Today’s post is going to be short again: I had a really long day today with lots of walking around–it was another sunny day, which I loved, and which I feel I should celebrate by being outside as much as possible. So, I walked to the Theodosian Walls–one of the most impressive and arresting reminders of Istanbul’s Byzantine past. My guidebook says that “With its 11 fortified gates and 192 towers, this great chain of double walls sealed Constantinople’s landward side against invasion for more than a thousand years.” They extended from the Sea of Marmara on the south, all the way up to the Golden Horn on the north, and they were built between 412 and 422. Mehmet the Conqueror finally breached the walls in 1453, and the succeeding Ottoman sultans kept them up in good repair through the 17th century.
Anyway, all along the walk there and back and stopped and visited a variety of different mosques, large and small: my personal favorite is the small one pictured below–the Fenari Isa mosque, which was originally the Church of Constantine Lips [that’s his name: Constantine Lips Dungarios–but I picture some shriveled lips in a reliquary somewhere]. It was built in the 10th century, and turned into a mosque in 1496. It still looks very “church-like,” which I found interesting. I also am including a picture of a clock from another mosque that shows the daily prayer times.
Then, this evening, my new friend Hakan and I visited two more mosques, the most important being Eyup mosque. Eyup is a beautiful area, at the very tip of the Golden Horn, which is a famous place of pilgrimage for Muslims because the mosque holds the tomb of Eyup Ensari [also spelled Ayyub al-Ansari], the Prophet Muhammad’s standard bearer and companion. He came to [then] Constantinople in the 7th century, during the first Arab siege of the city. Above the mosque is an enormous graveyard lining the hills that overlook the Golden Horn. We took a cable car up to the top–where we enjoyed amazing views–and then walked down among the graves. It was beautiful.
When we finally got the mosque itself, I was surprised to see it packed with people, including a television crew. However, apparently, tonight is the first night of the holy month of Rajab [in Turkish, Regaip Kandili], which comes from the word meaning “respect.” Fighting is forbidden during this month Hakan told me that many Muslims will pray all night tonight, and the evening service will be televised.