The 5th Puzzle: Why are the Treasures of Istanbul unknown?

Posted by on Nov 24, 2013 in Research

When I was growing up I heard nothing about the beauty and wonders of Istanbul. I heard a lot about the wonders of Paris and Rome, but nothing positive about Istanbul. And I am a voracious reader of newspapers and magazines. Istanbul was the city of Midnight Express, a depiction of pure violence, and occasionally a political story would appear about a coup.  Imagine my surprise when I went to Istanbul to discover: 1. A museum that was the largest cathedral in Christendom for a thousand years, Hagia Sophia, which displays many of most important Byzantine artworks, mosaics, ever created. This building influenced mosques and inspired millions.  2. A palace, Topkapi, containinig Moses’ rod, original harem buildings, a treasury containing an 86-carat pear-shaped diamond, perhaps the most beautiful in the world, priceless art and artifacts and a view over the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn that thousands died for. 3. A Grand Bazaar and Spice Market, a vision of ages past, one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world dating from early Ottoman times. The list goes on too, the remains of a Roman Hippodrome, gigantic fortified Byzantine city walls and palaces, and mosques that are as beautiful as any in the world. The views everywhere make Istanbul perhaps the most beautiful city in Europe and certainly one of the most beautiful in the world. So why have all these treasures been ignored, and why do we rarely see mention of the beauty of Istanbul anywhere? Is it simply that many people just haven’t been there? I believe so. And I hope you enjoy Istanbul as much as I do when you go there. Before you go though, one last treasure must be mentioned. The vast majority of Istanbulers are among the friendliest and kindest people in the world. Perhaps they are its greatest treasure.   To order The Istanbul Puzzle click here....

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On starting the edits for The Jerusalem Puzzle

Posted by on Jun 28, 2012 in On Writing

Yesterday I started the edits for The Jerusalem Puzzle. I received two pages of notes from my editor at Harper Collins in London on Monday. Her comments included many compliments “powerful – expertly brought to life,” which are encouraging, but I won’t go on any more about, and suggestions for three extra scenes. The first will be where Sean explains in detail why he wants to go to Jerusalem. The second will be where Henry’s involvement is expanded. The final one, at the end, will be where discussions take place about what happened in Jerusalem. There are also notes from HC on each page of the manuscript, which need to be considered. This is all about 6 weeks work, editing maybe 2-3 hrs a day. After this we will have something truly interesting for you for January release. Thank you for staying with me on this journey. If you would like to follow a series of posts on fiction writing for the 21st century sign up for updates on the right. There will be one post a month on the progress of The Jerusalem Puzzle towards launch next January and one post a month on writing craft issues. Here is the first post on writing: You can preorder The Jerusalem Puzzle for UK readers here or for US/Aus/NZ here or Canada here. The image below is of the Italian hardback edition of The Istanbul Puzzle, which is all over Italy at the moment. It was launched June 21st. If you know anyone in Italy please tell them it is available there....

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Old Jerusalem, an ancient city in a modern age

Posted by on Feb 23, 2012 in Research, The Jerusalem Puzzle

Written February 2012 I am spending time in the old city of Jerusalem. If I stay here any longer I’ll probably have to apply for a resident’s permit. And as I am staying in East Jerusalem that may be tricky. My reason for being here, aside from the welcome sun, is to research the next stage of Sean and Isabel’s adventures. If you read The Istanbul Puzzle you’ll probably know that there are a few questions at the end still hanging. The Jerusalem Puzzle will move the story forward and answer some key questions. As part of my research in old Jerusalem, where the book is mainly set, I have spent a lot of time in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the legendary site of Jesus’ crucifiction, his tomb and the burial place of Adam’s skull, according to some 2nd century sources. Whatever your beliefs, this place is an extraordinary building, a mix of mainly Crusader and 19th century, Armenian, Catholic and Orthodoxy all rolled into one. This was the place a lot of people died for before the crusades, during the crusades, and ever afterwards. Richard the Lion Heart and Saladin fought over this place and almost every other Empire since has had plans to capture it. Here is what the entrance to the legendary tomb of Jesus looks like now (click each image to see it in all its glory): This church is the most important place of pilgrimage in the Christian world. Bar none. What I found though, at the end of my last visit, was a less than spiritual place. I had queued to get in to the small chapel where Jesus’ tomb is supposed to be with cries of “hurry, hurry, we are closing,” echoing in my ears. I’d visited where Mary, Mother of Jesus fell into an eternal sleep (legend says), on Mount Zion the day before and I was lucky that I went down into that underground tomb with the sound of a Polish group singing hymns echoing in my ears. That place was spiritual. Much of the rest of the old city is a heady mix of the Arab souk, with plastic toys and wooden crosses for tourists, and a wedge of Abercrombie and coffee shop Westerness pushing up close to the city from the Jewish and modern western side. To me Jerusalem is where three great faiths, Christianity, the Jewish faith and Islam all overlap with their bits fraying. The Islamic faith is well represented here in the famous Golden Dome and mosques and the regular call to prayer filling the air. The Jewish faith is evident in the devotion at the Western Wall, the Orthodox faithful almost everywhere, and through the joy of young men being escorted with drums and horns through the crowds. The Christian faith is evident  in the extraordinary churches and the pilgrims from all...

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The 1st Puzzle Updated: What’s Hidden Beneath Hagia Sophia?

Posted by on Dec 27, 2011 in Historical Puzzles

Hagia Sophia is the only building in the world to have served as a Catholic Cathedral and as the seat, the real focal point, of two religions, Orthodox Christianity and Sunni Islam, each of which has hundreds of millions of followers. Yet no guidebook shows any part of the building below ground level. Why? and When Ataturk turned Hagia Sophia into a museum in 1934 and gave the powers of the Sunni Caliphate to the Turkish parliament, he enraged many in the Islamic world. Indeed, some are still trying to resurrect the Caliphate. That has been one of the main objectives of many Islamist extremists for the past eighty years. To understand why, just imagine what the reaction would have been if Mussolini had turned the Vatican into a museum and had then ordered the Pope to leave town. The Hagia Sophia we see today is, despite the rebuilding work carried out after regular earthquakes, the building that was consecrated on the 27th December 537 by the Roman Emperor Justinian. It would be the greatest church in Christendom for a thousand years, until St Peter‘s in Rome was completed. And after the city was captured by the Ottomans, it was the greatest mosque in the world for nearly five hundred years. There is no other building in the world with anything like that history. Hagia Sophia’s massive dome, its unprecedented proportions, were believed by many to have been the work of the divine. Its architecture influenced mosques and churches worldwide. Its grandeur was said to have led Russia to convert to Orthodox Christianity, not Catholicism. Relics such as fragments of the true cross, the undefiled lance, the most sacred tunic, and the God-bearing winding sheet (this was probably the Turn shroud) were only some of its treasures, until the city was ransacked by a Catholic army during the Fourth Crusade. That list was taken, by the way, from a military harangue delivered to Byzantine troops on behalf of Constantine VII (905 – 959). Underground architectural features were well known at the time the first Hagia Sophia was designed. Both the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, constructed in 326-330, and Old St. Peter’s in Rome, both constructed around the same time, have extensive underground areas. Indeed, they are the most sacred parts of these buildings. Justinian’s Hagia Sophia was designed by Isidore of Miletus and mathematician Anthemius of Tralles. Both were well known for their interest in tunnels. There are also major underground structures, including the Basilica Cistern, in the vicinity. Did they simply forget to design underground levels for Hagia Sophia? Or were they hidden later for a reason? Isn’t, I hear someone say, the tomb of the Doge of Venice located in Hagia Sophia? Yes, it is, but it wasn’t constructed until 1205, and it’s not impressive. It’s a slab in the floor of the upper gallery. But was...

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The 2nd Puzzle: The Lost Book of Magic

Posted by on Dec 26, 2011 in Historical Puzzles

and The Secret Riches Visualization Tool and Most people know what The Secret is. They know about the power of positive thinking, repetition, self belief. and Few people know however that these ideas were once the key elements in ancient books of magic. Such books often also contained medical knowledge and practical personal advice. The success of such ideas gave these books a long life. They were much sought after and argued over. and And in some periods you could be burnt at the stake for possessing such books. and These days you can buy books of magic and positive thinking for a relatively low cost, and without much danger to your health. You can even go to seminars on how to see your success, or you can give away your money to people selling seals and hoodoo correspondence courses. and So what has any of this got to do with Istanbul? and At the time of the fall of Constantinople (since called Istanbul) in 1453 thousands of scholars fled to Italy. They went to Florence and to Milan and beyond. Among them were physicians, astronomers and mathematicians. and Marsilio Ficino, whose family fled from Constantinople to Italy, was one the most important figures in the Italian Renaissance. and He was involved, with Cosimo de’Medici, in trying to heal the schism between the Catholic and Orthodox churches.a nd He was also a vegetarian, a priest, and at one point was lucky to escape with his life after being accused of magic before Pope Innocent VIII.and ND Ficino’s father was a physician under the patronage of Cosimo de’ Medici, who took the young man into his household and became the lifelong patron of Marsilio, who was made tutor to his grandson, Lorenzo de’ Medici. and So where did Marsilio get his most important ideas? and Many of his thoughts are common sense now, such as advice to keep your body in good order, but some of his other ideas are more far reaching, even to this day. and Marsilio Ficino and In the Book of Destiny, Marsilio details the links between behavior and consequence. He talks about the list of things that hold sway over a man’s destiny, and He practised astrology too and believed in talismans and symbols. His most famous prediction was that the son of Lorenzo de’Medici would become Pope. He did. and His most famous achievement though was in the blending of the occult, the magical traditions of astrology, with the teaching of the Catholic church. and He wrote a treaty on the Immortality of the Soul, which after his death, became dogma of the Catholic and eventually the Protestant churches. This was a theoretical advancement on the Christian belief that we will all live on after death. His theory synthesized Christianity and Platonism, and created a foundation for the Renaissance. and He subscribed to the notion that there was hope for world renovation...

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