asia.
Founded on the Sarayburnu promontory around 660 BC as Byzantium, the city now known as Istanbul has become one of the most important cities in history.
For nearly sixteen centuries following its reestablishment with the name of Constantinople in 330 AD, the city served as the capital of four empires: the Roman Empire (330–395), the Byzantine Empire (395–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin Empire (1204–1261), and the Ottoman Empire.
Until 1923 it served as the capital of the Turkish Republic.
Throughout its history, Istanbul has been home to many civilizations, the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires being the most famous. Today the city carries the characteristics of these two different cultures.
Istanbul ‘s historic center is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Hagia Sophia, İstanbul’s most famous building, is a perfect synthesis of Ottoman and Byzantine architecture under one great dome.
Hagia Sophia, called the Church of Divine Wisdom in English, was first a church, then a mosque, and now a museum.
It is the biggest church constructed by the Eastern Roman Empire in Istanbul.
It has been constructed three times in the same location.
The first church was constructed by Emperor Constantius in 360. It was covered with a wooden roof and expanded vertically (basilica). Since it was destroyed by rioters, no remains have been recovered from the first building.
The second church was constructed by Emperor Theodosius II in 415. This basilical structure is known to have contained five naves and a monumental entrance; it was also covered by a wooden roof. The church was demolished in 532.
The current structure was constructed by the Greek scientist Isidore of Miletus and the mathematician Anthemios of Tralles, renowned architects of their time, on the orders of Emperor Justinian (527-565).
Construction began on February 23, 532, and was completed in a short period of five years. It was open for worship with a ceremony on December 27, 537.
This third construction combined the three traditional basilical plans, in addition to a plan for the central dome plan. The structure has three naves, one apse, and two narthex, one internal, one external.
All of Hagia Sophia’s walls, except those covered by marble, have been decorated with exceptionally beautiful mosaics made up of gold, silver, glass, terracotta and colorful stones.
In the Eastern Roman period, the Hagia Sophia was the official church, and as a result, was where emperors were crowned.
In 1453, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmed II, who ordered that this main church of Orthodox Christianity be converted into a mosque.
The bells, altar, iconostasis, and sacrificial vessels, as well as other relics, were removed, to be replaced by Islamic features, including the addition of four minarets.
Hagia Sophia remained a mosque until 1935, when the first Turkish President and founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, converted the building into a museum.
The Blue Mosque is the most popular mosque in Istanbul. Also known as the mosque of Ahmed I (Ottoman sultan from 1603 to 1617), it has one main dome, eight secondary domes and six minarets, instead of the customary four.
The design is the culmination of two centuries of Ottoman mosque development. It incorporates Byzantine Christian elements from the neighboring Hagia Sophia with traditional Islamic architecture.
It was built from 1609 to 1616 in front of Hagia Sophia. While its predecessors funded their mosques from spoils of war, Ahmet I had to remove funds from the Treasury, due to a lack of remarkable victories.
It is known today as the Blue Mosque after its tiles from the Turkish city of Iznik, which line the inner walls. More than 21,000 ceramic tiles in different shades of blue and azure cover the interior of the mosque, transforming it into a true work of art. More than 200 stained glass windows with intricate designs admit natural light, assisted today by chandeliers.
The most important element in the interior of the mosque is the mihrab, which is made of finely carved and sculptured marble, with a stalactite niche and a double inscriptive panel above it. The great tablets on the walls are inscribed with the names of the caliphs and with verses from the Quran.
The Basilica Cistern
The largest and most famous of the many underground cisterns in Istanbul, the Basilica Cistern was built in the 6th century under the Byzantine Emperor Justinian the Great.
This cistern was used to store water for the Great Palace and other buildings in the area during Justinian’s reign. After the conquest of the city by the Ottomans, the water was used to nourrish the garden at Topkapı Palace.
Just a short hop away from Hagia Sophia, professor Langdon mistakenly believes that this unassuming entrance leads to an underground dance club, when there was in reality only a concert happening in the cistern.
Known locally as the Sunken Palace, the cistern is reached by descending 52 stairs. There are 336 columns lined up in 28 rows of 12, and most of the columns are topped with Corinthian and Doric capitals. Their bases rest in a couple of feet of water that is also home to a number of fish.
The most remarkable features are the two giant Medusa heads, which serve as column bases. One of the heads is upside down and the other is rotated on its side.
Pictures by lslconsultancy.com and www.travelphotoblog.org