Istanbul was Constantinople

If you like this video, go to this page where there are about four others.  One shows craftsmen in from Fez, Morocco building an intricately carved courtyard in the museum.


I’ve been reading Susan Wise Bauer’s The History of the Medieval World.  So far as I can tell, it doesn’t even cover the high medieval era, but it does a bang-up job of the 600-700s.  If you thought not much happened during those years (a.k.a., the Dark Ages), you’d be mistaken.  Among other things, an Abassid dinar made its way to the kingdom of Mercia, in now-Christian southern England, where the king’s silversmith admired the pretty pattern of the Arabic writing and unwittingly copied “There is no God But Allah and Muhammad is His Prophet” on the back of the kingdom’s new coins–upside down!

That’s not all, of course.  Lots of people got beheaded and poisoned, especially if they were aspirants to a throne, and the book explains the origins of what are now many small states in Eastern Europe and Western Asia.  If you tried to memorize all this stuff, you’d never finish the book, but it’s good for the sweep of history.

Meanwhile, Bob is in New York City.  Actually, he’s been in the US for almost three weeks, and he keeps sending me iPhone photos of familiar places in the city, which makes me slightly wistful.  He may also go to Turkey soon.

Maybe because of Bob’s travels, maybe because of my reading, or maybe because Sarie is reading The Song of Roland, a medieval epic which probably couldn’t possibly misunderstand the Islamic world more than it does, I wound up on the Metropolitan Museum website this afternoon, looking at two exhibits, Byzantiun and Islam, Age of Transition, and the New Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia (a ponderous name if there ever was one).  I love the Metropolitan Museum’s website, and especially the timelines, because you can enlarge so many works of art to incredible detail, and there’s all sorts of background information.  It’s a great learning resource.

We moved to Italy the month before the Islamic galleries at the Metropolitan Museum opened again after a ten-year closing.  In fact, every time we thought we might move and didn’t, I thought, “Surely now I’ll get to see the Islamic galleries reopen.”  But we didn’t.  So it’s definitely on my to see list if we get to come back in August, as we are currently considering.

Anyway, though we don’t live in the same city with the Metropolitan Museum anymore, I recently enjoyed the collection of Islamic glassware and ceramics at the Palazzo Madama here in Torino.  So I’ll leave you with some photos I took when I was there.  I think these are all from what is now Iran. I’m no scholar of Islamic art, but I do like ceramics, and these hopefully speak for themselves.


4 thoughts on “Istanbul was Constantinople

  1. Even old New York was once New Amsterdam. Why they changed it, I can’t say; people just liked it better that way.

  2. This week’s chapter for book club is on the Middle Ages. Dr Kirk zooms through them in about 40 pages, leaving me craving for more.

    Glad you shared the links.

    1. Dana, I had put down the SWB for a few days to read Kirk, but then decided that I needed to finish the first one instead. Classic too many books, too little time situation, so I’ll just have to follow the blog posts.

      Maybe I’ll skim that chapter of Kirk, though, just to see if he talks more about the High Middle Ages than the earlier part. I can’t remember offhand. I can see him including Augustine, Gregory, the Magna Carta, and/or maybe Aquinas, but frankly, most of these rulers pretty despotic.

      (I see now that Kirk writes about medieval England, which I haven’t gotten to in SWB yet. She’s only gotten to the Saxon invasion and the Arthur legend.)

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