Miracle City Istanbul
Istanbul was the capital city of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empire.
With one arm reaching to Asia and the other to Europe, Istanbul is the only city in the world built on two continents. The Bosphorus flows through the waters of the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara and the Golden Horn through the heart of the city.
Istanbul's fate is sealed by its essential strategic location and enchanting natural beauty. It was the capital of three empires for more than 1500 years: the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires. It was decorated with beautiful monuments accordingly and became a metropolis where diverse cultures, nations and religions mixed. Those cultures, nations and religions are the little pieces that make up the mosaic of Istanbul.
Istanbul's major structures began in the Byzantine period, and the city was then further embellished during the days of the Ottoman Empire.
Modern and traditional together:
It is the endless variety of Istanbul that fascinates its visitors. The museums, churches, palaces, large mosques, bazaars and nature reserves are countless. As you relax at sunset on the western shores of the Bosphorus and watch the red evening light reflected from the other continent, you suddenly and profoundly understand why settlers chose to build a city in this remarkable place centuries ago. At such moments, you can see why Istanbul is truly one of the most glorious cities in the world.
Striking multi-religious identity:
The identity of Istanbul that started with the Byzantines was further developed during the period of the Ottoman Empire. Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror declared Istanbul the capital of the Ottoman Empire after he conquered the city in 1453. During the next 450 years, the city was decorated with beautiful Ottoman monuments. The post-conquest structures peaked during the reign of Sultan Bayezid II, with the finest works built by Chief Royal Architect Mimar Sinan.
The Ottomans were tolerant of all religions and dedicated many houses of worship to the Christian and Jewish communities so that these peoples could practice their religion undisturbed. For example, mosques, churches and synagogues in Istanbul stood and stand side by side as physical evidence of Istanbul and a symbol of tolerance and brotherhood of religions.
At every turn in the city one can come across Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman palaces, mosques, churches, monasteries, monuments, walls and ruins. The old city center, with its places of worship, government, commerce and entertainment, was where the citizens mingled and enjoyed the benefits of the security and bounty of the state, while preserving their culture and way of life.
Living Byzantine Heritage:
During the Byzantine period, the center of the city was the Hippodrome and its surroundings. The palace was the center of power, Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) the most spectacular of the religious buildings; the Hippodrome served as the communal entertainment center, and the Yerebatan Sarnıcı (Basilica Cistern) provided most of the city's water - all of which can be found in the city center. During Ottoman times, the square where the Hippodrome once stood became the location for the circumcision ceremonies of the sons of the Sultans.
Great mystical symbols:
The most glorious architectural heritage of the Byzantine Empire is Hagia Sophia, which is called the 8th Wonder of the World. It is over 1500 years old and is one of the great symbols of Istanbul. Discovered after becoming a museum, the mosaics of Hagia Sophia are the prime examples of Byzantine art from the 9th to 12th centuries.
Topkapı Palace is especially important to the Mukaddes Emanetler Dairesi (Chamber of Sacred Relics) where the Prophet Muhammed's Hırka-i Saadet (Blessed Cloak) and Sancak-ı Şerif (Holy Flag) are kept in their golden chests. Also known as the Blue Mosque, Sultan Ahmet Mosque was built between 1609 and 1616 and houses the tomb of its founder, Sultan Ahmed I, a madrasah and a hospice.