Showing posts with label Constantinople. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Constantinople. Show all posts

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Lacroix & Empress Theodora

Theodora blesses Lacroix. Credit: Elle Decor 10/2011
Designer Christian Lacroix has been enamored with Byzantine mosaics since his childhood. That would seem obscure for someone from Arles, France, except that his great grandparents dug up Greco-Roman tiles under their house there, according to an article in October's Elle Decor.

The famous mosaics of Empress Theodora & Emperor Justinian are among the richly-colored artworks in Ravenna, Italy where Lacroix not so coincidentally has partnered with a company to produce a new furniture line.

I love Lacroix's now-discontinued Follement china pattern for Christofle - especially since I fell in love with it when the euro traded at 85 cents to the dollar. Not sure I'd want the Theodora Chair.
Theodora mosaic, Church of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy

But Theodora's character certainly would bring good vibes to a house. The article says she was "the daughter of a bear trainer ... renowned for her beauty and wit, as well as her expertise as a courtesan, and reportedly suppressed revolts, exposed political corruption, and expanded women's rights in her day."

The name Theodora means "God's gift" in Greek. The empress is recognized as a saint and is remembered on November 14. The church in Italy where she's depicted in mosaic was completed a year before her death -- and having seen it in person, I can vouch for how vivid the tiles remain - minerals baked into glass last.
Justinian and Theodora ruled from Constantinople, now Istanbul, Turkey. All this is one more reminder of how interconnected ethnic worlds were in the era of empires.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Attaturk & Architecture

A number of watchdog Christian news sources, including Italy's AsiaNews are reporting the European Court of Human Rights "ruled that Turkey must return the former Greek Orphanage on Büyükada Island, the largest of the Princes’ Islands, back to Fener Greek Patriarchate. This concludes the long legal case between the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and Turkish authorities." (See an Armenian site for photo and good summary.)

Travelers take boats to these pretty islands, which are increasingly dotted with nice hotels - prime real estate. Today's Zaman, a Turkish newspaper that favors minority interests in Turkey, points out the orphanage is one of the largest wooden buildings in the world and was illegally confiscated.

When CBS' 60 Minutes profiled the Patriarchate recently, they filmed the Patriarch at Büyükada. The legal status of many other properties that Christians lost, when forced from Turkey, cannot be questioned, thanks to the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923.

Also on the subject of architecture, consider Aghia Sofia, the magnificent church in Istanbul that became a mosque and now is a Turkish government museum. The above photo shows a stone piece from Aghia Sofia embedded into the facade of the Chicago Tribune Tower -- just after the Treaty of Lausanne was signed. The Tower was completed in 1925 following an international competition in 1922, just when Christian refugees were fleeing Turkey. The contest: design the most beautiful office building in the world. Today, Chicago's Tribune Tower still houses a decayed-but-great newspaper and remains dotted with fascinating artifacts from the world's monumental architecture.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Spice on Netflix!

Netflix makes the movie "A Touch of Spice" available next week. It's a sad, romantic story about the definition of home, and what it means to leave it. Home, in this case, was Greek Istanbul in the 1950s, told through the eyes of a spice-seller's son. This subtitled movie, called "Politiki Kouzina" in Greek, isn't perfect, but the storytelling really moved me when I saw it in a Manhattan cinema last year (see my earlier post and link to YouTube). But none of my friends could see it -- until now!!

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Touch of Spice

Play this music and read on: A grandfatherly Greek spice-seller in Istanbul in the late 1950s is the focus of a sweet movie you have to rent: Politiki Kouzina, ("A Touch of Spice," or literally "Constantinople Cuisine" or "Political Kitchen.") The 2004 film doesn't concentrate on violence or politics in the final uprooting of Istanbul's Greeks to an unfamiliar "motherland," but instead uses spice and food to tell stories about life and love and tragedy that began in 1915-1922. You can watch one particularly poignant moment on YouTube. I lost it when the main characters depart Istanbul's train station with just a few bags, leaving behind, forever, an entire life. (Our family story too.) Plot problems aside, the movie is subtitled, and showing again starting April 24 at the Cinema Village in New York. See it! In the meantime, make your own judgments by reading the 1992 Human Rights Watch report called, "Denying Human Rights and Ethnic Identity: The Greeks of Turkey" a free Google pub. In the end, it's all history. In Istanbul, the massive cathedral of Aghia Sofia is a museum. Minarets and women shrouded in black characterize former Greek neighborhoods. (See January photo above.) Still, you can't but fall in love with beautiful Istanbul.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Turkey's Hazelnuts

As Turkey examines its membership in the European Union, it promotes examples that it is a religiously tolerant and multi-cultural place. On my Istanbul to New York flight, Turkish Airlines offered a more patriotic perspective. While munching on flag-draped miracle hazelnuts (The Nut is From Turkey! see photo), documentary-style shorts included one on Mustafa Kemal Attaturk's ascent after the battle at Gallipoli, where the French and English failed to capture Constantinople. And a travel promo advertised a tourist town with Syrian churches as proof of tolerance.
Back on the Internet, Today's Zaman, an English-language newspaper, published a feature saying Turkish authorities are taking land from a 1,600-year-old Syriac Christian monastery. Officials redrew boundaries, apparently because local farmers need more grazing land. The piece lacked a financial analysis and greater context: properties lost by minorites in like fashion over the past 80 years.
Patriotism was on full view when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stormed off at the end of a January Davos conference panel where Israel's President Shimon Peres demanded, "What would you do if someone was lobbing rockets into your country? Pres. Erdogan was later praised by Hamas for saying, "When it comes to killing, you know well how to kill." TheNew York Times and Al Jazeera covered the news; Time magazine later explored ramifications of Erdogan's Davos outburst.