FOUR FIFTEENTH-CENTURY TRAVELLERS TO CONSTANTINOPLE
LOOK AT THE STATUE OF JUSTINIAN

 

CLAVIJO - 1403

In this same Court before the church (Agia Sophia) was a wonderfully tall column of stone on the top of which stood a great horse, in copper. This was of the bulk of four ordinary horses, and astride it sat the figure of an armed warrior, of copper likewise, with great plume on his head the shape of the tail of a peacock. We saw that the horse by iron chains from its body was firmly attached to the pillar on which it stands, lest it should be shaken loose by the wind and so fall. This great steed is extraordinarily well fashioned, one of its hind legs and a forefoot are both raised in the air as though it were prancing and about to leap down. The warrior on it back has his right arm raised, the hand open, and with the left hand, of the other arm, grasps the reins. In his right hand he holds a round gold ball. Both horse and man are so huge, and the column so tall, that it is indeed a narvel to behold. The figure of the warrior is, they say, the semblance of the great Emperor Justinian, who set it up, and who also built the Church of Santa Sophia, and performed many mighty deeds in his day fighting against the Turks.

 

 

justinian

Drawing erroneously attributed to Cyriaco of Ancona.

 

PERO TAFUR - 1437

As we came out we saw at the door of the church a great column of stone, higher than the great chapel itself, and on the top is agreat horse of gilded brass, upon which is a knight with one arm raised, pointing with the finger toward Turkey, and in the other he holds an orb, as a sign that all the world is in his hand. One day it was blown town in a great storm, and the orb fell from the hand, and they say that it is as large as a 15 gallon jar, but from below it looks like an orange, so that one can judge how high the statue is. They say that to secure that orb, and to fasten the horse with chains, to prevent its being blown down in the high winds, cost 8000 ducats. This knight, they say, is Constantine, and that he prognosticated that from that quarter which he indicated with his finger would come the destruction of Greece, and so it was.


ANGIOLELLO - 1471

At the center of the entrance to Santa Sophia, there is a column made up of high drums, on top of which was the image of [Estuyanos], made of bronze. This was removed by the Sultan because his astrologers and seers claimed that so long as the said statue of [Estuyanos] should stand on that column the Christians would always have the power to oppose the Mohammedans, wherefore the said column was taken away.

 

Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo.
Embassy to Tamerlane, 1403-1406
. Ed. & trans. Guy Le Strange. London. 1928. Page 72.
Pero Tafur.
Pero Tafur: Travels and Adventures, 1435-1439
. Ed. E. Denison Ross & E. Power. London. 1926. Chapter XVII.
Giovan Maria Angiolello
Relations (of the voyage to Negropont). Ed. & trans. P. A. MacKay. Manuscript. ff. 13v-14r.

Walking Through Byzantium. Istanbul. 2007. Page 97. For a reconstruction: Column of Justinian
"...the column of Justinian ... was built of bricks and covered with brazen plates. On top of the
column, at a height of about 50m., the equestrian statue of the emperor was places (probably
re-used statue of Theodosius I or Theodosius II). This monument was almost as high as the top of
the dome of Hagia Sophia and was also a prominent point in the cityscape, visible from a considerable
distance both from the city and the sea. Justinian's column and statue survived the Turkish conquest
and it is even depicted in detail in one renaissance drawing. The statue was melted down in the early
sixteenth century and the column demolished soon after."

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