From Byzantium to Constantinople :
The New Rome

Constantine the Roman Emperor, was in firm command of the entire Roman empire, sets about rebuilding Byzantium immediately after the defeat of Licinius as a Christian capital city. The city was ready by 330 AD for a ceremony of inaguration: Byzantium acquired two names- New Rome and Constantinople. The Roman Empire, within eighteen years of Constantine’s first victory, had a new religion, a new centre of gravity and a significant change of culture. The emperor wasted no time in building monuments to proclaim Byzantium a Christian city. The first church, built in 346 AD, dedicated not to a martyr but to a concept, Holy Peace- the church of Hagia Irene. It served as the church of the Patriarchate before Hagia Sophia was completed in 360 AD. From May to July 381, the first Council of Constantinople took place in the church. Both churches acted together as the principal churches of the Byzantine Empire. Falling ill in 337 AD, Constantine was baptized, only a few days before his death. The revival of the Pagan cult came up in 361-363 AD, the new and young emperor Julian decided to reinstate the ancient gods of Rome and Greece. At first he seemed showing religious tolerance but by 362, Julian made a prominent display of the ritual sacrifices which he carried out personally at revived pagan temples. Theodosius became the Eastern emperor in 379 AD and rapidly settled the religious splits within the empire by declaring pagan worship and Christian heresies to be illegal. A law of 380 AD, ordered all citizens to subscribe to the Catholic doctrines agreed under the chairmanship of Constantine the Great at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD.

Topics:  Christianity in Byzantine Empire, Holy treasures of Byzantium, Orthodox Christianity

Overview 3  nights/4 days

Biblio Traveler Advisory Mix & Match the destination with Cappadocia

Exclusive visits to authentic bazaars of Istanbul, Bosphorus ride, Introduction to Turkish Culinary


The Monastery of Stoudios (Imrahor Mosque-from outside. Interior visit is subject to special permission) was the most important monastery of Constantinople. Founded in 462 AD by the Concul Stoudios, and became the center of religious poetry in Byzantine. The only part to survive into the 20th century was the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, probably the oldest remaining church in Istanbul.

Church of St. Saviour in Chora is  located at the edge of Istanbul, near the Land Wall of Emperor Theodosius, originally built in the early 5th century. The Chora Church is decorated with iconic murals and mosaics from the fourteenth century that represent the Late Byzantine artistic styles. The structure called the Chora Museum is a church structure forming the center of the Khora monastery, which was a large complex during the East Rome Empire era and was devoted to Jesus. The name “Khora” was seen appropriate, which means “rural area” or “the outskirts” in Greek because it was outside the city walls of Constantinople. Although the exact date of its building is unknown, according to reports from the author Saint Simeon Metaphrastes, who lived at the end of the 10th century, it is understood that the area where the Chora Monastery is located gained importance of being a “necropol” because during the early years of Christianity, the relics of Saint Babylas and his 84 followers who were murdered in Iznik, were buried here at the beginning of the 4th century.

 Hagia Sophia Museum  is considered a unique monument in world architecture, and its magnificence and functionality has been a good example in construction of countless Ottoman mosques. Interesting forms of Byzantine architecture, mosaics of the Christian period as well as structures added during the Ottoman Era.  In its 1400 year life-span it has served as a church, mosque and now a museum. When it was first constructed, Constantinople was the capital of the Byzantine Empire. This state, officially Christian, originally formed the eastern half of the Roman Empire and carried on after the fall of Rome. The Church of Hagia Sophia (literally “Holly Wisdom”) in Constantinople, was first dedivated in 360 by Emperor Constantinus, son the of the city’s founder, Emperor Constantine. Originally called Megale Ekklesia (Great Church), the name Hagia Sophia came into use around 430 AD. The present structure, which is entirely fireproof, was built in 532-37 by Emperor Justinian from designs of his imperial architects Anthemius of Tralles and Isidorus of Miletus. As a result of severe earthquakes, the dome collapsed in 558 AD, but it was rebuilt by 563 AD on a somewhat higher curve.

Underground (Basilica) Cistern is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul. The cistern was built in the 6th century by Emperor Justinian.  When Byzantium, renamed Constantinople, became the capital of the Roman Empire, it soon had more inhabitants than it could supply with the water of its wells and the little river west of it. So, large cisterns were built: One of these was the Basilica Cistern. As the total surgace is 65X138 meters, the maximum capacity is almost 85.000 cubic meters, which was brought to this cistern from a well about twenty kilometer away with a new aqueduct, also built by Justinian. It was used to provide water to the imperial palace (hence the name, imperial cistern) The 336 columns – 246 are still visible – were brought to the Basilica Cistern from older buildings. Probably, one of these buildings was the place where the two giant gorgo heads were found that are still in the cistern and support two columns. The original place may have been the Forum of Constantine, where similar heads were found. Putting upside down pagan statues is not unheard-of, though: in some churches, the first Christians made altars of older monuments in this fashion. The symbolism is obvious. However, a cistern is not a church.