‘People come to touch the walls’: fears for Istanbul’s crumbling Byzantine past

Source:The Guardian Date:07Jan2024

Despite restoration led by the opposition-controlled Istanbul municipality, local news stories about sections of the wall collapsing are a frequent occurrence, a sign of how the city’s pre-Ottoman heritage often hides in plain sight, is allowed to wither or is obscured for political purposes.

Local architects and historians grumbled when a Byzantine palace was restored – under a former Istanbul mayor loyal to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – to emphasise its Ottoman features, and is now a museum displaying Ottoman-era crafts.

Alexander Christie-Miller, the author of the forthcoming To the City: Life and Death Along the Ancient Walls of Istanbul, pointed to a museum dedicated to the Ottoman conquest that lies close to the crumbling walls, while the site of the conquest itself has long been overlooked.

“It’s ironic that there’s a completely artificial recreation of the siege, but 200 metres away from the actual scene where it happened is in a state of massive neglect – there’s obviously an element of this connected to a longstanding strain in republican Turkish history whereby the pre-Ottoman heritage is neglected,” he said.