Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Hidden Byzantium...

The Basilica Cistern in Istanbul is an extraordinary feat of Byzantine engineering.     It was begun in 532 by the Emperor Justinian, and the engineers used a site where there had been an even earlier cistern.     The Basilica Cistern ensured the City (the Byzantine capital of Constantinople) and the Imperial Palace had a constant supply of fresh water.    It has survived the ravages of time and conquest.    Wandering about Istanbul near Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, it's hard to imagine the hidden cistern beneath your feet.   It's vast!  Here are some pictures my husband took on our visit to Istanbul.     The first one shows some of the columns that support the roof.   If they look classical in design, that's because they are classical, most of them being taken from earlier Roman buildings.    (An early example of recycling.)  It's cool in the cistern, and dark, and VERY quiet.  The columns seem to march off into infinity, it's like stepping into the hall of a subterranean king. 


Down there you have no idea that there is a thriving and bustling city overhead. The bases of some of the columns show heads that have come to us from Greek mythology.    You can find the Medusa...

The day we visited, shoals of fish were gliding through the water, we kept seeing flashes of gold and black and white, eerie shadows constantly shifting.  The Basilica Cistern is very inspiring, as soon as we went down the steps to see it, I knew that a scene in the second Palace Bride novel would have to be set there.

You can see the Basilica Cistern on this map of medieval Constantinople which shows part of the Great Palace.   You can find the cistern towards the top of the map.   Appologies for the blurriness of the image, I am not sure how to sharpen it.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

A Byzantine Palanquin...

Of course, this is a picture of a sedan chair not a palanquin.  My husband and I stumbled across it in an English pub when we were on one of our week-end walks.     I probably shouldn't have been on a walk at all, because the deadline for my WIP is at the end of the month, and there's still a lot to do.One of the the scenes that particularly needs work is a scene where my Byzantine princess is carried to her wedding in a palanquin.   Could  I find a picture of  Byzantine Palanquin?   You may guess not.
A walk was needed.    Quite by chance we stumbled across this sedan chair in an inn.  The painting on the sides are quite beautiful, I don't know if you can see, but there's a French look to them.  And if you look closely you can see the metal loops at the bottom where the carrying bars would be placed.
There's a little more about how not to find a Byzantine palanquin and the mysteries of writing and research here on the Harlequin Historicals Author Blog

And if anyone has a picture of a real Byzantine palanquin, I would be very grateful!

By the way, the inn was the Crown at Chiddingfold, and I had mussels and chips for lunch...I LOVE mussels and chips.
Here's a close-up of the crown which attracted me in the first place, given my heroine is a Byzantine princess.