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a port in NW Turkey, on the western (European) shore of the Bosporus: the largest city in Turkey; founded in about 660 bc by Greeks; refounded by Constantine the Great in 330 ad as the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire; taken by the Turks in 1453 and remained capital of the Ottoman Empire until 1922; industrial centre for shipbuilding, textiles, etc. Pop.: 9 760 000 (2005 est.))

Istanbul (Turkey)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Istanbul, formerly known as Constantinople, was once a great center of Christianity and rivaled Jerusalem as a destination of Christian pilgrims. However, in the fifteenth century it was overrun by a Muslim army and subsequently became the center of the Ottoman Empire and an Islamic focal point.

Long inhabited, the site that became Istanbul was chosen by Rome as a new administrative center from which the eastern part of its empire could be more effectively administered. The town of Byzantium was chosen as the new administrative center in 146 BCE, and the city of New Rome emerged. The city thrived for five centuries, then began a new era under the Emperor Constantine (c. 272–337). In 330 CE, in his honor, the city was renamed Constantinople.

Constantine converted to Christianity, and during the later years of his reign the city emerged as a great Christian center. In the 320s, Constantine’s mother Helena (c. 248-c. 329) made her famous trip to Palestine where she located a number of reputed Christian relics, many of which were brought back to Constantinople. The city, along with the nearby communities of Nicea and Chalcedon, became the site of most of the important church councils at which the orthodox doctrine of the Christian church was hammered out and the creedal statements embodying the council decisions were promulgated. The council of 381 was, for example, held at Saint Irene’s Church, at the time the main cathedral church in Constantinople.

Two hundred years after Constantine, the Emperor Justinian I greatly enhanced the status of the Christian community with the construction of the Hagia Sophia, which remains impressive for its size and opulence. When completed, it was the largest building in the world and an appropriate monument to Roman power and the new role of Christianity in the Mediterranean Basin.

During the more than a thousand years of Christian rule in the city, the Hagia Sophia suffered damage on two occasions. Much of the artwork was damaged during the period of the iconoclastic controversy (726–843). The iconoclasts believed images in the churches were equivalentto idolatry. Much more damage was done in 1204, when frustrated Crusaders from Western Europe sacked the city and took charge for the next half century. Though reconstructed after 1261, much of the church’s former glory never returned.

In 1453 the army of Sultan Mehmet II overran the city and brought the Christian Era to an end. He and his successors rebuilt the city as an Islamic one. The Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque and appropriately redecorated. Saint Irene’s Cathedral was turned into an armory for the sultan’s troops. The primary Muslim holy site became the Topkapi Palace, adjacent to Saint Irene’s Church, where a set of the relics of Muhammad were assembled.

The Ottoman Empire continued through World War I and came to an end with the Turkish revolution in the 1920s, which brought a secular government. The new era brought a variety of changes to both Christian and Muslim sites. The Hagia Sophia was turned into a museum. Saint Irene’s Church, restored in the 1970s, now serves as a concert hall. Topkapi Palace is the city’s primary tourist site today and retains some sanctity because of the relics housed there in two rooms called the Chamber of the Sacred Relics. Included are some of Muhammad’s teeth, a letter written by him, and a mold of his footprint.

The oldest surviving Christian site in Istanbul is the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist of Studius. It dates to the fifth century CE and was at one time both a great center of intellectual endeavor and home to a variety of relics of Eastern Christian saints. It was also converted to a mosque after the Ottoman conquest and remained such until it was severely damaged by an 1843 earthquake. Today it is a museum.


Edmunds, Anna C. Turkey’s Religious Sites. Istanbul: Damko, 1997.
Kuban, Dogan. Istanbul: An Urban History. Istanbul: History Foundation, 1996.
Ousterhout, Robert. Master Builders of Byzantium. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.



the largest city and seaport in Turkey, the country’s industrial, commercial, and cultural center, and the administrative center of Istanbul II (province). Situated in a hilly area on both sides of the Bosporus near the Sea of Marmara, Istanbul lies partly in Europe (most of the city) and partly in Asia. Its location at the intersection of the sea route from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean and overland routes from Southeastern Europe to Southwest Asia contributed to its growth. The climate is subtropical and Mediterranean, with a mean January temperature of 5.2°C and an August temperature of 23.6°C. The annual precipitation averages 633 mm. Area, 285.4 sq km. Population, about 2.8 million (1975).

Istanbul is divided into 14 administrative districts. The city is governed by a city council elected for four years. Between the sessions of the council the city is administered by a municipal board headed by a chairman. The city council has jurisdiction over the local budget, taxes and duties, and city planning. The city’s districts have municipal departments.

Istanbul was the capital of Turkey from 1453 to Oct. 13,1923. (For the history of Istanbul before the Turkish conquest in 1453 seeCONSTANTINOPLE.) As the capital of the Ottoman Empire it became a major trade and industrial center owing to its extremely favorable location. The strategic importance of the Black Sea straits facilitated the growth and strengthening of the city. When the Ottoman Empire began to decline in the late 17th century, the European powers struggled for control over Istanbul and the straits. The conflict was part of the Eastern Question, which contributed to the outbreak of World War I.

The first Turkish workers’ organizations were founded in Istanbul in the early 20th century, and a Communist group arose here in 1918. During the national liberation struggle of the Turkish people (1918–22), and especially after the Entente troops occupied Istanbul on Mar. 16,1920, the city was the stronghold of the reactionary sultan and his entourage. But even under these conditions the patriots of Istanbul supported the national liberation struggle that had begun in Anatolia. On Oct. 6,1923, nationalist Turkish troops entered Istanbul, and later that month the capital of Turkey was transferred to Ankara.

Some 2,200 of Turkey’s industrial enterprises are located in Istanbul and its suburbs, including about one-third of the country’s manufacturing enterprises. The city’s food and condiments industry produces flour, meat and dairy products, confectionery, alcoholic beverages, and tobacco products. The city also manufactures textiles, clothing, leather footwear, chemicals, cement, and wood products. Its machine-building industry includes shipbuilding, electrical-engineering, and assembly plants. Another major industry is printing. The largest enterprises are factories producing tobacco products, matches, light bulbs, and motor vehicles.

Istanbul is a major transportation nexus. A main railroad line connecting Central Europe with Turkey, Syria, and Iraq passes through the city. The Istanbul harbor extends along part of the Bosporus, the Golden Horn, and the northeastern part of the Sea of Marmara. Istanbul handles up to 40 percent of the country’s import cargo (holding first place among Turkey’s ports) and about 15 percent of the export freight (second place). In 1973 the port handled 6.3 million tons, or 15 percent of the freight turnover of the Turkish ports. The city has an international airport. The largest Turkish banks and various foreign insurance companies and agencies are located in the city.

The Golden Horn, an inlet, divides the European part of the city into two parts: Eminönü, or Old City, and Beyoğlu, or New City. Situated on a peninsula south of the inlet, the Old City, with its narrow streets and numerous mosques, has essentially preserved its medieval appearance. Lying north of the entrance to the Golden Horn, the New City includes Karaköy (formerly Galata), a trade and port district, and Beyoglu proper (formerly Pera), a business and cultural center. The third part of the city, Üsküdar, is situated on the Asian mainland and includes villas along the Sea of Marmara (Moda District) and large army barracks. Ferries and bridges connect the different parts of Istanbul. The longest bridge, a 1,560-m bridge across the Bosporus, was built between 1970 and 1973.

Modern Istanbul owes its appearance to the architecture of three epochs. Byzantine architecture is represented by the ruins of fortress walls, imperial palaces, and a hippodrome, as well as by underground cisterns and churches. Under Turkish rule most of the churches were converted into mosques, among them the fifth-century basilica of St. John of Stoudios (Imrahor Cami); the Hagia Sophia; the Church of St. Irene, built in 532 and rebuilt between the sixth and eighth centuries; the sixth-century Church of SS. Sergius and Bacchus (Kücük Aya Sofya); the seventh-century Church of St. Andrew (Koca Mustafa Cami); the Church of St. Theodosia (Gül Cami), built in the second half of the ninth century; the Myrelaion (Bodrum Cami), constructed in the first half of the tenth century; the Church of St. Theodore (Vefa Kilise Cami), built between the second half of the 11th century and the 14th century; the 12th-century Pantokrator complex (Zeyrek Kilise Cami); and the church of the Chora Monastery (Kariye Cami), rebuilt in the 12th century and containing mosaics from the early 14th century.

Dating from the Turkish Middle Ages are the fortresses of Anadolu Hisari (late 14th century), Rumeli Hisari (1452), and Yedikule (1455). Among the finest mosques of this period are the Fatih Cami (built in the 15th century and rebuilt after it was destroyed in the 18th century), the Mosque of Sultan Bayazid (1497 to 1503 or 1505, architect Kemaleddin), the Sehzade Mosque (1548, architect Sinan), the Suleiman Mosque (1550–57, architect Sinan), the Yeni Cami (1597–1663), and the Mosque of Sultan Ahmed (1609–17, architect Mehmet Aga). Noteworthy secular structures in the Topkapi palace complex include the Çinili Kiosk (1472, architect Kemaleddin), the Erivan Pavilion (1635), and the Baghdad Pavilion (1638). The city was built up with houses whose second story projected over the narrow streets. Several outstanding fountains date from this period.

In the 18th century the architecture of Istanbul yielded to West European influences. Eclectic buildings were erected in the 19th century and functionalist buildings in the 20th century. Modernization of the city began in the 1950’s with the laying out of thoroughfares and intensified housing construction. Examples of the large public buildings and hotels being erected include the Hilton Hotel (1952, by the American architectural firm SOM and the Turkish architect Elde) and the Cultural Center (1969. by H. Tabanloğlu).

Istanbul has three universities: the University of Istanbul, the Technical University of Istanbul, and the Bogazichi University. Other higher educational institutions include the Istanbul Academy of Economics and Commercial Science, the Academy of Fine Arts, and the Conservatory. Among learned societies are the Turkish Medical Society, the Turkish Biological Society, and the Chemical Society. The largest libraries are the Istanbul University Library, the Technical University Library, the Süleyma-niye Library, and the Beyazit Library.

The principal museums are the Hagia Sophia Museum, the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Painting and Sculpture, the Topkapi Palace Museum, and the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art. Theatrical performances are given at the Municipal, Kenter, Harbye. Fatih. Gültepe, and Kadyköy theaters and at the Maxim Opera Hall.


Iusupov, A. P. Stambul. Moscow, 1970.
Kömürcüyan, E. C. Istanbul tarihi. Istanbul, 1952.
Mantran, R. La Vie quotidienne à Constantinople. Paris, 1965.
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