Walking along Divan
Yolu from Sultanahmet to Beyazıt
Square and the Grand
Bazaar, you come to Çemberlitaş ('stone
with hoops'), a tall, obviously very
old and dismal-looking porphyry column
It was erected on May 11, 330 by Constantine
the Great to celebrate
the designation of Constantinople as
the new capital of the Roman
The column was the centerpiece in
the Forum of Constantine,
a grand colonnaded plaza which
may have resembled the one designed
by Bernini and built in front of St
Peter's basilica in Rome. Statues of
pagan gods and Christian saints decorated
Atop the column was a gigantic
statue of the Emperor
Constantine dressed and adorned as Apollo.
The statue toppled in a hurricane
in 1106 and was later replaced by
a huge cross. After the Ottoman conquest
the cross was removed.
In 1779 a conflagration destroyed
this whole neighborhood and left the
column with black scorch marks, earning
it the nickname 'Burnt Column.'
Sultan Abdülhamit I had the column
restored after the fire, and added
the present masonry base.
hoops were replaced in the
1970s, and extensive stabilization
was carried out from 2004 through
2009 to keep it upright for a few
more centuries (19 and counting).
The Çemberlitaş Hamamı,
one of Istanbul's most popular Turkish
baths (hamam), is right
next to the Çemberlitaş (map).
—by Tom Brosnahan