It’s Saturday morning, and, once more, I’m sitting in front of our cave room, under the walls of the natural (not national, as I originally wrote last night) amphitheater that is our hotel.
Time for a very hasty account of Thursday (photos to follow, perhaps after our return to the States) before we head out for today’s activities:
We began Thursday with a visit to Justinian’s stunning Church of Haghia Sophia, dedicated at the end of September 527 AD. For more than nine centuries, it was the central shrine of eastern Christianity. For four centuries thereafter, it was one of the greatest of Ottoman mosques. When he dedicated the completed church, Justinian is reputed to have said, “Solomon, I have outdone thee!”
We then walked through the ancient hippodrome, the site of chariot races and the place where Justinian’s general, Belisarius, put down the Nika Revolt by, at the emperor’s order, killing 30,000 people gathered there.
We had lunch in the Hotel Arcadia’s spectacular terrace dining room, overlooking ancient Constantinople. (Some of us had dinner there a few nights before.) We visited the wonderful mosaics of the old Grand Palace of the Byzantine emperors and then, in the afternoon, we went out to the marveloous Chora Church (Kariye Camii, in modern Turkish), of which I certainly will share pictures later.
In the evening, I lectured to our group about Justinian and his wife, Theodora — one of the most interesting “power couples” of antiquity. But, first, we spent some quality time trapped in an elevator.
Posted from Ürgüp, Turkey.