|Hagia Sophia in Istanbul - where Christianity & Islam converge|
After checking a bunch of cities and airfares, I decided to go to either New York or Istanbul, leaving on Thursday and returning on Sunday; the decision rested on whether an old friend was free to meet me in New York. He was not, so off to Istanbul I went, despite some well-meaning friends who said that I was crazy -- Ataturk Airport was the target of a terrorist attack on June 28 that killed 45 people and wounded more than 230 others, and Turkey is under a state of emergency due to the attempted coup on July 15, 2016.
|Istanbul in the evening|
|Mother Goddess in Istanbul Archaeology Museum|
|View from Rooftop Terrace of Levni Hotel, Istanbul|
|Basilica of San Marco in Venice|
And although the majority of people who live in Turkey are Sunni Muslims, and there are calls to prayer wailing from the mosques throughout the day, it, too is a secular republic. The first President of the Turkish Republic, Musttafa Kemal Ataturk, abolished the Ottoman Caliph, who was also the Sultan, the supreme religious and political leader, on March 3, 1924, and the last caliph went into exile. It would be sort of like abolishing the Queen of England, who is also the Head of the Church of England (Americans don't have this system:-)
INTERESTING ASIDE: If the Imperial House of Osman were still in existence, the current Caliph would be Bayezid Osman, who is now 92-years-old, lives in the States and used to work in the New York Public Library.
|Sultan Ahmed Mosque aka the Blue Mosque|
|Inside the Blue Mosque - Photo: Cat Bauer|
|Constantine the Great mosaic in Hagia Sophia c. 1000|
HISTORY REFRESHER: Roman Emperor Constantine I reunited the Empire under one emperor in 324, and was the first Roman emperor to legalize Christianity, eventually becoming a Christian himself. He did not consider Old Rome for his capital because of its declining infrastructure and dusty old monuments like the Colosseum and Circus Maximus.
Constantine decided to found New Rome, or Constantinople, on the ancient Greek city of Byzantium, which was strategically located on the European side of the Strait of Bosporus, and closer to the geographic center of the Empire (can you image how humongous the Roman Empire was?).
So, unlike pagan Rome, Constantinople was inspired by the Christian God aka Jesus Christ, although Constantine constructed plenty of temples to pagan deities. He died in 337 CE. In 391, Emperor Theodosius the Great made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.
According to legend, Venice was founded at noon on March 25, 421. Before that, it was a bunch of islands in a lagoon, inhabited only by fishermen. Venice became a Byzantine territory, and then grew into a Republic.
The Western Roman Empire ended in 476.
The Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire was conquered by the Ottomans in 1453.
Jesus on the throne with
Emperor Constantine IX Monomachos & Empress Zoe donating money
11th Century Mosaic in Hagia Sophia
|Marker of the tomb of Enrico Dandolo|
It's an architectural miracle that Hagia Sophia is even standing after nearly 1500 years, let alone after going through all that chaos!
By researching this post, I have just discovered that there are several theories as to who Nurbanu Sultan was, and one of them is that she was Venetian! She was prominent under the era known as the Sultanate of Women, when women of nobility exerted strong political power in the Ottoman Empire. The most powerful women were the Sultan's mother, whose title was Valide Sultan, and his wife, whose title was Haseki Sultan. As a wife and a mother to two sultans, Nurbanu was both Haseki and Valide Sultan, a strong diplomatic force, communicating with the likes of Catherine de Medici, and maintaining relationships with European countries.
After about ten minutes, a lovely woman whose name sounded something like Susan used a loofa mitt to scrub the dead skin off my body. Susan did not speak much English, but she did manage to tell me that she was the mother of three using hand language.
After that, I was led upstairs for an oil massage. Waiting for me was Halime with a grin on her face, eyes full of joy, who greeted me as if nothing could delight her more than to give me a massage. Halime had the perfect touch, and hit all the right spots, humming a Turkish tune the entire time. She struck a deep chord within me, sharing such beautiful feminine energy that it made me teary-eyed. It was the Mother Goddess come to life. In fact, the experience was so enchanting that I went back the next day and did it all again.
|Inside the Harem|
Istanbul was the perfect place to dash off to, that ancient city that spans both Europe and Asia, exotic and quixotic, crammed with the history of humanity. None of the internal turmoil within Turkey touched me at all; I was obviously American, and was welcome everywhere I went.
|Turkish cats watching a big cat sneak up on a kitten in a tree|
When we arrived at the airport, we stopped outside for a smoke. A stranger came over and asked if we needed a light. "You see?" Ali said. "He doesn't know you or me. He only saw us searching for a lighter."
Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog