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GRELOT, Guillaume Joseph. Relation nouvelle d’un voyage de Constantinople. Enrichie de plans levez par l’auteur sur les lieux…, [Paris, Veuve Damien Foucault/Pierre Rocolet, 1680].

Guillaume Joseph Grelot (c.1630-?) was a French painter. In 1671 he set out to accompany French merchant J. Chardin in his travels to Persia, which lasted several years. Grelot is considered to have continued the work of Pierre Gilles, the first scholar to have explored Byzantine ruins in Istanbul (1544-1547).

Grelot spent several years in the Ottoman capital, and described many sites, mainly Byzantine monuments but mosques as well. He speaks of the adversities met with by a European who attempts to sketch and draw monuments in Istanbul, a city that nevertheless fascinates him. Grelot was the first to delineate Haghia Sophia in detail. He dedicated his work, and his invaluable designs in particular, to King Louis XIV. Floor plans, sections and commentaries on the monument accompany this text on the masterpiece of Byzantine architecture and spirituality, a monument that, like the Parthenon, as an architectural “chef-d’oeuvre” condenses the cultural achievements of its time.

Fifty years after Stochove’s journey, Grelot points out signs of deterioration and changes in the building’s ornamentation. Spon will be the next to describe the Byzantine monuments of Istanbul in 1674. Grelot’s work was translated into English, and his drawings remained irreplaceable until the mid-19th century, when G. Fossati realised his work of restoration of the church, under Sultan Abdülmecid.

Written by Ioli Vingopoulou

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