Simply About Difficult

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Sunday, 14 July 2013

Istanbul Through the Eyes of Dan Brown in Inferno

"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis"

"I am a shade. 
Through the eternal woe, I take flight."


"Don't tell me we are in a wrong museum"- exclaimed Sienna.

"No, we’re in the wrong country” -answered Robert standing on the land of Venice...334th page of Dan Brown’s novel Inferno. 

There Harvard iconographer Robert Langdon reveals to Sienna Brooks – a British-born genius who travels with him around three favourite tourist destinations that they are in the wrong place to find the dangerous plague which is the main object of the whole book.

Readers will know soon enough that the third, and the right city of Inferno is Istanbul. And the right place is cathedral-mosque-museum of Hagia Sophia!
Despite being mistaken from the start about the fact that the tomb of Venezian Duke Enrico Dandolo is located in Venice, Langdon soon corrected this mistake and headed to Istanbul to find the tomb in Hagia Sophia and save the world! Sounds like Superman story, does not it?

All they knew was a message from Zobrist who was a super millionaire who aimed to kill 1/3 of population of the world with some strong evidence that according to Malthusian theory world won't be able to supply the scarily ever-increasing population of the world.
Message was:
"Follow deep into the sunken palace...
for here, in the darkness, the chthonic monster waits,
submerged in the bloodred waters...
of the lagoon that reflects no stars."

Today, after I have finished the book I have decided to take a tour at the places Dan Brown described in Inferno with my great friend. And of course I could not wait even an hour longer to share it with You! 

So What is so special about Hagia Sophia?

The minaret of Hagia Sophia are the symbols of Istanbul. This is the only building in the world to have served as Catholic Cathedral and as the seat of two religions, Greek Orthodox Christianity and Sunni Islam.

What I would like to focus on is the lack of any crypt, cellar or underground areas in the building. My question is why are these features missing in Hagia Sophia? Why would Isidore of Miletus and mathematician Anthemius of Tralles, architects of Hagia Sophia, have left underground chambers out of the design of Hagia Sophia? 

 Visiting Hagia Sophia 
Hagia Sophia is a very famous tourist destination and is always full of foreigners as well as domestic vistors. Despite being neighbour to Topkapi Palace, Grand Bazar and Yerebatan Sarayi Hagia Sophia is nothing as grandiose and sublime as they are. 

"Mirsaat walked to the largest door-a colossal, bronze-plated portal."The Imperial Doorway"' Mirsaat whispered, his voice almost giddy with enthusiasm" pg 391.

In order to get to the tomb of Enrico Dandolo you need to pass through the tunnel which goes upstairs, but there are no stairs and the tunnel is quite airless. 

"Langdon could now see his target. Dandolo's tomb. The tomb appeared exactly as Langdon remembered it-a rectangular piece of white marble, inlaid in the polished stone floor and cordoned off by stanchions and chain" pg 397.

Number 6 reflects the location of the tomb.

Tunnel to the the second floor where tomb is located.

Enrico Dandolo's tomb.
The guide in the Palace-Mirsaat also mentioned "Deesis Mosaic" but Langdon was not interested in it as he was there for another mission.

View of Hagia Sophia from the second floor.

As they reached their destination it was time to find water around or beneath the tomb.

"Langdon turned to the team. "I hear it", he whispered. "The sound of trickling water". One question remained. Where is it flowing?"
"Mirsaat do you know if the water that is audible here at Dandolo's tomb flows somewhere specific?"
"Of course," -Mirsaat said. The city's ancient cistern. It is called Yerebatan Sarayi-meaning the sunken palace"

It was that very moment when all the team headed to the Palace which is just behind the Hagia Sophia.

Visiting Yerebatan Cistern

Entrance of the Yerebatan Cistern.

As described in the message from Zobrist the water is really bloodred.

"The air down here was heavier that he would imagined. The floor of this underground world was a glassy sheet of water-dark, still, smooth-like black ice on a frozen New England pond. On the sign was the name of fearsome Gorgon -an infamous female monster.. Medusa"

Not to confuse You let me say that two medusas are in the palace however, the plague is found in the one which is placed upside-down.

Follow the deep into the sunken palace...
for here, in the darkness, the chthonic monster waits...


...was written on a sleek rectangle of titanium which was Zobrist's plague. 

...and so in the Yerebatan Cistern the whole team understood that it was too late and the virus is already out. All they could do was to think of how they could mitigate the outcome in the near future.

As book finishes this way it comes to my mind that Brown will write another one quite soon which will be the second part of Inferno. I might be wrong but this is how I feel for now. I like the idea of thinking this way because otherwise it is difficult to predict whether the population of the World will be saved or not.

"What followed the Black Death?
We all know the answer.
The Renaissance.
It has always been this way. Death is followed by birth"

Note: I was one of those who bought Inferno book on the first day of its release in London and I am happy to finish it in Istanbul.

First day of the purchase. London.


  1. I remember the day of purchase very well :)

  2. Wonderful pictures! Wonderful city "Istanbul"!

  3. Thank you for sharing the mysterious journey, Farida! :)

    Do you happened to discover the Tomb of the Byzantine Emperors Constantine The Great and Justinian I?

    I'm heading to Istanbul too early next year. Yeayy!!!

  4. Thank you for your comment and sorry for a late reply. Unfortunately I think I have missed this comment. If Im not mistaken, I haven't seen the tomb you have mentioned. Hope you enjoyed Istanbul, it is a great city!