From Russia With Love – Establishing Istanbul

“Have him report to me in Istanbul in 24 hours!”  – Klebb –

The first establishing shot over Istanbul in From Russia With Love, is a beautiful view over the city and the most recognisable landmark of old Constantinople; the Hagia Sophia. And in the background – the irresistible Bosporus. In front of Hagia Sophia is the Sultan Ahmed Park.

The Hagia Sophia, or Aya Sofya in Turkish, was constructed almost 1500 years ago, in 537 during the Byzantine Empire. It was an Eastern Orthodox Cathedral and it remained the world’s largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years. It was converted to a Roman Orthodox cathedral for a few decades under the Latin Empire between 1204 and 1261 and it was converted to a mosque in 1453, when the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople. It was the Sultan, Mehmed II, who ordered this main church of Orthodox Christianity to be converted into a mosque, and it served as one for 500 years, until 1931 when the building was closed for the public and opened as a museum four years later.

The design of Hagia Sophia served as an inspiration for several Ottoman mosques in Istanbul, including the Blue Mosque covered below. The Hagia Sophia is probably one of the most famous sights in the city, and one of the most interesting buildings from a historical point of view. From a Bond perspective the Hagia Sophia is, naturally, a must see when in Istanbul. It is here that Bond meets Tania later in the film, and collects her map over the Russian consulate while Grant kills the stalking Bulgar. However, we only get to see the exterior once, during the first establishing shot (top picture).

We get the second establishing shot over Istanbul just before the limpet mine detonates outside of Kerim’s office. Another famous landmark of the city is picuterd, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, popularly known as the Blue Mosque. At the same time we get another beautiful view over the Bosporus.

The Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia are located in the oldest part of Istanbul in the Fatih district, facing each other on opposite sides of Sultan Ahmed park. The park and two of the six minarets of the Blue Mosque are visible in the top picture. When standing in front of the two mosques you are not more than a 15 minutes walk away from several other Bond locations, such as the Orient Express train station, the Grand Bazaar, the water cistern and the Galata Bridge. All of these will be covered later.

The Blue Mosque was built during the rule of Sultan Ahmed I in 1616. Up until its construction, the Hagia Sophia had been the principal mosque of Istanbul and unlike the Hagia Sophia, it is still in use today. During filming of From Russia With Love, the camera was most likely placed in one of the minarets to provide the establishing shots over the old city.

Both mosques are magnificent buildings and are impossible to miss when in Istanbul. You should take your time when walking around these buildings in the Sultan Ahmed Park and the adjacing streets. There are several ancient buildings and sights to see in this area of Istanbul.

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