May 28, 2012

The Walls of Constantinople Still Stand

By coincidence, the dates and days of the week in 1453 coincide with those this year, and May 29th falls once again on a Black Tuesday. In 1453 the Ottoman Turks used a giant cannonade, tossing granite projectiles that weighed a full ton, to tear down the walls of Constantinople and conquer the city, and though the city eventually was conquered, the walls continued to stand despite the damage. The walls of Constantinople still stand, although there have been attempts to tear them down once they lost their defensive purpose. Right up to the end of the 20th century plans were made to destroy them. The railway from Europe runs right through them along the Sea of Marmara. Sultan Abdulaziz, who reigned from 1861 to 1876, was eager to tear them down during his reign because he felt they weren’t modern and western enough – these obviously were in the days before tourism. Some parts of the walls came down in order to widen the roads that ran through them – after all they weren’t built to accommodate the automobile and a city with millions of inhabitants. Even in the 1980s and 1990s there was nationalistic talk of tearing them down because the walls weren’t Turkish, but there was heavy opposition. Because of tourism, a large-scale restoration program has been under way since the 1980s, which allows the visitor to appreciate their original appearance. But the restoration program has been criticized for use of inappropriate materials and poor quality of work and destroying historical evidence. During the earthquake of 1999 some restored sections collapsed while the original structure underneath remained intact, as if showing contempt for the shoddy work that had been done on them.

For more on the walls of Constantinople, read here.