Great Palace Mosaic Museum

The Great Palace Mosaics Museum is located in the Sultanahmet district of Istanbul. The mosaic collection, overshadowed by the more popular museums, sheds light on Eastern Roman culture in late antiquity.

In this article you can find information about the history of the Great Palace of Constantinople. In addition, the Great Palace Mosaics Museum entrance fee and opening hours are also noted.

History of the Great Palace

The history of the Great Palace dates back to the 4th century. In order to fully understand the sophisticated history of the Grand Palace, we need to have a look at the Roman Empire era. Byzantium, an autonomous Ancient Greek colony between 660 BC and 195 AD, was seized by the Romans.

1. The First Roman Emperor in Istanbul

Emperor Septimius Severus was the first Roman emperor to come to Istanbul 195 AD. However, Septimius’ arrival wasn’t friendly at all as he was punishing every city that supported his rival Pescennius Niger. And, as Byzantium was one of those cities, he took the city after a long siege and burnt the city down in a rage.

After he cooled down, he realized that the city was on a strategic location and he decided to rebuild the city and constructed the first Roman works in Istanbul. However, Byzantium didn’t hold an important place in the Roman Empire’s history for long years after Septimius’ era.

2. Civil Wars of Tetrarchy

Byzantium didn’t appear at the stage of history until the period when Constantine the Great’s struggle for the throne at 324 BC. Civil Wars broke out in Rome between Constantine, one of the emperors of the Tetrarchy, and Licinius to be the only leader of the empire (see also the Battle of Chrysopolis).

Licinius went on the defensive after Constantine attacked him via land by the Balkans and via sea by the Dardanelles and he stayed in Byzantium that provided an excellent defensive advantage. However, due to the fear of defeat both by land and sea, he moved to Uskudar (Chrysopolis) at Asian side and he was defeated here.

3. Constantine Realizes the Importance of Istanbul

It’s assumed that Constantine realized Istanbul’s importance during this war. He noticed this peninsula provided an excellent defense and Golden Horn in the north functioned as a hidden port. He came to the conclusion that if strong walls were built on the Western side of the city, which was the only part vulnerable to attacks, the city would be impenetrable.

Constantine the Great made a radical decision in 324 AD and he decided to change the old capital of the empire. Most Romans were taken by surprise by this decision as Byzantium definitely wasn’t one of the most important cities of the empire back then.

However, this decision showed Constantine’s vision as he could picture Istanbul being an important cross point in the future.

4. Byzantium Being the “New Rome”

Emperor Constantine sent Byzantium an army of architects, engineers, and artists. The whole city was planned to be reconstructed and Byzantium evolved only in 6 years to be named as “Nova Roma” which means the New Rome. The most noteworthy monuments of the city were the Great Palace and the Hippodrome.

The Great Palace of Constantinople
Constantinople (New Rome)

In this illustration, you can the Hippodrome where the obelisks are in the center. These obelisks can still be seen at Sultanahmet today. The collection of buildings on the right side of the Hippodrome is the Great Palace, which is the subject of this article.

5. The Great Palace of Roman Emperors

The Great Palace of Roman emperors was located in the best area of the city. It occupied an area from where today’s Blue Mosque stands and reach the coast and it was composed of patio floors and it boasted amazing observation decks. There was also one polo pitch, a small hippodrome, living spaces, and churches in the palace.

All the Roman (then Eastern Roman) emperors lived in this place approximately from 4th to 11th century. As the Palace of Blachernae at Golden Horn came into prominence, the Great Palace fell from favor. The Sack of Constantinople in 1204 also contributed to the fall of the Great Palace.

The city remained under the occupation of the Crusaders for 57 years and the Great Palace went to ruin and it was in disrepair. Unfortunately, there were no recourses to rebuild this majestic monument when the city was taken back finally in 1261.

Things to See in the Mosaic Museum

Great Palace Mosaic Museum in Istanbul

Although the Great Palace was built during Emperor Constantine era, it was revived during Emperor Justinian era, the most famous Byzantine Emperor. Justinian ruled the empire between 527 and 565 and he expanded the palace and added the new parts that are the most well-known today.

Things to see in the Mosaic Museum today is from the Justinian period. These mosaics have a feel of the Ancient Age as the impact of Christianity wasn’t visible on the art back then. And these mosaics are regarded as some of the most important works from the Classical Roman art.

Some other monuments from Justinian’s era, such as Basilica Cistern, Hagia Sophia, and Little Hagia Sophia (formerly known as the Church of Sergius and Bacchus) are also nearby the museum and can be visited on the same day.

Great Palace Mosaic Museum Entry Fee

The entrance fee of the Great Palace Mosaic Museum is 30 Turkish Liras. Admission is free for children under 8 years. You can enter the museum with Museum Pass Istanbul.

Great Palace Mosaic Museum Opening Hours

The Great Palace Mosaic Museum opening hours are from 09:00 in the morning to 17:30 in the evening. Please also note that the Istanbul Mosaic Museum is open to visit every day of the week.

Where is the Museum of Great Palace Mosaics?

The Museum of Great Palace Mosaics is located within the Arasta Bazaar next to the Blue Mosque. The easiest way to find the museum is to pass through Arasta Bazaar. This bazaar is a corridor that lies from one point to the other and when you reach the middle point, you can see the sign that will direct you to the museum.

Visit The Great Palace with a Tour Guide

If you would like to get a better knowledge about the Great Palace and other Byzantine sites in Istanbul, you may contact with Serhat Engul. Serhat is a private tour guide in Istanbul who offers comprehensive history tours.

Written by Serhat Engul

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