I dread renovation since the prevalent attitude is to sandblast everything into looking like bad CGI, destroying the integrity of the antiquity in the process.
The well-intentioned– mostly liberal foreigners living far from the Old City– contribute to this by calling for trash cleanup, little dreaming what the Powers That Be consider “cleaning.” They sandblast the entire surface, replace third-to-twelfth-century surface bricks, sharpen every corner and re-grout with a hideous pink compound probably made by grinding the original centuries-old bricks into dust and mixing it with cement.
Experts are available from all over the world and financed by UNESCO, yet things continue to be badly restored.
Surface age can be removed in a day, but only God, in the form of time and all its effects, can make something old.
New-looking antiquities are all over Europe. Fake antiquities are the province of Disneyland and the movies, but no amount of money can create something old that looks old. That’s why people like me cross oceans and continents to see it.
When they fence off your favorite ruin with corrugated metal, it’s an emotional challenge, a real crapshoot, because while it might get wrecked, there is hope. There is intelligent restoration going on in Turkey. There are individuals and financial institutions funding digs and beautiful restorations all over the country, there are magazines and preservation societies and museums fighting to preserve without destroying. So it’s watch, and pray.
Years ago I tried to get the History Channel interested in exploring the Palace, but one of their people is Turkish, and he flatly refused to go anywhere near it.
Addicts and murderers, ghosties and ghoulies and long-legged beasties, he said, or so I gathered. I admit that looking into the blackened, trash-strewn foundations of Western Civilization can be pretty damned daunting, but I was dying to explore.
Now I think that the mysteries in the dark should stay there. They give a resonance to what’s happening on the surface.
The Boukoleon is covered in bushes, grasses and vines raining down over the portals, the colors marking the seasons. In winter the top is exposed, a bony, crusted ridge of brickwork like a dragon spine lying below the expanse of the Marmara. It’s magnificent.
In 2010, I lost my home to an airbnb, so I moved across the Golden Horn. Now, in 2019, major restoration of the Boukoleon has been announced. I wonder what they may do to this precious irreplaceable thing in the name of improvement.
I ask for guidance and tend to my drawing. While I lived there, I looked out at the lovely lorn bones of the Boukoleon and loved it as much as I could, while I could. I looked out at the sea and tried to see my ship coming in.
One night I was so scared with all this change, I said to an old friend, Please tell me it will all be all right. “You’re living on the heroic plane,” he said, “God looks after heroes.” I’ll say: God sent me a friend like that.
—All drawings Plein Air. Full drawings 20″ X 7 ” pen and ink on rag paper. I sure hope you enjoyed this post! Love your comments.