Extract

The New Babylon?

A vast and newly revealed 17th-century panorama of Istanbul is a lovingly drawn record of the city. Yet the accompanying text castigates the Ottoman capital as the ‘whore of Babylon’. Christine Thomson turns detective and reveals it as an elaborate piece of anti-Ottoman propaganda designed by a Franciscan friar

  • Guidalotto's panorama of Istanbul, as seen from Galata circa 1650 measures some 6.5 by 3.5 metres and is on loan from a private family trust to the Vatican. The beauty of the city was designed to whet Western appetites; the apocalyptic asides provide the motive for a crusade.

An important missing panorama of Istanbul, a rare image of the city from the troubled years of the early 1600s, has recently [1997] been unveiled amid the frescoed splendours of the Vatican and is on view as you leave the Sistine Chapel. The panorama is on loan from the Vatican Library.

The work shows Istanbul across the Golden Horn from Pera or Galata on the “Christian” bank, throwing new light on both the city and the relationship between the rival Venetian Republic and Ottoman empire. It also trumpets the unalloyed Christian zeal of Nicolo Guidalotto.

Until now the two most important early panoramas of Istanbul were those by Vavassore in the late 15nth century and by Melchior Lorich [Lorck] a century later. Both were made at high points in Ottoman history and both convey the magnificence of the city through accurate topographical observation.

Guidalotto’s is very different. This is a map with a message in the medieval or Renaissance sense, and the message is one of anger. Using alegory, biblical quotations and panels of text, he accuses the Turks, during their 200-year tenure, of turning the city of Constantine from the New Rome into the new Babylon. This is religious hyperbole and, by any historical yardstick, quite false. But the Ottoman Empire was locked in a struggle for the possession of Crete, and the first casualty in any war is truth…

Guidalotto’s panorama is nothing short of a call for a full-blooded Crusade…

To read the full article, purchase Issue 12

Issue 12, 1997 Black Sea Issue
£30.00 / $42.03 / 170.56 TL
Other Highlights from Cornucopia 12
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£30.00 / $42.03 / 170.56 TL
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