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Burnt Column in Istanbul

Photo credit: *_* / Foter / CC BY
Burnt Column in Istanbul
  • (interesting)
  • less than 1 km
  • Easy
  • Free
  • 1 hour or less
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The 1600 years old column with a rich and breathtaking history

Yeniçeriler Caddesi, Istanbul, Turkey

Constructed by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great back in 330 AD, this column was named, of course, the Column of Constantine. It was erected to commemorate the declaration of Constantinople as the new capital of the great Roman Empire. For its time, the column was really high: it reached the height of 50 meters and was topped by the big statue of Constantine designed as Appolo. The column stood in the center of the Forum of Constantine (not a surprising name, right?) – a big colonnaded plaza situated outside of the city walls.


One of the column’s prominent features was the incredible mix of Christianity and paganism. Reportedly, there was a sanctuary at the foot of the column with lots of Christian sacred objects, like fragments of crosses of the Two Thieves, alabaster ointment jar belonging to Mary Magdalene and baskets from the Loaves and Fishes miracle.


At the same time, the sanctuary housed the Palladium of ancient Rome (the cult image which was believed to protect the city) and the wooden statue of Athena from Troy. Don’t forget about the pagan Apollo-like look of the Emperor’s statue on the top.


Unfortunately, in 1106 there was a strong hurricane which blew off the statue and three upper elements of the column. That resulted in reducing the column’s height from 50 to 35 meters. However, that was not the last adventure of this construction. Soon after the statue was blown off, the huge cross was installed on the top of the column. Later, after the Ottoman conquest of the city, the cross was removed and the column started standing just like you can see it now.


That is not the end. In 1779, during the great fire in the neighborhood, the column received lots of scorch marks. From that time on, it received its modern name ‘burnt column’. Being more than 15 hundred years old, this column has been under reconstruction from 1955. Even if the column is not very attractive, it is highly precious due to its long and adventurous history.

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