Sunday, July 03, 2011

Istanbul from Heart and Soul

Episode Two of Heart and Soul speaks of fishing on the Bosphorus for fish important to Jews some of which was sold to the local Jewish community until the ship bound for Gaza last year was prevented from landing by the Israeli military. This year no fish has been sold to the Jewish community by this fisherman.

Greeks, Muslims, and Armenians used to live together in Istanbul in the thirties. But now this is no longer true. There are now only a handful of Greeks remaining. Patriarch Bartholomew is optimistic for the future, however, and several ecumenical projects are underway. Interviewed on the program, he notes that the Turkish government has made concessions to religious officials.

In the project to build an tunnel for the underground under the Bosphorus, an ancient harbor of the Byzantine port has been uncovered. At Yenikapi a shipwreck from the fifth century has been discovered.

The wreck is among some 35 sunken ships at the old Byzantine harbor which had silted over, probably in the 10th century. The discovery of other Byzantine merchant ships has led this to be described as the greatest nautical archaeological site of all time. A collection of the discoveries has already been put together in an exhibition at the İstanbul Archaeological Museum, together with artifacts retrieved during other metro excavations around the city, including a hugely important find on the Asian side of the city at Üsküdar.
Archeologist Sırrı Çömlekçi was quoted in Radikal as saying that the remains from this Byzantine ship will provide a lot of information about the past. “It will be possible to see the whole ship when we complete our work,” he said.
Zeynep Kızıltan, the head of the Marmaray-Metro Salvage Excavations, said that once the dig is complete, they look forward to sharing with the public all of the findings and their significance. She added in Radikal's report that the latest discovery seems to be quite unique. The dig is expected to continue through the end of summer.

The program ends in Aya Sofia noting the religious history of the building: from church to mosque to museum. A newspaper columnist interviewed notes that no one is happy with turning the building into a museum. Surely we can find a way to share the building as a symbol of the more positive aspects of our religious history, he says.

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