Mission to the Istanbul Archaeology Museums: Rediscovery of the Genoese Inventory

As a part of the ERC GRAPH-EAST led by Dr Estelle Ingrand-Varenne and acting as a postdoc researcher for the project team, I visited the Istanbul Archaeology Museums for three weeks between January–February 2023, where I had a valuable chance to visit its storages in order to document the Genoese lapidary artifacts and it has eventually become a very fruitful journey. The mission primarily aimed to document two important sets from the museum inventory, being the mural inscriptions that were removed from the Galata Walls, and the tombstones that were brought from the Arab Mosque, formerly the Church of San Domenico.

The Galata suburb of Constantinople / Istanbul, located on the other side of the Golden Horn beyond the main Historical Peninsula part of the city, was a renowned and thriving Genoese colony under the name of Pera between 1267–1453. During this period, the Genoese gradually expanded their trade quarter, which eventually reached an area between the modern Tophane, Karaköy, Azapkapı and Kuledibi neighbourhoods all along the Bosphorus as well as the Golden Horn. The Genoese surrounded this area with walls and towers in different stages, where each significant construction was usually commemorated by a monumental mural slab, having the coats of arms of the Byzantine Empire, the Republic of Genoa, the doge of Genoa and the podesta of Pera. Moreover, inscriptions in Latin accompanied the heraldic devices and provided noteworthy information about the defensive works themselves; by whom and when they were executed. Among the approximately 45 mural slabs that were ever documented from the Genoese period of Galata, fifteen inscribed examples belong to the inventory of the museum today. They were primarily compiled and published by Victor Marie de Launay in the 19th century, in a time when the Galata Walls were started to be demolished for new urban development and the mural slabs were removed to the museum. Later studies of Luigi Tommaso Belgrano and Ettore Rossi not only updated as well as elaborated the information about them but also provided detailed visuals for the first time.

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