War and Peace: Ottoman Relations in the 15th to 19th centuries’, an exhibition at the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Istanbul, 1999. For 500 years the Polish elite was obsessed with all things Ottoman. Yet a brilliant exhibition celebrating this passion went sadly unnoticed. Philip Mansel reports.
No one interested in relations between Europe and the Ottoman Empire, and Christianity and Islam, should ignore the catalogue for this magnificent exhibition. It is not only a splendidly illustrated 462-page record of Ottoman-Polish relations from 1400 to 1900, but also an antidote to received ideas. It shows that, from the points of view of Warsaw and Istanbul, far from being irreconcilable opposites, East and West could hardly keep out of each others arms.
Except for relatively short periods of warfare in the seventeenth century (1620–1, 1672–6, 1683–99), often provoked by marauding Cossacks and Tartars rather than the powers themselves, Poland and the Ottoman Empire were generally peaceful neighbours. They shared the bonds of commerce and hostility to Russia. The embassies sent by the Polish kings to Ottoman sultans were, as many pictures and prints in the catalogue make clear, particularly grandiose. At his entry into Istanbul in 1622, the Polish ambassador was accompanied by 1,000 horsemen.
Nine thousand years ago, the plain of Konya was a hive of activity. Before the Mesopotamians, Minoans or Egyptians, the people of Çatalhüyük created one of the first cities known to man. James Mellaart, who unearthed the city and its stunning wall paintings, recalls the stages of a momentous discovery
Soon after blue and white ceramic was born in China, it made its first glorious appearance in a mosque in the early Ottoman capital of Edirne. John Carswell unlocks a well-kept secret
A 20-page celebration of Safranbolu, the perfect small town. The lovingly maintained Mümtazlar Konağı is just one of the many handsome old houses that distinguish the Anatolian market town of Safranbolu. With iron deposits, lush forests and fields growing the valuable saffron croci that gave the town its name, Safranbolu prospered quietly for 1,500 years.
Norman Stone introduces a special report by rescuers and writers on the August earthquake and its aftermath
Yolande Whittall looks back at 1930s life in Moda, across the strait from the domes and minarets of Istanbul. In Grandmother Whittall’s garden, where the snow fell deep and crisp, tobogganing parties were laid on for the children. In the kitchen Christmas puddings were stirred, and shooting parties provided the wherewithall for woodcock pie…