The Byzantines in Anatolia

Even though the Byzantines were almost a city-state in the last period of their Empire, many traces of the early period Byzantine Empire can be found in Anatolia. One of these is the palace found along the Izmir-Kemalpasa road. This multi-storied structure resembles the Tekfur Palace. In terms of their style of decoration, the home and chapel of the Mother Mary and other churches found in this region are almost small copies of the churches of Istanbul. The Church of the Mother Mary in Bulbuldagi near Izmir is also important as a pilgrimage site. It is widely believed that Mary spent her last years in this city and that she died in this mountain cottage. Many Christians make the pilgrimage to this site every year

Remains of certain Byzantine castles can be spotted in various areas of Thrace. The ones still considered intact are those at Silivri, Enez, Vize, and Kiyikoy. Another Byzantine ruin in Vize is the Vize Church. This structure was later converted to a mosque and, while its name was changed to the Suleyman Pasa Camii, it is still remembered as the Hagia Sophia.

Today only a small section of the castle built by the Emperor Hadrian in Edirne is still standing, although most of the building was still intact during the past century. Another Byzantine masterpiece of Edirne is the clover-shaped Church of the Hagia Sophia. Unfortunately, the only remains we have of that structure is a faded photograph. Only the ruins of the Enez Cathedral remain to be seen in Enez. Built in the shape of the Greek cross, the western side of this structure is longer than the other sides, giving the building a Basilica-like apparent. Another ruin is the church dating from 1345 in Silivri. This church was built by Alexios Apokaukos who was later to be lynched.

The ancient city of Midye (Kiyikoy) crossing the Sakarya River. According to was built on a clifftop of the Black Sea. Here today are the ruins of a monastery, church, and sacred fountain. The church is a very important and unique structure in that it was built within the hollowed out cliff, and has, itself, a cliff-like appearance. The Byzantines constructed a number of buildings and towers in the area of the Izmit Bay which were used for military purposes. The Eskisehir Tower in Gebze is probably in the best condition today. This tower was built on a site allowing it to control both the road and the sea. According to some researchers, this tower is where Mikhael Palaiologos VIII was imprisoned by the Niceaen Prince Ionnes Lakaris IV after the prince blinded him and stripped him of the throne. The Coban Tower overlooking a hill on the Yalova-Niceae Road is also a Byzantine remnant. Another example of Byzantine architecture is the Dark Church near Yalova.

One of the other very important architectural works of this people is the bridge crossing the Sakarya River.According to the writer Prakopios,”The Justinian Bridge was built over the Sakarya River by the Emperor Justinian and through the power of Divine Intercedence.” This twelve-arched bridge is 430 meters long.

Other important Byzantine remains can be found in the city of Nicaea (Iznik). During the thirteen-century crusade, a period in which the Empire was in the process of disintegration, Nicaea became the capitol of a Byzantine Principality and it was surrounded by Roman walls. One side of these walls faced the land, while the others rested against the cliffs.

The rooms within some of the large towns of the walls were decorated with fresco painted by artists of that period. The Hagia Sophis Basilica stands in the middle of the city. This structure was badly damaged in the eleventh century by an earthquake and was then restored. The floors of this cathedral are covered with very fine mosaics. The other church in Nicaea is the Koimesis Church. This church was damaged during the last days of the War of Independence in a battle between the Turks and the Greeks. Only photographs remain of the former mosaics. There are enough remains however to understand the basic plan of the church.

One of the Byzantine remains in the Aegean area is the Sardes Basilica. Ephesus was also an important center for the Byzantines. The Mother Mary replaced the goddess Artemis as a figure of supplication. The Basilica of the Mother Mary was built over an ancient structure in the year 431 AD. During the 7th century AD, certain hermits traveled from the Sinai and built chapels along the shores of the Bafa Lake and on its tiny islands. A tiny chapel remains on the Kahve Asar island. This chapel was built according to the plan of the Greek cross and its eastern side is decorated with bricks. Monasteries are found in the Ikiz and Kapikiri Islands. There are also remnants of the Styles and Yediler monasteries in the nearby mountains.It is believed that St.Paul lived here. In Byzantine sources it writes that the monastery at Yediler is the Kellibaron Monastery.

Byzantine Remnants in Ankara

Ankara’s symbol, its tower, is a structure built by the Byzantines in the ninth century. Also to be found in Ankara is the church that was constructed out of the remains of the Temple of Augustus. It is also believed that the Afyon Tower which was constructed on the rocks in a remnant of the Byzantine period. In Cappadocia there are many rock-hewn chapels, churches, and hermit’s retreats dating from the earliest period of   Christianity and, then, also used by the Byzantines. Most of these structures have frescoes in them. Some of these depict Saint Helen, Constantine, and Saint George. The church of the monastery in Eskigumus has been decorated with great attention to detail. Numerous wall paintings can be seen in the Ihlara Valley. One of the very unique characteristics of this region is the underground cities. One of these underground cities is at the town of Derinkuyu. The city was built by hollowing out floors upon floors of stone and quite surprising techniques were used to provide fresh air and a system of locks. Another underground city is Godet which is in the Yarimkale-Karaman region near Kirsehir.

Trabzon is another important Byzantine center in Anatolia. Trabzon utilized unique regional building techniques. Today, however, only one wall with two windows remains of the Commenos Palace. The religious buildings of this area have been better preserved. One of these is the Church of St. Anne which carries an inscription stating that the church was repaired by the emperor Basileos I in 885. The building today which is known as the Ortahisar Mosque was the church of St. Eugene in the Byzantine period. The Hagia Sophia church was built outside the city proper in the thirteen century. The bell tower of the church has been very well preserved. The interior of this bell tower is decorated with frescoes dating from the fifteenth century. Two of the most important remains from the Byzantine period are the Kizlar Monastery built in the hills above Trabzon and the Boztepe hermit caves which were hollowed out of the rocks. The most important of all of the Byzantine ruins of this region, however, is the Sumela Monastery. First the cliffs of the mountain were hollowed out to be used as a church and then this complex was developed into a monastery. This construction took place in the fourteenth century during the Commenos period.



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