Great Palace Mosaic Museum
Great Palace Mosaic Museum Entrance Fee and Visiting Hours
In order to understand to where Great Palace’s history dates back, we need to have a look at the Roman Empire era. Byzantium, an autonomous Ancient Greek colony between 638 BC -195 AD, was seized by the Romans.
The First Roman Emperor in Istanbul
Emperor Septimius Severus was the first Roman emperor to come to Istanbul 195 A.D. 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.
Wars at Tetrarchy Period
Byzantium didn’t appear at the stage of history until the period when Constantine the Great’s struggle for the throne at 324 B.C. A war broke out 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.
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 an inactive 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 A.D. 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.
Istanbul 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 Capital of Romans: Constantinople
In this illustration, you can the Hippodrome where the obelisk 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. Moreover, you can also see the 1st Hagia Sophia in the background of the illustration. It’s accepted that the 1st Hagia Sophia was planned by Constantine but it was his son, Constantine II who actually completed it.
The Great Palace of Roman Emperors
The Great Palace of Roman emperors was located in the best location 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 at the Museum
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.
You can see the mosaics at the museum that survived from Justinian’s era. 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 Entrance Fee
Great Palace Mosaic Museum entrance fee is 20 Turkish Liras. Also, Istanbul Museum Pass is valid here.
Great Palace Mosaic Museum Opening Hours
During High Season (01 April – 31 October) museum is open to visit from 09:00 to 19:00. During Low Season (01 November – 31 March) museum is Open from 09:00 to 17:00. The Great Palace Mosaic Museum is open to visit every day.
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 local tour guide in Istanbul who offers comprehensive history tours. You may use his private guidance services during your visit in Istanbul.
Where is the Museum of Great Palace Mosaics?
The Museum of Great Palace Mosaics is next to Arasta Bazaar next to 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.