Tuesday, January 3, 2017


İstanbul - Turkey

Blachernae Walls Of Old Istanbul / Istanbul - Turkey photo blachernae_wall103.jpg


In the northwestern corner of the city, the suburb of Blachernae with its important church of Panagia Vlacherniotissa was left out of the Theodosian walls. To defend it, in the face of the great Avar siege, a single wall was built, around 627, in the reign of Heraclius. In 814, Leo V the Armenian built a new wall in front of the Heraclean one to safeguard against Bulgarian raids.

In the 12th century, when Blachernae had become the favoured imperial residence, Manuel I Komnenos built a wall, starting from the end of the Theodosian Walls, to protect the imperial palaces, which was connected by a later wall (possibly under Isaac II Angelos) to the Heraclean wall. Despite all this, the defences of the Blachernae section remained weaker than at the Theodosian Walls, and it was here the Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade managed to penetrate them and first enter the city.

The Walls of Blachernae consist of four single walls built in different periods. Generally they are about 12-15 metres in height; thicker than the Theodosian Walls and with more closely spaced towers, while lacking a moat. The fortification begins at the end of the Theodosian Walls with the Komnenian Wall, connected by the Angelian wall to the Heraclean wall, which in turn is connected to the Sea Walls at the Golden Horn. The wall of Leo V lies in front of the Heraclean wall.

The Walls of Blachernae connect the Theodosian Walls, which terminate at the height of the Palace of the Porphyrogenitus (Turkish: Tekfur Sarayı), with the sea wall at the Golden Horn. They consist of a series of single walls built in different periods, which cover the suburb of Blachernae. Generally they are about 12-15 meters in height, thicker than the Theodosian Walls and with more closely spaced towers.

Situated on a steep slope, they lacked a moat, except on their lower end towards the Golden Horn, where Emperor John VI Kantakouzenos had dug one. The question of the original fortifications in this area has been examined by several scholars, and several theories have been proposed as to their course. It is known from the Notitia Urbis Constantinopolitanae that the XIV region, which comprised Blachernae, stood apart and was enclosed all around by a wall of its own.

Further it is recorded that originally, and at least as late as the Avar siege of 626, when they were burned down, the important sanctuaries of Panagia Blachernitissa and St. Nicholas lay just outside the quarter's fortifications. Traces of the quarter's walls have been preserved, running from the area of the Porphyrogenitus Palace in straight line to the so-called Prison of Anemas.

The original fortified quarter can thereby be roughly traced to have comprised the two northern spurs of the city's Seventh Hill in a triangle, stretching from the Porphyrogenitus Palace to the Anemas Prison, from there to the church of St. Demetrios Kanabos and thence back to the Porphyrogenitus Palace. These fortifications were apparently older than the Theodosian Walls, probably dating to sometime in the 4th century, and were then connected to the new city walls under Theodosius II, with the western wall forming the outer face of the city's defences and the eastern wall fell into disrepair.

Today, the Theodosian Walls are connected in the vicinity of the Porphyrogenitus Palace with a short wall, which features a postern, probably the postern of the Porphyrogenitus recorded by John Kantakouzenos, and extends from the Palace to the first tower of the so-called Wall of Manuel Komnenos. As recorded by the historian Niketas Choniates, that wall was built by Emperor Manuel I Komnenos (r. 1143-1180) as a protection to the imperial Palace of Blachernae.

Since the late 11th century the emperors' preferred residence. It is an architecturally excellent fortification, consisting of a series of arches closed on their outer face, built with masonry larger than usual and thicker than the Theodosian Walls, measuring some 5 m at the top. It features eight round and octagonal towers, while the last is square. The wall stretches for 220 m, beginning at an almost right angle from the line of the Theodosian Walls, going westward up to the third tower and then turning sharply north.

The quality of the wall's construction was shown in the final Ottoman siege, when repeated attacks, intensive bombardment (including the large bombard of Orban and attempts at undermining it came to naught. The Komnenian wall lacks a moat, since the difficult terrain of the area makes it unnecessary. The wall features one postern, between the second and third towers, and one large gate, the Eğri Kapı "Crooked Gate", between the sixth and seventh towers.

Its Turkish name comes from the sharp bend of the road in front of it to pass around a tomb which is supposed to belong to Hazret Hafiz, a companion of Muhammad who died there during the first Arab siege of the city. It is usually, but not conclusively, identified with the Byzantine Kaligaria Gate (porta en tois Kaligariois), the "Gate of the Bootmakers' Quarter" (cf. Latin caliga, "sandal").

From the last tower of the Wall of Manuel Komnenos to the so-called Prison of Anemas stretches another wall, some 150 m in length, with four square towers. It is probably of later date, and of markedly inferior quality than the Komnenian wall, being less thick and with smaller stones and brick tiles utilized in its construction. It also bears inscriptions commemorating repairs in 1188, 1317 and 1441.

A walled-up postern after the second tower is commonly identified with the Gyrolimne Gate (pylē tēs Gyrolimnēs), named after the Argyra Limnē, the "Silver Lake", which stood at the head of the Golden Horn. It probably serviced the Blachernae Palace, as evidenced by its decoration with three imperial busts. Schneider however suggests that the name could refer rather to the Eğri Kapı.

Then comes the outer wall of the Anemas Prison, which connects to a double stretch of walls. The outer wall is known as the Wall of Leo, as it was constructed by Leo V the Armenian (r. 813-820) in 813 to safeguard against the siege by the Bulgarian ruler Krum. This wall was then extended to the south by Michael II (r. 820-829). The wall is a relatively light structure, less than 3 m thick, buttressed by arches which support its parapet and featuring four towers and numerous loopholes.

Behind the Leonine Wall lies an inner wall, which was renovated and strengthened by the additions of three particularly fine hexagonal towers by Emperor Theophilos (r. 829-842). The two walls stand some 26 m apart and are pierced by a gate each, together comprising the Gate of Blachernae (porta tōn Blachernōn). The two walls form a fortified enclosure, called the Brachionion or Brachiolion ("bracelet") of Blachernae by the Byzantines, and known after the Ottoman capture of the city in Greek as the Pentapyrgion "Five Towers", in allusion to the Yedikule (Greek. Heptapyrgion) fortress.

The inner wall is traditionally identified by scholars like van Millingen and Janin with the Wall of Heraclius, built by Emperor Heraclius (r. 610-641) after the Avar siege to enclose and protect the Church of the Blachernitissa. Schneider however identified it in part with the Pteron "wing", built at the time of Theodosius II to cover the northern flank of the Blachernae (hence its alternate designation as proteichisma, "outwork") from the Anemas Prison to the Golden Horn.

Consequently, Schneider transferred the identity of the Heraclian Wall on the short stretch of sea wall directly attached to it to its east, which displays a distinct architecture. The identity of the Pteron remains an unresolved question among modern scholars, however. Another, short wall was added in later times, probably in the reign of Theophilos, stretching from the junction of the land and sea walls to the sea itself, and pierced by the so-called Wooden Gate. Both this wall and the gate were demolished in 1868.

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