Great Palace Mosaic Museum

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Meydani Sokak 17 Sultanahmet, Sultanahmet, Turkey
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Great Palace Mosaic Museum Sultanahmet Reviews

cotton_foam cotton_f…
303 reviews
not very many collections but enough to impress mosaic aficinados Mar 14, 2014
I like mosaic work as art medium. I am fascinated by the diligence that must be required to assemble fragments of broken tile, mirror, glass, and other found objects to convey that anything in this life that is broken has still its worth. And yes even our own lives…when we feel like we’ve failed (and broken) but like the artist who can create beauty out of fragmented pieces we, too have the power to make our lives beautiful like that of a mosaic art.

My trips to Israel and Istanbul provided me the opportunity to spend some quality time of literally gazing (and learning about) at these amazing examples of mosaic art. On this review, I am specifically writing about the ancient mosaics (as far back as 300 AD) which are housed at the Great Palace Mosaic Museum in Istanbul. When I found out there is a mosaic museum in the city and entrance fee is not that costly (€8.00/person) I did not let the opportunity pass.

According to what I’ve read, most of the showcased mosaics (if not all) found in this museum are remains of the “Great Palace of Constantinople”. When the Ottoman Empire ruled the city in mid 1400s, they destroyed the Great Palace and built the Blue Mosque on top of it. The Ottomans probably have thought they have eradicated every image reminder of the Constantinople reig. Obviously, they did not. Pavements of mosaic work were discovered or “unearthed” during an excavation activity in the 1930s. And what is even more interesting is that the mosaic pavements were discovered in their original places and DID NOT move it somewhere else. So that is why the museum is located in the Arasta Bazaar, where the market of one of the mosques built on top of the Great Palace.

It is quite hard to explain in writing how to get to the entrance of the museum and in fact, we had quite a difficulty finding the entrance way. However, there are arrows directing to the site along the walkways of the Arasta Bazaar. We followed those arrows and finally, we found the entry way. The ticket booth is right in the museum compound. The museum is not really that big in size. As we walked around viewing each piece, we found our exit way and came out in the middle of the colorful open-air Arasta Bazaar.

Inside the museum, are intriguing mosaic works with scenes of animals devouring ‘co-animals’, monkeys picking fruits using a long stick, lions hunting, fruits, palm trees, floral designs, patterns, human engaged in hunting, lads fighting and playing, baskets, wind mill, and many more. But the most surreal work in terms of color and preservation is the Medusa head! The mosaics which are laid on the ground apparently were used to decorate the floor of a huge room or a large hall in the “Great Palace”. Besides the mosaics which originally found on that same spot, this museum is also a house for the other valuable pieces excavated and collected from the different sites of the city.

Another intriguing aspect of the mosaic works here is that even though they were created during the Byzantine era and belonged to the Great Palace, there are no symbols shown about Christianity, which were rather common in the artwork at that time. Instead, many mythological images are depicted in the mosaic works i.e. the breathtaking Medusa Head.

Like I mentioned above, this museum is not big and the collections of mosaics are not really grand – number wise but they are enough to impress someone like me who is fond of mosaic work as an art medium.

The interpretive displays, placards and signage around the museum enhanced my visit to be more educational. It helped explain each surviving mosaic even though at times, they’re too long to read.

If you like mosaic works like I do, and you are visiting the city, I recommend you visit this “little” museum – it is worth your time and the inexpensive entrance fee!
8 / 8 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
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cotton_foam says:
Mike: And, I really hope one day I will also visit that church in Russia! :)) Thank you, Mike!
Posted on: Mar 21, 2015
itravel1 says:
You'll love the mosaics in Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg Russia. I think one of the largest displays of mosaics in the world!
Posted on: Mar 21, 2015
cotton_foam says:
Anupa: oh I'm glad! :-) Visit Basilica Cistern too -- very photogenic!
Posted on: Jun 04, 2014
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