Byzantine Churches in Constantinople: [Their Story & Architecture] (Paperback)
BYZANTINE CHURCHES IN CONSTANTINOPLE This volume is a sequel to the work I published, several years ago, under the title, Byzantine Constantinople: the Walls of the City, and adjoining Historical Sites. In that work the city was viewed, mainly, as the citadel of the Roman Empire in the East, and the bulwark of civilization for more than a thousand years. But the city of Constantine was not only a mighty fortress. It was, moreover, the centre of a great religious community, which elaborated dogmas, fostered forms of piety, and controlled an ecclesiastical administration that have left a profound impression upon the thought and life of mankind. New Rome was a Holy City. It was crowded with churches, hallowed, it was believed, by the remains of the apostles, prophets, saints, and martyrs of the Catholic Church; shrines at which men gathered to worship, from near and far, as before the gates of heaven. These sanctuaries were, furthermore, constructed and beautified after a fashion which marks a distinct and important period in the history of art, and have much to interest the artist and the architect. We have, consequently, reasons enough to justify our study of the churches of Byzantine Constantinople. Of the immense number of the churches which once filled the city but a small remnant survives. Earthquakes, fires, pillage, neglect, not to speak of the facility with which a Byzantine structure could be shorn of its glory, have swept the vast majority off the face of the earth, leaving not a rack behind. In most cases even the sites on which they stood cannot be identified. The places which knew them know them no more. Scarcely a score of the old churches of the city are left to us, all with one exception converted into mosques and sadly altered. The visitor must, therefore, be prepared for disappointment. Age is not always a crown of glory; nor does change of ownership and adaptation to different ideas and tastes necessarily conduce to improvement. We are not looking at flowers in their native clime or in full bloom, but at flowers in a herbarium so to speak, or left to wither and decay. As we look upon them we have need of imagination to see in faded colours the graceful forms and brilliant hues which charmed and delighted the eyes of men in other days. In the preparation of this work I have availed myself of the aid afforded by previous stu-dents in the same field of research, and I have gratefully acknowledged my debt to them whenever there has been occasion to do so. At the same time this is a fresh study of the sub-ject, and has been made with the hope of confirming what is true, correcting mistakes, and gathering additional information. Attention has been given to both the history and the archi-tecture of these buildings. The materials for the former are, unfortunately, all too scanty. No continuous records of any of these churches exist. A few incidents scattered over wide tracts of time constitute all that can be known. Still, disconnected incidents though they be, they give us glimpses of the characteristic thoughts and feelings of a large mass of our humanity during a long period of history. ALEXANDER VAN MILLINGEN. Robert College, Constantinople.
About the Author
Alexander Van Millingen 1840-1915 He was born in 1840 in Constantinople. He was Scotch of Dutch extraction and he was the son of a doctor, who must have come out to Turkey in the early days of the 19. Century. He was physician at the Imperial Palace. The son A.v.M. was a scholar of the first order and he taught at Robert College for a great many years. He was formidable in his lectures but every one respected him for his erudition and his passion for accuracy in research. He was tall and spare and wore a rather scraggy moustache and his near-sighted eyes were almost hidden behind his thick pince-nez. His speech was always deliberate and sounded as though it flowed from the purest of classical fountaine.He was exceedingly broad-minded and possessed the ability of seeing the inner nature and the causes of things rather than judging them superficially. He was always energetic, active, strong and young-looking. He married Miss Cora Welch, daughter of a rich New Haven banker. He wanted a home for himself. He made an arrangement with the College to share in its construction. His 2 sons were the first students of Robert College. Although Van Millingen excelled as a teacher and theologien archeology was the most important field of his activity. With the help of the many languages which he had mastered, including Latin, and ancient Greek he had access to all the important works concerning his own field of study Byzantine Constantinople. He was never satisfied with the works of others. He collected scientific data on the field by reading inscriptions on the walls and in the churches and making accurate measurements and designs.He published his 2 masterpieces after painstaiking and conscientious work. These are: The books on the walls and churches of Byzantine Constantinople. Millingen's books many years after are still considered standard works on the subject. He wrote several scholarly books on the history and monuments of Istanbul. for his speciality was Byzantine times. When he died on 15 september 1915, he left a good many of his books to the institution he had served so long and it has formed the nucleus of the Library.