Saturday, August 21, 2010

FID: Golden Gates

The sequel to “Flight to Paradise” (FTP), titled “Flight into Darkness” (FID), is a suspense/thriller. When I first set out to write FID, the working title was “The Golden Gate”. I intended on making the story a stand-alone novel.

After FTP was published, I returned to FID. I realized how natural it would be to tweak the second story and turn it into a sequel to FTP—same characters continuing their journey. It became so natural that my third story “From LA to LA”, a Southern humorous story, seemed to be a perfect fit to complete a trilogy with the new title “Flight to Freedom” (FTF). So the Flight Trilogy was born.

In this post, I will continue with more information supporting my years of research while writing the manuscript for FID (previously titled “The Golden Gate”). A key element of the novel is supported by the information in this post.

You ask, “Why Golden Gates?”

Golden Gates have been significant structures for thousands of years, plus, there are three Golden Gates mentioned in FID. I want to focus on two Golden Gates that existed in the holiest cities of Eastern Orthodoxy: Constantinople (present day Istanbul, Turkey) and Jerusalem.

Before I continue, let me make a note in reference to the Eastern Orthodox Church (officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church) and more specifically the term “Orthodox”. The term “Orthodox” translates from the Greek to mean “correctly believing” or "correctly glorifying" and was adopted by the Church in order to distinguish itself from what was becoming a larger and larger body of non-orthodox Christian denominations. The Orthodox Church regards itself as the historical and organic continuation of the original Church founded by Christ and His apostles.

The point being that, for the purposes of my discussion of Golden Gates as they relate to the novel, the two holiest cities of Eastern Orthodoxy (referenced above) were not, at the time, under Muslim control. This is a key point in the storyline of FID.

The Golden Gate: Constantinople (presently called Istanbul):

Constantine the Great (306-337 A.D.; the first Christian emperor reigning from Constantinople) moved the capital of the Roman Empire to Byzantium, which he refounded as Constantinopolis (“City of Constantine”)—the symbol of Christianity. After taking control, he expanded the new city and its protective walls. The names of the gates within the Constantinian Wall survived, but there are only two gates whose locations are known with certainty, one being the Old Golden Gate.

Walls of Constantinople and Golden Gate

The Old Golden Gate stood somewhere on the southern slopes of the Seventh Hill. Its construction is often attributed to Constantine, but is in fact of uncertain age. It survived until the 14th century, when the Byzantine scholar Manuel Chrysoloras described it as being built of "wide marble blocks with a lofty opening", and crowned by a kind of stoa (covered walkways or porticos, commonly for public usage). In late Byzantine times, a painting of the Crucifixion was allegedly placed on the gate, leading to its later Ottoman name, İsakapı ("Gate of Jesus"). History tells us that the Gate of Jesus was the one through which Constantine himself entered the new city in triumph after its completion in 328. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1509, but its approximate location is known through the presence of the nearby İsakapı Mescidi mosque.

Under the rule of Theodosius I (347-395 A.D.; the last emperor of the Easter and Western Roman Empire), construction began on a new wall which incorporated the rebuilding of the Golden Gate. The new wall contained nine main gates. The location of only three gates, the Golden Gate, the Gate of Rhesion and the Gate of Charisius, can be established directly from the literary evidence.

Recreation of The Golden Gate of Constantinople

The gate, built of large square blocks of polished white marble fitted together without cement, has the form of a triumphal arch with three arched gates, the middle one larger than the two others. The gate is flanked by large square towers, which form the 9th and 10th towers of the inner Theodosian wall. The structure was richly decorated with its gold-plated doors and numerous statues, including a statue of Theodosius I on an elephant-drawn chariot (quadriga) on top, echoing the Porta Triumphalis of Rome, which survived until it fell down in an earthquake in 740. Other sculptures were a large cross, which fell in an earthquake in 561 or 562; a Winged Victory, which was cast down in the reign of Michael III; and a crowned Fortune of the City.

Recreation of The Golden Gate of Constantinople
The Golden Gate was the main ceremonial entrance into the capital, used especially for the occasions of a triumphal entry of an emperor into the capital on the occasion of military victories or other state occasions such as coronations. On rare occasions, as a mark of honor, the entry through the gate was allowed to non-imperial visitors. The last triumph to pass into the city through this gate was that of Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos on August 15, 1261.

Recreation of The Golden Gate of Constantinople
Despite its ceremonial role, the Golden Gate was one of the stronger positions along the walls of the city, withstanding several attacks during the sieges of the city, and with the addition of transverse walls on the peribolos between the inner and outer walls, it formed a virtually separate fortress. Its military value was recognized by John VI Kantakouzenos (1347–1354), who records that it was virtually impregnable, capable of holding provisions for three years and defying the whole city if need be.

Actual Golden Gate in Istanbul
The Golden Gate in Istanbul is now walled up, and tradition says that the order for its closure was given by Mohammed, the Conqueror (Mehmet II), immediately after his defeating the Romans and entry into the city (May 29, 1453), through fear of an old Turkish prophecy, which declared that through this gate the next conquerors should enter Constantinople. Sealing the Golden Gate was his way of saying that there would be no other conquerors—he was the last.

Actual Golden Gate in Istanbul
The Golden Gate: Jerusalem

The Golden Gate (Jerusalem) is the oldest of the current gates in the Old City Walls and has many names: the Eastern Gate; the Gate of Mercy; the Gate of Eternal Life; the Beautiful Gate—one of the 11 gates within the current Old City walls. It is the gate that Jesus passed through on Palm Sunday. It was probably built in the 520s CE, as part of Justinian I’s building program in Jerusalem, on top of the ruins of an earlier gate in the wall. An alternate theory holds that it was built in the later part of the 7th century by Byzantine artisans.

Old City Walls - Jerusalem
The Old City (Jerusalem) is a walled area within the modern city of Jerusalem; it lies within East Jerusalem. Until the 1860s this area constituted the entire city of Jerusalem. The Old City walls have been built, extended, and rebuilt. The current walls have a total of eleven gates, but only seven are open.

The Old City - Jerusalem
According to the Bible, the city ruled by King David, known as the City of David, is now believed to be southwest of the Old City walls. His son King Solomon extended the city walls and then, in about 440 BCE, Nehemiah returned from Babylon and rebuilt them. In 41-44 CE, Agrippa, king of Judea, built a new city wall known as the "Third Wall."

The current walls of the Old City were built in 1538 by the Muslim Ottoman Empire Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Three years later in 1541, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent sealed the Golden Gate.

The Golden Gate (East Gate) - Jerusalem

In Jewish tradition this is the gate through which Messiah will enter Jerusalem. It was sealed off in 1541 by sultan Suleiman, allegedly to prevent the Messiah's entrance. The Muslims also built a cemetery in front of the gate, allegedly in the belief that the precursor to the Messiah, Elijah, would not be able to pass through since he is a Kohen. Those Jews who trace their ancestry back to Aaron, the first Jewish priest (kohen), brother of Moses, traditionally did not come into contact with any dead body. In the Israelite religion, such contact rendered the priests "impure" and disqualified them from their priestly duties. To this day in traditional practice, kohanim do not enter a funeral home or a cemetery in order to avoid being in proximity to the dead.

The Golden Gate (East Gate) - Jerusalem

Key points:

There are other Golden Gates I could talk about (the Golden Gates of Kiev, Ukrainian; the Golden Gate in Gdansk, Poland; the Golden Gates of Vladimir, Russia), but the two Golden Gates of importance to the novel are Istanbul and Jerusalem.

One last reverence to another significant Golden Gate:

"And the angel says to me: Hast thou seen all these things? And I answered: Yes my lord. And again he said to me: Come, follow me, and I shall show thee the place of the righteous. And I followed him, and he set me before the doors of the city. And I saw a golden gate, and two golden pillars before it, and two golden plates upon it full of inscriptions. And the angel said to me: Blessed is he who shall enter into these doors; because not every one goeth in, but only those who have single-mindedness, and guiltlessness, and a pure heart."

The text above was taken from: Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume VIII/Apocrypha of the New Testament/Revelation of Paul

The Ante-Nicene Fathers, subtitled "The Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325", is a collection of books in 10 volumes (one volume is indexes) containing English translations of the majority of Early Christian writings. The period covers the beginning of Christianity until before the promulgation of the Nicene Creed at the First Council of Nicaea. The translations are very faithful, but sometimes rather old-fashioned.

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