The Great Palace in Constantinople was home to Byzantine emperors beginning with the reign of Constantine the Great in the 4th century. Rather than just one building, the Great Palace grew to include dozens of edifices, both magnificent and large, to the more mundane. However, the structures within its walls aged, and around 1100 the Emperor Alexios I Comnenus built his new palace in the Blachernae area of the city. Nonetheless, the Great Palace remained the titular imperial home until the depredations of the Fourth Crusade finally ruined it forever.
Little remains of the Great Palace’s legendary buildings aside from part of a wall from the Bukoleon palace. However, the Museum of the Great Palace Mosaics houses some of the remaining mosaics unearthed by archeologists from where it once stood.
Unlike the mosaics found in the museum/former churches elsewhere in Istanbul, these display everyday life as well as a few mythological scenes. The stately and regal church mosaics glittering with gold appear almost static when compared to the child leading two geese, the cheetahs eating their prey or hunters attacking a tiger.
The reds in the mosaic below still vividly depict the blood of the gazelle being consumed.
An old man sits thoughtfully on a rock.
An elephant demonstrating how to take care of an attacking lion.
Lastly, there is this border decoration, faded but still holding onto its original grace and elegance.
Who would have seen these mosaics? The great Constantine? Did Justinian and his empress Theodora pace on them as the Nika riots roared outside the Palace’s gates? Did Irene the Athenian watch her son toddle on them, the son whose eyes she would one day put out? We can only imagine, and be grateful to the archeologists who have unearthed these remnants of what was once the Great Palace of Constantinople.