Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Magnificence of Constantinople Even In 1436

Created in 1422 by Cristoforo Buondelmonti, this is the oldest surviving map of Constantinople and the only one that predates the Ottoman conquest.

Bessarion writes to Theodoros II Palaiologos the following about Constantinople in 1436, which was seventeen years before its fall to the Ottomans:

On the one side you will see the abundance and fineness of holy things, even more abundant than they are fine, and even better than they are abundant. On another side you will see the walls and towers and the defense circuit of the city, whose measure and strength no one can wonder enough at, and on yet another the brilliance of the cities houses and the overwhelming pride in public show. On still another you will see the massiveness of the public buildings and their extent, evidences of royal indulgence and the luxury of power. You will see the size and beauty of these and you will hear much recounted to you about them. For this city is bejewelled in the eyes of those who see it beyond any other, and in those who remember it, even beyond reality, so that how could you pass through it without marvelling at many things, you who used to clap and dance with pleasure and seemed to see it almost as if you were one with those who longed for it.

But why do I speak of this, when you are in the presence of even more. You are where everything is holy, and every godly thing has been stored up as if this city had become a sort of treasury for God, curating for him every holy bone from the martyrs, every relic of priests and holy superiors, of all who have served God. These you could not find time enough for walking about with eagerness and desire, embracing them and gathering in their grace, for their beauty surrounds you from every side in every way.


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