Friday, June 1, 2012

Cemberlitas (“Hooped Stone”), Column of Constantine

Column of Constantine is located in Cemberlitas square, five hundred meters up north, when one follows the Divan road from Sultanahmet Square. It is 36 meters high and is made up of six cylindrical marble pieces that have turned into brown from purple in time. The pieces are connected to each other by metal circles that stand on a stone base. It was removed from the Apollo Temple in Rome by the order of the Emperor Constantine the 1st and brought to Constantinople. Thus; the marble blocks on it must be more than 2.000 years old.
Cemberlitas (“Hooped Stone”) –
Constantine Column

It was erected by the Emperor Constantine the 1st in 330 A.D. in honor of the new capital city of the emperorship, New Rome (“Nova Roma”) Constantinople. The city was an ancient Greek colony actually, which was conquered in 2nd century A.D. by the Roman Empire that had been called as the Byzantium so far. Yet, with the celebrations this column was opened on 11th May 330, it became the capital city of Roman Empire. Due to the famous iron rims used in the Ottoman period, the Column was called as “Çemberlitaş” (“Hooped Stone”).
It was 50 meters high and approximately three meters below the ground when it was first erected. On the column, there was the founder of the city, Constantine’s statue depicted as God Apollo greeting the sun. The square which had an approximate diameter of 400-500 meters, two big gates in east and west directions and which included the senate building, baths and churches was also designed as the most prominent square of the city. Constantine had this square constructed, and it was called as the Constantine Square. I would advise you to visit the Byzantium 1200 web-site offering the 3D reconstructions of Istanbul in year 1200 to see the magnificence of the Constantine Square in the year 1200 and the pictures of the Column’s original state.
The original state of the Column of Constantine:
On the top of the 50 meter high column,
there was the bronze statue of Emperor Constantine,
who was depicted as Apollo.

The globe hold by Constantine depicted as Apollo standing on the Column is said to contain a fragment from the “True Cross”. In a sanctuary at the foot of the Column, there were some Christian relics;  the jar used by Maria Magdalena to wash the Jesus Christ’s feet, some parts of the crosses of the thieves who were crucified with Jesus Christ and the basket which Christ used in Fish and Bread Miracle. The Goddess Athena statuette and the statuette of the defender of the city of Rome were also taken by Constantine to the new capital, Constantinople and put in the sanctuary at the bottom of the Column.
In a gale that broke out in 1106, the statue of Constantine and the three cylinder marbles at the top fell down, thus the height of the column decreased to 35 meters. Emperor Manuel the 1st had it repaired and a cross was also put on top.  There are ancient Greek writings in the marble capital at the top of the column which say that the column was repaired by the Emperor Manuel. Then in 1453, when the Ottoman conquered the city, they removed that cross. The stone base on which the column stands today, was made by the order of Abdulhamit the 1st, who had the Column maintained in the 18th century.,
The writing under the column capital:
"Faithful Manuel invigorated this holy
 work of art which has been damaged by time."

In my opinion, the most important feature of the Column of Constantine is that; it symbolizes the religion changing process of the Roman Empire the best with the Apollo statue on it and the Christian relics at the bottom. The column is a perfect hybrid. It is neither pagan nor Christian. Even the celebrations made on 11th May 330 were performed through half pagan half Christian ceremonies in accordance with the spirit or let’s say, conflict of the time. In those times, people of the city were also moving towards Christianity from paganism.

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