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A cluster of museums surround what were once playing fields for jereed tournaments: the Çinili Kiosk, built by Mehmet the Conqueror, now a tile museum, a museum of the Ancient East, and the main archaeological museum, which has just reopened beautifully lit new rooms containing the famous sarcophagi.
Admired the Alexander Sarcophagus and its related marble tombs from Sidon, all breathtaking, the Archaic statues of Apollo and Artemis with their enigmatic smiles, and the frighteningly real portraits of thick-necked Roman consuls.
The Byzantine Collection and Istanbul Through the Ages galleries are still to reopen. When they do, highlights of Istanbul Through the Ages are the missing porphyry foot from the statue group of the Tetrarchs, taken to Venice after 1204; gothic-style stained-glass fragments from the Zeyrek Camii and the Kariye Camii; mosaics and frescoes from the Kalendarhane Camii, including one of the earliest fresco cycles, of the life of St Francis of Assisi; and the chain that once protected the entrance to the Golden Horn. In the Byzantine gallery, look for the inlaid marble icon of St Eudocia and the monuments to champion charioteer Porphyrios, the pop star of the Hippodrome set.
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