The Garden Guide

Book: Journey and Embassy to Samarkand
Chapter: Ii. Constantinople

Santa Maria de la Dessetria Church

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In this city of Constantinople there is also a church called 'Santa Maria de la Dessetria'; it is small, and some religious canons live in it, who neither eat meat, nor drink wine, nor eat grease, nor fish containing blood. The body of the church is inlaid with very beautiful mosaic work, and contains an image of the holy Mary, which is said to have been designed and made by the hands of the glorious and blessed St. Luke. They say this image has performed many miracles, and the Greeks shew great devotion for it. It is painted on a square board, about six palmos in breadth, and as many long, which is covered with silver, and inlaid with emeralds, sapphires, topazes, pearls, and many other stones. Every Tuesday there is a grand festival and a great crowd of religious persons, and the clergy of other churches assemble, and take this image out of the church, to a court which is in front of it. It is so heavy that it takes three or four men to carry it, with leathern cords. They then place it in the middle of the court, and all the people say their prayers to it, with many tears and groans. Presently an old man comes and prays before the image; he then lifts it up as if it weighed nothing, and carries it to church. It is marvellous that a single man should be able to lift so great a weight; and they say that no other man, but this one, could raise it, because he comes of a lineage by whom it pleases God that it should be lifted. On certain festivals in the year they carry this image to the church of St. Sophia, with great solemnity. In this church an emperor was buried, father of the emperor who wanders outside Constantinople. They say that the latter has a right to the empire. The present emperor is called Chirmanoli, which means Manuel, and his brother was emperor before him, and had one son, who was so disobedient to his father, that he intrigued against him. The Turk Murad, father of him whom Timur Beg vanquished, also had a son at that time, who was disobedient; and the sons of the Turk and the emperor leagued together to depose their fathers. Murad and the emperor of Constantinople also joined together against their sons, and attacked them in the castle of Gallipoli, which now belongs to the Turk. The fathers agreed that when they captured their sons, they would put their eyes out. When this happened, the Turk put his son's eyes out; and the emperor had compassion on his son, and did not wish to hurt him, but ordered him to be put in a dark prison, and finally caused him to lose his sight, with hot basins. After some time he consented that his son's wife should go to him in prison, and she used certain remedies, which enabled him to see a little. One day, when this woman was with the emperor's son, she saw a great serpent come out of a large hole, and she told her husband; and he said to the woman that she must point out to him the place where the serpent had entered; and he waited there until it approached, and killed it with his hands. It was very large and wonderful, and they showed it to the emperor. When he saw it, he felt great compassion for his son, and ordered him to be liberated. After a short time, the son returned to his evil practices, seized upon his father the emperor, and kept him prisoner for some time, until he was liberated by his knights, when the son fled. The father destroyed the castle in which his son had seized him, disinherited him, and left the empire to his brother Chirmanoli, who now enjoys it. His son left a son whom they call Demetrius and it is said that he now has a right to the empire, and the question is arranged in the following manner: that they shall both be called emperors; that after the death of him who now enjoys the sovereignty of the empire, the other shall be emperor; that after his death, the empire shall go to the son of him who is now emperor; then to the son of the other; and thus it is arranged, but I do not believe that any of these arrangements will ever take effect.