I don’t believe in the power of prayer, except as a way of tuning up one’s own state of mind, but with the news of my mother’s precarious state of health Elaine bought a beeswax candle in the Church of St George, part of the walled complex of Greek Orthodox Patriarchate buildings – and I lit it, placing it in a bowl of sand in a niche. And that also in spite of having seen a man prowling around the church earlier, snuffing out the candles when they were only part-burned, tossing them into a bag. Not sure whether this was a matter of penny-pinching or religious recycling – nor am I at all sure how long a candle has to burn in order for a prayer to be dispatched through the appropriate channels. Still, one lives in hope.
The main door of the complex has been welded shut, in memory of Patriarch Gregory V, who was lynched nearby in 1821, after apparently encouraging the Greeks to overthrow Ottoman rule at the beginning of the Greek War of Independence. Today, I learned from the Eyewitness Travel book Istanbul, the clergy are protected by a metal detector. We experienced nothing but friendliness in Istanbul, but it is clear that there have been intense cycles of religious, ethnic and national antagonisms here.
Later, we visited a mosque and shrine containing a number of impressive tombs. Afterwards, I sat in the sun and watched a group of film-makers preparing to shoot a dark-haired young woman weeping at the shrine. As I sat on the wall of the graveyard, a marmalade cat waltzed along the top of the wall towards me – jumped into my lap, lay down and went to sleep instantaneously. Felt adopted.
Then we spent a wonderful couple of hours wandering around Topkapi Palace, but more of that in a separate blog.