Constantinople: The City

by | Dec 12, 2017 | Books

One day in the not too distant future, we must visit The City and hope to encounter relics and treasures of times past that survived to this day. For Crusaders and Venetians of the Fourth Crusade ravaged and vandalized her, and she was later turned Islamic by the Turks.

Her former splendor I find impossible to fathom, perhaps it can be perceived today in the beauty of its street cats. But back in the beginning of the 13th century, when the crusaders arrived in Constantinople, Geoffrey de Villehardouin (knight and future historian) tells us:

You may imagine how they gazed, all those who had never before seen Constantinople. For when they saw those high ramparts and the strong towers with which it was completely encircled, and the splendid palaces and soaring churches – so many that but for the evidence of their own eyes they would never have believed it – and the length and the breadth of that city which of all others is sovereign, they never thought that there could be so rich and powerful a place on earth. And mark you that there was not a man so bold that he did not tremble at the sight; nor was this any wonder, for never since the creation of the world was there so great an enterprise.

Her magnificence, however, was not sufficient to instill restraint in her invaders. In the words of John Julius Norwich:

Never, since the barbarian invasions some centuries before, had Europe witnessed such an orgy of brutality and vandalism; never in history had so much beauty, so much superb craftsmanship, been wantonly destroyed in so short a space of time… helpless, horrified, almost unable to believe that human beings who called themselves Christians could be capable of such enormities…

But forget Norwich and let us visit The City, touch the floor of Saint Sophia, hold in our hands a link of the chain that crossed the Golden Horn into Galata, and feed and pet a stray cat.


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