Turkey now occupies a territory that once belonged to the glorious Byzantine Empire. It was dotted with castles, fortresses and churches, some of these still standing today. Such remnants speak of a time when great architecture was developed, along with decorative arts and painting. Mosaics were also a pinnacle of Byzantine art.
To explore more of this precious heritage, one must go beyond the touristic Istanbul with its world-famed Hagia Sophia cathedral, although this is without a doubt the finest example of what the Byzantines could do.
1. The Alanya Castle
A typical Byzantine fortress with numerous structures within its walls, the Alanya castle is a vast construction on rocky land, right on the sea shore. It presents itself in a good condition nowadays, thanks to careful reconstruction works. However, the influences are diverse: there are also Roman remnants, as well as medieval Ottoman constructions and newer Turkish architecture.
2. Monuments in Ankara
Turkey’s capital city, Ankara, host a series of ancient Byzantine monuments. First and foremost, there is its old tower – the symbol of the city, built in the 9th century. Then, you have the church built on the remains of the Temple of Augustus and the Monastery of Eskigumus. Ihlara Valley in the region is host to numerous Byzantine paintings and frescoes.
3. Trabzon Heritage
There is much to see in Trabzon in Anatolia, where construction techniques were different. You can start with the smaller copy of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia, with its fully restored colorful murals. See the Fatih Camii, former Byzantine church. This used to be a place where emperors were crowned. The Kaymakli Monastery is equal in splendor, as well as the Sumela Monastery of the 4th century.
4. The Cappadocia Retreats
These are lodging of Christians in the first centuries of this religion, used as retreats for hermits, but also taking the shape of churches and chapels. Historians confirmed there was continuation in Byzantine times, visible today in the rock-cut churches with frescoes. Also, the area represents a true natural wonder, attracting and fascinating visitors all year round.
Although there are many other places to feature Byzantine architecture and relics, they are rather heard to reach. The mentioned locations, along with Instanbul, host the greatest concentration of such monuments, and are well preserved and easily accessible to visitors. Despite of the name changes, the Byzantine buildings are easy to spot due to their distinct architecture.