Chora and Hagia Sophia, post-reconversion: first impressions

Last weekend two of the NBN members decided to have a closer look at the current state of the Chora church and Hagia Sophia efter the turbulence of the last two months.

In Chora/Kariye Camii, a minbar has been added to the inner naos, and some sort of drop-down curtains to cover up the three mosaics there during prayer times. All other mosaics visible so far, and one still pays entrance fees to enter the building. The frescoes have been inaccessible for more than a year due to the ongoing restoration of the exonarthex, unclear how that will proceed. The building as a whole is still covered in scaffolding for the overall renovation.

Hagia Sophia: the apse mosaics are covered by veils, but the mosaics in the narthex are visible again. The floor of the main nave is now largely covered by green carpets. The gallery has been inaccessible since the pandemic started, and it is unclear when and how it will be opened. The scaffolding for restoration of the main dome and pendentives is still in place, though covered by reproductions of Qur’anic inscriptions.

In sum, it seems that so far many of the worst fears and concerns for the buildings that have been making the rounds on social media may be rather ill founded. Rather, it is in the way the two buildings relate to their urban surroundings that it becomes possible to perceive the full impact of the statement that was made by the Erdogan government by the decision to re-transform them into mosques.

In the case of Chora, the change so far seems neglectable, situated as the site is at the outskirts of the poorer and more conservative neighborhoods of Edirnekapı. These are, on the one hand, more economically dependent on the Chora as a major tourist magnet; on the other hand, the use of the building as a place of Muslim worship blends more imperceptibly with the needs and habits of the local community. At least for the moment, it seems that the status quo may be not entirely different from how the case has been with the Pammakaristos church / Fethiye camii not far from there, where the main naos has been used as a mosque at the same time as the exonarthex with the mosaics has been accessible as a museum (which is currently, however, also undergoing a renovation of unclear outcome).

In the case of the Hagia Sophia, it seems fair to say that its reconversion brings a significant change to the whole Sultanahmet neighborhood around it. Throughout the Republican period of Turkey, Sultanahmet was something like an open-air history museum (first envisioned as such by Henri Prost) where the Topkapi Palace, Archaeological Museum, the Hagia Sophia, the Sultanahmet/Blue Mosque, the Hippodrome, the various cisterns, hamams, bazaars and other smaller sites like the Mosaic museum, blended in an internationalized and secularized cityscape that belonged first and foremost to the tourists – an arena for manifesting Turkey as a “modern nation”, implicitly to Western eyes. A main argument for the retransformation of the Hagia Sophia into a mosque was that it would make the building accessible to everyone: it would neither be denied the local Muslims that wanted to pray without having to pay an entrance fee, nor the tourists, which would still be welcome. In effect, the sheer amount of visitors both at prayer times and between them is so considerable that the whole square in front of the building up to the Hippodrome has been sealed off by barricades to regulate the queues, and the vast majority of these visitors follow a conservative Muslim dress code of a kind that is rarely seen even around the major historical mosques of Istanbul (with the possible exception of Eyüp). It indicates that either the expectation in the reconversion, or the government promotion of it, has been very strong among Turkish conservative Muslims and Muslims abroad (many of the visitors seem to come from Arab countries). Needless to say, all women visiting the Hagia Sophia also now have to cover their heads.

In both Chora and Hagia Sophia, it remains to see how the sites will change as time goes by and both the novelty of the transformation as well as the memory of their previous incarnations as museums are fading. Still, two interesting trajectories can at least be made out. First, against the backdrop of the annual use of the Hippodrome as an arena for Ramadan festivities, the almost constant closures in whole or parts of the Archaeological museum, the growing aura of “Ottomania” surrounding the Topkapi Palace (where, incidentally, the entrance fee argument is apparently invalid) and the use of the Gülhane Park as venue of Tulip festivals and a “Museum of Islamic science” of very dubious provenance, the retransformation of the Hagia Sophia into a mosque seems to have finally put an end to the Republican attempts to neutralize the past of the Sultanahmet region. It is now an open-air museum of historicism rather than history, a manifestation of the new collective narrative of the AKP government. Secondly, the simultaneous opening or planned opening of the Tekfur Saray and the Blachernai Palace not far from the Chora church as museums (again, with an Ottoman touch) seem to indicate that the neighborhoods from the city wall down to the hipsterfied quarters of Balat may paradoxically be about to mutate into the main areas where tourists from particularly Western countries will henceforth go to look for a more “individualized” Istanbul experience.

In both cases, of course, the driving force behind the transformation is neither historicism nor individualism, but consumerism. But that is a different story.


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Spatial Paths to Holiness: New Dissertation at Uppsala University!

Myrto Veikou has handed in her doctoral dissertation for the traditional “spikning” at Uppsala University: “Spatial paths to holiness: Literary ‘lived spaces’ in eleventh-century Byzantine saints’ lives”. The dissertation will be defended on September 26 with Stephanos Efthymiadis as faculty examiner. After that, a research position in the new RJ programme “Retracing Connections” awaits Myrto. Please explore the programme here:

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The Perpetual Conquest

As turquoise carpets begin to cover up the ancient marble floors of the Hagia Sophia in preparation for the first Muslim Friday prayers to be held there since 1935; as various rumors about the future of its Byzantine mosaics make their rounds on websites and social media; as one petition follows another against the decision of the Turkish state to revoke the building’s status as a museum (and, as we hardly need to keep our readers updated about, the plans for the 2021 congress in Istanbul come to a sudden halt), one question seems to remain strangely unanswered: why? There is certainly no lack of mosques in Istanbul that could explain the instant need for yet another one, and one at that which has to be installed, at very short notice and by extremely complicated means, within a world heritage site. What makes the Hagia Sophia so important as a site of prayer that the Turkish president has invited Muslims from all over the world to express their joy and relief over its re-conversion into a mosque? Is it a sheer provocation against the Christian and / or secular dictates of the West, a political gambling with religious and nationalist sentiments within Turkey? Or both (and if so, how)?


Hagia Sophia, February 2020. Photo by the author.

The point in the following is not to make any statement about what the Hagia Sophia is or what it should be or what it should not be, but merely to propose an interpretation of the current controversy that goes beyond Huntingtonesque solipsisms about the fated enmity of religions and civilizations and instead takes a look at what the building has signified in the past and what it might, consequently, mean to current decision-takers. It could be argued, as often seems to be the case, that the building means different things depending on the semiotic framework of the beholder: to (Orthodox) Christians, as a monument to the apex of Byzantine culture and civilization under emperor Justinian I, to (Sunni) Muslims, as the foremost prize of the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople under Mehmed II, and to secularists, as a living proof of Mustafa Kemal (Atatürks) commitment to Turkish neutrality and reconciliation. But the fact that the three readings are fixated on one and the same location indicates that the semiotic field is to be found inside the Hagia Sophia as much as outside of it; in other words, that the three are intimately connected in ways that none of them may be willing to openly admit.

The Power and the Glory


The main dome. Photo by the author.

The Hagia Sophia was built as a political statement. In between the schizophrenic legacies that Procopius would devote to him as simultaneously defender and restorer of Roman power in the Mediterranean, and embodiment of the empire’s inner decay and deterioration, and after the Nika riots that had almost evicted him from Constantinople and left the central areas of the young capital in smoking rubble, Justinian I needed a visual manifestation of power that would forever stamp his name upon the fabric of the city, confirm the status of the city as center of cultural gravity within the empire, and show the world that the empire had lost nothing of its ancient vigor or attraction. The ”Great Church”, which would indeed remain the biggest church in Christendom for almost a millennium, was erected at impressive speed; it was inaugurated just five years after its much humbler predecessor had been destroyed in the Nika riots.

By one of the many ironies of fates, this was precisely the amount of time that it would take, practically to the years a century later, for the nascent Caliphate to conquer the entire Middle East from the empire. The parallel is of course coincidental, but still merits some attention: if Justinian had (as the anecdote goes) outdone Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem when the first liturgy was celebrated in the Hagia Sophia in 537, the Caliph Umar prayed on the newly conquered Temple Mount in Jerusalem in 638 while listening to a prophecy about the Divine wrath that was about to befall Constantinople. The symbolical significance of the late Roman capital in Early Muslim conquests cannot be overstated: it figures, as a tantalizing end point of the conquests, in Muslim eschatology which seems to have both inspired and been inspired by the repeated attempts of the young Caliphate to conquer the city, from the mid-seventh century raids where Abu Ayyoub Ansari died up to the great siege of 717–18.

In these traditions, Constantinople was the Roman Empire; but, it might be inferred, The Great Church was Constantinople: it is no coincidence that later Turkish receptions of this history seem to have internalized the prophecies in such a way that Paradise was promised to the Muslim who would pray inside the Hagia Sophia. As in all such cases, the distinction between the terrestrial and eschatological end was blurred. The conquest of all terrestrial empires would have put the Caliphs and their followers in charge of a Paradise on earth; at the same time, the fall of all terrestrial empires would have signalled the impending Day of Judgment and so, by consequence, the coming of the heavenly Paradise. The two Paradises were one; and, while the early Caliphs lacked a Great Church, they made the second Justinian support the decoration of the Great Mosque in Damascus in such a way that the merging was apparent to everyone.

The Whore of Babylon and the Woman Clothed in the Sun

Christians were hardly unprepared for the setbacks they had faced. The relationship between the Christian salvation story and the Roman Empire had always been a complicated one, and although the Apocalypse of John played a less central status in the East, Byzantine traditions from this time prepared for a tentative fall of Constantinople in similar ways both to how the Muslims imagined it, and to how the Early Christian tradition had prophesied the fall of Rome: the ”Great Babylon”, embodying all sins and vices that are corrupting the earth, and ruled by or personified by a woman, is ultimately destroyed – that is, unless it is saved by a man. In the Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius, the emperor is suddenly, at the very moment when the Muslims have penetrated the walls of Constantinople, shaking off his “drunkenness” to evict the intruders from all the lands they have conquered.


The apse, mosaic of the Virgin (9th century). Photo by the author

But it is not merely by resorting to manly ideals that the city can still spy a hope of surviving its inevitable doom. The cult of the Virgin Mary as protector of Constantinople increases in the wake of the repeated assaults against it, not merely those from Muslims: the Blachernae shrine was included within the city walls already after the 626 Avar Siege, and the walls themselves were understood to stand under a particular protection by the Virgin, who denied the unworthy entry into her domains. The imagery is well-known from Late Ancient and Medieval hymns and prayers to the Mother of God and imbedded in the visual code of innumerable Orthodox churches and icons, where she embodies – in the words of Romanos the Melodist – “paradise in a cave”. The Hagia Sophia is no exception: the famous mosaic of the Theotokos, once described by the patriarch Photios, is found in the apse above the choir. Mehmed II, who conquered Constantinople in 1453, is said to have taken a liking to the image; at least it remained visible – as can be seen on drawings from the eighteenth century – long into the Ottoman era.

If the terrestrial Paradise can be saved by invoking its celestial roots or recalling its eschatological meaning, then the fall of the city will first and foremost be a moral one: the Virgin will take her protecting veil from it only if it lapses into sin. Whether Constantinople ultimately “fell” or was “conquered” is still a matter of discussion in English, but it is notable that the former term is never used with reference to the Crusader rape and pillage in 1204. If used, it is reserved for the Ottoman conquest in 1453.

Emasculating the Conqueror and Revirginating the Fallen

The Arabic word for conquering, fataa, originally means to open. From there derives the term futūḥ which is used to describe the Early Muslim conquests of the Middle East, and the epithet that was eventually bestowed upon Mehmed II as conqueror of Constantinople, Fatih, which in turn has provided the name for the administrative unit of Istanbul that corresponds to the old Byzantine city. The Ottomans were well aware that they could claim a historical continuity from the Early Muslims who had tried to conquer Constantinople in the seventh and eighth centuries: they erected a shrine to Ayyoub (Eyüp) Ansari outside the old city walls (almost facing the bygone Blachernae shrine within) where new sultans underwent a kind of coronation ceremony, and marked several other tombs in the city which they claimed belonged to fallen Arab warriors from the sieges. Both the conquest of the city, and the attempts to conquer it, thus became parts of a sacred history of desire and possession.


The southern gallery, facing West. Photo by the author.

It was never uncontested, however. At the very latest from the Russo-Turkish war in 1768–74 it was clear that the Ottomans were defending their prize against an enemy whose goal it was to liberate the “captive maiden at the Bosporus” and make the Hagia Sophia into a church again. Russian and other Orthodox Christian claims to Constantinople would considerably affect nineteenth-century politics, and the city’s future was unclear still after the showdown in the First World War. It explains Mustafa Kemals decision to make Ankara the capital of the new Turkish republic, and forms an important backdrop for his decision to transform the Hagia Sophia into a museum. But while his neutralization of the contested ground came nothing short of an emasculation to those who still believed in the Caliphate, it could also be said to have constituted an act of revirgination which once again made the building possible to conquer.

From the 1950s, as Turkey regained political confidence due to its NATO membership and Istanbul began to grow into the most populous city of Europe, the cult around the conquest and the conqueror reappeared. Under the current AKP rule it has turned into a veritable obsession, as can be seen in movies, TV series, monuments, memorial sites and a whole panorama outside the city walls. The paradox about this is that it has taken place as Turkish state authorities have often done their best to play down, deny and even erase the Byzantine heritage of the city, which raises the question which city they actually take a pride in having conquered. The rapid dwindling of the non-Muslim population of Turkey has further detached the modern state from the past that it is trying to emulate. What remains is just the neurotically iterated act of power and submission of a faceless opponent, the scenery of a walled city that exists solely for the purpose of being taken, over and over again.

To Have and Not to Have

For the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the conquest is a rhetorical device on which he has been able to rely at all critical moments. After the July 2016 coup attempt, he made his supporters physically assemble and metaphorically prepare for battle outside the old city walls of Istanbul. Having secured his grip on the Turkish state in the years that followed, the Hagia Sophia was, in many ways, the last bastion for him to conquer. Many wondered why it had taken him so long. Demands to restore its status as a mosque had been raised from the very onset of its conversion into a museum and the boundaries had been pushed long before the rise of the AKP: the enormous calligraphic panes with the names of the Caliphs had been returned to the walls, loudspeakers to enable calls for prayers had been installed in the minarets, a prayer room had been set up for the staff. In Trabzon and Iznik, the old Hagia Sophia churches were transformed from museums into mosques several years ago at the behest of other political parties. That something was finally about to happen in Istanbul was clear the latest on May 29 this year, as the annual celebration of the 1453 conquest was marked by erecting a prop city wall in front of the building.

There may be several reasons behind the timing. The Covid-19 pandemic has bereft Turkey of most of its tourists, which means that no tickets will be sold to the museum anyway; the bleak economic outlook may have led to a desperate desire for a boost of popularity among the traditional AKP electorate. Furthermore, the loss of Istanbul last year to a city mayor from the Kemalist opposition seems to have come close in the eyes of Erdoğan to losing Constantinople to the Byzantines. It should also be recalled that a building which the president for many years loudly expressed his desire to pray in was not the former Great Cathedral of Constantinople but its cousin, the Great Mosque in Damascus. Having in effect lost the battle against Bashar al-Assad – and having been utterly humiliated by Vladimir Putin in his last attempt to discuss the situation in Syria this winter – this is a dream that Erdoğan will never see come true. In an obvious attempt to retaliate for the Hagia Sophia transformation, Russia has declared that it will sponsor the building of a small copy of the Hagia Sophia in Hama, Syria to be used as a Russian Orthodox church. Erdoğan, on the other hand, claims that the lost entrance fees from the Hagia Sophia museum will be compensated by oil revenues from Libya, where he is moving many irregular troops from Syria. And, as to further add to the list of boasts that he will never be able to live up to, he has declared that he is next going to liberate the Temple Mount in Jerusalem from Israel.


The narthex. Photo by the author.

But at the end, the simplest explanation might be that a tension cannot be built up infinitely. At some point it will require a release. In practice, the realization of the promise to once again pray in the Hagia Sophia means a strategical loss to Erdoğan, for the building was always more valuable to him as an object of desire than as an object of possession. Once this Friday prayer is over, it will be just another one of Istanbul’s many mosques. As news of the event are broadcast across the world, stirring anti-Islamic sentiment among Christians and Turkophobia in the Balkans, and confirming European right-wing ideologists that the continent is about to face a neo-Ottoman siege, the question may remain in the long run, whether it was all really worth it.


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I väntan på bättre tider

Det är tunnsått med glädjande nyheter den här våren och osäkerheten är stor om hur vi ska förhålla oss till den globala situation som har uppstått. Så vi gör ett litet inpass från programmet Zvampen 1984, med dagarnas egen jubilar Lasse Åberg och ett budskap som är enkelt och lättfattligt.


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New project at Uppsala University!

As most of our readers have probably already heard, Riksbankens Jubileumsfond has generously decided to support Ingela Nilssons’ project Retracing Connections: Byzantine Storyworlds in Greek, Arabic, Georgian, and Old Slavonic (c. 950 – c. 1100)! The project is administrated by Uppsala University, involves over ten scholars – including several NBN members – and will run for eight years, starting immediately this month (January 2020). A brief content description follows below:

During the long eleventh century (c. 950–c. 1100 CE), a host of core narratives that form the substructure of what we know today as Christian Orthodox culture were established in the ‘Byzantine’ world. Some were old stories that were systematically codified or rewritten, others were newly created or imported from other traditions. They concerned saints and commoners, heroes and devils, intellectuals and lunatics, in recognizably social settings or in various landscapes of fantasy. These storyworlds cut across secular and religious lines, involved verbal and pictorial arts, encompassed a variety of communities, from aristocratic settings to the common church-goer and school pupil. Most significantly, these storyworlds occasioned intense translation activity, from and into the languages of Byzantine or Byzantinizing Christians: Greek, Arabic, Georgian, and Old Slavonic. The aim of the present project is to revive, preserve, and make available this influential, but largely neglected cultural production. The project aims to study it as an entangled unity from the perspectives of a) storytelling and modern narratology; b) translation and rewriting among different languages; c) medieval book, writing, and performance cultures. By focusing on these four main entangled traditions we hope to illuminate the rich but complex modes by which Byzantine storyworlds appeared and came to be influential for centuries.

We congratulate the applicants Ingela Nilsson, Christian Høgel and Stratis Papaioannou and all the researchers involved, and the whole worldwide Byzantinist and Medievalist community to a project that will enrich research for many years to come!

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Two new books

Vol 23Five years after the NBN workshop The Straits – Inquiries into a Crossroad took place at the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, and thanks to the great efforts of its new director Ingela Nilsson, we are proud to present the outcome in the form of a book in the series Transactions of the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, called Constantinople as Center and Crossroad (ed. Olof Heilo and Ingela Nilsson). Six of the original papers from the workshop have been joined by four excellent contributions by Ragnar Hedlund, Fedir Androshchuk, Claudia Rapp and Mabi Angar, creating a diachronic panorama of a thousand years of interactions across Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean, all co-joined at the same nexus on the Bosphorus.

Vägar till Bysans.jpg

In 2017, the NBN took part in co-arranging a one-day seminar in Stockholm in memory of the Swedish philologist Sture Linnér (1917–2010). The contributions have now appeared as a volume in the series Skrifter utgivna av vänföreningarna för de svenska forskningsinstituten i Athen, Istanbul och Rom under the title Vägar till Bysans (ed. Olof Heilo). For Swedish speakers interested in hearing more, a first book presentation will be held at the Pufendorf Institute in Lund on November 12 at 18:00, and a second one at the Newman Institute in Uppsala on November 18 at 12:00. We also take the opportunity to advertise the Docent lecture of Thomas Arentzen in Lund on the same day as the former event, Fromma träd i tidig kristendom (LUX B251 14:15-15:15)!

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Gästforskarvistelser vid de svenska Medelhavsinstituten

I höst utlyser Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (RJ) medel till kostnader för vetenskapligt arbete vid de svenska Medelhavsinstituten i Aten, Istanbul och Rom.

Forskare kan söka medel för att bedriva vetenskapligt arbete inom områdena humaniora, samhällsvetenskap, juridik och religionsvetenskap. Med vetenskapligt arbete avses här forskning och annat avancerat arbete av vetenskaplig karaktär vid museer, arkiv och bibliotek eller motsvarande.

RJ välkomnar ansökningar från enskilda forskare som avlagt doktorsexamen och som har en anställning vid ett svenskt universitet eller högskola, vid ett svenskt museum, arkiv, bibliotek eller motsvarande. Anställningen ska pågå under den tid då forskningsvistelsen planeras äga rum. Vistelsen vid institutet ska omfatta fyra till tolv månader och får delas upp i högst två perioder. Man förväntas aktivt delta i institutets verksamhet under din vistelse.

Mer information finns här

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Monumenta Musicae Byzantinae i Köpenhamn hotas av nedläggning – en petition finns nu för påskrift!

Christian Troelsgård blev den 8 maj 2019 varslad om uppsägning vid Köpenhamns universitet på grund av besparingar. Troelsgård är sedan 26 år anställd som lektor vid Saxo-Institutet med särskilt ansvar för bysantinsk musikvetenskap. Han är en de få auktoriteterna på området, internationellt högt ansedd, och i hans tjänst ingår ansvar för Monumenta Musicae Byzantinae (MMB) samt de samlingar som hör till det musikvetenskapliga ämnesansvaret: t ex mikrofilmer, foton, handskrifter (inklusive sällsynta bysantinska musikhandskrifter) och MMB:s arkiv.

MMB:s utgivningsserier är inte bara ett viktigt sätt att bevara och synliggöra bysantinsk musik och bysantinologisk musikforskning, utan också ett viktigt bidrag och komplement till studiet av tidig europeisk musik i allmänhet och kyrkomusik i synnerhet. MMB är vidare ett av de utgivningsprojekt som stödjs av Union Académique Internationale (UAI), i vilken såväl Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskab (där Troelsgård är medlem) och Kungliga Vitterhetsakademien ingår. Det handlar alltså om en långsiktig investering från akademiernas sida som nu riskerar att gå förlorad.

Troelsgårds kompetens är helt unik och det finns i nuläget ingen annan person vid Saxo-Institutet som kan ta över hans arbetsuppgifter eller ansvaret för vare sig undervisning eller MMB. Om han avskedas finns det alltså stor risk att både samlingarna och MMB med arkiv förlorar sin hemvist.

Det är tyvärr inte första gången vi rapporterar om den här typen av nedskärningar vid Köpenhamns universitet.

Skriv gärna på den petition som under tiden har lagts upp!

Uppdatering (19 juli 2019): MMB blir kvar på Köpenhamns universitet! Troelsgårds tjänst förlängs med tre år, men bara på halvtid. Det långsiktiga målet är att finna adekvat finansiering för projektet från andra håll. Vi tackar de flera tusen som skrev under petitionen och hoppas på fortsatt engagemang för ämnets överlevnad!

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ConstSpace: A New Research Network Hosted by the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul

The research network ‘Constantinople: the diachronicity of public spaces’ (ConstSpace) wishes to challenge current ideas of a clearly distinguishable European center, located in the west of the continent, surrounded by different peripheries. It focuses on Constantinople/Istanbul – once the capital of the Byzantine and the Ottoman empires respectively – and argues that it should be seen as a central and at the same time intermediary space, rather than a border between East and West. The city’s liminality is best manifested in the diachronic central role of the city’s public spaces of encounter, contact, dialogue and otherness – constantly transformed yet persistently stable.


Prof. Lioba Theis (Vienna) offering the participants an introduction to the historical cityscape of Byzantion/Constantinople/Istanbul during a boat tour on the Golden Horn, March 2019

The network, under the aegis of Myrto Veikou and Ingela Nilsson, has met twice in order to discuss possible collaborations in the form of larger or smaller project units: first in Stockholm in December 2018 (a workshop supported and hosted by The Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities), then in Istanbul by the end of March 2019. The aim of the first workshop was to present and discuss project ideas, especially from theoretical and methodological perspectives, while the second meeting was focussed on the experience of public spaces in Istanbul. The ambulating seminar in Istanbul included visits to Küçükyali, Heybeliada (the Chalki monastary) and a walk along the Byzantine-Ottoman areas along the Golden Horn. In both meetings, colleagues from Sweden, UK, Ireland, Greece, Turkey and Austria participated, offering their individual expertise and ideas to the group.


Dinner after the first workshop at the Academy of Letters and Arts in Stockholm, December 2018

The research network will soon be presented on the new website of the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, offering a platform for students and scholars interested in the diachronicity of public spaces with a particular focus on Constantinople/Istanbul. Together, the individual projects of the network will offer a mapping of public space in the Byzantine-Ottoman period, focusing on Constantinople but also bringing in comparative material from other areas. Such a mapping will be of crucial importance to future studies of not only public space in the former Byzantine-Ottoman areas, but also to the understanding of European borders, the role played by public space throughout the ages, and the refugee experiences of said spaces in a diachronic perspective.



The group visiting the excavation site of Küçükyalı on the Asian side of Istanbul, March 2019, under the leadership of Prof. Alessandra Ricci (Istanbul)

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Lecture and twofold book release


44a7fe2b-f37a-4b10-8e07-70f8782f216d.JPGOn October 4, Prof. Dame Averil Cameron gave the 2018 Lennart Rydén lecture at SCAS. It was followed by a discussion panel with prof. Peter Frankopan (Oxford), Björn Wittrock (former SCAS director) and Olof Heilo (Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul).

On the day after, the new book in the Studia Byzantina Upsaliensia, Storytelling in Byzantium, was officially presented by the editors Ingela Nilsson and Margaret Mullet, together with the new Brill book Round Trip to Hades, edited by Ingela Nilsson and Gunnel Ekroth.

Left: Averil Cameron at the SCAS

Below: pictures of the book release



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