ISTANBUL
Constantinople was chosen by the emperor Constantine to be the capital of the Roman Empire, and it was dedicated on 11 May 330 AD. The emperor had been looking for a city to rival Rome, but which would be easier to protect from attackers and more accessible to the various parts of his empire. He chose the site of the existing city of Byzantium, which had been settled in the early days of Greek colonial expansion, circa 671-662 BC. It lay on the land route from Europe to Asia and the seaway from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. Its position on the Golden Horn also gave it an excellent harbour.


Aghia Sophia (St Sophia)
The first basilica of St. Sophia was built by Constantine in 325 AD. It was destroyed in 404 in the time of Arcadius (395-408) in a fire started by a mob which was angry at the exile of St John Chrysostom, the Patriarch of Constantinople who was at odds with the Empress Eudoxia, wife of Arcadius. Rebuilt by Theodosius II (408-450), it was destroyed again in 532 during the Nika rebellion against Justinian. The rebellion was put down largely due to the efforts of Theodora, the wife of Justinian, who stood up to the rebels and sent the general Belisarius to suppress the rebellion. Justinian decided to rebuild St. Sophia on a grand scale and chose the famous architects, Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles for the task. The basilica owes its present form largely to Justinian, who decorated it with marble columns and sculptures from every province of his empire. The gymnasium at Ephesus was obliged to give up its eight columns of red porphyry. All the pagan monuments of Europe and Asia were ransacked and the most famous marble quarries contributed; white Proconnese marble, Karystian green, Jasos of Caria red and white marble, Phrygian veined pink, Egyptian porphyry and from Thessaly and Laconia breccia of vert antique. Great sums too were spent on gold, silver, ivory, precious stones and beautiful silks and brocades. 4
On 27 December 537 the inauguration took place. ‘In great pomp Justinian went to St. Sophia in a state coach drawn by a team of magnificent horses, surrounded by all the great dignitaries of state. He walked up to the pulpit and, raising his arms to heaven, full of emotion and pride cried, ‘Glory be to God, who hath deemed me worthy to accomplish such a work. Oh Solomon, I have surpassed thee!’5


Originally there was an atrium in front of St. Sophia on the west side, surrounded by a portico which led to the doors of the outer narthex. There were five massive doors which led into the inner narthex, 70 yards long by 12 wide. The entry to the church is from the inner narthex by nine large doors. The building is an elongated rectangle 77 m. in length and 71.70 m broad, divided into a great central nave and two side aisles. The central nave has a cupola 31 m. in diameter and 55 m. in height at the centre, supported by four great hemispherical arches on four huge piers. (Fig.12 Plan of St. Sophia)
The presence of a great quantity of marble on the walls is documented by various writers. John Covel writes in 1674, ‘Over ye arches of ye galleries is (sic) vaulted into capelettes, all wrought with mosaick down as low as where ye pillars and marble cased walls meet’.
6 The Bellenzona Archives, published by Lacchia I. Fossati also provide evidence of the marble revetments at Aghia Sophia. The archives are said to contain 31 boxes of 2142 numbered documents with plates showing the marble slabs.7


The interior of the cathedral is encrusted with marble, much of it cipollino. My diary records a visit on a cold winter’s day in 1982. ‘Feet and fingers froze after half an hour’s attempt to photograph some of the wonders of mosaic and marble, and to estimate which of the revetments on the side walls were decorated with Karystian marble. If all was indeed cipollino (which was cut and fitted to form the Rorschach or butterfly pattern) there could be over 40 pieces’.8 There is a series of rectangular panels of cipollino or revetments on both sides of the building; one piece on each side of the mimber and the royal box of the sultan, six pieces on each side of the nave and three at the rear, near the marble urns. At the lower level the large rectangular pieces are approximately .80 m. /2.97 Rf x 2 m. /6.75 Rf all cut in the same Rorschach pattern. There are cipollino revetments on all three faces of the four piers along the nave on both the lower and upper (just below the gallery) courses. (Plates 4.7A, 4.7B & 4.7C; 4.8A, 4,8B & 4.8C; 4.9A & 4.9B; 4.9C & 4.10). On the higher level the revetments are of approximately .75 m. /2.53 Rf by 1.5 m. /5 Rf On the west side of the northeast pier they are somewhat shorter, about 1 m. /3.37 Rf high and somewhat narrower at about .60 m /2 Rf wide.


In the garden of the cathedral there is one column of cipollino with a Corinthian capital, approximately 1.25 m. /4.22 Rf high and with a diameter of .50 m. /1.68 Rf (Plate .4.11) There is another approximately .95 m. /3.2 Rf high. Friends who visited St Sophia in 2008 reported having seen a column of cipollino in the garden that appears to have been cut and the measurement (from the central slabs, at least) would fit the panels on the interior of the church (Plates 4.12). It is possible, therefore, that the panels were cut down from columns from some earlier building and perhaps taken from some archaeological site.

The Topkapi Saray
At the entrance to the Treasury there are at least two, probably three columns of cipollino with shafts of approximately 4 m. /12.5 Rf in height and .50 m. /1.68 Rf diameter, with Corinthian capitals (Plate 4.13). On the other side of the Treasury, on the left facing the entrance and on the other side of the arch leading to the restaurant, there is another column of similar size (Plate 4.14), and another in the colonnade at the harem.

The Kariye Camii (Kariye Mosque)
A very complete description of the Kariye Mosque is to be found in P. Underwood, The Kariye Camii. He lists cipollino on the lower part of the walls of the Paracclesion, on the southern wall, beginning below St Gregory the theologian (plate 247) and continuing round the southern wall under St Theodore Stratelates (plate 255), St Mercurious (plate 256), St Procopious and St Sabas Stratelates (plate 257 and 258). It was not possible to visit the mosque in 1982, but friends who visited in 2007 assure me that none of the pieces is real cipollino.9 The effect of cipollino on the walls of the building could have been achieved with scaglio, which is marble dust cemented with plaster and glue, a favourite but much cheaper method of decoration sometimes mistaken for cipollino, and which was used instead of it by those who much desired the marble but could not afford the cost. Plate 4.15 shows the interior of the mosque.


Robert Ousterhout writes in his book, The Art of the Kariye Camii, that ‘the Kariye Camii was originally the main church of the Chora Monastery, one of the most important foundations of Byzantine Constantinople’. The earliest remains are from the 6th century, connected with an uncle of the Empress Theodora, who is supposed to have founded a monastery here, which was destroyed by an earthquake and rebuilt by Justinian. The present building dates from the 11th and 12th centuries, with further alteration in the 13th and 14th centuries. He also writes that ‘the panel showing the Dormition of the Virgin, above the western entrance was plastered and painted to resemble marble and that in the Paracclesion the lower walls are painted to resemble marble panelling’ 10 (Plate 4.15).

 

He does say also that the ‘green breccia, sometimes called ‘verde antico’ is commonly used. The framed panels of the upper naos walls include red (rosso antico) white and black (blanco e nero) honey coloured onyx, yellow and purple (pavonzetto) red veined granite, (cipollino rosso) and purple granite (see page 99 of Ousterhout).

The Church of St. John of Stoudion
The church of St. John of Stoudion was founded by the patrician Stoudius in 463 and formed part of a monastery dedicated to St. John the Baptist. It was inhabited by members of the order of the Akoimetoi, the Non-Sleepers ‘who, divided into three choirs, relieved each other and thus maintained by day and night uninterrupted service chanting the praises of god.’11 In 1982 it was not possible to go inside. However there are four columns in the courtyard (approximately 5 m. /16.89 Rf high and .50 m /1.68 Rf in diameter, with Corinthian capitals) which, though they are worn and in some places bound together with pieces of metal, are probably cipollino (Plates 4.16, 4.17). The Schneiders who visited in 2007 confirmed this.

4 Mamboury, Ernest, The Tourists’ Istanbul, Galata, Istanbul, 1953, p.281.

5 Mamboury, Ernest, The Tourists’ Istanbul, Galata, Istanbul, pp. 281-282.
6 Quoted in Mango, C, The Mosaics of St. Sophia at Istanbul, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library Collection, Washinton DC, 1962, p.128.
7 Fossati, Gaspari and Guiseppe, the Bellenzona Archives, Lacchia I Fossati, p.13.
8 Visit to Istanbul, Ankara, Ephesus, Pergamon, February 1983.4.11)

9 Underwood, P.A., The Kariye Cammii, Routledge, Kegan & Paul Ltd., London, 1967.
‘As for the Kariye Camii all the ‘marbles’ that looked like cipollino in the photos we had seen (we skimmed through a 3 volume work at the library in Ankara; (I suspect the one you referred to), were painted panels. There was a similar looking grey and white marble on the walls near the entrance, but I do not think it was Karystian. The’faux’ marble however, certainly looked as if they were familiar with cipollino.’ Roz and Eric Schneider, 2007.

10 Ousterhout, Robert, The Art of the Kariye Camii, Scala Publishers Ltd., London, 2002, p.70.
11 Mamboury, Ernest, The Tourists’ Istanbul, p.260.

Maps and Plates

Fig 12.jpg

Fig12 Plan of St Sophia, Istanbul

Plate 4.7 A.jpg

Plate 4.7A, 4.7B & 4.7C, 4.8A, 4.8B & 4.8C, 4.9A, 4.9B & 4.9C & 4.10 Cipollino revetments on the 3 faces of the 4 piers along the, nave of Aghia Sophia (St Sophia), Istanbul. (Photos by Schneiders).

Plate 4.7 B.jpg

Plate 4.7A, 4.7B & 4.7C, 4.8A, 4.8B & 4.8C, 4.9A, 4.9B & 4.9C & 4.10 Cipollino revetments on the 3 faces of the 4 piers along the, nave of Aghia Sophia (St Sophia), Istanbul. (Photos by Schneiders).

Plate 4.7 C.jpg

Plate 4.7A, 4.7B & 4.7C, 4.8A, 4.8B & 4.8C, 4.9A, 4.9B & 4.9C & 4.10 Cipollino revetments on the 3 faces of the 4 piers along the, nave of Aghia Sophia (St Sophia), Istanbul. (Photos by Schneiders).

Plate 4.8 A.jpg

Plate 4.7A, 4.7B & 4.7C, 4.8A, 4.8B & 4.8C, 4.9A, 4.9B & 4.9C & 4.10 Cipollino revetments on the 3 faces of the 4 piers along the, nave of Aghia Sophia (St Sophia), Istanbul. (Photos by Schneiders).

Plate 4.8 B.jpg

Plate 4.7A, 4.7B & 4.7C, 4.8A, 4.8B & 4.8C, 4.9A, 4.9B & 4.9C & 4.10 Cipollino revetments on the 3 faces of the 4 piers along the, nave of Aghia Sophia (St Sophia), Istanbul. (Photos by Schneiders).

Plate 4.8 C.jpg

Plate 4.7A, 4.7B & 4.7C, 4.8A, 4.8B & 4.8C, 4.9A, 4.9B & 4.9C & 4.10 Cipollino revetments on the 3 faces of the 4 piers along the, nave of Aghia Sophia (St Sophia), Istanbul. (Photos by Schneiders).

Plate 4.9 A.jpg

Plate 4.7A, 4.7B & 4.7C, 4.8A, 4.8B & 4.8C, 4.9A, 4.9B & 4.9C & 4.10 Cipollino revetments on the 3 faces of the 4 piers along the, nave of Aghia Sophia (St Sophia), Istanbul. (Photos by Schneiders).

Plate 4.9 B.jpg

Plate 4.7A, 4.7B & 4.7C, 4.8A, 4.8B & 4.8C, 4.9A, 4.9B & 4.9C & 4.10 Cipollino revetments on the 3 faces of the 4 piers along the, nave of Aghia Sophia (St Sophia), Istanbul. (Photos by Schneiders).

Plate 4.9 C.jpg

Plate 4.7A, 4.7B & 4.7C, 4.8A, 4.8B & 4.8C, 4.9A, 4.9B & 4.9C & 4.10 Cipollino revetments on the 3 faces of the 4 piers along the, nave of Aghia Sophia (St Sophia), Istanbul. (Photos by Schneiders).

Plate 4.11.jpg

Plate 4.11 A cipollino column in the garden of Aghia Sophia, Istanbul.

Plate 4.12.jpg

Futura Light is a much loved font inspired by elements of Bauhaus design. Ideal for headlines, banners, logos & more, it will make your words stand out.

Plate 4.12 A partial cipollino column, cut possibly to form revetments inside Aghia Sophia, Istanbul.

Plate 4.13.jpg

Plate 4.13 Three cipollino columns in the Topkapi Saray garden, near the Treasury Entrance, Istanbul.

Plate 4.14.jpg

Plate 4.14 A cipollino column on the other side of the arch leading to the restaurant, Topkapi Saray, Istanbul.

Plate 4.15.jpg

Plate 4.15 Walls painted to resemble cipollino marble panelling at the Kariye Camii (Kariye Mosque), Istanbul. General view of the inner narthex, looking south. (Photo – Courtesy of Archaeology and Art Publications, photo by Gültekin Tetik).