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Jessica Varsallona

Jessica Varsallona
University of Edinburgh
Constantinople 1261–1453: Metamorphosis of an Imperial City

At ANAMED, Dr. Varsallona aims to finalize her book, Constantinople 1261–1453. This book contextualizes the urban transformations of the Byzantine capital during the last two centuries of Byzantine rule, which are also known as the Palaiologan period, after the ruling dynastic family, the Palaiologans (1261–1453). It portrays Constantinople as a “living entity” shaped by the will of imperial and aristocratic patrons, built by laborers and artisans, and lived by its cosmopolitan inhabitants.

Thanks to the combined analysis of surviving archaeology, art history, and textual production, the book reconstructs streets, quarters, and the use and significance of many buildings. Within a solid historical framework, the volume demonstrates that, rather than being the result of casual restorations or commissions, Palaiologan building activity was carefully planned, charged with ideological meanings, and responded to specific topographic concerns of the ruling powers.

This form of urban planning gradually created a group of differentiated quarters within the city, responding to the different and adaptable exigencies of their patrons. Remarkably, far from being interrupted by the fall of the city to the Ottomans (1453), as widely believed, the Palaiologan urban setting impacted the subsequent urban evolution of the city, when it became the new capital of the Ottoman Empire.