Column of Constantine

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The Column of Constantine, seen from the south-east. Behind it is the Gazi Atik Ali Pasha Mosque.

The Column of Constantine (Turkish: Çemberlitaş Sütunu, from çemberli 'hooped' and taş 'stone'), also known as the Burnt Stone or the Burnt Pillar,[1] is a Roman monumental column constructed on the orders of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great in 330 AD. It commemorates the declaration of Byzantium (renamed by Constantine as Nova Roma) as the new capital city of the Roman Empire. The column is located on the Street of the Janissaries (Yeniçeriler Caddesi) in the neighborhood (named after the column) of Çemberlitaş, central Istanbul, along the old Road to the Imperial Council (Divan Yolu) between the Hippodrome of Constantinople (now Sultanahmet Square) and the Forum of Theodosius (now Beyazıt Square).


The Column of Constantine in its original form, with the statue of Constantine as Apollo on top

The column was dedicated on May 11, 330 AD, with a mix of Christian and pagan ceremonies.

In Constantine's day the column was at the center of the Forum of Constantine (today known as Çemberlitaş Square), an oval forum situated outside the city walls in the vicinity of what may have been the west gate of Antoninia. On its erection, the column was 50 meters tall, constructed of several cylindrical porphyry blocks. The exact number of porphyry blocks is disputed, but common figures range from seven, up to as many as eleven.[2] These blocks were surmounted by a statue of Constantine in the figure of Apollo. The orb he carried was said to contain a fragment of the True Cross. At the foot of the column was a sanctuary which contained relics allegedly from the crosses of the two thieves who were crucified with Jesus Christ at Calvary, the baskets from the loaves and fishes miracle, an alabaster ointment jar belonging to Mary Magdalene and used by her for anointing the head and feet of Jesus,[3] and the palladium of ancient Rome (a wooden statue of Pallas Athena from Troy).

A strong gale in 1106 AD felled the statue and three of the upper cylinders of the column. Some years later, Byzantine emperor Manuel I Komnenos (reigned 1143-1180) placed a cross on top in place of the original statue and added a commemorative inscription that read "Faithful Manuel invigorated this holy work of art, which has been damaged by time". Bronze wreaths once covered the joints between the drums, but these were taken by the Latin Crusaders who plundered the city during the Fourth Crusade in 1204. The cross was removed by the Ottoman Turks after the fall of Constantinople in 1453.[4]

Earthquakes and a fire in 1779 destroyed the neighborhood surrounding the column, leaving it with black scorch marks and earning it the name 'Burnt Column' (or, as referred to by Gibbon, the "burned pillar"). The column was restored by Abdülhamid I, who had the present masonry base added.[5] The base was strengthened in 1779. The original platform of the column is 2.5 meters (about 8 feet) below ground.

The Column of Constantine in 2011.


The Column of Constantine is one of the most important examples of Roman art in Istanbul.

The column is 35 metres high. Restoration work has been under way since 1955. Cracks in the porphyry were filled and metal brackets renewed in 1972.

Since 1985, the monuments of the historic areas of Istanbul, including the Column, have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Durant, Will (1950). The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. 4. New York: Simon and Schuster. p. 5.
  2. ^ Mango, C. (1981) Constantine's Porphyry Column and the Chapel of St. Constantine, p. 104.
  3. ^ Clarke, Howard: The Gospel of Matthew and its Readers. Indiana University Press, 2003. p.204.
  4. ^ "Çemberlitas (Burnt Column), Istanbul". Retrieved 2008-01-15.
  5. ^ "Çemberlitas (Burnt Column), Istanbul". Retrieved 2008-01-15.

External links[edit]

Media related to Column of Constantine at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: 41°00′31″N 28°58′16″E / 41.00861°N 28.97111°E / 41.00861; 28.97111