Istanbul is an Islamic city in an Islamic country. Imagine the mournful wails we’re hearing from the minarets. It’s also a city filled with Christian history, but you have to look very hard to find any traces of it now. For centuries Constantinople (Istanbul) was the foremost center of Christianity in the world. It was originally called Byzantium, a town that dates roughly to the same period as Isaiah the prophet. When Constantine the Great became emperor in the 300s AD, he chose Byzantium as the capital of his eastern domain and renamed the city Nova (New) Rome. Soon, however, it was called Constantinople. Since Constantine was the first Roman Emperor to legalize Christianity, the church in Constantinople, headed by the Patriarch, became the Eastern version of the Pope in Rome. This eventually led to the major division in Christianity—East v. West, or Orthodox v. Latin. If you’ve visited a Greek Orthodox or Roman Orthodox Church, for example, their traditions come from the Constantinople branch. If you’re Catholic or Protestant, you can trace your heritage to the Western Church. As the church—both East and West—became institutionalized, it lost its force and fire; but in every generation the Lord has maintained a chain of unbroken witnesses who have handed the faith down to us. Thank God for His unbroken chain and for letting us be a part of it today. Here are some pictures from this morning’s excursions. The picture below shows the Hagai Sophia (once the greatest church building in Christendom) on the left and the Blue Mosque on the right.