Mystical Side of Istanbul

There are a lot of mystical places in İstanbul. One of the well-known among them is “Joshua’s Hill” (Yuşa), the highest hill and the closest one to the sea in the city. Joshua’s Hill has a special location with its spiritual atmosphere as well as its fascinating view. The holiness of the hill is based on “Lord Ourios of Good Winds”, because there is a temple on the hill, which was built in the name of “Lord Ourios of Good Winds” at the ancient times.

  • 14.11.2016
  • Nuray Okutucu

İstanbul, where is the mixing point of East and West, has an privileged position among the world cities with its attraction centers located on the mosaic of its rich mystical heritage. Mosques, churches, chapels, synagogues, mausoleums, holly springs of orthodox Greeks and even trees are just some parts that form this mosaic. One of the most important functions of these places is among the places where can make uncertainty about future, one of the heaviest burden which human beings carry, easier by establishing the relationship with the sacred one. There places are flooded with visitors from different cultures and religions every day and these people pray for the common reasons: Love, spouse, job, house, child and health.

There are a lot of mystical places in İstanbul. One of the well-known places among them is “Joshua’s Hill” (Yuşa), the highest hill and the closest one to the sea in the city. Joshua’s Hill has a special location with its spiritual atmosphere as well as its fascinating view. The holiness of the hill is based on “Lord Ourios of Good Winds”, because there is a temple on the hill, which was built in the name of “Lord Ourios of Good Winds” at the ancient times. cThe mentioned temple was a place visited by the sailors to wish fair winds at the entrance and exit of the Bosphorus at that time. Today, it is thought that the hill, which is also known as Yoros, was named from Ourios at the ancient time.

Another known Pagan myths belonging to this special hill whose history was written with legends is as follows: Gigantic Amycus who was the son of Poseidon, god of the sea, and Melia, the sea nymph, was the king of the Bebryces living in two sides of the Bosphorus. At that time, the Bosporus witnessed the war between the Bebryces and Argonauts which returned from the excursion with their ships built by the goddess Athena. Although Amykos was famous for his ability to fight, he was defeated at the fight with Polydeuces of the Argonauts and he died. Today, the grave in Joshua’s Hill is said to have belonged to this gigantic man. According to another legend, giants lived on this hill, also known as Giant Mountain, 3000 years ago and Joshua, one of these giants, buried on this hill after dying during the war with their enemies.

 

Yoros or Joshua’s Hill has been shrined in various beliefs since the early history and many temples have been built on this hill. It is also known that there was a temple of Zeus at the ancient time. It was transformed into a church on the behalf of Hagios Mikhael after the adoption of the Christianity on the 5th century. The belief of the holiness of Joshua’s Hill has continued with an entombed saint-grave and Islamic monastery built there at the other periods.

Evliya Çelebi was the first person to mention these graves on Joshua’s Hill at the Ottoman periods. The famous traveler mentioned Yoros Castle, Servi Burnu on its vicinity and green area decorated with the cypresses around this place and told that people visited the Prophet Joshua on Joshua Mountain in his travelogue called Seyahatname (“Book of Travel”).

During the Ottoman periods, people generally took care of visiting here on Fridays because of its holiness. It was mentioned that the coasts of Beykoz were covered with the bazaar boats on those days and people flocked to the hill by getting on the ox carts. With its view to the Bosphorus and Black Sea from different angles, the hill attracted more visitors when the weather was nice and the visitors didn’t neglect to watch the magnificent scenery.

Ottoman sailors attributed holiness to the hill. The navy went on a cruise every time after they headed towards and prayed the four patron saints that were believed to protect the Bosphorus and sailors and were accepted as the father of the sailors. These guardians were respectively Yahya Efendi on the hillsides of Beşiktaş, Aziz Mahmud Hüdai on Üsküdar, Telli Baba on Sarıyer and Joshua on Beykoz. This belief is ongoing even today and some fishermen approach the shore and pray in the presence of four patron saints of the Bosphorus.

Joshua’s Hill has continued to be one of the most popular places today just like the past. People, whose wish came true, visit Joshua’s Hill again to show their gratitude and thanksgiving and they maintain the tradition to distribute candy or loukoumades to other people over there.

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