ISTANBUL STUDIES'17 Byzantion Konstantinopolis Istanbul, İstanbul, Turkey, 3 - 04 March 2017, pp.340-349
The present paper is part of a larger, comprehensive (doctoral) research project entitled “An ‘Excluded’ Past between the Roman and Ottoman: The Reassessment, Valorization and Representation of Byzantine Cultural Heritage in Turkey”. This research intends to investigate numerous factors affecting understanding of Byzantium and the protection of its heritage in Turkey through selected examples of urban, rural and archaeological sites. In this context, Constantinople/Istanbul, as a metropolitan centre and the Capital of the Byzantine Empire, deserves particular attention.
In the whole history of Istanbul, the Byzantine period stands out as one of the most significant episodes, but can also be seen as an ‘excluded’, or neglected, phase of the city, as elsewhere in urban Anatolia. This long period produced a variety of significant urban structures associated with cultural, architectural and economic developments in the city. For example, Early Christian Constantinople was very different from the city of the medieval period in terms of building types, topography and demographic structure. There is no doubt that both Medieval Constantinople and its Late or Post-Byzantine phases had their own very specific dynamics. Today, it is difficult to easily distinguish, identify and understand the cultural heritage legacy left by Byzantine Constantinople due to a variety of factors, including a lack of historical and cultural awareness and the absence of an appropriate representation and valorization policy regarding the heritage of this period. Thus, an analysis of the city’s history, the changes in its topography and architectural characteristics is crucial for promoting a better understanding and interpretation of Byzantine Constantinople and its legacy. There is no doubt that a better representation of Byzantine Constantinople is equally and vitally important to keep the link between the past and the present – that is, a legacy from a rich and vastly influential period of the city’s past and an implicit part of its present consciousness. The Byzantine Empire ruled Anatolia more than ten centuries and left the imprint of its influence across a wide geographical area, particularly Anatolia. In this context, Constantinople, as the Capital of the Byzantine Empire and a vital religious and cultural historical hub still housing masterpieces of Byzantine art and architectural history, deserves particular attention. This heritage needs to be understood, presented, and protected by, and made accessible to, both the present and future generations.