On the Spiritual Tour you will discover some fantastic places of Istanbul which normally are not included in the mass-tourism offers but are definitely worth visiting. Being off the traditional itineraries, all these places have kept their authenticity and charm. You will see the less-known side of Istanbul which will not fail to amaze you.
- Suleymaniye Mosque
- 1453 Panaromic Museum
- Theodosian City Walls
- Chora Museum (closed on Wednesdays)
- Eyup Sultan Mosque
- Pierre Loti Hill
Duration: 6 h approx.
Included: guide service
Not included: entrance fees, transport, lunch
The Süleymaniye Mosque is the largest mosque of the city and surely one of the most beautiful. It was built on the order of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, on the third hill of Istanbul. The author of this masterpiece is Mimar Sinan, the greatest Ottoman architect, who completed the work between 1550 and 1558. This grand mosque symbolizes the acme of the Ottoman Empire achieved during the long and prosperous reign of Suleyman, who rests in the garden behind the mosque along with his wife Roxelana.
Panorama 1453 is an innovative and engaging historical museum where we can experience the Conquest of Constantinople, almost exactly as it happened on that fateful 29th May 1453. The museum is located next to the Topkapi – Edirnekapi ramparts, where the fiercest battle of the siege took place and where the Ottoman soldiers first breached the insuperable city walls. The clou of the visit is the 360° panoramic painting of the siege, an outstanding and imposing work of art (38 m of diameter) which really brings to life the scene of the battle. While staring at the battlefield, you will hear the explosions of the cannonballs, the battle cry of Sultan Mehmed II’s soldiers and the sound of the marches played by the Janissary band.
Visiting hours: everyday 9 – 19.
The Theodosian Walls, erected by Emperor Theodosius II in the V century, are one of the military wonders of antiquity. They stretch for almost 7 km from the Sea of Marmara to the Golden Horn, protecting the land side of the former Constantinople. The fortification was made up of the lines of walls: the inner wall was 4,5 – 6 m thick and 12 m high; the outer was 2 m thick and 8,5 – 9 m high. Both walls were strengthened by numerous towers between 15 – 20 m high (many of them are still standing) and divided by a wide moat. They were breached only twice in their long history: by the Latins of the IV Crusade in 1204 and by the Ottomans in 1453. Embedded in the walls were 9 main gates, the most glorious of which was the Golden Gate, embellished with a triumphal arch and for centuries scene of the crowning of Byzantine emperors. After the conquest, the Ottomans added 3 towers to the pre-existing 4, creating the fortress of Yedikule (“Fortress of the Seven Towers”).
According to a legend, during the final siege, Constantine XI Palaiologos, the last Byzantine emperor, was rescued by an angel, turned into a statue and put to rest underneath the Golden Gate, where he awaits to be brought back to life and conquer the city back. This prophecy would explain why the Turks walled up the gate later on.
The Turkish word kariye is derived from the ancient Greek word chora meaning “land outside of the city”. It is known that there was a chapel outside of the city before the 5th century when the city walls were erected. The first Chora Church was rebuilt by Justinianus (527-565) in place of this chapel. In the era of the Komnenoi it served as the court chapel for important religious ceremonies, thanks to its nearness to the Palace of Blachernae.
The church was destroyed during the Latin invasion (1204-1261) and repaired in the reign of Andronikos II (1282-1328) by the Treasury Minister of the palace, Theodore Metochites (1313). It was expanded towards north, an exonarthex was added to its western side and a chapel (parecclesion) to its southern side, and it was decorated with mosaics and frescoes.
The mosaics and frescoes in the Chora are the most beautiful examples dating from the last period of the Byzantine painting (14th century). The characteristic stylistic elements in those mosaics and frescoes are the depth, the movements and plastic values of figures and the elongation of figures.
Following the conquest of Istanbul, the building was converted into a mosque by Vizier Hadim Ali Pasha (1511). It was converted into a museum in 1945 and during the restoration in 1948-1959 carried out by the Byzantine Institute of America, the mosaics and frescoes were uncovered and brought to the daylight.
Visiting hours: 9 – 19 (from April 15th); 9 – 17 (from October 1st). Closed on Wednesdays
EYUP SULTAN MOSQUE
Eyup Sultan Mosque was erected by Mehmet II on the burial site of Ebu Eyyub-el Ensari, who was the standard bearer of the Prophet Mohammed and died during the siege of Constantinople by the Arabs in the 7th century. It was the first religious complex built after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. Many tombs mushroomed in the proximity of Eyup’s tomb as people believe that Mohammed’s companion would plead for the dead in the hereafter. Up to this day, being buried in the cemeteries nearby Eyup Mosque is considered an honor.
Eyup Sultan Mosque is one of the holiest places not only in Istanbul but in all the Islamic world. In Ottoman times, the girding of the sword ceremony was traditionally held here. In this enthronement rite, the new sultan received Osman Gazi’s sword, maintaining continuity within the dynasty.
Given its religious importance, Eyup Mosque hosts many visitors, particularly during the month of Ramadan. Quite obviously, this neighbourhood is rather conservative and traditional.
PIERRE LOTI HILL
Pierre Loti (1850-1923) was a French writer who, as a naval officer, visited many foreign countries. Turkey seems to have had a very special attraction for him. Some people were inclined to attribute this merely to his love affair with a Turkish woman, Aziyade, during his first visit to Turkey. This young woman was brave enough to escape from the harem of her husband, whenever he was absent, to run into the arms of her lover who lived in a house on the hills of Eyüp. He tought of writing a book based on his experiences in Istanbul after leaving the city but this first novel called ‘Aziyade’ was not enthusiastically received. Loti came back ten years later and faced with the truth he was afraid to probe into… Aziyade was dead. She had died soon after her lover had left Istanbul. During his visits to Turkey, Loti dressed and acted like a Turk, with a fez upon his head and a rosary in his hand. He roamed in the intricate streets of Istanbul, rested in coffee-houses smoking a gurgling pipe or sipping a cup of thick Turkish coffee. He liked to stroll around the mosques of Fatih or Selim but Eyüp was his favorite place. He frequented this cafe admiring the magnificent panaroma of the Golden Horn, absorbing the quiet and paceful atmosphere that reigned there. No one knows exactly how or where it started but the place has been called after him: Pierre Loti Kahvesi…