The Sufipath, probably longest of all European footpaths, was reintroduced as spiritual hikingtrail in 2007. After Istanbul it has its final leap in Asia.
This is a "stand-alone" walk through the Capital of the Caliphate. This trail for Istanbul will be included in the 2010 limited edition of the cityguide Istanbul by Mohamed el-Fers and presented in a tin during the opening of the year 2010, when Istanbul is European Capital of Culture.
The place to head for in historic Istanbul to get the Sufipass stamped is the Küçük Ayasofya, located in Kadırga (Eminönü) on the south side of Istanbul.
The Küçük Ayasofya is the former church of the Roman loverboysoldiers Sergius and Bacchus. In 1509 sultan Bayezid II converted the church into a mosque. The atrium was replaced by a peristyle, and a courtyard with a Tekke was build. The former church of Sergius and Bacchus remains an active mosque today. On the left in the garden is the mausoleum of the Kesikbaş Hüseyin Ağa, a Sufi who had here his school, the Hüseyin Ağa Medrese.
In the Tekke court often Sufimusic is played. The court of the Küçük Ayasofya houses a galery for traditional arts, a teahouse, a restaurant and the Ahmet Yesevi Vakfı (marked with the sign: Şiir İkindil), where the Sufipath-stamp for Istanbul can be obtained from writer Mr. Erdoğan Aslıyüce. Sufi Ahmed Yesevi (1106-1166), also known as Pir Sultan, was born in what is now Kazakhstan and his poems created a new genre of religious folk poetry in literature and influenced many religious poets.
Little is known about his life. His father Ibrahim died when the boy was young and his family moved to Yasa. There he became a disciple of Arslan Baba. After the death of the latter Ahmed Yesevi moved to Bukhara and followed his studies with the well known Yusuf Hamdani (d. 1140).
Sergius and Bacchus
The Küçük Ayasofya started as the church of Sergius and Bacchus. They were two Syrian officers in the Roman army on the frontier of the Roman province of Augusta Euphratensis. Sergius was a senior officer, the primicerius, within one of the imperial bodyguard units, the schola gentilium, in which Bacchus also served as a secundoceriuus or fellow officer.
The oldest text of their martyrology, in the Greek language, describes Sergius and Bacchus as "erastai", litteraly "lovers."
Both mates enjoyed the favor of the eastern Roman emperor Galerius Maximianus (305-311 A.D.). Thus arousing the envy of their fellow officers who complained to the emperor that these two were not only Christians but, contrary to strict laws of Roman worship, were attempting conversion among the ranks. Doubting the rumors, says the historical record, the emperor then ordered his two favorites to join his escort, and led them to a sacrifice at the Temple of Jupiter. While their fellow officers feasted on the sacrifice, however, Sergius and Bacchus were nowhere to be seen. They had remained outside the temple, refusing even to witness the sacrifice, much less to partake of the feast. The emperor ordered them to enter the temple of Jupiter. When they refused his order, they were stripped of their arms and badges of rank, and then humiliated by being paraded through the streets of Arabissus (near Comana in Cappadocia), dressed in women's clothing and sent to be judged by the military commander of the province of August Euphratensis, the dux Antiochus, an old friend of Sergius' it was said, who furthermore had been granted his post through Sergius' influence.
But instead of trying to persuade Sergius to retract, Antiochus, according to the version of the story as described in the biography of the emperor Julian, "he instead ordered what he deemed to be despicable Christians to travel with him from city to city in a cautionary display before an avid public, until they finally reached the seat of Antiochus' authority, at his palace in Barbalissus. At that moment," the story goes, "an angel appeared to them during their journey and bade them take courage, and another appeared to them during their first night in Barbalissus. The following day they were brought to trial before Antiochus, but remained steadfast in their faith.
Sergius was returned to his cell, while Bacchus was beaten on October 1st A.D. 290 over several hours. At the very moment he gave up the ghost a great voice was heard welcoming him into heaven, and his tormentors were stupefied. Antiochus, with this, forbade the burial of his remains. Instead he left them exposed outside the fort to be preyed upon by dogs and other scavengers. Yet the curs and the jackals refused to touch poor Bacchus' remains. On the contrary, they maintained a vigil over them. The following morning, monks living nearby buried them in one of their caves. The night following his death, Bacchus appeared to Sergius and urged him on in his faith."
And so the tale proceeds, intended to impress the faithless and reassure the faithful. "Antiochus journeyed to Sura the next day, and brought Sergius with him. Sergius refused another opportunity to offer sacrifice to the gods, and Antiochus punished him by having nails driven through the soles of his boots. He then forced him to run before his carriage for the journey of nine miles to the fort of Tetrapyrgium.
That night an angel healed Sergius' feet. Antiochus, the following morning, was astonished by Sergius' miraculous recovery, accused him of sorcery and ordered the same punishment, this time to be endured along the nine-mile road to Resafa. Upon arrival Sergius was led to his execution. But at the moment of his death on October 7th A.D. 290, again a voice came down from heaven, ordering the onlookers to bury his remains, to conceal them from the pagans. When attempts were made to exhume the remains, God protested and sent great flames to mark the burial spot, and soldiers aroused by the sight repented of their heartlessness and feared for their lives, so built a small shrine to Sergius.
Time passed and Resafa's facilities were taxed to the limit by the site's following, and in order to accommodate the floods of pilgrims that descended on the city gates, eventually had to be expanded. In 434 Byzantine emperor Anastasias I, therefore, in 434, ordered the construction of a cathedral. Fifteen bishops came to the spot that year to consecrate the anniversary of Sergius' death on the seventh of October. In 491 the fortress, by this time a cosmopolitan urban center, officially was renamed "Sergiopolis". It became one of the greatest pilgrimage centers in the east.
Even Chosroes II, King of Persia, became a follower when during a crisis in his kingdom he inexplicably appealed to the Christian martyr. Should St. Sergius hear his plea, he vowed, he would return Justinian's gold cross to Resafa. The cross in question, according to the legend, was actually a priceless jewel-encrusted crucifix offered to Sergius by Teodosia, Justinian's wife; it had been looted in a Persian raid on the fortress during the reign of Chosroes I. On a second occasion the Persian king appealed to St. Sergius, for his favorite wife to bear him a son. This wish was also granted. To show his gratitude the Persian sent precious gifts to the priests of Resafa, including rich vessels bearing his name and destined for use in the service of the church.
The Byzantine Emperor Justinian (r. 527-65) was among the saints' devotees. According to legend, when Justinian was a young man he was condemned to death for plotting against Emperor Anastasius. But Sergius and Bacchus appeared to the emperor in a dream, convincing him to release Justinian.
Justinian began construction on a church dedicated to Sergius and Bacchus immediately after becoming emperor himself in 527 AD. The chosen site was just inside the sea walls west of the Hormisdas Palace (where Justinian lived before ascending the throne), next to the Hippodrome. The architect was Anthemius of Tralles, a mathematician and the author of a book on burning mirrors, the Paradoxographia. The church was completed by 536 AD and connected to a three-aisled basilica dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul, which Justinian had begun to build in 519. None of it survives today.
The Church of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus was built on an octagonal floor plan with a central dome, which inspired the design of the great Hagia Sophia, begun just a few years later in 532. The earlier church was therefore dubbed the "Little Ayasofya" (Küçük Ayasofya).
Tradition has it that Bishop Ecclesius carried to Ravenna the plans of the church of the Sts. Sergius and Bacchus for the building of S. Vitale.
The monastery of the Sts. Sergius and Bacchus is also known as "monastery of Hormisdas" from the name of the district near the sea-walls where Justinian resided as heir to the throne. Du Cange informs us that the Latin clergy of Constantinople officiated in the church of the Sts. Sergius and Bacchus and also that Papal envoyees arriving at the Hormisdas harbour were given hospitality in the monastery.
The names of Paul and Gregory, abbots of the monastery of Hormisdas, are included in the list of prelates present at the Councils of 536 and 787 respectively.
In the East, Sergius and Bacchus were universally honoured. The relationship of Sergius and Bacchus was considered an exemplar of compassionate union, and possibly even marriage, based on agape (brotherly love) and mutual respect.
When Chosroes II of Persia effectively sacked Sergiopolis in 616 the mortal remains of the soldiersaints Sergius and Bacchus were brought to the Küçük Ayasofya in Istanbul.
Parts of his relics were transferred to Venice, where these saints were patrons of the ancient cathedral and the cult of the soldiersaints was becoming popular in the west as well. The relics of Sergius and Bacchus are venerated in the Church of Santa Maria Assunta in Chioggia, near Venice. In the first half of the XIV century Venetian jewelers made two holders to expose their bones in ciseled, embossed and gilded silver, about 58 cm tall and 7 cm wide.
The Liber Pontificalis states that Pope Paschal I (817-824) founded an oratory and a monastery dedicated to Sts Sergius and Bacchus in Rome. In France the soldiersaints were honored with a cloister at Angers and a church at Chartres. Christian art represents the two saints in military garb. A mass is assigned to them in the "Sacramentarium" of Pope Gelasius.
Their church of the Sts. Sergius and Bacchus in Istanbul was in 1073 mentioned by pilgrims. Beside the relics of the soldiersaint the skull of St. John Chrysostom is said to have been one of the most prized possessions of the church. No reference exists after 1427.
The lost Zindankapı-gate
Beside the Küçük Ayasofya in historic Istanbul the place where so called Zindanıyye gathered has disapeared. It was just west of the Galatabridge at the old historic Zindankapı-gate. The Zindanıyye were followers of Seyyit Cafer Baba Zindanı, who had his tomb inside the nearby Zindan-prison. Cafer Zindanı lived in the times of the Abbasit Caliph Harun el-Rashid (789-809).
His followers gathered in the now gone Zindankapı cad. In a place that had one door but no windows. It was known by its Persian name the Siyah-Chal. Litterary "Black Pit", the common Persian expression for "dungeon".
Haliç: Neydi, Ne Oldu?
Mohamed el-Fers was the first to write a biography of Mevlana in Dutch. It has now an English version.
Train from Istanbul to Konya
So this gives an opportunity to do different tracks eg. between Haydarpaşa and Enveriye, or between Enveriye and Kutahuya, or Kutahuya-Afyon and Afyon-Konya.