More than a dozen swimmers have braced the icy waters of Istanbul’s Golden Horn to take part in one of the world’s oldest polar bear plunges: the ancient Greek Orthodox rite celebrating the Feast of the Epiphany.
After prayers on Epiphany, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the world’s 250 million Orthodox Christians, tossed a wooden cross into the brackish waters of the Golden Horn, an estuary that runs along Istanbul’s oldest quarter, to commemorate the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River and the appearance of the Holy Spirit 2,000 years ago. The event is held here every Jan. 6, and this year it coincided with the coldest winter storm this season.
Islamic State, an armed group formerly allied to al Qaeda that has captured swathes of territory across Iraq, last month declared its leader, Ibrahim al-Baghdadi, “caliph” – the historical title last held by the Turkish Ottoman sultan who ruled much of the Muslim world.
It has served as the exalted seat of two faiths since its vast dome and lustrous gold mosaics first levitated above Istanbul in the 6th Century: Christendom’s greatest cathedral for 900 years and one of Islam’s greatest mosques for another 500.
Today, the Hagia Sophia, or Ayasofya in Turkish, is officially a museum: Turkey’s most-visited monument, whose formally neutral status symbolizes the secular nature of the modern Turkish state.
When Louis Bandak fled the violence in Syria, he sought refuge in the country his grandfather was forced to abandon exactly 90 years ago this week.
A war of words escalated on Monday between Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and a cleric with powerful influence in the police and judiciary, worsening political turmoil unleashed by a corruption scandal.
About 25 Russian Orthodox have celebrated a divine liturgy for the first time in four decades at their rooftop church they fear may be demolished to make way for a tourism project.
A Turkish deputy prime minister linked the “Jewish diaspora” to recent anti-government unrest and the country’s Jewish community expressed fears on Tuesday the comments could make them targets of popular anger.
Turkey’s most violent riots in decades may have been started by the destruction of a small Istanbul park, but they have exploded in a show of defiance at what many see as the creeping authoritarianism of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.
Thousands of devout Muslimshave prayed outside Turkey’s historic Hagia Sophia museum to protest a 1934 law that bars religious services at the former church and mosque.
Worshippers shouted, “Break the chains, let Hagia Sophia Mosque open,” and “God is great” before kneeling in prayer on Saturday as tourists looked on.
Istanbul’s tiny Greek community has revived an all-but-extinct tradition by celebrating Bakla Horani, an evening of carousing at the end of carnival ahead of Lent. About 300 masked, painted and costumed revelers paraded on Monday through the streets of Istanbul’s Kurtulus district, known as Tatavla when it was home to Greeks decades ago.
The procession ended at a local hall where musicians performed rembetiko and cranked a laterna, a Greek mechanical piano. Partiers were served raki, the aniseed-flavoured spirit, and meze that featured beans. (Bakla Horani roughly translates as “eating beans,” referring to the austere Lenten diet that looms.)