Great Palace of Constantinople

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One of floor mosaics excavated at the Great Palace and dated to the reign of Justinian I. It is presumed to represent a conquered Gothic king.

The Byzantine Great Palace of Constantinople, (Greek: Μέγα Παλάτιον, Turkish: Büyük Saray), also known as the Sacred Palace (Latin: sacrum palatium, Greek: Ιερόν Παλάτιον), was a large palace complex, located in the south-eastern end of the peninsula where the city lies. It served as main residence of the Byzantine emperors from 330 AD to 1081 AD and was the centre of imperial administration for approximately 800 years.

[edit] History

When Constantine I founded the city of Constantinople in 330, he planned out a palace for himself and his heirs. The palace was located between the Hippodrome of Constantinople and Hagia Sophia.

The Palace's structure is considered by scholars to have been a series of pavilions, much like the Ottoman-era Topkapı Palace that succeeded it. It was rebuilt and expanded several times, especially under the emperors Justinian I and Theophilos. It contained among other buildings the throne room of the Chrysotriklinos, the reception halls of the 19 Akkubita, a vast ceremonial suite known as the Palace of Daphne, the Octagon, the emperor's bedchamber, a polo field known as the Tzykanisterion, the palace of Magnavra, where the University was later housed, and the seaside palace of Bucoleon. A passage led directly from Palace grounds to the imperial kathisma in the Hippodrome. The total surface area of the Great Palace exceeded 20,000 square feet.

Until the late 12th century, the Great Palace served as the primary administrative and ceremonial centre of the city, although since the early Komnenian era the palace of Blachernae was favoured as an imperial residence. During the sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade, the Palace was plundered by the soldiers of Boniface of Montferrat. Although the subsequent Latin emperors continued to use the Palace complex, they lacked money for its maintenance. The last emperor, Baldwin II, went as far as removing the lead roofs of the Palace and selling them.

Consequently, when the city was retaken by the forces of Michael VIII Palaiologos in 1261, the Great Palace was in a bad state. The Palaiologi emperors largely abandoned it, ruling from Blachernae, so that when Mehmed II entered the city in 1453, he discovered it to be ruined and abandoned. As he wandered its empty halls and pavilions, he allegedly whispered a quote from the Persian poet, Ferdowsi:
"The spider spins his web in the Palace of the Caesars,
An owl hoots in the towers of Afrasiyab."

Much of the palace was demolished in the general rebuilding of Constantinople in the early years of the Ottoman era. However, debris clean-up from an early 20th century fire uncovered a section of the Great Palace. On this site prison cells, many large rooms, and possibly tombs were found following the fire. Contemporary excations are continuing in Istanbul to further uncover the Great Palace of Constantinople. Presently, less than one quarter of the total area covered by the palace has been excavated. Most of the unearthed mosaics have been housed in the Istanbul Mosaic Museum.

[edit] External links

fr:Grand Palais (Constantinople) no:Det store palasset i Istanbul

Great Palace of Constantinople

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