Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul Turkey

The name means Holy Wisdom. Built in only 6 years, 532 to 537, it was the largest Christian Cathedral in Constantinople.  Previously two other churches by the same name were built on the same space but had been destroyed in riots. In 1054 it became a Greek Orthodox Cathedral and a Roman Catholic Cathedral in 1204. In 1261 it went back to a Greek Orthodox Cathedral until 1453 when the Ottoman Empire changed it into a Mosque.

In 1931 it was closed for four years and reopened in 1935 as a museum. In 2014 it was ranked as the second most visited museum in Turkey with an average attendance of almost 3.3 million per year. In 2015 it was the most visited tourist attraction in Turkey.

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey

Initially, there was only one minaret. Now, there is one pink one and three white ones which are the newest.

Hagia Sophia has a single pink minaret on the right.

Inside is dimly lit by the windows in the domes.

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The walls contain the collected art of 1600 years

restoration is ongoing in 2016

gold is prominently displayed

Look up, much of the artwork is on the ceiling

In spite of the amazing architecture of the time, the highlight is the three domes with windows to let in light and to reduce the weight of the domes.

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Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern in Istanbul, Turkey

Near the Hippodrome and the centre of ancient Constantinople is the largest Cistern in the city. There is nothing to see from the street level because all of the magic is happening below the streets and parks and buildings.  There are several hundred cisterns in the city.

Down the steps from street level.

There is a picture booth on the left.

For an additional charge, you can have your picture taken while you are dressed in the silk apparel of a Sultan.

Waiting in silk Sultan costumes

This magical space has been an inspirational setting for many novels and movies. In 1963, the James Bond story, From Russia with Love, took a boat through the cistern and filmed many scenes in the city nearby. The cistern is featured in Clive and Dirk Cussler’s 2010 Dirk Pitt fiction novel, Crescent Dawn and The Navigator. In 2013 Jean-Baptiste Andrea’s film thriller Brotherhood of Tears filmed parts here. Dan Brown featured the inverted Medusa pillar in the 2013  novel Inferno and of course the movie too. In the 2015 Marvel novel Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl, the climax takes place in this cistern.

9 metres high and covers 9800 square metres.

It seems like the length and width change frequently

336 columns support the roof

Of course, a cistern has to be filled with water. And where there is water there can be fish.  I am wondering if they serve the same purpose as the canary in the mine.

fish swimming in the cistern

Exploring the darker corners.

Where it is less well lit, it is nice to have handrails along the walkways.

hang on to the rail

Lights emphasise the Roman vision.

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The Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey

The oldest monument of Constantinople stands in the Hippodrome, a public square, originally the ancient circus for chariot-racing. In the centre is a spina, the longitudinal barrier in the centre of the Hippodrome. In the centre of the spina are two obelisks. The larger one of pink granite was brought from Egypt and erected for the Roman Emperor Theodosius I in CE 390.  It was originally made for Thutmose III, who ruled Egypt from BCE 1479 to 1425 . ( almost 3500 years ago) It is very well preserved.

Mounted on a very sturdy base telling more of the story.

The second obelisk stands a short distance to the side.

Erected 390 AD for  DIKILITAS

Egyptian language on the top

While in transit, down the Nile River, part of the base was removed.

At the far end of the Hippodrome is a fountain to commemorate the visit of Kaiser Wilhelm in 1898 and the formation of an alliance. The alliance brought the Ottoman empire into the first world war and weakened the Ottoman military.  Mustafa Kemal Ataturk led a revolt for independence and became the first president of the Turkish Republic in 1923.

Kaiser Wilhelm Fountain

A beautiful gold mosaic tile ceiling in the dome.

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Ephesus 5

Headline:  Apostle Pauls Causes Riot at Great Ephesus Theatre

The Great Theatre is the most magnificent structure in Ephesus. There are 24000 seats and 1000 standing places. It is the largest amphitheatre in Asia Minor. The walkway below leads from the Celsus Library, through the Agora Gate, past the Gymnasium (school) to meet the Harbour Road in front of the Great Theatre.

The road from the marketplace to the great theatre.

Walking through the ruins of Ephesus is like walking through a partially assembled jigsaw puzzle. There are pieces laying everywhere with partially assembled pieces giving a glimpse of what the final picture should be.

Do you notice something out of place on the bottom right edge?

The riot (52AD) was started by Demitrious, the leader of the silversmiths guild, who had brought all of his followers to refute Paul’s teaching that the statues of Artemis are worthless. These businessmen were making a lot of money from the manufacture and sales of silver shrines of the Temple of Artemis and the silver statues of Artemis. Paul’s teaching had been changing the worship from Artemis to the Christian God and reducing the sales of silver statues.

Paul’s friends stopped him from going to the amphitheatre and spirited him out of the city. Could it have been in a small white horseless chariot with four wheels like the one in the pictures above and below? <Did you notice the similarity of the word chariot to the words car and riot?>

As we walked farther down the road, the small parts of the puzzle begin to take shape.

part of the theatre

part of the theatre

part of the theatre

part of the theatre

part of the theatre

part of the theatre

At this point, we are too close to the theatre to take it all in. We cannot comprehend its grandeur.

Leading away downhill is a great road called Harbour Street. Not surprisingly it leads from the harbour to the theatre. Imagine looking up from the harbour and seeing each column lit at night. (Earliest street lighting)  It is a half mile long (800 meters) and 36 feet wide. On each side is a colonnade each 16 feet wide.

Arcadiene, the major street from the theatre to the port. Harbour Street.

The pedestrian colonnades were paved with mosaics.

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When we are partway down Harbour street, looking back at the great amphitheatre, we can see its grandeur.

The Grand Theatre of Ephesus

The Grand Theatre of Ephesus

Concerts have recently been held in this ancient space. In the 1980’s performers like Elton John, Mikis Theodorakis, Joan Baes, Ray Charles, Diana Ross and Sting performed here. Apparently St. Paul was not the only one to create a riot in Ephesus. One traveller says that Sting also created a riot and that concerts like that have not been held here since then.

the Grand Theatre of Ephesus


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Ephesus 3

The Celsus Library is the highlight of ancient Ephesus

Follow the marble brick road down to the centre of town. At the corner of Curetes Street and the Marble Road you will see the Celsus Library on the left. You cannot miss it or mistake it for any other building in town. It is the most beautiful building in Ephesus. It is two stories tall and the front is supported on elegant columns. Between the columns of the lower level are four niches with statues representing the four virtues of Celsus.

first glimpse of the library on the left

The Agora or marketplace is on the right.

The four virtues of Celsus – wisdom (Sophia), knowledge (Episteme), intelligence (Ennoia) and valour (Arete).

Sophia – Wisdom


Arete – Valour

Looking back from the other side of the Agora Gate, 

D.J. was here.


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Ephesus 2

Nike and other interesting statues

The Temple of Artemis, now in ruins, was once a multi columned structure built on the flat (muddy) land near the port. Silver smiths were thriving on the manufacture and sales of the statues and shrines to the goddess Artemis.  When the Apostle Paul came to Ephesus, he began convincing them that their idols to their gods were worthless, sales of these profitable items declined and the silversmiths lead by Demetrios began a riot against Paul.

Paul began his preaching in Asia and visited Ephesus with St. John. Paul often spoke in one of the smaller amphitheatres, Bouleuterion, or Odeon like the one below.

Odeon Concert hall. Once used for many varied gatherings. Capacity 1500.

Prytaneon and eternal flame.

Larger statues to Artemis were found in these ruins and are now preserved in the indoor museum of Ephesus. They were found buried near these columns.

Statue of Artemis, a mother goddess.

Wide streets connected the temples, theatres and other public buildings.

wide streets lead to the city gates



The following galleries cycle through a few pictures, about 3 seconds each. you can pause it

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here is a link to another travel blogger who presents some facts about the modern “Nike”




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Ancient Roman City of Ephesus

On a lovely spring day in 2016, our guide led us for a leisurely stroll down the hill through the ancient ruins of the Roman Provincial capital city. There were many specific highlights but the general first impressions are shown here. A later post will give more specific sections of this wonderful outdoor museum. Enjoy one of Turkey’s renowned archaeological preserves.

remains of the Roman city of Ephesus

another World Heritage site

Archeological records indicate that Ephesus has been populated since 6000 BC.  Part of the kingdom of Pergamon was overtaken by the Romans in 129 BC who raised taxes, and plundered the wealth of the city. Mark Anthony was made Procounsel in 33 BC and spent time here with Cleopatra. Augustus became Emperor in 27 BC and chose to promote Ephesus so that it increased in importance, size and wealth to approach that of Rome.

if stones could talk . . .

Things seemed great until the Goths destroyed the city in 263 AD.  Constantine the Great reconstructed and added new buildings to the city.

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Kusadasi 2

Turkey’s beautiful port of Kusadasi

People have used this port since 3000BC. Think back 5000 years when the Lelegians and Carians settled here. It is on the Aegean coast in the Anatolia Region of Turkey about 90 kilometres south of Izmir. Cruise ships dock at the jetty and disembark passengers seeking to visit Ephesus.

Pacific Princess

there is the princess

Tugboat ready and waiting.

Tied up until all passengers return with their shopping.

Although cruise ships and tourism are a significant part of the economy, the port is used for other ships as well.

The Aegean Sea is a busy part of the Mediterranean.

I have included a few pictures that were snapped through the bus window as the bus was moving around the dock and up the mountain. Apologies for the reflections from the bus window and the blurring of the trees that are close to the bus.

The bus took us up to visit the home of the Virgin Mary, the tomb of St. John the Evangelist, and the ruins of the Roman Provincial Capital in Ephesus. Maybe these sign will help you figure out where you are, and where you want to go.

this way to the port

five miles to Ephesus

This is where the Pacific Princess docks.

and this is why were are here



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Virgin Mary Shrine

Home of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus

In the Solmissos Mountains located on the top of the “Bulbul” mountain 9 km from Ephesus, is a shrine to the Virgin Mary. It is a place where Mary sought solitude in her later years. St. John the apostle cared for Mary after the crucifixion of Jesus and spent time writing the Gospel of John while he stayed in Ephesus.

A worship space near Mary’s Home

Pope Paul VI is recorded as the first pope to visit this place in the 1960’s. In the 1980’s, Pope John-Paul II declared the Shrine of Virgin Mary has a pilgrimage place for Christians.  The third Pope to visit the house of the Virgin Mary is Pope Benedict XVI. He celebrated Mass here on Nov. 29, 2006.

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Mary’s modest home is still here and it is recognized by Muslims and Christians. One part has been configured as a Christian worship space and another as a Muslim chapel.

The home is small and only a kitchen, a sleeping space and the two worship spaces are open for public tours.

the entrance to the home

surrounded by lush greenery

No pictures are allowed inside but a framed picture is posted on a stand outside the exit where like all the other tourists I captured an image of the alter worship space inside.

the exit from Mary’s tranquil home

notice the framed picture on a stand on the right side

a picture of a picture of the simple altar inside the house

Surrounded by lush greenery, birds and a fresh stream, it is a very tranquil calming place.

A peaceful place.

Every year, on August 15th a ceremony is organized to commemorate Mary’s Assumption.

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Kusadasi, Ephesus and the Basilica of St. John

Kusadasi is the port used by cruise ships to visit Ephesus, Turkey. Ephesus is about 30 kilometres from the port. In ancient times it was the port but silt carried down the river filled in the port area.

We arrived at dawn

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Only a few kilometres from Ephesus the Basilica of St. John was built by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century over the tomb of St. John the Apostle. Before it was ruined by earthquakes, the Basilica once rivalled St. Sophia in size. A  number of graceful columns and colourful frescos and mosaics survived to hint at the structure’s former grandeur.

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Our visit begins with a short walk up the slope to the entrance.

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It is a lovely location with a beautiful view over the surrounding countryside.

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Our bus is waiting so we must leave and think about the various accounts of history we have been left with and wonder where the truth lies within it all.

the exit

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